In the summer of 1998, Jesse Ventura, who was running for governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket, wanted to obtain a loan from the party's national headquarters to pay for political advertising, but he couldn't get the national organization on the phone. National Chairman Russell Verney later explained to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "The Reform Party really does not have an office. We have a virtual office."
On April 27, Al From, the president of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and Will Marshall, the president of the DLC's Progressive Policy Institute, had lunch with John Swee ney, the president, and Steve Rosenthal, the political director, of the AFL-CIO. These four people had met but had never talked amicably or seriously together before. Since that luncheon, there have been further discussions on the phone, and From and Marshall have met with the leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association. When I talked to Marshall in June, he was on his way to Montreal to speak at the executive committee of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
This fall, Bill Clinton threatened to veto tax cuts, an abortion ban, environmental riders, cuts in foreign aid, education funding directed at the states rather than directly at schools, and reductions in a community policing measure. But when the $288.8 billion defense appropriations billrepresenting the largest increase in military spending since the first Reagan budget in 1981came across his desk, Clinton signed it without a whisper of criticism. According to Chris Hellman of the Center for Defense Information, if Congress continues to fund the programs included in this budget, the United States will be spending more on the military by 2005 than it spent in an average year during the Cold War. And it will be doing so without any compelling public justification.
If Vice President Al Gore wins the Democratic nomination for president, he will have John Sweeney and the AFL-CIO to thank. The AFL-CIO boosted Gore's flagging campaign in October when it endorsed him over former Senator Bill Bradley. And in the primaries and caucuses, the labor movement could provide the winning margin in key states like New York, California, Ohio, and Michigan, where it commands about 30 percent of the likely Democratic voters.