Why is “Laborism” an increasing influence within the Democratic Party even though union density continues to decline?

by Rich Yeselson on February 10, 2016

A few days ago, Matt Yglesias wrote me an email which asked a great question about American politics and the seeming movement to the left of the Democratic Party. In the wake of Bernie Sander’s landslide victory in New Hampshire over Hillary Clinton, Matt’s question seems even more pressing and interesting. With his permission, I quote it below:

What’s your theory as to how the labor-liberal forces inside the Democratic coalition seem stronger than every (Hillary is now against TPP and facing a fierce challenge from a socialist) even as actual labor unions seem weaker than ever. This is 180 degrees the opposite of the trajectory that I and everyone else were forecasting 10 years ago where either there would be a labor revival (card check, etc.) or else Dems would drift right without an anchor.

Here’s how I responded to Matt, with a bit of editing and revision to convert it from private e-mail prose into something a bit more formal:

One should note, too, regarding the context of your question, Obama’s recent executive orders, which have benefited millions of workers. And, of course, the Sanders campaign. It’s a fascinating thing, isn’t it? I think it’s a case of something about which Marx would have been skeptical: a powerful cultural superstructure constructed on top of an emaciated base which, in turn, becomes grounded in a nascent materiality of its own. Even theorists of the base-superstructure divide like Raymond Williams did not imagine that “residual” cultural formations would influence “emergent” ones without themselves passing through a “dominant” ideological stage—but that seems to have happened here in the case of the “old unionism” presaging a “new laborism” atop a weakened contemporary labor movement. So unions and a kind of union ideology have spawned this laborism even as labor’s own political, cultural and economic power continues to wane. Unions have succeeded not in organizing a greater percentage of workers into union members, but, instead, in organizing a significant sub-sector of the educated elite into becoming advocates for labor: academics and writers, and the students that become not only academics and writers, but also go on to work directly for unions. We also see this dynamic in the organizing drives taking place throughout the “new media” landscape, something I wrote about in TNR last year:

For about 30 years, a goal of the most sophisticated sectors of the labor movement has been to import the talents and commitment of the college educated middle class onto union staffs, and to export, via programs like Union Summer, the Organizing Institute, and organizing campaigns on college campuses, the ethos of unionism to colleges and other precincts of the professional liberal elite. One milestone in this effort, for example was the union-intellectuals conference at Columbia in 1996, for example, which called for an explicit alliance between leftist intellectuals and unions and featured keynote addresses by Betty Friedan, Richard Rorty, and Cornel West and John Sweeney, then president of the AFL-CIO. And this strategy worked! Key thinkers and pundits like Paul Krugman became more interested in unions as a lynchpin for addressing income inequality and, even, as institutions of civil society, being a kind of the liberal equivalent to evangelical churches. Lots of public intellectuals, during this period, wrote about labor and union issues in non-academic media.

Meanwhile, college kids, disproportionately at elite colleges and universities, got involved in campus organizing fights and—in another superstructural result of post sixties scholarship—took leftist oriented classes in American labor history and the social sciences. Yale, to name a major example, became a major venue of the new laborism and continues to send undergrads and grad students to union staff positions as organizers and strategic researchers. Both the students and the thinkers like Krugman saw that unions, as an analytical proposition, if not a current reality, were institutions with the national heft, history, and indigenous roots in communities to help ordinary citizens regain some economic and political power. Meanwhile the more recent cohort of college educated, (sometimes post-graduate educated) union officials made the unions less parochial, more ecumenical and open to the post sixties social justice movements—the “race” and “gender” parts of the race/gender/class triad. Unions (some of them anyway) hired more women, people of color, and gays and lesbians. This, in turn, established a deeper connection between unions and college leftism, which is encouraged college lefties looking for social justice work after graduation to give unions a try, as opposed, perhaps, to environmental or public interest groups.

So this all became a virtuous circle—college types go into the labor movement, making it more creative, attentive to recognitional issues of race and gender, and more interested in larger questions of political economy. (For a time, the most creative union presidents were, by common consensus, three graduates of Ivy League universities. Now David Rolf, a graduate of Hamilton College, who got interested in unions in college and has an intellectual partnership with class traitor, billionaire Nick Hanauer, is considered the cutting edge union thinker.) This union glasnost, in turn, interests liberal intellectuals, looking for political and economic mechanism to address wealth and income inequality. The college-educated union based thinkers like Rolf and, before him, Andy Stern, are profiled by liberal media and consulted by liberal academics. Young, labor interested workers in the new knowledge economy, organize their media workplaces. (Note: I am not arguing here in support, necessarily of Rolf’s or Stern’s ideas and policies, only pointing out how they embody this trend.)

Meanwhile, the ranks of both this intellectual infrastructure (“Krugman’s Army”, as I have called it) and its analogous union staff are being replenished with new college graduates, especially elite schools like Yale, honed by campus organizing battles and influenced by labor interested professors. All of this is brought to bear on the Democratic Party. Let’s look, for example at the career Ohio senator, Sherrod Brown. Brown has a daughter who is (was?) an SEIU staffer. He is also an alumni of Yale, which has seen more labor strife than any other American college campus and, as noted, has produced a large cache of union staff members. Brown has supported Yale’s unions during these struggles. Thus Brown pushes laborism within the party and also in a prestigious “knowledge factory.” Writers and scholars take note of Brown and his efforts and support them. Brown’s influence, and the influence of his left laborism—and, of course, the same is true for Sanders—then permeates thinking of congressional staff, Democratic related think tanks, and left-liberal social media.

Alas, actual union membership continues to decline. We can’t know if or when that trend will end. But the social ecology within which unions live now has many thriving components that maintain the idea of unionism and, in turn, influence the Democratic Party to uphold that idea. So what we’re seeing—increased support for “laborism” and the ascent of the Sanders campaign without increased union membership—does kind of make a certain structural sense, but it’s certainly not immediately intuitive or straightforward.

 

 

 

 

 

{ 108 comments }

1

Bloix 02.10.16 at 9:34 pm

Or maybe it’s because young college graduates are poor.
“College kids” have been cultural liberals for years now, but until the last few years the labor market was working for them personally: they could look forward to a decent income and interesting, secure, white-collar work with good benefits, so they didn’t have much interest in labor issues.
But since the 2008 crisis, with decades of tuition increases of 4% above inflation leading to ballooning student loan debt, they have found that their universities have tricked them into mortgaging their future forever in exchange for what – a job as a barrista. The Fed has a policy of never allowing wages to rise ever again, while government jobs have evaporated and those that remain – e.g., teachers, social workers – are under siege. A great many young people are poor and without a foreseeable future, and they are deeply cynical about prestigious institutions and individuals.
So maybe this less about intellectual infrastructure and more about young, educated people in distress.
Less educated working people in distress are leaning toward the old stand-by, racism, but that option isn’t culturally available to most college-educated young people, thank God, and what you’re calling “laborism” is the natural place for them to go.

2

Ted Lemon 02.10.16 at 9:43 pm

I tend to think that union membership continues to decline because while the problem unions try to solve is a problem that a lot of people consider really important, they have no faith in unions as a means of solving it. So they are trying to solve it through political action, e.g. with single-payer health care and a $15 minimum wage. TBH, I think they are right.

Unions have a lot of problems: the benefits are uneven, screwing workers who work jobs that can’t easily be unionized and favoring incumbents unfairly in union shops, unions concentrate money and become a target for parasitism, unions often go too far, union leaders often do not represent the actual wishes of union members because incumbents are hard to oust (and in a sense they represent an additional layer of representation in the inefficient representative democracy model), and of course strikes are a really crappy tool for forcing change.

Social networking in principle provides a better mechanism for enacting change, and so the unions are simply being bypassed.

3

Rakesh Bhandari 02.10.16 at 9:54 pm

This is not the Norma Rae election but the Big Short election. This is not a workers’ movement but populism against the big banks. And it’s a lot of magical thinking. Can Sanders break up the banks? Which ones? Will it solve the problem? How much will his financial transaction bring in? Will it be enough to cover tuition? The Sanders upsurge seems centered on jailing and taxing the financial fraudsters, not card check. The Sanders upsurge is not even about the Erin Brokovich of Flint. It’s the Wolf of Wall Street campaign.
I would be surprised if the youth overburdened with college debt are the youth rallying to Sanders? I have not seen data that give us the class backgrounds of Sanders’ young supporters. It may be true that Sanders’ young supporters are making much less than $50K now–they’re young– but this does not mean that they see themselves as those youth confined to a life of working class oppression.
I would also not say that Sanders has forced Clinton to proclaim herself a progressive. She made Maya Harris the chief of her senior advisors in April of last year. Another one worked on negotiations with Iran, and another one has worked on work/family balance. I am not sure who Sanders’ advisors are; he may not have a foreign policy advisor. At least one who has talked to him about the authority structure in North Korea.
Look Clinton had a positive favorability rating until the PACS went after her over emails and Benghazi.She’s still electable. There is no reason to imagine that this would be the case if the right wing PACS went from wanting Sanders to win the nomination to wanting to destroy him in a general election. His health care plan involves massive regressive taxation. I don’t see himself being able to defend it and save himself in a few months, given the tens of millions that will be spent against him.

4

Bloix 02.10.16 at 10:02 pm

2 – I think the reason union membership continues to decline is that federal and state policies – conscious and unconscious – destroyed manufacturing jobs in states that had neutral or pro-union legal and political regimes.

You may not remember the massive exodus of working families from Michigan and other upper midwest states to Texas and other right-to-work states. There were a whole range of policies and events: Carter’s war on the Teamsters, the emasculation of the NLRB, the change in political mores after Reagan destroyed the air traffic controllers, the ’80s recession, NAFTA, the Clinton strong dollar policy that off-shored jobs to China, and many others.

