The Democrats, once the party of working people, are now a party dominated by environmentalists and multiculturalists. And I can prove it.
As we shall see, when Democrats must choose between their old loyalty, providing jobs for workers, and their new loyalty, favoring politically-correct constituency groups—they choose the PC groups.
Indeed, the old assumptions about the Democrats as the party of labor are nowadays so tangled and conflicted that the unions themselves are divided. Some unions are sticking with their blue-collar heritage, but more are aligning themselves with the new forces of political correctness—and oh, by the way, big money.
The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, running through four states—from western North Dakota to southern Illinois—would create an estimated 4,500 unionized jobs. That is to say, good jobs at good wages: The median entry-level salary for a pipeline worker in North Dakota is $38,924.
Yet the advancement of what was once called the “labor movement” is no longer a Democratic priority. The new priorities are heeding the goals of “progressive” groups—in this instance, Native Americans and the greens. Indeed, this new progressive movement is so strong that even many unions are climbing aboard the bandwagon, even if that means breaking labor’s united front.
To illustrate this recent rupture, here’s a headline from the The Huffington Post: “Dakota Access Pipeline Exposes Rift In Organized Labor.” Let’s let Huffpo labor reporter Dave Jamieson set the scene:
The nation’s largest federation of labor unions upset some of its own members last week by endorsing the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. Some labor activists, sympathetic to Native American tribes and environmentalists, called upon the AFL-CIO to retract its support for the controversial project.
In response to the criticism, Sean McGarvey, head of the AFL-CIO’s building-trades unions, fired right back; speaking of pipeline opponents, McGarvey declared that they have…
…once again seen fit to demean and call for the termination of thousands of union construction jobs in the Heartland. I fear that this has once again hastened a very real split within the labor movement.
Yes, it’s become quite a fracas within the House of Labor: so much for the old slogan, “Solidarity Forever!” We can note that typically, it’s the old-style construction unions—joined, perhaps, by other industrial workers, if not the union leadership—who support construction projects, while the new-style public-employee unions side with the anti-construction activists.
In the meantime, for its part, the Democratic Party has made a choice: It now firmly sides with the new progressives. To cite just one ‘frinstance, we can examine the July 2016 Democratic national platform, released at the Philadelphia convention. That document includes a full 16 paragraphs on “climate change,” as well as 14 paragraphs on the rights and needs of “indigenous tribal nations.” Here’s one of those paragraphs; as we can readily see, Democrats are striving mightily to synthesize the demands of both groups, green and red:
We are committed to principles of environmental justice in Indian Country and we recognize that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles. We call for a climate change policy that protects tribal resources, protects tribal health, and provides accountability through accessible, culturally appropriate participation and strong enforcement. Our climate change policy will cut carbon emission, address poverty, invest in disadvantaged communities, and improve both air quality and public health. We support the tribal nations efforts to develop wind, solar, and other clean energy jobs.
By contrast, the Democratic platform included a mere two skimpy paragraphs on workers and wages.
Some Democrats are troubled by this shift in priorities, away from New Deal-ish lunch-bucket concerns—because, as a matter of fact, it’s a shift away from the very idea of economic growth. For example, William Galston, a top White House domestic-policy aide to Bill Clinton in the 90s, had this to say about the Democrats’ latest platform:
The draft is truly remarkable—for example, its near-silence on economic growth. . . . Rather, the platform draft’s core narrative is inequality, the injustice that inequality entails, and the need to rectify it through redistribution.
A few days later, another Democrat, urban geographer Joel Kotkin, went even further:
Increasingly, liberals, or progressives, are at best ambivalent about economic growth, particularly in such blue-collar fields as fossil fuel energy, manufacturing, agribusiness and suburban homebuilding.
Perhaps it seems strange that a political party would lose interest in such an obvious political staple as economic growth. And yet if we look more closely, we can see, from the perspective of the new Democrats, that this economic neglect makes a kind of sense: We can note, for example, that the financial heart of the green movement is made up of billionaires; they have all the money they need—and, thanks to their donations, they have a disproportionate voice.
