Last night in the car I had a great conversation with my friend Dave, who’s at Harvard Law School with the intention of becoming a labor-side lawyer. We spoke about unions and politics, and it was very interesting. We talked a lot about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a piece of legislation that has been tabled by the Democratic Leadership for the time being, but which is extremely important to enact at some point in the future. Basically, the legislation makes it quicker and thus easier for workers to form and join unions. Unions are responsible for so much that is good and humane about our working lives, and help protect workers in every industry from abuse by their employer. The way union formation happens now is similar to what things would be like if one political party ran our federal elections: companies don’t want unions to form, and have vast control over how the votes are conducted. Union organizers are fired, there is rampant interrogation and propaganda, and it’s about as Democratic as “elections” in failed states. So, EFCA is a big deal. There was an article on Open Left in October of 2007 about positive feedback loops for progressives, one of which is EFCA. I highly recommend it.
One other thing we spoke about was the apparent difference in party discipline between the Democratic and Republican parties. A major reason why it’s so hard for Democrats to govern effectively despite their 60-seat majority is the fact that conservative Democrats in the Senate vote against (or threaten to vote against) the party line at a much higher rate than the few moderate Republicans do. One reason for this trend is that Republicans are much harder on their members who turn coat than Democrats are. I had the realization last night that while Republicans are generally short-sighted in terms of policy, this habit of the Democratic leadership is an example of Democrats being short-sighted in terms of politics. If Democrats withdrew support from those members who most frequently bucked the party line, they might lose a couple of seats in the short term, but in the long term they could well create a much more loyal caucus, and thus be more effective. I am no expert in politics but that’s my observation and pipe dream. I just know that I enjoy talking with intelligent, like-minded people about politics. Are you like-minded and interested in these things? Let’s talk!
One Reply to “This is why we can’t have nice things”
Here are a couple initial reactions:
1. Do we want to be the type of party that stifles dissent?
2. A change in culture could also lead to futher-left Democrats losing party support, not just further-right Democrats.
3. The Republican solidarity I think mostly stems from Gingrich in 1994. I don’t think it was the same before. So that’s important historically. And it inhibits bipartisanship.
4. Some Republicans have defected from their party (e.g. Specter, most recently).
So I have some reservations in general. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be enough just to call yourself Democrat if you routinely vote more with the Republicans.