Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Are Unions Dependable Progressive Allies?


Claudia Wright, the best friend a Utah
teacher could ever hope to have in DC

Mine was the first class to start as freshmen at the SUNY Stony Brook campus. The whole four years I was there the place was under construction. It was a troubled time politically-- the U.S. had invaded Viet Nam and was perpetrating a horrifying genocide in that small country fighting valiantly and courageously for its freedom. To help commemorate Memorial Day yesterday, I reread parts of Rick Perlstein's spectacular account of that period, Nixonland

Rick paints a vivid picture of an environment where the unjustifiable and savage bombing of neutral Cambodia was kicking into high gear and the student unrest that eventually ended the war was about to boil over into the tragedy of Kent State. Nixon had just given a cynical and deceptive retread of a fifth-rate speech attempting to justify American aggression and escalation:
"I would rather be a one-term president and do what I believe is right than to be a two-term president at the cost of seeing America become a second-rate power and to see this nation accept the first defeat in its proud 190-year history."

Two hundred State Department employees immediately signed a petition of protest. Nixon responded by calling an undersecretary in the middle of the night: "Fire them all!"

...Cambodia and the Panthers [trial] were catalysts [for an explosion of student fury]. So was Seymour Hersh's new book My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath. It was excerpted in the May issue of Harper's. A New York Times editorial on April 15 featured quotes:
"Then somebody said, 'What do we do with them?'

"A G.I. answered, 'Waste them.'

"Suddenly there was a burst of automatic fire from many guns. Only a small child survived. Somebody then carefully shot him, too."

Hersh's newspaper articles had only been a rough sketch. He had traveled fifty-thousand miles to complete the book. It described Robert McNamara's Project 100,000, an initiative whereby almost a million men who'd scored poorly on the Selective Service qualifying test were drafted anyway, purportedly for the noble purpose of giving them a better chance in life, actually populating the army with imbeciles. Led by imbeciles, too-- such as Lieutenant William L. Calley, Jr., twenty-four, who'd flunked out of Palm Beach Junior College but was given command of a platoon anyway, even though he couldn't properly read a map.

Nixon just kept getting sloshed out of his mind, popping pills and watching Patton over and over again. But Nixon was not without allies. He called them the Silent Majority. At my college they were personified by the construction workers. Unions were no friends of progressives back then. They used to throw beer cans at our demonstrations-- and worse. Generally speaking, these days unions are a lot more supportive of progressive causes. Usually.

In a couple of hours one of the best progressive state legislators in the country will pull the plug on his congressional campaign, ceding the field to a wealthy corporate shill who will be as representative of his district as I would be of a district in the Dallas suburbs. Why? Done in by a teacher's union hierarchy happy to play ball with Democratic powermongers in the state capital and Inside the Beltway.

And last week the 18,000 members Utah Education Association endorsed reactionary incumbent Blue Dog Jim Matheson, "citing his support for a federal stimulus program that the teachers' union says saved 2,000 education positions in the state." Forget for a moment that Matheon's opponent is a sterling progressive and a teacher for 31 years and member of the union. Instead, just keep in mind that Matheson-- who is being heavily pushed by Steny Hoyer and the rest of the Democratic incumbent protection racket, votes more frequently with Republicans than almost any other Democrat in Congress. Since Barack Obama became president (the second column of numbers in the chart directly above), Matheson's putrid voting record has been exactly tied with that of two neo-Confederate reactionaries, John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA) and Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR). Union officials like a little taste of power too, and it's not uncommon for them to completely sell out their own members, just the way the teachers union did in UT-02 and... announcement here this afternoon.

And that teacher of 31 years running against Matheson? Claudia Wright, who has been endorsed by Blue America (and the Teamsters local) and who we hope you'll consider helping with a campaign contribution today. The primary is three weeks from today.

UPDATE: Craig Pridemore Drops Out

Yeah, he was the guy I was referring to. It means that no matter what happens WA-02 will be represented in Congress by a corporate shill and a wealthy conservative with no clue about-- and no interest in-- what's important to ordinary working families.

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At 3:55 PM, Anonymous me said...

"Are Unions Dependable Progressive Allies?"

Are you kidding? Anyone who remembers the 60's and 70's knows that the unions were pretty far right on every issue except worker pay.

Remember the Teamsters endorsing Nixon? Remember the Vietnam War-loving George Meany?

In general, I approve of unions. And things may have improved some since then. But I have seen enough to know that unions are far from progressive, and are also at least as prone to corruption as any other organization.


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