Paul Booth

Paul Booth is a former leader of AFSCME and led AFSCME organizing in Illinois and then nationally in the 1980s and 1990s.

Recent Articles

Building an Enduring Democratic Majority

Without wedge strategies, Democrats won’t be able to get swing voters to regularly swing their way.

AP Photo/John Bazemore
Union leader and progressive activist and strategist Paul Booth died suddenly on Wednesday, January 17. In the days before his death, he was working on this article. Links to Paul’s other Prospect piece, and to an appreciation of Paul by Prospect editor Harold Meyerson, are included at the bottom of this article. Long before electoral organizers had the voter data and predictive models pinpointing which voters needed extra effort to persuade them to vote, and for whom, the standard nomenclature for campaign strategy identified two lanes—Base Vote and Swing Vote. For that entire time, that’s been the fault line of debate about campaign plans, allocation of funds, and finger-pointing after defeats. Somehow, “swing” got renamed “persuasion,” despite the fact that campaigns have to do persuasion both to get low-propensity base voters to vote, and to get swing voters to swing. Be they “swing” or “persuasion,” however, voters...

Getting Serious About 2018

The resistance is great, but it’s no guarantee of a Democratic victory.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
Democrats have one big chance for a comeback, in 2018. There’s a path to a win—a narrow one—but they could blow it. The Republican power stranglehold is tightening. The Supreme Court is theirs, for a generation. They’ve implemented onerous voting restrictions in several states, and the new Court majority will likely let them do it in more. They’ve taken strong unions out of the equation in Wisconsin and are trying to replicate that wherever they can; they’ll surely get a big boost when the Court rules next year on Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 , which could decimate the most politically potent unions. They’re filling federal jobs (executive, regulatory, and judicial) with partisans and zealots. A GOP win in 2018 comparable to 2010 and 2014 could be irreversible. That’s their intention—they’re using the power they’ve gained strategically, in order to not have to relinquish it. Democracy, and the movements that breathe life...

You Say You Want a Revolution

To achieve real change, progressives must mobilize beyond one election cycle. 

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File
“Political revolution”—it’s the notable phrase of campaign 2016. For those who are for it, and feel like they’re in it, it’s worth the effort to get clear what it means and how it might be achieved. Credit goes to Bernie Sanders for popularizing it. (It’s so compelling a concept that even Carl Palladino, Donald Trump’s New York state chair, uses the words.) To both it means an upheaval, pushing out those in power. To Sanders, the strategic core of the revolution is the suppression of the influence of the rich and big business by limiting big money in politics. That would facilitate substantive change in such areas as banking, health insurance, college affordability, and prescription drug pricing. But Sanders underscores that any of this requires not just getting big money out, but getting people in. He describes the method of the political revolution as electoral victory followed by pressure from the grassroots. Millions must mobilize,...

Labor at a Crossroads: The Case for Union Organizing

The labor movement has been growing while shrinking—growing through organizing.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
The union movement is 3.5 million members smaller than 40 years ago, and the forces that brought that about are as energetically engaged and powerful as they have ever been. From that undeniable fact, it has been wrongly concluded: Union organizing is impossible, futile, or a thing of the past The labor movement is dead, or dying The best hope for workers is through something different from trade unions and collective bargaining. These conclusions are very disconcerting to this organizer. I am upset that there’s so little acknowledgement of the millions of workers who have risked much to try to unionize. Thousands are doing it today. And so little acknowledgement of those who have done it and succeeded. They number a million and a half. How do I know that? I know it from my own experience; it’s the work with which I have been immersed for those 40 years. And I know it by virtue of simple arithmetic. The 3.5 million members by which labor has shrunk is net. I simply added...