Most people do not vote issues, they vote loyalty, and working class people in particular tend to join associations that provide social support and group identification. When a working family moved from Michigan to Texas, it left a community where the union was the main source of practical and cultural support and joins one where the church fills that space. People who once were part of a community that voted labor now vote abortion and same-sex marriage.

I’m not disagreeing that unions are prone to corruption and ossification. They are. But this is not a defining aspect of unionization, and the strength that arises from legally enforceable contracts and institutional permanence can’t be duplicated by social networking.

5

Bloix 02.10.16 at 10:12 pm

PS- #2 – “So they are trying to solve it through political action, e.g. with single-payer health care and a $15 minimum wage.”

Who is the “they” in that sentence? Might “they” be, perchance, the Service Employees International Union?

http://www.seiu1021.org/category/politics/campaigns/single-payer-healthcare/
http://www.seiu.org/about

6

Sebastian H 02.10.16 at 10:41 pm

“The main purpose of a union is not to influence federal elections, but to deal with the workplace issues, to empower workers at the workplace.”

One of the problems with unions was when they lost sight of that (see especially teacher’s unions).

7

tatere 02.10.16 at 10:47 pm

Laborish aspirations and rhetoric stronger, maybe; results, not so much yet. The urge to solidarity that maybe people fulfilled in unions in the past is still there, still felt, so it finds other avenues. But what’s missing, what unions provided that “social networking” (whatever that might be thought to mean) does not, is lasting structure. Political clout that can find and support candidates, and then follow through to reward or punish. Instead it seems like we keep having these bursts of energy that fade. If unions as such don’t fit the structure of the economy now, we still need something like them.

8

the other dsch 02.10.16 at 11:15 pm

Doesn’t this miss the point that workers turn to politics precisely because anti-union laws and repressive employers are driving down union density?

9

Ted Lemon 02.10.16 at 11:23 pm

It seems to me that the church doesn’t scratch the same itch that the union does, although to the extent that the union was just a useless social club, I suppose you’d have a point.

The SEIU has definitely done some good work wrt the minimum wage, etc., but what makes that work is not just, or even mostly, the SEIU. It is the grassroots support for these proposals that will allow them to succeed, if they do.

10

rootlesscosmo 02.11.16 at 12:07 am

A possible reason (among many) for the drift of leftish working people (and not just recent-grad baristas but low-pay retail and service workers, lots of them) toward Sanders, and political action generally, is that employers and the state have steadily chipped away at the “exclusive bargaining agent” status–with automatic dues checkoff–that unions have relied on since the thirties. If Wal-mart workers organize, will they be able to rely on the NLRA to protect the bargaining process and the contract? If we can’t get card check through Congress or correct the pro-employer tilt of the Board or elect Governors who will accept public worker unions (unlike Scott Walker), then, as Sarah P. memorably said about Putin,. “Where–where do we go?”

11

ckc (not kc) 02.11.16 at 12:19 am

Unions have succeeded not in organizing a greater percentage of workers into union members, but, instead, in organizing a significant sub-sector of the educated elite into becoming advocates for labor: academics and writers, and the students that become not only academics and writers, but also go on to work directly for unions.

…not entirely apropos, but this made me think of –

Remember the war against Franco?
That’s the kind where each of us belongs.
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs.

12

Cranky Observer 02.11.16 at 1:08 am

= = = MY: “or else Dems would drift right without an anchor.” = = =

Scott Lemieux notwithstanding, the management class of the Democratic Party has in fact moved (not drifted) very far right since 1990. I’m suspicious of pendulum arguments in general but when the Democrats’ go-to economic advisers are advocating barely disguised Gilded Age policies and strong support for TPP there was bound to be some snap-back eventually.

13

Brett 02.11.16 at 1:12 am

It’s not leading to greater union growth because winning union elections is still much, much harder than organizing issue campaigns and small protests. The only places where it has gone smoothly lately have been in liberal New Media publications, and we’ll see how long that lasts.

Meanwhile, the unions are stuck. Do they keep funneling money into these things, building support even if it never seems to lead to membership growth? Or do they scale back and focus on their membership, like the UFWA did on OUR Walmart after it mostly turned out to be fruitless? It’s a Catch-22 – if they don’t support broader liberal causes, then they’ll become more isolated and have less support, making it even harder for them to win union elections.

I dunno. I can kind of see why Rich wrote an article pointing out that it comes in waves, and you’re just trying to leap on board when the wave hits. If it ever does anymore.

14

JimV 02.11.16 at 1:35 am

A year after I joined GE there was a strike at the Schenectady plant that lasted about six months. I was never a union member (there was no engineering union) but when I left GE at 57 I had 30 days paid vacation plus holidays and sick days, the right to sue management over serious issues rather than submit to company arbitrators, and a vested pension. Try telling the young people of today that – I do, and they don’t believe it (until I prove it with old pay stubs showing my vacation usage and other documents). I owed it to the unions – and GE management’s practice of giving non-union workers as good or better benefits as they gave the unions, to keep us from forming our own unions.

Older people like me saw how companies rolled back benefits as unions died out and what that has done to the country, and vote accordingly.

15

longwalkdownlyndale 02.11.16 at 3:45 am

Great points. I’d also add that the big Republican wins in 2010 and 2014 probably contributed to this change more recently. The more moderate (and even conservative) Democrats that lost in those years came heavily from places more hostile to unions (the Sunbelt, rural districts etc.) and probably where the types that would have pushed back against this trend towards “laborism” or left wing politics like Bernie Sander’s campaign in general. Because of those elections they aren’t around to push back against these trends inside the party anymore.

16

Ted Lemon 02.11.16 at 4:17 am

One other thing that may be making the present electorate pro-labor but sour on unions: police unions openly and shamelessly protecting murderers and abusers who happen to have badges.

17

Paul Davis 02.11.16 at 4:36 am

@7: One of the problems with unions was when they lost sight of that

Au contraire. One of the problems with unions, particularly in the USA, was their willingness to forget the idea that they could only deal effectively with workplace issues by also working to change the political and legal landscape.

Republicans have been extremely effective at rolling back the changes initially won by unions to make their workplace efforts more productive, and as a result it has become harder and harder for unions to accomplish things for their members, even just within a workplace context. But Republicans didn’t accomplish this alone – they have had plenty of implicit help from the conservative end of the USA union movement that never accepted that political and legal change was also a part of the unions’ mission.

18

Sebastian H 02.11.16 at 5:10 am

You can’t expect it to be ok to force you to join unions to work AND take money from workers AND let them become full throated voices for one political party. What happened was that unions tried to get all of that and then got hit hard in the courts. When unions became just another interest group that throws in with one party all the time they lost their ability to claim to represent all workers. Trying to get that (unless you can actually convince all the workers that they are Democrats) is going to hit obvious problems. It is a tough problem.

19

kidneystones 02.11.16 at 7:13 am

Matt Y is not interested in unions, workers’ rights, or in learning anything IMHO. His email is a case in point. Matt is a writer/blogger. No other group on the tubes is in more need of collective representation. Matt might get paid well, or he might get peanuts. Having (tried to) read Y off and on for a number of years I can’t recall a single thing he wrote that someone else didn’t write before him, or better. It’s possible he was ahead of the curve on something, but I doubt it.

Unfortunately, Matt is not alone. If you want to learn about unions, get involved in your own. If you don’t belong to a union, I wouldn’t go as far to say you’re part of the problem, but most workplace solutions involve collective bargaining. I enjoy an extremely good relationship with my bosses. I received email in the last two days from both requesting me to provide labor outside what are the generally-agreed upon parameters of my contract. As an adjunct I’m fully aware that my only official task is to relieve full-time instructors from the burden of teaching, and to allow administrators to continue to do whatever it is that they do. Full-time instructors are generally totally cool with the arrangement. Given the surplus of talented graduates on the market and the indifference of universities to teaching standards – its all about the consumer, I don’t expect the situation to change anytime soon.

There’s a great deal of good literature on worker rights in different countries. That’s a good place for a keen student to start, but I expect that Matt knows that and is expecting others to do the heavy lifting for him. For the less academically-inclined, electing a protectionist government dedicated to preventing corporate inversion, and that will restrict/penalize trade with slave states is the best way to ensure that domestic workers gain some leverage. I’ve belonged to a variety of unions over my working career and most of the bad rep that unions receive is well-earned. The last socialist government I voted for did more to help unions in Ontario than any before or since. Who hounded the socialists from power? Three guesses. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2009/11/06/no_regrets_about_days_that_bear_his_name_rae_says.html

20

An American Anthropologist in Germany 02.11.16 at 7:14 am

Your answer is persuasive, though a bit complicated and possibly missing the forest for the trees. The reason labor unions have decline is that they’ve been suppressed, by law and policy since the Clinton era (maybe the trend started earlier, I wouldn’t know). But the need for unions has only grown more pronounced. What you call laborism (enthusiasm for labor politics among academic and the college educated youth more generally) may be partly due to a conscious attempt by unions to spread their message to this group. But it’s not like historians, sociologists, etc., are incapable of looking at two trends I mentioned (suppression of unions, on one hand, and an increased objective need for them on the other) and making these connections on their own. Certainly the conference at Columbia you mentioned might have helped. So has the rise of graduate student organizing. But the latter is itself a direct response to the increased reliance of colleges and universities on precarious and underpaid graduate student labor and that of their recently graduated peers stuck in the adjunction trap.

