Monday, October 12, 2009

Pressing Obama

The labor movement is getting restive because President Obama hasn't acted on some of their principal causes, the main one being the passage of the "card check" law, which enables a union to be established by simple submission of cards rather than and elaborate secret ballot. Union leadership has also been unhappy with the attempt to pay for healthcare reform by taxing expensive "gold-plated" insurance plans. (Note that the epithet "gold-plated" has been applied principally by proponents of taxing them.)

At the same time, the gay rights movement is equally impatient with the persistence of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) law in the military.

At the same time, the anti-war movement is impatient with the persistence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To be fair, Obama has had to deal with a few items that he didn't forsee when he was campaigning -- I think we know what these are. Obama has also made a few appointments of folks who are very sympathetic to labor, the best example being that of Hilda Solis, his secretary of labor. If anything, she is more sympathetic to the union movement than Robert Reich, Clinton's Secretary. Republican presidents have been uniformly anti-union -- even overtly anti-labor. Also, healthcare reform is far more important to working families than nearly anything else, and has occupied not just the President but all of Congress as well. The big push will be over shortly (next few months), with votes of the Finance Committee and then the Senate.

(Of course, when McCain supposedly suspended his campaign -- he didn't really -- to "concentrate" on the financial crisis, Obama and the Democrats chided him for an inability to "multi-task".)

On the other hand, President Bush, with his tax cuts, arguably did far more for millionaire households, which comprise less than 1/2% of the population, than either Clinton or Obama has so far done for unionized workers, who tally about 7%.

But, the night (I was tempted to write knight) is young. Obama has, perhaps, finally learned that the Republicans are committed only to destroying his presidency. (He has finally given up on Fox news, it seems.) I am hopeful that this will lead to a greater partisanship and resolve to isolate the G.O.P. If the Democrats can win on healthcare -- i.e. pass any kind of reasonable (and improvable) bill -- then they can pass the "card check" law and other measures desired by labor. The labor movement really has nowhere else to go.

The situation is similar for the gay community, although the polarization between the parties is not quite so dramatic (yes, Virginia, there are gay Republicans -- even in Virginia). DADT will soon die since even the military brass doesn't want it any more. I am confident that Obama's heart is in exactly the right place on this issue, but he needs to continue to be prodded.

We will mostly pull out of Iraq: that's also for certain. Afghanistan is another story, but an amazing thing is happening: the mass of citizens is getting tired of sending troops! Support for the Afghanistan action is down to around 40%. You simply can't get knee-jerk hawk responses from the public the way you used to. (Was support for the Vietnam war ever this low while it was going?)

Obama is a smart but very cautious man. He understands the issues and he is beginning, I think, to understand the nature of his political opponents; he just needs to have his feet held to the fire a while more.

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