The Key Point on Union-Democrat Hegemony

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In a recent column, Ian Donnis mentions the report I put together for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity concerning the political spending and ideological activism of Rhode Island’s public-sector labor unions.  Donnis’s blurb on the report raises a consideration in defense of the unions that misses a central point:

… politics is a participatory sport, and it’s not the labor movement’s fault if other interest groups don’t pursue a comparable level of political activity. As in Massachusetts, Republicans have shown an ability to capture the governor’s office in Rhode Island, holding it through two terms apiece for Lincoln Almond and Don Carcieri, from 1995 to 2011. In the General Assembly, such Republicans as past and present House Minority Leaders Brian Newberry and Blake Filippi have played a prominent role in leading the opposition and raising policy concerns. Yet fostering a more competitive two-party system requires a range of approaches sustained over time – including good candidates, financial support, and an appealing message – beyond just pointing to the relative strength of labor.

This shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for unions’ spending, but as evidence of the structural problem.  Those who defend it rely on a fallacy that there are counter-balanced forces who should be expected to uphold their positions just because that’s their role.  The labor unions collect money and gain influence by tapping into the tax till.  They push legislation (not only labor-related, but also regulatory and electoral) that makes it near impossible to oppose them.

Plainly put, there is no opposing constituency of sufficient size and power for whom it makes sense to do the work necessary to fight back.  It’s easier just to leave or to buy into the corruption.

In Donnis’s terms, it is the labor movement’s fault that other interest groups don’t muster a comparable level of political activity, because it isn’t really a question of “don’t”; it’s “can’t.”  There isn’t the direct line of funding from taxpayers.  There isn’t the network of patronage jobs that allow conservatives to build six-figure careers bouncing between politics, unions, and activist organizations.  There isn’t a benefit to being in office that makes the fight and constant personal harassment worthwhile or that creates incentive for partisan unity.

One might just as easily say that it isn’t the abusers fault his girlfriend never fights back.



  • The Misfit

    Organized labor attempts to counter the 1% and their overwhelming money and influence in the political realm. The 2 political parties in US have always been on opposing sides. Democrats give labor a voice in the democratic process. Republicans fuse the 1% with people that have strong religious and cultural political agendas. Promising much and delivering little keeps those heated issues a useful tool while the true agenda advances. Tax cuts for the 1%. Clean air and water rules dropped. The only way the 1% can keep power is to distract and to suppress. They don’t have the numbers. Populism scares them. Fake populism like Trump’s provide their cover. The tax cuts enacted during the Trump presidency only get worse with age . Inequality will only become more pronounced. Attempts by conservatives to argue from a position of honesty and principle will force them to dig up P T Barnum and see if he can do his tricks.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I no longer recognize any important differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. For which reason it is difficult to accept your analysis.

      • The Misfit

        The differences could not be more pronounced. It’s belief in “Q” or it’s belief in science. Democrats are for a forward looking agenda and Republicans are looking at remaining in power and continuing gaining wealth and influence for themselves and their friends. I think you, Rhett, probably can be counted among those friends

      • Joe Smith

        I have to concur with Rhett. Your point is the 1% support the GOP – doesn’t jive with election data when it comes to votes or political donations by individuals.

        From NYT – Hillary Clinton won the nation’s richest and most exclusive neighborhoods by a wide margin in the 2016 presidential election

        From The Cooperative Congressional Election Study: a large survey conducted by political scientists, found that Mrs. Clinton won voters with a family income of more than $250,000 by a 20-point margin, with a relatively large sample of 1,310 respondents.

        According to Open Secrets 2018 data, of the top 100 contributing individuals, 53 out of 100 broke “solidly liberal” compared to 43 “solidly conservative with a split on the other 4 about “leans.”

        The “forward looking agenda” that you speak of – many proposals made by folks who personally are shielded from their direct effects. I’ll be open to “medicare for all” when Congress makes it their plan (and the members are generally rich enough to get around it but not so their staffers) and default for public sector union healthcare.

        I’m okay with people having their gated community and McMansions, but please don’t lecture me when I can’t afford that level of privacy and protection about how evil I am to want to own firearms. If such people tell me a more equitable, sustainable society is what’s needed, then let me know when they – and most large urban centers are governed by Democrats – vote to give up their segregated (by income), carbon-dense lifestyles and neighborhoods as well.

        I’m open to discussion on student debt, but as someone who saved for their kids’ college, pushed them to work during their education and hustle scholarships, and encouraged them to graduate in four years, please don’t tell me why I should pay higher taxes to wipe out the debt of those who didn’t (or if they did graduate and thus should accrue the fruits of their labor why they can’t pay back their investment). Why should we be making public colleges with average graduation rates lower than private ones even more cheaper to reward poorer outcomes?

        and “organized labor” — you need to distinguish between the public sector and private sector. At least with private sector unions, they have a stake in the health of the company. People in the current era of BLM want to decry lack of police accountability — where do you think those laws originated that shield bad cops or bad teachers? Black children get the shortest end of the stick when it comes to public education and yet teacher’s unions overwhelmingly only fund Democrats?

        Science – it’s possible to have zero-carbon emission natural gas electric generation. Think any green new dealer would sign up for it?

        and both sides look to gain wealth and influence for their supporters and remain in power — it’s just a different slice of the same group of fairly well off, inoculated from most of society, people. The difference is most Democrats like to pretend it’s not – at least the current progressive wave is ab it better in acknowledging that.