21

Nathanael 02.11.16 at 7:46 am

— Actual unions started to support zero-solidarity policies like the two-tier “more pension for older workers, less for younger workers”. There were lots of examples of this. The employers had come up with the most successful union-busting tactic ever in this case.
— Some (the ones I know about are all in railroads) started to support really terrible policies of featherbedding, which is also a form of zero-solidarity with their hardworking customers.

These were bad for the unions. Zero-solidarity behavior will chase people away from a particular union really fast. But it doesn’t mean they don’t like the principles of unionism.

The result is that unionizing attempts are taking place in… different unions. SEIU has grown by leaps and bounds, while many of the older unions like UAW (infamous for the two-tier agreements) have been shrinking very quickly. Even the Wobblies have been gaining chapters.

Unfortunately, there have been a lot of very powerful union-busting operations going on, which has made organizing in the areas which most need unionization *very hard*. So that organizing has been going a lot slower than the decline in the old-line “zero-solidarity unions”.

22

Nathanael 02.11.16 at 7:53 am

“So maybe this less about intellectual infrastructure and more about young, educated people in distress.”

Young & middle-aged educated people in distress, in solidarity with young & middle-aged less-educated people in distress.

This is what I consider to be the recipe for revolution, looking historically. If you are part of the governing elite, you should never ever let this situation happen. Unionization is the least of the results; this formula led to the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and numerous less-successful social cataclysms.

It can be nipped in the bud… by giving the educated people in distress what they demand. As Earl Grey did with the Great Reform Bill in 1832. If it hadn’t passed, England would have faced a left-wing revolution just like France did 43 years earlier.

23

geo 02.11.16 at 12:00 pm

Sebastian @19: You can’t expect it to be ok to force you to join unions to work

The libertarian canard that closed shops violate workers’ rights is effectively rebutted (yet again) in Tom Slee’s wonderful No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart, chapter 6.

24

Igor Belanov 02.11.16 at 12:07 pm

Yes, the media tell us that people hate ‘free-riders’, but they’re fine with the people at my workplace who want to enjoy all the benefits that the union negotiates for us but don’t want to go as far as to pay union subs and become a member.

25

mdc 02.11.16 at 12:42 pm

“Matt Y is not interested in unions”

In fact, Yglesias has one of the keener understandings of the labor movement, definitely compared to similarly situated online writers (which is a low bar, admittedly). I also think he’s deeply pro-labor, so to speak, though not vociferously so.

26

kidneystones 02.11.16 at 1:51 pm

@ 27 I see no need for consensus on this point. I doubt any serious academic is about to sound Matt out on any topic and for good reason. The best that can be said of young Matt is that he’s an aspiring VSP and offers all the kind of keen insights we expect of a Broder, Brooks, or Friedman. Had he a shred of intellectual stamina, he’d do his own research instead of ‘crowd-sourcing’ this union project in the manner of Jonah Goldberg. Matt elected to cut his education short and his routine embarrassments are the price he continues to pay. Those who indulge him aren’t doing him any favors. He’s managed to convince people not to take his support for the Iraq invasion seriously, so there’s that.

Perhaps he can help HRC do the same.

27

Frowner 02.11.16 at 2:50 pm

Meanwhile the more recent cohort of college educated, (sometimes post-graduate educated) union officials made the unions less parochial, more ecumenical and open to the post sixties social justice movements—the “race” and “gender” parts of the race/gender/class triad.

I (union member!) am a little uneasy with the implication that unions are parochial unless lead by elites. I’m actually in a union which has become markedly less “parochial” over the past years, and that hasn’t been because we’ve got some PhDs coaxing us out of our racist, homophobic and sexist ways. I would attribute it to an influx, actually, of union members of color and immigrant union members generally, to the increasing visibility of GLBTQ people in the culture which has made it possible for GLBTQ members to be out, and to a block of women workers who support each other and organize as women. We are not a PhD-heavy union at any level. There’s a lot of contention within the union over certain things -a resolution in support of Ferguson, for example – but that contention is between working class members.

Some of the most active people in membership and leadership are also social justice activists in the community – but they’re not 22-year-olds doing a short stint in a prole job before grad school. Most of them are lifelong organizers and activists who got started in the eighties, many socialists.

As much as I’m sure that laborism-of-the-elites is important in a broad sense, I’m not entirely sure that it best explains things inside actual unions.

28

jake the antisoshul soshulist 02.11.16 at 2:52 pm

There is a war on so-called liberal institutions by the right. Propagandists like Breitbart made no bones about wanting to destroy “liberal” institutions. Though, there is a lot of effort put into subverting those they cannot destroy. Unions are one of those institutions
that they have been successful in damaging.
There is not much that the left can do about evangelical churches, the NRA, Chamber of Commerce, the military, etc. The best we can hope for is to restrain their power and influence.

29

TM 02.11.16 at 4:17 pm

26: “the media tell us that people hate ‘free-riders’”

And it’s wrong, and it matters to get it right.

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/02/05/90-of-what-goes-on-at-the-new-york-can-be-explained-by-vulgar-marxism/#comment-658388

30

Trader Joe 02.11.16 at 5:01 pm

I grew up in a family that spent decades committed to unions. In my view, the biggest problem with unions is that they are too hard to form and too hard to collapse.

In every industry, there are certain times where employees absolutely need the power of unionization in order to achieve fair and reasonable outcomes – right now I’d suggest retail workers, fast food employees and, based on comments, some university workers are clearly in that category.

The problem is, once unions are formed and achieve some portion of their goals, they eventually fall prey to their own power and begin seeking rewards that harm the underlying business or unfairly protect incumbent vs. future workers or simply codify the power of union bosses and do little for the workers in the industry. By the time this happens usually the jobs in question are ‘good jobs’ with more than ample benefits and probably too much rather than too little job protection. Dockworkers, some school systems and many factory jobs fall into this category right now (in my opinion).

If unions could be quickly formed when workers need help and then disbanded once objectives are achieved, businesses quite likely would be more amenable to their formation. What business fears is decades of grinding concessions and the inefficiencies that usually follow which is at least in part why they so vehemently resist their formation.

There is always a tranche of american workers that can benefit from greater Laborism and that’s what the Democratic party constantly panders to even though they generally do little to foment new unionization and much to entrench existing structures. In my view, curently the proportion of workers who could benefit from Laborism and aren’t getting that benefit is much higher than normal which is why corralling this block is so attractive.

31

Rakesh Bhandari 02.11.16 at 5:42 pm

Perhaps too obvious to state, but just so we can some read on who’ll be the Republican nominee…The fundamental threat to laborism at present is Trump. He is attempting to transmute laborism into white nationalism. Instead of labor encroaching on the prerogatives of business through pro-union policies, minimum wage policies and progressive taxation, Trump is appealing to white people (some of them in unions) by saying that they won’t have to compete with immigrants and that he’ll negotiate deals in terms of trade and dollar policy to open up foreign markets even more to US exports. None of this touches the power of American business, but it gives people the sense of being tough without having actually confronted power. No Republican can call out the demagogy, so Trump is in a powerful position.
He offers an easy psychological solution to humiliation and a sense of powerlessness. Trump also tells white people that he’ll do illegal things to American blacks and Arabs overseas to keep white Americans safe and assures them that he’ll preserve the Medicare and Social Security they have paid into.
The NYT reported that there is fear in the labor movement that unionized workers may actually rally to Trump. Yes indeed.

32

bob mcmanus 02.11.16 at 5:55 pm

In every industry, there are certain times where employees absolutely need the power of unionization

The Book is not entitled “Workers” and the 4th volume is not “Theories of Labour Power”

We study Capital and profits to determine the auspicious time to attack, when profits and capital power is weakest. We are not sympathetic or protective of capital. We attack by not getting part of the surplus, but by reducing the amount of capital, by nationalization and socialization. Unions are the means of survival, or organizing and raising consciousness for the always already political struggle.

We want power, not crumbs of profit.

33

Mr Punch 02.11.16 at 6:50 pm

“Labor-liberal forces”? Nonsense. Labor isn’t liberal (the L word, remember?); hence the fight over who’s “progressive” – which today means “don’t call us liberals,” as a century ago it meant “don’t call us radicals.” The New Left (US branch) attempt to forge a popular front around civil rights and Vietnam, though correct on both, failed spectacularly in 1968-72, and we’ve been living in the wreckage ever since.

34

jonnybutter 02.11.16 at 7:18 pm

Zero-solidarity behavior will chase people away from a particular union really fast. But it doesn’t mean they don’t like the principles of unionism.

This rings for me. I have belonged to two unions, one pretty bad and one very bad; they both had varying degrees of the Basic Incumbent Disease: colluding with management against the interests of workers just to ‘keep the shindig going’. Not just ‘zero-solidarity’, but negative.

Since work changes, unions have to change sometimes, clearly. It is unionism itself which is most vital to preserve, not necessarily particular unions, no?

35

Trader Joe 02.11.16 at 8:46 pm

Bob @34
I don’t doubt that many would fully sign-up to “we want power, not crumbs of profit” but by unit count, I’d suggest that the vast majority of rank & file members don’t want power – they just want a decent job and more than fair wages and benefits. While certainly labor has all the potential in the world to be movement, I think precious few actually view it that way. Perhaps a learned behavior that can be unlearned.

Apropos of some of Rich’s comments on another strand, most people just want to be a little better off than their neighbor, they don’t want to own the whole block.

36

bob mcmanus 02.11.16 at 9:37 pm

You don’t shrink the industrial reserve army by increasing wages and benefits. Productivity rising faster than wages means there is too much capital. As long as capitalists have excess capital they can move it, overseas or somewhere more profitable, and they will, because excess surplus does not necessarily mean high profits, needs to be realized in a market, which is shrinking (effective demand) as the underemployed is expanding. As we have seen competing to be in the aristocracy of labor loses even in the midterm.

