Why are women and working folks under attack?

Let’s just make one thing perfectly clear. The attack on basic labor rights and the budgetary assault on women’s health is a coordinated and crass calculation of the American Right Wing.

The other night while grabbing drinks with some of my progressive friends, we were joking around that it feels like we have to fight the same fights that progressives did back in the early 1900s. Should workers be able to join together to bargain for basic wages and benefits? Do women, in fact, have a brain that they can use all on their own? Hell, the frequent assault on regulation reminds me of that old chestnut from The Onion Pure Food And Drug Act Will Limit Human-Thumb Levels Permitted In Meats which is probably now considered, you know, socialism or whatever. I feel like Obama is a little off when he talks about the fight being about Winning the Future — to me, we still haven’t even won the past.

In 2011, we should not have to ask ourselves whether or not we can join together to improve our quality of life. And in 2011, we should not have to ask ourselves whether women should be allowed any federal dollars to help prevent STDs, unwanted pregnancies, or get an abortion.

But we do. Why?

Simply put, because the GOP has absolutely, 100% NO plan to help create jobs or grow the economy. Reducing the deficit doesn’t create jobs. Attacking women’s rights does not create jobs. Redefining rape does not create jobs. Even eliminating unions doesn’t create jobs, or even if it did, it just creates crappy ones. Yet they won Congress because the economy hasn’t recovered fast enough, and they surely know that. But you know what their actions do? Stirs up the base. Distracts us from the fact that Obama and Democrats have put together some really innovative programs. Gets us riled up, fired up. When you can’t win the discussion, you change it. You know, that old chestnut.

The GOP calculates that they have to attack women and unions for 3 reasons:

(1) Women’s health and union rights are controversial. Republicans are banking on the fact that people feel icky about using any federal dollars for women’s health and American unions have become increasingly unpopular. It also fires up Democratic and Republican bases, and Republicans need a little fire in their belly. After all, 2012 is getting off to a slow start.

(2) It gets Democrats off newly minted centrist talking points, and if it doesn’t makes them look pretty squishy. This is a Whose Side Are You On moment, and moderates always feel uncomfortable in those moments. Obama has been trying to portray himself as a more centrist figure. Well, he’s gonna have to come home to his base — and OFA has been helping organize. And take a look at Democratic Senator Kohl’s anemic first statement on the topic when he wasn’t sure which way the wind was blowing. He followed it up with a second statement that was more supportive but called for “cooler heads,” and “bi-partisan solutions.” Compare that to the progressive ex-Senator Feingold who said, “This state is one of the originators of many of the workers’ rights and protections on child labor, unemployment compensation, and almost all kinds of workers’ rights. The fact that our governor is trying to destroy those rights is something worth fighting against.”

(3) It distracts us from productive conversations about the economy, like how to invest in it. Anybody here talking about high speed rail or investments in education and science? You know, the things that Obama highlighted in his State of the Union Address? No? Anybody? Anybody talking about Republican plans to grow the economy? No? Oh that’s right, they don’t have any.

Whenever there is a major controversy, ask yourself: what conversation are we not having right now? He who controls the topic of debate wins it, even if his opponent wins the argument.

Frankly, if I were a right-wing GOPer, this is what I’d do, too. Because Lord knows, they were elected to help fix the economy, but they don’t have a clue how to do that. But they sure do know how to pick a fight.

P.S. This great article from Stephanie Taylor about the historical use of the guard to break up strikes and how the Governor of WI threatened to bring it back should be required reading of everybody.

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February 19, 2011. Uncategorized.

5 Comments

  1. Patrick Hart replied:

    I definitely agree overall…It’s also worth discussing (maybe in a whole different blog post!) the story of how unions went from some of America’s most respected institutions to the unpopular place where they are today. A lot of it, of course, is the changes in the economic structure and the right-wing assault on union organizing. But public-employee unions, in particular, tend to be a target for general criticism today. Barry Bluestone, who writes a lot about union and labor issues, had an interesting proposal that public-employee unions ought to make a grand bargain: accept certain cutbacks now, but also get a guarantee that they will share (in salary increases) automatically in any increase in government revenues when the economy turns around.

