SEIU Blues Puts Power in Moderates’ Shoes

SEIU Blues Puts Power in Moderates’ Shoes


Not a whole lot of good has come the way to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) these days. The only organization I can think of that gets more right wing scorn has been ACORN, who I think mostly get picked on because they don’t fight back. Another ally, Health Care for America Now (HCAN), is seeing similar problems getting its legislative priorities passed.

While you could point out any number of mistakes these organizations have made in the last few months, perhaps the most glaring is their belief that they could use the momentum from the 2008 election to push their dream bills through to passage. Their sometimes misplaced tactics haven’t helped their cause either, pulling silly publicity stunts and waging a terribly mismanaged media push. The real meat of it was their misconstrued overall strategy of shoving this legislation through, over the opposition of nearly all republicans and a good chunk of moderate Democrats.

This was just plain foolish. They had to know that they would have a hard time getting moderate Dems to vote their way on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or card check if you prefer). They couldn’t have been so blind as to think the Blue Dogs would just roll over on their health care plan, with it costing so much… right?

Some polling has shown a bit of a shift, but numbers have been relatively steady on the issue of the secret ballot being favored over card check, and how wary the public is when it comes to expansion of government into health care. With the debt rocketing into the sky at an historic pace, and promised cost savings being debunked by the CBO, rather than work with the swing votes in the Senate to find a compromise these groups, and liberal organizations like them, have chosen perhaps the most ineffective strategy they could take.

Demonize the moderates.

There is a reason why politicians tone down the partisan their rhetoric after winning primaries, and why many are now saying that 2010 might not be so bad for Republicans after all. Attacking representatives who speak for those of us who worry about liberal overreach and a need for fiscal sanity helps nobody but the Republican party. Democrats may have the majority, and 60 votes in the Senate, but liberals do not… and this will not change any time soon.

Realizing this and working with the center, rather than attacking us, will allow these organizations to make progress on their legislative goals, keep their solid majority and stem the tide of independents that are now beginning to peel their support off. The silver lining of all of this, from my more centrist perspective, is this is leading to even more people leaving both parties. With over 40% of the population now identifying as independents, it is just a matter of time before something happens that turns the independent groundswell into a movement.

  • Nick Benjamin

    I don’t know much about SEIU tactics on Card Check.

    I can tell you that anyone who thinks ACORN doesn’t fight back pays no attention to ACORN. Their problem is they fight back too fiercely. For example you remember those times rightists yelled about them for turning in voter registration forms for Mickey Mouse? They are legally required to turn in every form the receive. That law is intended to ensure that groups can’t throw out registrations that come from groups they disagree with.

    ACORN actually caught most of the bogus registrations and put them in a separate pile so the clerks wouldn’t waste too much time on them. Rather than simply say that ACORN tends to go on anti-corporatist rants, which make your typical reporter put them in the same category as the Birthers and refuse to report ACORN’s side of the story.

    I can also talk about Health Care for America Now’s tactics because I’m on the board of one of it’s partners in Michigan. Your claim that we’re demonizing anybody is hard for me to understand. We strongly disagree with the moderates. We say so. We try to convince their voters to call Congress and tell their Congressman to vote for the plan as-is. This is democracy. There’s a place for secretive back-room deals in a democracy, but it shouldn’t be a very big place.

    The Blue Dogs don’t actually mind what we’re doing. Some of them literally asked for it, by telling us they need political cover to support the bill. If they get dozens of constituent calls a day demanding the vote for the bill they have two really attractive political options.

    First they can continue to oppose it, and get credit for being independent-minded Conservatives. Second they can vote for it, make a big deal out of how their district demanded it, making the GOP look like it’s out-of-touch with their district, and also call in a huge favor with Pelosi, Waxman, etc. when earmark time comes.

    If they get no calls, OTOH, their options suck. They can vote “no,” which means the bill dies, and come 2010 the GOP can simply ask people why they bothered voting Democratic in ’08. Or they can vote “yes” and be branded to liberal for their district.

  • Trescml

    I think the Repulicans will do surpisingly well in 2010, but I don’t think it will be due to any overtures to the middle. I think most people like seeing a balanced government and feel that Democrats have too much power. I know in Northern Virginia Repulicans have done well in local elections and this may carry over to 2010. The Democrats have to convince people that their agenda is woth overcoming people’s desire to see a balanced government.

  • Solomon Kleinsmith

    I dont agree with you that ACORN fights back vigorously in the media, and frankly I don’t blame them. I ran an organization that almost exclusively did voter registration, and I know how impossible it is not to get junk voter reg forms from people. They don’t have the kind of PR machine to fight back in the mass media that other groups have, and this is why I think they get picked on more… because people don’t know much about them.

    You can split hairs as to what I mean by demonize I suppose, but thats the image that is being presented by the liberal groups on this issue. They trot out the usual listing of campaign donors (which you can do for ANY politician) and talking about how they are stalling the whole package (its not like its a complicated bill that needs serious and thorough debate or anything). No matter how you want to spin it, when you have an ad campaign that has constituents call a senator’s office to tell them how they feel about a particular issue, that’s called political pressure.

    They know the polling, they know how their constituents think, and they’re trying to bring the cost of the program down, not stop the legislation altogether. Following through with these tactics is not helpfull… for anyone but the Republicans.

    There have been several articles that have come out lately on the growing possibility of a national shift away from Democrats. The IF is whether the shift away from Dems will help many Republicans. Polling has already shown a shift on the big issues leaning towards Republicans now.

    At the National level they don’t seem to care about moderates, but that doesn’t mean they wont have moderates running in swing districts. The national party doesn’t control things like that, as politics is more of an entrepreneurial thing in that respect. If things don’t change I’d guess things hold about to where they are, or Dems lose a few seats in 2010, but we’ll see. In the area I’m from, one of the targeted districts by both parties, its going to be close. We’re forming a grassroots group to try to engage more independents and moderates in the process, and however we vote will be the deciding factor, both in the Omaha area, and the rest of the country.

  • Nick Benjamin

    Everybody uses campaign finance data to “demonize” their opponents. We keep track of it precisely so that pressure groups can point out conflicts-of-interest.

    We care about moderates at HCAN. If we didn’t we would have tried to force Nelson to vote for the bill, rather than merely convincing him not to filibuster the bill.

    In a lot of ways we’re actually more pro-moderate than the moderates themselves. Remember what happened to moderates last time a Democratic President couldn’t get health reform out of Committee? Newt Gingrich.

    Keep in mind that health reform has been on the table for a long time. The Senate Finance Committee was talking about it long before Obama took office.

    I understand this is a complicated issue. I also understand it’s important. But how precisely, have months of conversation done anything but make the proposal worse?

  • Solomon Kleinsmith

    “I understand this is a complicated issue. I also understand it’s important. But how precisely, have months of conversation done anything but make the proposal worse?”

    I don’t think it has gotten worse. If the bill had gotten pushed through quickly, we likely would have not paid for the whole thing and we wouldn’t have known that the savings estimates were way off base.

    We’ve gotten the Medicare Panel thing negotiated too, which could save a ton. I’m not liking everything about the final bill, but frankly making sure the whole thing is paid for is the most important thing to me. I’m bummed that it looks like the pricing wont be pegged at Medicare, but you never get all that you want.