I’m not a unionist, but a socialist. Public transportation, hospitals, media, banking, utilities used to be understood not merely as commons, but as attacks on the political power of capital. People aren’t stupid, just have forgotten and misinformed. Unions used to be big and broad enough to do the reminding. We are not going back to those days, but socialization of investment is inevitable. “Social” meaning glocal anymore.

37

Chip Daniels 02.12.16 at 12:44 am

I wonder if the decline of unions also part of the larger “Bowling Alone” shift.
I mean, if you think of a typical union member in 1955, he was probably also a member of the American Legion or VFW, a member of an organized church, member of a fraternal lodge like Masons or Shriners, a member of a bowling league, bridge club and so on.

All these organizations are dwindling, not just unions. All are shrinking to a small rump of seniors, and none are of interest to younger post- Boomers.

What sort of organized groups do younger people belong to, what sort of social order exists which could nurture the concept of “brotherhood” and “solidarity”?

I can’t believe these phenomena are not connected.

38

bob mcmanus 02.12.16 at 1:18 am

What sort of organized groups do younger people belong to

Study facebook and twitter?

The analysis I cannot abide is the one that implies a new young Sam Gompers is sitting out there playing Minecraft and if she would simply quit slacking and get to work we could have the billion person Union of Unions in no time at all! This means you! And me!

With billions of relatively free educated folk around if “it” hasn’t happened yet it is most likely because it is materially impossible, not because somebody didn’t try hard enough. We study Gompers to see how conditions have changed, and what current conditions might allow. Back to Facebook and twitter, rather than organizing workplaces and trades.

39

bob mcmanus 02.12.16 at 1:32 am

Mandel quotes Marx in Late Capitalism: The passage allows for no ambiguity: ‘The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct form of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect, and been transformed in accordance with it.’ (Grundrisse, p. 706. )

40

kidneystones 02.12.16 at 2:06 am

@40 Normally you’re very sensible. However, your suggestion that getting people together on FB and twitter is comparable/superior to union organizing according to trade and workplace requires some support. I’m not active now, but I was as recently as 5 years ago when I was involved in a number of workplace actions. A central distinction between FB and common trades is that FB can be about shared values, rather than shared interests which to me is critical. Agreeing on values is not, IMHO, a requirement for organizin and building unions. Agreeing on shared interests is. A lot of what passes for discussion in union meetings involves venting, boasting, posturing, attacking other members, attacking management, dodging blame, and the rest of the sausage-making process. And most unions have some form of online discussion, that management can hack into if they wish, so that other groups need to formed and other strategies evolve. At the end, a whole lot of people who might not agree on any single non-workplace/trade related issue come together to make a case for improved benefits, workplace safety, input on the decision-making, etc. Trade unions in first world economies have failed for the most part because economists and union organizers fail to recognize that union members are also consumers. And as long as workers in the first world are willing to purchase cheap products made by slaves in the third world, we’re screwed.

I’m as guilty of this as the next person. I’m not about to boycott Apple or Google, but I’m behind electing governments that will pressure large companies to relocate, and I’m willing to pay higher prices for products made by US, Canadian, and other first-world workers. But that’s me.

41

bob mcmanus 02.12.16 at 2:37 am

However, your suggestion that getting people together on FB and twitter is comparable/superior to union organizing according to trade and workplace requires some support.

That wasn’t my suggestion. I am not a leader, organizer, planner. Following the flash mobs and carrying the viral infections is more my style. I am also not telling anybody in trades or worksites what not to do.

Sanders gained like 10 points in a week after three Clinton surrogates said 5 sentences. How exactly did that work? Who was in charge? Just give some attention to how it’s working. Cause that’s the terrain.

42

geo 02.12.16 at 2:38 am

Bob@41: The passage allows for no ambiguity

Yes, that’s about as unambiguous as a passage can be.

43

ragweed 02.12.16 at 5:43 am

You know, I think Bob’s really on to something. There is big change in how people communicate with social media and it is not all inferior.

Seattle just had it’s first teacher strike in 30 years. As the strike began, a group of mostly parents started a group on Facebook called Soup for Teachers, that organized strike support for the picket lines. It started out with trying to get PTAs and other parents to support teachers at their own school, but in a matter of days it had 2000 members and had organized a coordinated response for all 94 schools in the district, each day insuring that every school had coffee and lunch for the striking teachers, taking special care to make sure that high-poverty schools without well funded PTAs had as much support as the more affluent communities. It has morphed into a major vehicle to coordinate a number of different groups and organizations working for educational justice.

So there are real things going on in social media. It is not necessarily an either-or with street activism or face-to-face communication.

44

dax 02.12.16 at 9:17 am

“What’s your theory as to how the labor-liberal forces inside the Democratic coalition seem stronger than every (Hillary is now against TPP and facing a fierce challenge from a socialist) even as actual labor unions seem weaker than ever.”

I don’t understand the argument, which seems to be, “Since labour unions are weaker, desire for improvements in workers’ conditions should be less.” If there is any causality here, it’s that labour unions are weaker, therefore labour conditions are worse, therefore more people are unhappy, therefore the desire to improve labour conditions has increased. There seems to be a premise that improvement of labour conditions can only occur via labour unions; but amelioration can also happen via system-wide changes, such as free university education, a better health care system, and a higher minimum wage.

45

reason 02.12.16 at 10:16 am

dax @46
Yep – I’m with you. What the original question implies is that politics = money. To some extent yes, but ultimately money doesn’t vote (it just tries to influence votes).

46

Barry 02.12.16 at 1:09 pm

Trader Joe, your argument is just a variation on ‘no unions now’. Some may grudgingly conceded that there once was a need, but insist that there is no real need now. Others might say that there never was a need.

Which for all practical purposes, is the same: ‘no unions now’.

47

Trader Joe 02.12.16 at 3:21 pm

@48
I think you mis-read me. I’m 100% in favor of unions now, tomorrow, yesterday and always. I have been a union member and am born from union blood.

But unlike so many of the rah, rah yea-union cheerleaders, I also understand what unions can do well and what they do poorly. They are excellent at driving change when it is needed and many times it is sorely needed….they suck at knowing what to do once they’ve made progress usually preferring to featherbed a seat at a corrupt table rather than continue to seek further change.

I’ve listened to local leaders talk at my family kitchen table, its not all Sam Gompers and Norma Rae. Its absolutely naive to believe once unions taste power they aren’t going to be corrupted by it and quite often become no better than managements they seek to challenge.

Its an absolute pipe dream to imagine unions forming and unforming as I’ve suggested, but it would be better than much of what exists now. Industries that need unions don’t have them, industries that have them don’t need them (any more).

48

abby 02.12.16 at 3:53 pm

One reason that laborism as ideology has grown even while unionism in fact has declined is an academic, legal and popular response to the long term right wing legal attacks on the communitarian bases of labor law in the U.S. Since at least Taft-Hartley in 1947 authorizing states to pass “right-to-work” laws and continuing to present Supreme Court cases under consideration (e.g., Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, where the justices seem poised to allow government workers to refuse to support unions’ collective bargaining activities), the right has explicitly targeted the legal underpinnings of collective action. While unions have gotten weaker, in fact, they remain as potent symbols and remembrances of collective action working as partial corrective to the extreme libertarian, quasi-individualistic ethos (where corporations are individuals) that can result in harm where no true equivalency of bargaining power exists. People are continually learning that they can’t wrestle alone with corporations in realms like Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms in trade agreements. The union model, while weakened, provides perhaps the best example where collective action was mobilized to balance the playing field, at least to some extent.

49

willf 02.12.16 at 4:34 pm

Matthew Yglesias cannot possibly believe that Hillary Clinton is actually against the TPP. There’s no way he is that gullible.

50

Rakesh Bhandari 02.12.16 at 4:42 pm

Again I don’t think laborism is as strongly held as people here seem to think. It is easily transmuted into a blind populist hatred of the banks and the white nationalism defended by Trump. This post is trying to explain something for which there is no strong empirical evidence has been provided, i.e. a new vibrant commitment to so-called laborism in spite of the collapse of unionism. Why is white nationalism so appealing? Well that is the partly result of the war against so-called “pc” multiculturalism in our educational system (Former AZ Governor Jan Brewer here as elsewhere provided the model for Donald Trump). Look at CT–I don’t there is a single minority among those who write the CT posts.

51

Chip Daniels 02.12.16 at 5:00 pm

@40-
I suppose I was thinking in a different direction, that labor organizing is connected to the larger way in which we socialize.

Are young people joining groups of any kind? I would love to think social media is just a new form of organizing, but from what I can see, it is a new form of the type of casual socializing people did in pubs a century ago- not a bad thing, just not quite the same as organized groups.

Because it seems like what is missing is the notion of blending the self into the group, of surrendering a portion of individual autonomy to the group norms, which is the root of solidarity.

I count Boomers like myself as the instigators of the move away from that solidarity, by the way- that weakening of communal obligations, strengthening of the individual was the hallmark of the 60’s and 70’s social climate.

In order to build labor unions, we would need to also build a society in which the self is less triumphant.

52

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 5:33 pm

I am still trying to recover from this observation by Rakesh on another thread:

Probably it’s too obvious to say that young people support Sanders, first and foremost, because he is promising free college and relief from college debt. Can he collect the taxes to do this? How cheaply would colleges have to be run if students no longer paid any tuition? What would labor conditions for contingent faculty and staff have to be like for colleges to be run that cheap?

If there is some proto-laborism emerging in American politics, it seems to me we can attribute it to an emerging consciousness that the great mass is being fed upon systematically. I gaze on trends in American colleges, and I imagine the systematic increases in tuition and loan financing are of a piece with the impoverishment of contingent faculty: It is all one big policy. So, why not imagine fighting back with one big union?