    I don’t know if that’s the right solution, but it’s interesting to think about. At some level, if people perceive public-employee unions as just looking out for their own benefits, that won’t generate a lot of public sympathy. Instead, unions need to show how they (the unions) contribute to the public good and can be partners in creating a strong economy.

  2. strategyandpizza replied:

    No question you’re right about that. But this isn’t an situation where public unions have to be more flexible. I agree that they are many times barriers to innovation and do not allow government to be as nimble as it ought to be.

    The problem is that what’s going on in Wisconsin is not just an attack on public sector unions for being inflexible, it’s an attack on the very notion of collective bargaining itself.

  3. Tweets that mention Why are women and working folks under attack? « strategyandpizza -- Topsy.com replied:

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  4. Arnie Fertig replied:

    Sure, this whole thing is distracting from the issues of how to fix the economy, create jobs, and deal with critical long term issues like pollution and greenhouse gases. But then again, it isn’t. It is laser like focus on finally accomplishing their long term goal of destroying the economic middle class and a return to the “good old capitalism” pre-1929.

    You were more right than rhetorical when you argue that its about “winning the past”. The hard core right wing industrialist Republicans were never sold on the values of having a “government for the people”. They didn’t care about it in the Gilded Age of the 19th century robber barons – and haven’t cared about it since.

    They didn’t care about it in the 1920’s leading up to the depression. And they only went passively along with it post FDR/New Deal because it was a better alternative to them than true socialist or communist revolution in this country – which was believed to be a credible threat at that point in time.

    The simple fact is that they have been seeking “restoration” to the good old pre-FDR / New Deal days ever since, and have taken executed a long term strategic plan to take it all apart, piece by piece. Workers rights, consumer rights, women’s rights, seniors rights, public education from pre-school through college- – are all seen as an affront to “pure” capitalism. They’ve never really been comfortable with the rise of a stable, moderate middle class and take aim against it not funding public education – whether it takes the form of Head Start or Pell grants or anything in between. The only real way to for large scale climbing the socio-economic ladder is through education.

    They are all pieces of the same puzzle.

    Back in the Reagan era, his first Budget Director – David Stockman (no bleeding heart liberal, he!) figured out that the plan was to bankrupt the government by spending on defense, leaving all the rest to die for lack of funding. He quit the Reagan admin. in disgust, and wrote about it back then.

    It’s the same thing all over again. Can’t you hear the refrain…”we’d love to be able to fund all these things, but we’re broke.”

    The Tea Party, when you strip it bare, is really a front for the Koch brothers and their friends, and a warmed over John Birch society with better PR and a gutted press that fails to do any real investigative journalism and instead bends over (guess which way) to give vent to the daily talking points in order to get access to the next day’s talking points.

    It’s about winning the past because the radical industrialist right has never conceded to the New Deal and everything it gave rise to. That’s why their tactic is to delegitimize their opponents.

    Reagan struck a major blow with the air traffic controllers. PATCO is gone and planes still fly. Shall we try that trick with teachers unions too?

    Bush I turned “liberal” into a dirty word, and railed against “competence” in his debate with Dukkakis. The GOP could never really accept Clinton’s presidency, using impeachment as the ultimate tool of delegitimization. They’ve been after Obama with the birther movement to suggest that he doesn’t have any “real” claim to the presidency.

    If the progressive left is to have any chance of beating back the current challenges, they need to start connecting the dots and good old fashioned coalition building. They need to educate people and let them see the the results of not just one policy issue, but how they really are interconnected and part of a very large scale, long term plan. It isn’t a “conspiracy” It is class warfare pure and simple.

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