One of these noisy green fat cats is San Francisco’s Tom Steyer, who contributed $50 million to Democratic campaigns in 2014 and has been spending heavily ever since. We can further point out: If Steyer chooses to assign a higher value to his eco-conscience than to jobs for ordinary Americans, well, who in his rarified Bay Area social stratum is likely to argue with him?
Admittedly, billionaires are few in number—even in the Democratic Party. Yet at the same time, many other groups of Democratic voters aren’t necessarily concerned about the vagaries of the economy, because they, too, in their own way, are insulated from its ups and downs. That is, they get their check, no matter what.
The most obvious of these groups, of course, are government employees. Some of them, especially in the military and in law enforcement, might well be Republicans. Yet on the whole, public-sector workers have an obvious class-interest in voting Democratic, and they know it—lots of Lois Lerners in this group.
Then there are the recipients of government benefits. And here we can immediately stipulate that there’s a critical, perhaps even binary, distinction to be drawn—between those who have earned their benefits through work, and those who have not.
In the “earned” category are the beneficiaries of Security Security and other forms of work-related pensions, such as veterans benefits. For these folks, having spent decades in the workforce, the values of delayed gratification and thrift are likely ingrained in them, and this shapes their outlook in later life—whichever party they might identify with.
Meanwhile, in the “unearned” category are those who, for lack of a better word, get their money for free—their benefits, however desperately they might be needed, are unearned. And all available evidence tells us that this latter group has a much different mindset, and thus a much different political outlook. So as not to be coy about this point, we can just say it: welfare recipients, for example, are overwhelmingly Democratic. And Democratic politicians, of course, know this electoral calculus full well.
Indeed, in this era of slow economic growth, nearly 95 million Americans over the age of 16 are not in the labor force; not all of them are receiving a check from the government, but most are. And that has political consequences.
We can take this reality—economic stagnation on the one hand, economic dependence on the other—a step further: If the Democrats can find the votes they need from the plutocrats and the poor—or near-poor, plus public employees—then they can make a strategic choice: They can ignore the interests of working-class people in the private sector, and they can still win.
So for this cynical reason, the Democrats’ decision to stiff the working stiffs who might have worked on the Dakota pipeline was an easy one.
We can sum up the Democrats’ strategy more concisely: In socioeconomic terms, they will go above the working class, and also below the working class. That is, they will be the party of George Soros and Al Sharpton. So no room, anywhere, for the blue collars. (Of course, if any of those would-be pipeline workers end up on public assistance, well, they’ll have a standing offer to join the Democratic fold.)
We can see this Soros-Sharpton coalition in America’s electoral geography: The Democrats expect to sweep the upper east side of Manhattan, and, at the same time, they expect to sweep the south side of Chicago. Moreover, this high-low pattern appears everywhere: Greenwich and the ghetto, Beverly Hills and the barrio.
In addition, Democrats can expect to do well in upper-middle class suburban enclaves, as well as college towns. And so if we add all those blocs together, plus the aforementioned public-employee unions, we can see that the Democrats have their coalition—quite possibly, it’s a 2016 victory coalition.
So now can see the logic of the logic of the Democrats’ policy choices. And we can even add an interesting bit of backstory to the Democrats’ 2016 platform. In June, as a concession to the insurgency of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s campaign agreed to include a contingent of Sanders supporters on the 15-member platform-drafting committee.
Specifically, the Clinton camp accepted the Palestinian-American activist James Zogby, the Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the environmental activist Bill McKibben, the African-American activist Cornel West, and the Native American activist Deborah Parker. And yet as the The Washington Post reported, the Clintonites, working through the Democratic National Committee, rejected another of Sanders’ proffered appointees, namely, Roseann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United. As the Post explained,
The DNC informed the campaign it did not want an additional labor representative on the platform-writing committee, since one already sat on the full platform committee.