Globalizing elites abandoned the people a long time ago. Now, the people are noticing.

53

Chip Daniels 02.12.16 at 5:59 pm

@54
I never get tired of pointing out that prior to 1975, the University of California system was the gold standard of public universities, and was tuition-free.

Because it is a stubborn fact that too many people want to memory hole, and pretend that tuition-free higher ed is a bizarre fantasy.

54

Rakesh Bhandari 02.12.16 at 6:12 pm

No one tires here of telling Jerry Brown, the California Assembly and the California electorate that. It hasn’t done much good (and Scott Walker is even more recalcitrant); Bernie Sanders can’t change that, so why is he making promises that depend on his changing what he as a President and not a Dictator could not change.
From last night.
CLINTON: You know, I think, again, both of us share the goal of trying to make college affordable for all young Americans. And I have set forth a compact that would do just that for debt-free tuition.

We differ, however, on a couple of key points. One of them being that if you don’t have some agreement within the system from states and from families and from students, it’s hard to get to where we need to go.

And Senator Sanders’s plan really rests on making sure that governors like Scott Walker contribute $23 billion on the first day to make college free. I am a little skeptical about your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that.
____
And here is Sanders who is completely non-responsive:
SANDERS: Here is where we are with public education. A 100, 150 years ago incredibly brave Americans said, you know what, working class kids, low income kids should not have to work in factories or on the farms. Like rich kids, they deserve to get a free education.

And that free education of extraordinary accomplishment was from first grade to 12th grade. The world has changed. This is 2016. In many ways, a college degree today is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50, 60 years ago.

So, yes, I do believe that when we talk about public education in America, today, in a rapidly changing world, we should have free tuition at public colleges and universities. That should be a right of all Americans regardless of the income of their families.

55

Rakesh Bhandari 02.12.16 at 6:15 pm

And if people here really hate Henry Kissinger as much as they hate Winston Churchill, they really should not rally behind George McGovern 2.0.

56

Richard Cottrell 02.12.16 at 6:34 pm

In power, Trump will be far more socialist than the Ancient Mariner of the current theatricals.
National Socialist.
It is written.

57

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 6:46 pm

Rakesh Bhandari @ 58

Huh?

58

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 6:49 pm

Ze K @ 56 nice

59

The Temporary Name 02.12.16 at 7:01 pm

Rakesh Bhandari @ 58
Huh?

Maybe he’s trying to destroy Landru.

60

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 7:17 pm

The problem with the Trump as Mussolini (or he who will not be named) thesis is that while Trump in some ways fits the mold of populist demagogue, the American people have not been prepared by their recent experience to follow in that manner. After WWI, many of the traditional props of hierarchical society had been ripped away and people had had the experience of solidarity fostered by the common cause of total war within living memory.

In the U.S., the traditional props of New Deal politics and international leadership are past their sell-by date. In the last (and continuing) war, very few were asked to sacrifice. Solidarity has been sorely misused, but also very superficial as a personal experience for most people.

After years of pretend polarization in politics — red v blue as a teevee show — a real and genuinely oppositional divide is threatening to break out, dividing those who want to preserve the status quo from those who want a revolution, even if they are not clear on the dimensions.

61

Rakesh Bhandari 02.12.16 at 7:54 pm

62

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 8:29 pm

The Nation branding the Republican Party as racist is somewhat unsubtle partisan hectoring, but not entirely accurate or insightful. To win the Presidency, the conventional wisdom within the Party is that the Republican candidate needs a healthy slice of the hispanic vote. That is a bit of a problem given the hostility Republicans have shown on immigration policy, where economics and race and a sense of betrayal by elites comes together in a combustible mix. Trump stirs that pot. He also gets no more than 45% of the Republican vote. A candidate who cannot win a majority in his own Party is not viable in the general election. Wot? Me Worry?

63

Quercus 02.12.16 at 8:41 pm

I’m with dax: Unions are not the only pro-labor institution, and political support for pro-labor actions doesn’t have to be created by unions, or aimed at increasing union power.
There is tremendous popular support for a Federal Reserve that sees high employment as goal at least on par with preventing inflation, for strong federal action to reign in monopoly power, for changing tax rules more towards workers and less towards investors, for avoiding wars designed to profit oil companies and defense contractors, for rolling back existing and avoiding new trade agreements tilted towards investors, etc. None of these are union-based actions but they are all pro-labor.
That’s what people want (a lot of Trump supporters, too, thought they might not put it quite the way Bernie supporters would): put simple, government working for the 99% instead of the 0.1%. For better or worse, unionism is a small part of that movement and not the solution most are looking for.

64

RNB 02.12.16 at 9:18 pm

@66 Trump supporters actually really want what you feel ok overlooking–racism in defense of white labor; if they really wanted the other stuff, they would be supporting the Democrats.

Really intrigued by the radical academic criticism of Hillary Clinton for saying that she would take advantage of Henry Kissinger’s contacts in China (and we’ll put aside Sanders’ praise of Winston Churchill last night). The radical argument seems to be that we hate her name-dropping Kissinger so we better make sure Sanders is nominated… even though with a health plan that would increase costs for 71% of the American population and raise fears to a fever pitch that people will be caught between systems in his epochal transformation of the health care system, Sanders will likely get slaughtered in the general election, given the PACS money that will be spent against him…

and we’ll end up with John Bolton running foreign policy and some climate change skeptic doing everything to expand the US oil industry all over all the world. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Oh yes these are the people who know so much about and care so deeply about the victims of US foreign policy. Well, why don’t they ask themselves: what would Noam Chomsky do? After all, today’s radical critics of Kissinger have not added a word to what Chomsky wrote decades ago. Yet Chomsky clearly says that he does not think Sanders has a chance and that he would absolutely vote for Clinton over her Republican rival.

Of course the opposition to Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy begins the day after she is elected.

65

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 9:18 pm

An actual union, though, is capable — at least theoretically — of instituting the social processes that educate diverse people to their common interests and promote a degree of loyalty and disciplined coordination. A strike requires people to engage in a form of altruistic punishment, that requires bearing short-term pain for the promise of long-term gain, even when a strict and narrow cost-benefit test may not prove the case.

A politician like Clinton can rely on a reciprocal relationship with her donor base: she stays bought and they continue to place some of their bets on her — they take her calls and she takes theirs.

The unorganized mass of popular opinion may have severe short-term memory problems and no particular interest in, say, overpaying for speeches years after the politician held office and delivered on policy.

Unless there’s some social process, where people think thru an issue in some detail, their opinions are as variable as a windvane, changing direction with each new 30-second soundbite featuring a focus-grouped slogan. I am not sure we have that social process in place in the twitter-verse or even the blogosphere.

One thing that I find attractive about Sanders is that he puts a high priority on building some kind of movement, on reforming the Democratic Party. Obama in 2007-8 did a pretty good job in building mass-support, but he dropped it on inauguration day in favor of delivering for Wall Street; I’d expect Clinton to do the same. The 2010 elections were catastrophic for the Democrats and for the country; if the Democratic Party cannot win the Congress in 2016, it is because Obama set up Democrats for failure in 2010.

But, I don’t think Sanders talking about $27 campaign contributions or a 50-state strategy of political mobilization is enough. Moveon.org never accomplished much that I could see. Politicians in Congress — especially on the Republican side — now are mostly spokesmodels, and many Democrats may welcome a degree of popular support that they can play against the dictates of business interests, but any kind of policy of structural change in the American economy will tend to be de-stabilizing — it will create circumstances that make people afraid. It is ironic, but the tenor of Sanders campaign rests upon the odd combination of high dissatisfaction with the economy and a low unemployment rate. I’m not sure what happens as it comes apart.

66

kidneystones 02.12.16 at 10:54 pm

I’m glad to see the conversation return to real options such as tuition=free education. What tuition-free education will not pay for? A free – market pay scale in which administrators and college presidents are compelled x amount of time fund-raising and recruiting celebrity talent, new computers every x number of years, plush student facilities. What tuition-free education will do is deny the banks, not the students or faculty, vast amounts of money. Private education will have to provide something other than a 40k tuition-bill and a pedigree because these institutions will be competing in a free market, really for the first-time. A great many (most) talented students at all levels are going go choose free high quality education over a 120k tuition bill for a four pedigree. Competition for places at elite public universities will be extremely stiff, as it should be, and the winners will be the students, their parents, the faculty, non-professional managers (no more 200k salaries), and society as a whole.

An uncle completed his doctorate at Berkeley during in the early 60s, after a first-class tuition-free school in Europe. Anyone familiar with German or French graduate schools knows that high-quality education is available at a fraction of the cost of US schools. Suggesting that tuition-free education is ‘unrealistic’ is provably false. Those propagating pro-bank and pro-Big ed knowingly or unknowingly might wish to reconsider their claims.

67

RNB 02.12.16 at 11:15 pm

Glad that you have crunched the numbers, kidneystone.

68

engels 02.12.16 at 11:23 pm

A great many (most) talented students at all levels are going go choose free high quality education over a 120k tuition bill for a four pedigree

As Oxvard and Yalebridge become more nakedly finishing schools for guilded youth then they already are they may experience a dropoff in applications from the bright kids drawn from the other 99% who they rely on top keep the academic prestige wheel turning. Given this isn’t the nineteenth century and such kids have plenty of other options that could be fatal. But maybe that’s wishing thinking on my part.

I sometimes think there should be an organised boycott of Oxford, by comprehensive schools, by working class applicants and ethnic minority applicants

69

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 11:45 pm

k: A free – market pay scale [for] administrators and college presidents . . .

