During the last four days before the election, a number of Local 802 Executive Board and rank-and-file members joined together with other volunteers from the AFL-CIO to phone voters in swing states on behalf of John Kerry.
It was a lot of hard work, but volunteers at Local 802 made nearly 10,000 calls.
As a result of this effort, Local 802 was more politically active than ever before and in the future we can reach out to others who participated in this effort when we need support for our own issues.
Unfortunately, as readers already know, we were not successful in our objective of getting John Kerry elected, but it is imperative that we not give up on political involvement.
Over the last twenty years we have watched as the Democratic Party has moved more and more to the right, endorsing NAFTA and other business-friendly policies, only to find that the new position is still defined as “too liberal.”
As a result, we now have a vocal opponent on the left in the person of Ralph Nader.
If we quietly fold our tents, that trend is likely to continue and the party will become irrelevant.
Here are a few thoughts to share.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
In this election, the tactics of divide and conquer have once again been used against the working class.
The Republican Party has for a long time divided the votes of the working class by using race as a tool, then gun rights.
By diverting attention from economic issues, the right has persuaded some voters to join with corporate interests against their own.
In this election, gay marriage has been added to the repertoire of distractions.
While those of us who supported Sen. Kerry reflect on the results of the election, it might be easy to jump to the easy conclusion that a substantial number of citizens are intolerant and that nothing can help, but we must not.
The problem is not that liberals lack morals. It is that they have allowed themselves to be left out of the “values” debate.
Instead of conceding in silence on values and moral issues, we must engage in a fuller debate on the subject.
We must point out that valid moral judgments support a vote for a liberal candidate because the economic policies of the right leave too many working people in poverty both here in the U.S. and elsewhere and poverty drives crime and moral decay.
WHAT WE CAN DO
So, what can we do to contribute?
We can help by making sure that the Democratic Party becomes a clear voice for progressive values rather than continuing the tendency to be “Republican lite.”
Democrats may now be in the minority, but they can prevent the passage of anti-progressive legislation in the Senate.
There are now few, if any, Democratic senators from “red” states, so it is no longer political suicide for the party to support liberal causes.
On the contrary, there are now Republican senators from “blue” states who are more vulnerable to pressure to join with liberals — observe, for instance, recent remarks by Sen. Arlen Specter about not rubber-stamping just any nominee to the Supreme Court that Bush puts forward.
We should require therefore that Democrats support and advance other progressive ideas like a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, better labor legislation and a return to the fairness doctrine in the media.
We must make sure that the Democrats keep the faith while we rebuild a progressive movement in the U.S.
That will mean more involvement in the electoral and political process; to do otherwise would mean signing the death warrant of the labor movement and the loss of our ability to represent our members.
Mary Landolfi was the financial vice president of Local 802 from 1994 to 2000 and is currently a member of the Executive Board.