In other words, the unions got a grand total of one name on that 15-member body. Meanwhile, Democratic elected officials, plus various minorities, donors, and activists occupied the other 14 slots. So we can see: Big Labor isn’t so big anymore; it is now reduced to token status within the party.
Given this new correlation of forces, it’s no surprise that top Democrats oppose the Dakota pipeline. Just on Monday, Barack Obama—having blocked the Keystone Pipeline last year— indicated that he opposes, as well, the Dakota pipeline. Supportively donned in traditional Indian attire, the President praised the anti-pipeline elements of a Native American conclave for “making their voices heard.”
Indeed, the Dakota pipeline is probably already dead: Protestors, unhindered by federal law enforcement, have already effectively stopped its construction. And on September 16, a federal appeals court ruled against it.
Thus we can see that a familiar combination of forces, protestors and litigators, stopped the pipeline—even before Democratic politicians could move in to deliver the coup de grace.
Interestingly, one Democratic figure loudly opposed to the pipeline is the same Roseann DeMoro, the head of the nurses’ union, who was excluded from the DNC platform earlier this year. Yet even so, she’s fully on board with the new order; as she told The Huffington Post,
The environmental movement and the labor movement need to join very strong forces . . . The [AFL-CIO] has to turn the corner in a throwdown on the right type of employment, the right type of jobs, and the right type of planet. This is a zero-sum game.
We can pause over those stern last words: “This is a zero-sum game.” That is to say, in this new era of green-first politics, the anti-pipeline forces must win, and the pro-pipeliners must lose.
For his part, McGarvey, the building-trades union leader, issued an angry response. If union leaders choose to regard “climate change” as the “most pressing issue” he snapped, they can look to themselves first:
I suggest they work within their own industries to do their part to combat the problem and not callously and hypocritically take it out on hard working American AFL-CIO members.
Still, it seems a safe bet that McGarvey’s lament will not change any minds within the Democratic Party.
For her part, Hillary Clinton certainly knows where she stands: She’s with the new eco- and multicultural Democrats, not the old unionists—who were, after all, mostly “deplorable.” As she said to a cheering campaign crowd earlier this year, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
To be sure, Clinton has a heart—a taxpayer-funded heart. In fact, she has offered to put all those soon-to-be ex-coal workers on the government dole; she has proposed a $30 billion program for them.
Yet whether or not Congress ever approves that $30 billion, it’s a safe bet that if Clinton wins, more fossil-fuel workers will need to find some new way of earning a living. After all, just last year, the Obama administration pledged that the U.S. would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. And whereas Donald Trump has promised to scrap those growth-flattening CO2 targets, Clinton has promised to maintain them.
Indeed, during Monday night’s debate in New York, she promised to install “half a billion more solar panels” as part of her plan, she said, to create 10 million new jobs.
We can quickly observe that most blue collars don’t seem to trust Clinton with their livelihoods; Trump beats her among non-college-educated men by a whopping 59 points.
Yet at the same time, we can add that if Trump leads among blue collars by “only” 59 points, that might not be enough for him to overcome Clinton’s advantage—her huge strength among the Soros-Sharpton coalition. And here we can note, with some perplexity, that the leadership of the industrial unions is still mostly in lockstep with the Democrats. That residual partisan loyalty to the party of FDR might cost their members their jobs now that the Democrats have found policy goals other than mass employment, but hey, perhaps the union bosses themselves can get jobs at Hillary’s Department of Labor.
So if Clinton wins this November, what will happen to the private-sector blue collars, especially those in the traditional energy sector?
Sadly, we already know the answer to that question; the only unresolved matter is how they might react. In the meantime, even as the election outcome is in doubt, we might venture this grimly tongue-in-cheek suggestion if Clinton wins: If gainful employment is no longer an option, perhaps these newly unemployed workers could start a protest movement—they could call it “Blue Collar Lives Matter.”
Such protesting wouldn’t get them back their jobs, of course, but at least they could get a government grant.