That’s the rub, isn’t it? Competition among the executive class — not really “market” competition, of course, because it is a political process setting the salaries and bonuses for the top dogs — has pushed them in the direction of control frauds, looting and other perversities. These are power positions and what’s power to do if not squeeze the little people?

So, we get such spectacles as the attempted ouster of Teresa Sullivan at the University of Virginia, or the debacle at the Cooper Union that left that formerly free institution barely solvent, but mostly we just get a slow corrosion of trust as positions of domination are used and abused in universities and non-profits just as they have been , on a larger scale, in banks and business corporations.

Ultimately, largely ending tuition is not going to solve that problem of who guards the guardians, but it does lay down a marker, a point of political coordination.

Of course, we could just continue lesser evilism, choosing the allegedly less steep decline into hell in each election cycle. Yeah, let’s do that! Hillary has so much experience with getting that done!

70

Bruce Wilder 02.12.16 at 11:48 pm

engels @ 69 I don’t know what the situation is with the Oxbridge and comparable institutions in the U.K., but the Ivy League institutions are mostly so well-endowed, they don’t really need to charge tuition at all and do so only because of a self-reinforcing system of fund-raising and status grants drives it forward. It is easy in such a system to buy the necessary packing peanuts to legitimize the degrees sold to legacies.

71

djr 02.12.16 at 11:58 pm

engels @ 69: Why? Particularly why in the UK context where Oxbridge tuition at £9k/yr is identical to middle of the road universities, and much less than its US equivalents?

72

kidneystones 02.13.16 at 12:31 am

@70 I’m certain we’re (more or less) in agreement on the overwhelming merit/benefits of tuition-free education as the simplest/most cost-effective way to refocus educators, institutions, and students on the mission: education, research, rigor, and debate. Getting money largely out of the education equation improves quality by removing the extraneous, redundant, and ineffective. You’d think the utilitarians would line-up behind the proposition. Unfortunately, however, the stiffest opposition to positive change is certain to come from stake-holders at the higher levels who, like HRC, is convinced the system is working just fine thank you very much. Who do you think will be shrieking loudest about the dire threat to educational quality and choice should Sanders’ insane proposition gain traction outside the Big-Ed?

You rightly point out that trust has already seriously eroded to the point where grade-inflation and plagiarism are the norm at all levels. By which, I mean dubious articles propagating through the peer-system serving careerist academics and giant-publishers, and the scamming of graduate students duped into taking on immense debt on the pipe-dream of obtaining a tenured position. Pursuing a four-year degree full-time directly out of high school is not for everyone. My own view is that the best long-term solution is to minimize trade/diplomatic contacts with slave-states, return manual labor jobs to the first-world, and focus on better quality lives/careers instead of voluntary servitude to the 1%. Right now, it’s still their world. We just (kind of) live in it. Only two candidates are ready to change the status quo, and if people don’t get behind Bernie in a big way, the change candidate is going to be the bloviator.

73

ragweed 02.13.16 at 6:58 am

Interesting anti-Sanders arguments on this thread – reducing inequality is hard – better not to try.

74

ragweed 02.13.16 at 7:29 am

Two thoughts.

The idea that unions should primarily serve the immediate pay-and-benefits needs of their employees, rather than broader movements to improve general social well being is, I think, largely rooted in red-baiting and the deal cut with the AFL-CIO in the 1940s (?). It kinda sorta worked under the management regime through the 60s, but it really doesn’t work under the relentless assault on labor since the 80s. It also has an interesting parallel with free-market neoliberalism – unions should focus on bargaining their own workplace self-interest, and somehow the market sorts it all out, which obviously doesn’t work.

Second thought – this reminds me of some comments Karl Polanyi made about the separate directions that worker organizing took in the UK vs. continental Europe. In essence, in the UK, due in part to the markets developing faster, in part to the particular way the aristocracy embraced the middle-class, organizing tended to be largely along union/labor organizing lines, whereas on the continent a less flexible aristocracy led to greater working-class and middle class coalition aimed at political power, often through revolutionary action (eg France), but also greater political involvement in broader social issues. The result was that in the UK, labor political parties acted more like unions, whereas on the continent labor unions acted more like political parties. This also fits with Nathaniel’s post at 23 – England bought off its middle class with political reforms, avoiding the specter of more disruptive revolution. But the idea that labor issues can have broader political appeal than just forming unions seems to have a long history in Europe.

75

ragweed 02.13.16 at 8:10 am

In a service economy, a lot of jobs are not well suited to traditional Union shop-floor organizing. Union organizing efforts around fast-food workers, for example, are doomed if they try to do employer-by-employer collective bargaining, especially with the franchise model prevalent in the US. So those efforts tend to focus on raising the minimum wage, better public healthcare options, stronger wage-theft enforcement, etc.

76

Pat 02.13.16 at 12:38 pm

The answer is that your premise is mistaken. The Democratic party is not influenced by laborism; indeed, it’s downright hostile. Not by comparison to the Republicans of 2016, but by comparison to, say, Richard Nixon, contemporary Democratic politicians are exceedingly anti-labor. (See Duncan, A., and Rhee, M.)

The degree to which American politics has moved in a pro-labor direction—and hence the Democratic party, irrespective of Democratic politicians’ best efforts—can be explained entirely by a generation-long effort to kill American unions, followed by the worst depression in nearly a century. Funny how that happens.

77

engels 02.13.16 at 3:10 pm

73/74 Oxford et al are far-less well-endowed financially than Harvard and its ilk but the most important endowment of any such institution is its prestige. I was musing on the extent to which this depends on sucking a steady stream of talented 99%ers into the admissions death match. If enough them refused to play the game might the house of cards collapse.

The admissions system is an uneasy compromise between the requirement )for legitimacy) to follow meritocratic processes and the university’s need for ‘talent’, and its central function of reproducing cultural capital for the 1%. In the opinion of most British people who don’t work there themselves it is heavily rigged in favour of the upper-middle class and white private school graduates in particular. At present the main barriers are mainly cultural not financial (are you self-assured in a one on one interview? Do you play the ‘cello?) I was speculating that when financial barriers kick in too that could push things off a cliff. But as I said, probably wishful thinking.

78

TM 02.13.16 at 4:24 pm

Eric Alterman:  Why There Will Be No New New Deal
Our political culture has always relied on Trump-style fear and loathing. The Roosevelt era is the exception that proves the rule.

http://www.thenation.com/article/how-elites-use-a-divide-and-conquer-strategy-to-weaken-progressives/

79

Bruce Wilder 02.13.16 at 4:41 pm

Eric Alterman explains why the superior intellects of the left know better than to even try, let alone undertake a sufficient and well-designed effort. The plutocrats do not need to divide and conquer, when the divisions are considered hard-wired and surrender is preemptive.

80

TM 02.13.16 at 4:52 pm

Right, but your own analysis – “any kind of policy of structural change in the American economy will tend to be de-stabilizing — it will create circumstances that make people afraid” – seems to point in the same direction.

81

Bruce Wilder 02.13.16 at 5:39 pm

The New Deal was something people did, and a new New Deal may well be something we will not do. I do not see any virtue in denying that is a political choice.

82

RNB 02.13.16 at 5:43 pm

I don’t see why Sanders is considered more progressive

on Wall Street regulation

http://billmoyers.com/story/how-would-democratic-presidential-hopefuls-reform-wall-street/

or criminal justice

http://www.vox.com/2016/2/11/10961362/clinton-1994-crime-law

that people think it’s worth taking the great risk of his being routed by the Republican nominee, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars of right-wing PAC money. Do not forget that Hillary Clinton’s net favorability rating was strongly positive until she was attacked relentlessly about the emails and Benghazi. And after all this she is still electable.

Just consider for a moment whether Sanders can take what will be thrown at him. Even those sympathetic to his health plan, like Thorpe, think it will increase costs for 71% of Americans, though the care and greater inclusiveness of his system may be worth it. But in the three month blitz between nomination and election Sanders will likely be swift-boated out of competitiveness.

In the NYT today Josh Barro indicates the supply-siders will be able to use Saez and Diamond against Sanders in that he may well be proposing such progressive taxes that they could well reduce total tax revenue, jeopardizing the many programs Sanders is proposing. I also have not found Sanders sharp enough to counter such points persuasively in the heat of battle.

And then there’s point that Sanders would likely be rendered completely ineffective by Congress. I don’t see how any honest risk analysis yields him as the better nominee.

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LFC 02.13.16 at 6:04 pm

@RNB
Welcome to the initials club. You’ll like it here. ;)

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Ben 02.13.16 at 6:29 pm

I don’t think RNB will be around for long. Resolutely on message, and neither of those links supports anything close to the rhetorical points RNB is using them for.

But I also didn’t think CT was on the radar for the Clinton campaign. As long as it is: hire M. Farrell for an Internet regulatory post, and don’t let Brad DeLong in the circus again.

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Bruce Wilder 02.13.16 at 7:32 pm

RNB @ 85

I cannot address crime and incarceration with any personal confidence, but I can say why many people think Sanders is more progressive on financial regulation.

The most obvious reason is acknowledged by Simon Johnson in the article you linked.

There remains some question as to whether Secretary Clinton would, once elected, really want serious financial reform. Her husband oversaw a considerable amount of financial sector deregulation during the 1990s – and some of his advisors from that episode remain unconvinced of the need for any further reform today.

Johnson does not mention the outsized speaking fees Clinton took, which most sentient beings would interpret as an indicator.

On a more technical level, the particular approaches to reform Clinton chooses to emphasize are also a significant tell against her, though Johnson does not choose in that brief essay to make clear why. Increased reliance on equity finance, increased capital requirements and a so called risk-fee tax are exactly the sort of amorphous proposals affecting ill-defined quantities banksters, masters of accounting and flexibility, are well-trained to game.

