Elections

One Big Reason for Voter Turnout Decline and Income Inequality: Smaller Unions

The decline of labor unions has shifted the balance of power not only in the country at large, but within the Democratic Party. Hello Wall Street; bye-bye voters...

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
T wo of the most commonly cited reasons for the lack of more liberal policymaking in the United States are the decline in unions and the rising class bias in voter turnout . In the 2014 midterm congressional elections, the Democrats’ rout was largely attributed to a failure of their coalition to turn out at the polls. What is rarely examined, however, is the relationship between a decline in voter turnout and the dwindling number of union members. And as that turnout has declined, the control of the financial class over the entire political system—Republican and Democrat—has taken hold. Over the last several decades, union membership in the United States has declined precipitously , from 24 percent of all wage and salary workers in 1973 to 11.1 percent today . At the same time, our economy has increasingly begun to favor the wealthiest members of society. The labor share of income has reached the lowest level it’s been since 1929, and that diminished income is distributed incredibly...

Are the Elites Catching Up with the People?

(Rex Features via AP Images)
I nequality has at last arrived as the issue that mainstream politicians can’t ignore. You see it in Obama’s better-late-than-never embrace of “middle-class economics” as the signature theme in his State of the Union address; and in a surprisingly leftish report of a commission co-chaired by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. The new report by the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity , convened by the Center for American Progress, is frank in its acknowledgment of the inequality crisis. “Today, the ability of free-market democracies to deliver widely shared increases in prosperity is in question as never before,” the report declares. It calls for several measures of the sort that the labor movement, the Economic Policy Institute, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and others on the left edge of Democratic politics have been urging for years. What’s surprising is not what’s being said but who’s saying it. For instance, the commission offers a frank statement of what’s wrong with...

Jindal's Prayer Rally Brings Together 'Prophets,' Bigots and Right-Wing Activists

Once hailed as the GOP’s top intellectual and reformer, the Louisiana governor headlined a gathering organized and sponsored by some of the most extreme figures in the party.

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman) Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaks during a prayer rally, Saturday, January 24, 2015, in Baton Rouge. Jindal continued to court Christian conservatives for a possible presidential campaign with a headlining appearance at an all-day prayer rally hosted by the American Family Association. A version of this article first appeared at Right Wing Watch , the website published by People for the American Way. L ouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who only a few years ago was lamenting the GOP’s decline into “ the stupid party ,” is now staking out a position on the party’s far-right fringe in apparent preparation for an expected run for the presidency. Jindal has reached out to the party’s increasingly extreme base by undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools; promoting wild conspiracy theories about Common Core, an effort to adjust school standards that he supported before it became the target of the Tea Party’s fury; and hyping the purported...

How Bernie Sanders, In New Role, Could Make Wall Streeters Very, Very Unhappy

The iconoclast from Vermont plans to use his place as opposition leader on the Senate Budget Committee in a whole new way.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Senate Budget Committee ranking member Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, holds a news conference on the budget on Friday, January 16, 2015. B ig banks now have to contend with an old enemy in a new position of power. Bernie Sanders, the United States senator from Vermont, plans on using his new position as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee to take on too-big-to-fail financial institutions by advocating for their dissolution. Though a registered independent, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, allowing him to assume the ranking member role representing the minority party. While normally the domain of the Senate Banking Committee, the oversight of Wall Street, Sanders and his staff believe, is a critical budgetary issue. Democrats need to directly challenge Wall Street’s power, they assert, by boldly reframing the argument against the consolidation of financial institutions in terms of its cost to...

Labor at a Crossroads: Time to Experiment

New organizing will be propelled by committed activists, but will have to be sustained by huge numbers of members and supporters.

Working America
This article is published as part of " American Labor at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies ," a conference presented on January 15, co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, The Sidney Hillman Foundation, and The American Prospect . (View agenda here .) Find our Labor at a Crossroads series here . I love the breadth and gusto of the new labor organizing, which includes plenty of innovation based in old labor organizing as well. This mash-up of practical experiences will help produce breakthrough tactics and strategies. There is also a question of purpose—is our aim to improve working conditions, or is it to build a more powerful working class? These are related, clearly, but suggest different strategies and structures. Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is a laboratory for change. Here are three areas at the top of our list for exploration in this realm. Changing minds Pollsters call this “the frame”—but really, it’s ideology. Working...

