Sifting through the wreckage
Trawling through a file of 2016 election clips, I came across some passages that might be relevant to whatever election soul-searching organized labor and the Democratic Party are maybe undertaking.
Here’s one from Automotive News, headlined ‘Labor union anger fueled Trump in Midwest’. The story cites exit polling indicating “Trump won a majority of votes from union members” in Ohio, and “also showed added strength for Trump in union households nationally and in other auto-producing states.”
Why? Answers UC Berkeley labor economist Harley Shaiken: “Trump’s message resonated, and Clinton’s did not.” He said Clinton underestimated “how much damage had been done to communities in the Midwest” from international trade and the loss of manufacturing jobs. “It was far more than any single union could address, and even the labor movement generally,” says Shaiken.
If you can’t beat Trump join him seems to be the approach adopted by UAW president Dennis Williams. “Obviously, we’ll work with him on NAFTA,” he told reporters. “We agree that NAFTA needs to be renegotiated or ended.” He also talked about “a great opportunity [to] find some common ground” with the incoming U.S. President. “We are prepared to work with him on a jobs bill and an infrastructure bill,” for example.
Not every auto worker union leader is on board with live and let live. Quoted in Automotive News, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which represents Canadian auto workers at Detroit’s Big Three explains: “The politics of hate are not part of my beliefs and move us [backward]. My resolve to fight for progressive change is renewed.”
In a New Yorker pre-election piece — ‘Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt’ — staff writer George Packer sat down with the man who served as Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary and Barack Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers.
In July, I went to see Summers at his vacation home in Massachusetts. When I arrived, he had just pulled up — in a Lexus — after a morning of tennis. We sat on a terrace overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Summers described numerous trips that he had made during his years at Treasury to review antipoverty programs in Africa and Latin America, and in American inner cities. “I don’t think I ever went to Akron, or Flint, or Toledo, or Youngstown,” he admitted.
To Democratic policymakers, poverty was foreign or it was black. As for displaced white workers in the Rust Belt, Summers said, “their problems weren’t heavily on our radar screen, and they were mad that their problems weren’t.”
Now he tells us.
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Andrew S. Ross