TBTF has multiple dimensions, including strategic suppression of competition and the creation of criminogenic corporate cultures, that would not be addressed by Clinton’s abstract allergy to proposing structural change.

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Bruce Wilder 02.13.16 at 7:33 pm

masters of fungibility

Damn spell check

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Claiborne 02.13.16 at 8:04 pm

Free public college tuition is a huge subsidy for families in the top income quintile. Students from that group are 74% of the population at the 146 most selective colleges in the country. Those students are also over-represented at every level of competitiveness except community colleges.

A preferable program would be based around an expanded Pell Grant which would cover the cost of attendance at public colleges for students in the bottom half of the income scale. Outside of the UC system, many public colleges, especially state flagships, have student populations with 20% or fewer Pell Grant students.

Without changes in the recruitment, admissions and retention practices of American colleges, free public uni tuition is unlikely to diminish higher education’s role in increasing inequality.

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urban legend 02.13.16 at 8:05 pm

One thing never mentioned by the single-payer obsessives — stacked the deck a bit there, yes, but I think, not without reason — is what happens in the transition, which is unlikely to be what we call “seamless,” to more than half a million jobs in the private health insurance industry? That is, indeed, a long-run argument for making the change, under the theory that Medicare administration is more efficient, but it does require people to process claims and payment and the like.

Even if you think the argument for moving to single-payer is compelling, will Senators with tens of thousands of insurance industry workers ever vote to make that change? (Hint: the Senator from Connecticut, named Lieberman or not, will not.) Even if they could be convinced to follow their President’s leadership, will voters in states with tens of thousands of workers in the insurance industry vote in 2016 for the candidate advocating single-payer who will be charged with wanting to destroy their jobs?

These are things to think about if you care about continuing the momentum of the progressive movement. A ignominious loss in a Presidential election with even greater devastation in Congressional races is unlikely to be helpful to that momentum.

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LFC 02.13.16 at 8:21 pm

Ben @87
I don’t think RNB will be around for long.

On the contrary, his comments (before adoption of the initials) are usu. worth reading, whether one agrees or not; I think he’ll be around for a while.

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LFC 02.13.16 at 8:23 pm

@Ben
Also why assume someone making these points is doing so at behest of the Clinton campaign? I don’t assume those making pro-Sanders points do so at the behest of the Sanders campaign.

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RJ 02.13.16 at 8:52 pm

Because the propositions that favour Clinton are disproportionally irrational, indefensible, and tribalist. The pro-Sanders propositions are qualitatively less so.

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Ben 02.13.16 at 9:15 pm

@ LFC

Because, as I said, Resolutely on message, and neither of those links supports anything close to the rhetorical points RNB is using them for, which is usually a good indicator of arguing under incentive

Although if I did miss that it’s a new ‘nym for a longtime commenter, Bruce Wilder’s response is much better than mine

@Urban Legend:

Sanders’ use of single payer in his platform is like Obama’s ’08 use of the public option in his platform. It’s a signal of what kinds of political values will guide his administration when making sausage. The arguments like yours and Paul Starr’s “if we got rid of health insurance in 2017 the bond market would go crazy” don’t engage at all with the rhetorical function of ‘Medicare for All’ in Sanders’ campaign.

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Bruce Wilder 02.14.16 at 1:37 am

urban legend @ 90

If there is any forward momentum for “the progressive movement” it has been on a downslope.

Obama has been a remarkably successful President in some respects, but the economic recovery he has engineered over seven years has been markedly unsatisfactory to a large swath of the population. His record in foreign policy has not departed much from the patterns laid down under the younger Bush, and it has not had much better results.

Neither Party has responded to the interests of the broad mass of people for a long time. For quite a while, symbolic politics has substituted for substantial politics, as the plutocracy was served. We have had a war on terror, various foreign Hitler’s, gay marriage, various racial issues, various abortion and reproductive rights issues, et cetera, while the money flowed upward, and the gains to the plutocrats may have been proportionally greater under Obama than even the younger Bush.

The U.S. is a full-fledged plutocracy now, complete with a security apparatus any police state would envy. That is not hyperbole; it is plain fact.

Maybe this is the election where most of us stop pretending otherwise.

Honestly, it is not likely to be the election where anything else changes much. You need several elections and much else for sustained change. A reality check might be helpful; some slight disabling of the partisan and corporate media establishment that has us trapped in a version of The Truman Show.

One thing progressive change needs is a favorable narrative that explains conditions and dynamic developments as consequences of politics and policies in a way that persuades people with diverse values and identities of some common and substantive interest in progressive reform.

The political rhetoric of symbolic politics has to yield now to the needs of substantive politics, if progressive politics is to have any hope of narrating for an electoral majority a path away from plutocracy. If the goal is to accommodate a predatory plutocracy, while delivering symbolic wins to progressive sensibilities, Clinton offers the landmark election of a woman as President. I do not see much else. She doesn’t seem to want to reverse our foreign policy of imperial self-destruction, our financialized economy, our headlong embrace of a globalization that benefits fewer and fewer. Maybe none of that is politically feasible. She does not make any visible effort to make it politically feasible or to channel increasing liberalism of the (oppressed) young.

Maybe lesser evilism elects Clinton and puts paid the last iota of credit the Democratic Party had as a vehicle of progressive reform. Way to sustain “progressive momentum”.

Maybe Trump assumes the role of fascist dictator. Mussolini as developed by reality teevee — it seems too absurd to be plausible. But, bread and circuses are better than nothing.

Sanders, last of the New Dealers in a way, born in 1941? — he named FDR and Churchill as heroes — recalls the thinking of a time when people were thinking about economic and political problems in structural terms, eager to create new institutions to manage a modern world. We backslid in the 1970’s, when we took up the politics of dismantling and subverting those institutions. The New Deal had the Progressive Era as a legacy and WWI as an object lesson in what not to do. I do not know if people today would even recognize a proposal for progressive institution-building in response to a persuasive interpretative critique of a major problem. One would think the Iraq War would be an object lesson in what not to do, but Mrs Clinton prefers to forget past mistakes in confronting novel challenges like ISIL. “Do you realize what you have done?” is a question only Putin asks and Clinton is too tough to listen, apparently.

“Progressive momentum” seems too hollow and detached to be usefully defended. We need so much more than what we have.

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SamChevre 02.14.16 at 1:54 am

For quite a while, symbolic politics has substituted for substantial politics, as the plutocracy was served. We have had a war on terror,… gay marriage, various racial issues, various abortion and reproductive rights issues… while the money flowed upward…

I find it extraordinarily short-sighted, whether you support or oppose those policies, to think of them as symbolic; they seem deeply substantial to me.

On the OP question, I think that labor has an influence on the Democratic Party to the extent that it is not in conflict with the key identity-politics goals. As private sector unions weaken, and as more and more union are run by the same elite that runs everything else, unions stop being working-class institutions: my guess would be that private-sector union workers are plurality Trump supporters.

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Bruce Wilder 02.14.16 at 3:16 am

SamChevre @ 97

I suppose all rank corruption can be classed as substantive politics at least for those to whom resources are being transferred, so the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq is substantive politics in relation to Halliburton, Bechtel, the Kuwaiti’s, various appointees and miscellaneous contractors to the Occupation authority, and other recipients of billions in Bush patronage there. For most of America, it was sold as avenging 9/11 and eliminating non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” — a war of symbolic meanings in other words, where the emptiness of the symbolisms was highlighted by their total falsity.

Gay marriage mattered in a substantial way to people who were gay and wanted the legal benefits of marriage; it was purely symbolic, though to the evangelical Bush voters Karl Rove (who looks pretty gay to me by the way, ymmv) roused to the polls with state referenda banning gay marriage. Ditto for the Terror alerts cynically used as a get-out-the-vote tactic in 2004.

I think the Democrats rely on symbolic issues to herd their own tribe as well, with symbolic racism and sexism leading the menu. We cannot have a new New Deal, because racism; the original New Deal flatly excluded African-Americans as a sop to the white Democrats in Congress, we are told, and also unions were all terribly racist, too, back in the day. The Republican Party — all racists! Sexists, too: the “War on Women” was wildly successful as a PR trope for the Democrats.

Obama, with the Medicaid extension, did arguably deliver real resources to some of the poorest Americans, though only in states where Republicans did not block it or negotiate for privatizing skims. So, there’s some substantive politics going on, but it doesn’t lead the news. And, often, Obama has delivered for, say, the plutocrats on Wall Street, at the expense, say, of people facing foreclosure and eviction; the HAMP program ($75 billion) used to “foam the runways” for banks delivered almost no aid actually useful for homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

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LFC 02.14.16 at 3:26 am

Obama recently issued an executive order banning solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons; he has issued multiple exec orders designating swaths of ocean and, recently, desert as environmentally protected areas. His EPA’s rules on coal-fired emissions were part of what made the Paris accord possible; it looked as though SCOTUS wd overturn them, but now that appears less likely.

Obama has done, in short, various substantive things that BW gives him zero credit for. His record and actions are certainly open to criticism on various fronts, but BW consistently slights the good parts, though I notice he does mention Medicaid expansion above.

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kidneystones 02.14.16 at 3:45 am

@98 Some of life happens to us whether we like or not. Corruption is a constant in both parties. I see little evidence that people are about to stop coalescing around melanin content anytime soon. We’ve absolutely no need of Fox and the rest when ‘our leaders’ preach defeat and that all resistance is futile. The only way the poor and the weak can leverage their individual ability to affect change is through collective action. That means, in practical terms, being willing to support Corbyn over Cameron-lite and Sanders over HRC. That’s why Palin, Trump, and Cruz and scare the hell out of the GOP elites, and why the NRO and the rest of the GOP stakeholders work so hard to marginalize them. The left would much prefer to blame Tea Party nationalism on Kock Konspiracy Tales than accept that grassroots applies as much to the disenfranchised right as it does the left.