Chris Christie Counts on Public Amnesia

With his newfound support for expanding New Jersey's rail capacity, the governor hopes no one remembers that he killed an earlier federally subsidized project that would have done exactly that.

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie endorsed a plan to expand his state's rail capacity with a federally subsidized project when he ran for office, and then opposed it when he took office. Now he's endorsed a rail-expansion plan once again. Here, Christie delivers his State of the State address on January 13, 2015. I n 2010, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took over $3 billion in revenue earmarked for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and used it to plug a hole in his budget—leaving the people of his state and the region with no tunnel, and no money left for one in the future. Now Christie has endorsed a new report that includes a recommendation for expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York, as if no one would remember that he killed an earlier federally subsidized project that would have accomplished that purpose. In the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect , I report the story of Christie’s 2010 decision and its disastrous...

Key to Understanding the New Congress: Gingrich's Contract With America

Republicans never really promised to deploy congressional power to fundamentally change national policy.

(AP Photo/Denis Paquin)
(AP Photo/Denis Paquin) House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, gestures while addressing a rally at Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 7, 1995, on the completion of the Republicans' “Contract with America.” While promising to return next month to take care of unfinished business, Gingrich proclaimed that “this is only a beginning.” A s the 114 th Congress begins, Republicans are signaling their desire to prove their party can not only win elections, but can govern. “GOP goal: Prove it can lead,” was the title of a page A1 story in Sunday’s print edition of Washington Post . “GOP agenda for Congress: Challenge Obama, prove they can govern,” CNN blared the next day. That governing agenda surely includes speeding up energy production, slowing down Obamacare’s implementation, and continued foot-dragging on immigration reform. But top party leaders readily confess their deeper motives. “We have to show that we can be a productive party, and that, I think, will have a direct effect...

The GOP's 2016 Demographic Challenge Is Even Worse Than You Thought

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There are reasons to be at least a little skeptical of the demography-is-destiny argument about presidential politics, which says that given the increasing minority population, it will be all but impossible for Republicans to win the White House any time soon. Most importantly, the argument rests on Republicans' continued eagerness to alienate minorities, particularly Latinos, which is quite likely but by no means certain. But more broadly, if there's anything one can predict with confidence about politics, it's that things change. You never know what might happen in the next election, which is why it's so interesting. There could be another economic collapse, or another war, or some other series of events that dramatically alters the landscape. But there's an interesting study released today by the Center for American Progress' Patrick Oakford (h/t Aaron Blake ) that runs through some scenarios for 2016 that any Republican ought to find utterly terrifying. The question Oakford asked...

Squeezed By Austerity Imposed By Germany, Greece and Spain on Verge of Revolt

(Sipa via AP Images)
(Sipa via AP Images) Supporters of Greece's main opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras from the left-wing Syriza party, during a pre-election rally in central Athens on May 22, 2014. This article originally appeared in the Washington Post . A New Left is rising in Europe as the new year begins. And despite the fears it engenders in polite society, this New Left is less Marxian than it is—oh, the horror—Keynesian. Keynesianism is a complex economic theory, but its central insight is simple enough: If every institution stops spending, economic activity will decline. Self-evident though this may be, this insight has eluded such global economic institutions as the International Monetary Fund, as well as Europe’s economic hegemon, Germany, when dealing with the depression that has devastated southern Europe, and Greece in particular. In confronting the economic crisis that began with the 2008 implosion of Wall Street, nations such as Greece and Spain were unable to bolster their economies by...

Why the Cuba Issue Will Not Help Marco Rubio Become President

Yeah, maybe not so much.
At least publicly, Republicans have been nearly unanimous in their condemnation of the Obama administration's decision to normalize relations with Cuba. In and of itself this isn't surprising, given their party's long history of vigorous anti-communism and the fact that this move was taken by Barack Obama, which makes it wrong by definition. As I wrote over at the Post this morning, the presidential contenders in particular are trapped by their older voters, for whom the Cold War is a living thing, not something they read about in history class. For decades, opposition to communism was one of the key pillars of conservative identity, and so for them doing something that feels in any way like being nice to Castro is tantamount to raising taxes or changing your position on abortion. But nobody was as outraged yesterday as the cherubic Marco Rubio: "Absurd," the Republican called the Cuba plans during a spot on Fox News, one of more than a dozen television appearances he made Wednesday...