The left needs to ignore defeatists and run as far to the left as possible. Trump is on top because he understands that surrendering to critics only leads to more demands to surrender until the best than be hoped for is more of the same only worse.

I’m convinced that Sanders tuition-free education is a major vote winner, when combined with a sound protectionist platform and promises to fund vocational training. Smashing a few robots on tv for good measure would probably be good political theater. It’s about the jobs and fear for the future. Sanders can and must make the argument that freedom, security, and success are within the grasp of all Americans, but will only come with a determined fight to wrest power from the elites through the ballot box.

Crazy, I know.

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Bruce Wilder 02.14.16 at 8:13 am

LFC @ 99

I would acknowledge that Obama sometimes does things to ameliorate the effects of a plutocracy and an authoritarian state. And, sometimes he murders people. There’s a real basis for lesser evilism — both the lesser part and the evil part. But, basically, he succeeded in this system and he’s fine with it. That’s how I see it. I’m not going to twist my own political convictions beyond recognition, apologizing for policy that I think is reprehensible, just because he’s a Democrat.

I wouldn’t be sure that Obama’s actions on protecting wilderness and retarding fossil fuel development are of one piece. He’s a clever politician, who knows how to wrap a decision he doesn’t want to defend in clever, even deceptive PR that creates favorable headlines. There’s been quite a number of articles on how he has given the environmentalists some symbolic wins, while delivering substantively for oil and gas interests.
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/alaska-oil-drilling-lobbying-obama-213442
I don’t know enough about those issues that I could offer a fully balanced, informed judgment, but I don’t think I would be crowning him with halos if I could.

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Bruce Wilder 02.14.16 at 8:18 am

kidneystones @ 100: Koch Konspiracy Tales are a staple of Democratic propaganda; unfortunately the Kochs are real and real Republicans take their calls and their money. Calling something a conspiracy doesn’t wish it away.

100

kidneystones 02.14.16 at 8:57 am

@102 The Kochs are but one of many groups using money to influence outcomes. I’d be grateful if you could refrain from implying that I said they do not. I’m not the one trying to wish them or any other feature of modern politics away. I’m doing the opposite, which is perhaps why you chose to imply the opposite, rather provide a text citation as you did in @72. You’re welcome to conflate Real Republicans and Tea Party nationalists, indeed that’s precisely what the GOP establishment and the liberal left would have you do. Then you’d be able to blame the Koch’s for Trump’s success. The only reason people aren’t tying Trump to the Koch’s is because the Kochs are leading the charge against Trump. I just ran a quick search using Kochs against Trump. Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, and the Hill all have articles up right now detailing the Kochs are trying to deploy their resources against the grass-roots right propelling Trump towards the nomination and perhaps the WH.

“The left would much prefer to blame Tea Party nationalism on Kock Konspiracy Tales than accept that grassroots applies as much to the disenfranchised right as it does the left.”

Wishing the disenfranchised grass-roots right away isn’t going to work. Trump is real, not a Koch Konspiracy Tale, who are most emphatically not what anyone would normally call ‘Real Republicans.’ To date, only Rush has had the wit to point out that maybe the Republican elite doesn’t have a clue who the Real Republicans are because Trump is filling arenas and attracting voters from across the political spectrum.

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TM 02.14.16 at 1:27 pm

“Trump is filling arenas and attracting voters from across the political spectrum.”

Maybe you are right but I am skeptical of the appeal of a candidate whose best primary performance so far has been a 35% plurality in NH. One might say that he has done better than anybody expected and he supposedly doesn’t have much establishment support but still he got about half the votes that Sanders got and the truth is that Trump got immense, and probably totally unprecedented, support from the dumb-ass mainstream media for whom election campaigns are primarily about entertainment. Trump has gotten orders of magnitude more media exposure than Sanders and still, I repeat, Sanders got almost twice the number of votes. Why then are the media so eagerly constructing the narrative of Trump’s supposedly broad appeal across parties and classes?

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TM 02.14.16 at 1:33 pm

On a different topic, how will the cases currently before the Supreme Court go if the court remains tied? Right before he died, Scalia managed to suspend the coal emissions rules. This kind of thing won’t happen again for a while…

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RNB 02.14.16 at 4:54 pm

@104. Bush is counting on getting most of that 65% that does not support Trump once the other candidates drop out, but I don’t see why Trump does not split it with him and/or Cruz. He strengthened his lead last night. Trump wants to win more than anything else, so he has fabricated his opposition to the Iraq War before GW Bush launched it. There is no evidence of this opposition before the war.

And his foreign policy makes no sense: he rails against militarism but wants to spend without limit on the military; he opposes war but does not want to negotiate with Iran; he will align with any and every one against ISIS except Iran which is more at war with ISIS than his favored allies Russia or Saudi Arabia (this might be the Sheldon Adelson influence). He is a shameless advocate of torture and the other massive human rights violations involved in his proposed deportation regime.

He’ll push any button to get elected, just so he can get back at Obama for humiliating him at the White House correspondent’s dinner five year ago.

So last night he promised that he would get Congress to ditch NAFTA and every other trade agreement to put a 35% tax on any good coming from a relocated factory owned by a US company. This has no more chance of happening than Mexico building a wall, which of course would have the effect of increasing the number of paperless immigrants in the US since they would not leave after their visas expired or had gotten here illegally as the chances of being able to get in again would be reduced. At any rate, net migration from Mexico is very low at this point.

The American economy has generated 13 million jobs under Obama, and Trump should be concerned that protectionist policy by restricting the supply of dollars abroad could well strengthen the dollar to the point that good jobs in the high-valued, capital goods industry would be threatened; those jobs tend to have a relatively strong multiplier effect on jobs and income in the US. But Trump is not thinking anything through; he is just a demagogue.

The rest of the Republican field is a clown show. Ben Carson “quoted” Stalin.

Ted Cruz does not seem to know what backpfeifengesicht means. Rubio is like a Republican Stepford wife.

Kasich seems to be what an older Republican white male is like on ecstasy.

Jeb! actually tried pathetically to get people to identify him not with his co-descendent but solely in terms of his parents–the lottery prize of his mother and his father, the greatest American who ever lived. Knowing that this won’t work, he basically conceded that Trump will indeed insult his way to the nomination.

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LFC 02.15.16 at 2:07 am

BW @101
I don’t know enough about those issues that I could offer a fully balanced, informed judgment…

I also don’t know enough about them to offer a fully balanced judgment.

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engels 02.15.16 at 10:04 pm

“I don’t know enough about those issues that I could offer a fully balanced, informed judgment”

If everyone took that as a reason to forbear from commenting CT comments threads would be considerably shorter than they are

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kidneystones 02.15.16 at 11:33 pm

@104 Yes, yes, and yes. “Why is the media so eagerly constructing a narrative…?” Well, that’s what the media does – construct narratives. As to why they are trying to construct this particular narrative about Trump, I’d suggest it’s largely on exit polls. Sanders, as you usefully remind us, has enjoyed a fraction of the free-media Trump enjoys. There are lots of reasons for this – Donald enjoys wearing the clown hat and he understands “How to talk dirty and influence people.” His politically incorrect utterances guarantee broad coverage and you’ll note that he trots a new one out at carefully calculated intervals. His call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US is one such example. Sanders suffers for a broad number of reasons. He’s pointedly low-key and sensible. He’s an independent and a socialist. Huh? Try explaining that to an audience with the attention span of a flea. And, most important, Bernie is the bastion for all left-leaning moderate and center-right voters unhappy with HRC and the Republican field. As such, Bernie is/was the hippie standing in front of the HRC tank in the public square. The super-delegates lined up early to save HRC from going through a ‘messy’ vetting process. Her ‘opponents’ were ‘allowed’ to challenge her for the nomination because the DNC believed with good reason that the media would fail completely to examine the legitimacy of a top-down selection process – ‘we’ve decided who the candidate will be, now shut up and start clapping.’ Until Sanders actually started leading polls in NH he received almost no coverage in the national press, and by almost none I’m talking about a percentile of the press Trump and HRC garnered.

A number of Trump supporters (how many is a good question) lean towards Sanders as a second choice. A number of Sanders supporters lean towards HRC as a second-choice. I could dig up the links, but you’re capable of checking, I’m sure. The only way for Sanders to win is for all those who claim to support the values Bernie espouses to get of their collective asses and get his message out. The media is going to continue to treat him as a boutique candidate, the right can’t wait to run against Sanders, the DNC and HRC hates his guts. But none of this matters – these are constants. The X factor in the equation is the fear/laziness of all-talk no action liberals. If Sanders loses to HRC, it won’t be because of the actions of the right or because the public wants the rich to get richer. Indeed, many voters support Sanders’ policies. If Sanders loses the nomination, it will very likely be because liberals failed to overturn HRC’s super-delegate advantage.

Hope this helps.

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Bill Murray 02.16.16 at 3:48 am

The American economy has generated 13 million jobs under Obama

and yet the employment to population ratio is still 1 % less than when he took office

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RNB 02.16.16 at 3:57 am

@110 But we have to figure out how much the relatively low employment to population ratio is due to an aging population. As Kevin Drum has noted, we should not discount how much of the Republican rage about the economy is coming from those being whipped into a frenzy by right wing politicians and media fighting a black president. That black President is about to nominate the successor to Justice Scalia who was chosen by President Reagan–this is the kind of thing that gets a lot of Americans very angry, and people should not mistake this rage for economic populism.

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