The Uniquely Awful Role of Sheldon Adelson in the Israeli Election

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
A s the contest for who will lead the nation takes shape, the classic right-wing charge of pervasive, hostile media bias was splashed in giant tabloid type across the front page of the daily Israel Hayom last Friday. The headline read: "Netanyahu: The Media is Campaigning to Bring the Left to Power." The Friday edition of an Israeli paper is the equivalent of a thick Sunday edition in America; print newspapers are still very popular in Israel, and Israel Hayom is one of the two most popular papers. You might just sense a contradiction here: The most-read headline of the week in one of the country's most influential news sources carried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's accusation that the media is deliberately trying to take power from him and give it to the left. The irony certainly wasn't intentional. The undeclared purpose of Israel Hayom is to promote Bibi Netanyahu . "Newspaper" in Hebrew is iton; Israel Hayom has gained the nickname Bibiton. A vast army of people wearing red...

The Great Budget Sellout of 2014: Do We Even Have a Second Party?

The Democrats not only lost this vote on issues they allegedly care about; they lost their role as a credible opposition.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) For in the great budget sellout of December 2014, fully 57 House Democrats voted with the Republicans to narrowly pass this deal. Key Senate Democrats close to Wall Street, such as Chuck Schumer of New York, shown here, were its enablers. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I n principle, Saturday's vote to keep the government open should be the perfect curtain-raiser for the political debates between now and the 2016 election. As their price for averting a government shutdown, Republicans demanded and got a gutting of one of the most important provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, preventing banks from speculating with government insured money. Agencies hated by Republicans such as the Environmental Protection Agency took big cuts, and a rider was inserted permitting "mountaintop removal" coal mining once again. Another extraneous provision demanded by conservatives permits massive increase in individual campaign contributions. The IRS...

Progressives Just Lost a Fight On the Budget. So Why Are They So Happy?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
O ver the weekend, the "Cromnibus" budget was passed by a coalition that included the GOP leadership and the Obama White House. Neither conservative Republicans nor liberal Democrats were happy with what was in it. So why is it that the conservatives are feeling bitter and betrayed, while the liberals seem positively elated, despite the fact that they both lost? We don't need to work too hard to understand the conservatives' reaction. The budget doesn't stop President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, and Republican leaders decided not to force another government shutdown in a vain attempt to do so. As usual, the conservatives are convinced that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are wimps who do nothing more than bide their time between capitulations. But what explains the liberal reaction? For the first time in this presidency, liberal Democrats feel as though something like a coherent bloc, outside of and sometimes in opposition to the White House, is beginning to form...

Rick Perry: Tan, Rested, and Ready

Rick Perry throwing gang signs with some shady character. (Flickr/Ed Schipul)
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post got some quality time with Rick Perry, and came away with the conclusion that in contrast to the Yosemite Sam we all mocked in 2012, the new Perry "comes across as studious, contemplative and humble." And Perry agrees: "We are a substantially different, versed candidate," he says, though we are apparently not so humble as to realize that speaking in the first person plural is a little weird. But Perry is in a period of intensive presidential campaign preparation, which includes boning up on both presentation and policy: This week, Perry began intensive news media training, as advisers staged mock on-camera interviews with hostile questioning. Perry also has been working with speech coaches at Podium Master , a GOP firm run by an alumnus of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to improve his presentation skills. Perry's advisers acknowledge that he will have little margin for error in next fall's debates. In 2011, he imploded at a debate by forgetting the...

Can Democrats Win In the South by Being More Liberal?

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
I t isn't accurate to call Mary Landrieu "the last Southern Democrat," as one headline after another put it in the days leading up to and following her defeat in Saturday’s runoff election in Louisiana. While it's true that Republicans now control almost all the Senate seats, governorships, and legislatures of the 11 states of the old confederacy (the exceptions are found in Virginia and Florida), there are quite a few Democratic elected officials left in the South—but few of them were elected statewide, and a large proportion of them are black. For years, Democrats have tried to hold on in the South by appealing to the white voters who have steadily drifted away from them. That strategy has failed. Their future in the South—and they can have one—would start with black and Latino voters and work outward from there. It would be almost the exact opposite of how Democrats have been running statewide in recent years. No one expected Landrieu to hold on for a third term in the Senate,...

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