Good Friday Morning! Except to the Alabama Crimson Tide, who are somehow one spot ahead of the Tennessee Volunteers heading into championship weekend. The South Carolina loss was terrible, for sure. But it makes little sense to rank the two teams side by side and then ignore the head-to-head matchup.
I won’t gripe more about that here; I’ve done enough grumbling under my breath for two weeks. This week, I’m going to walk through the rail strike legislation that Congress just passed that awaits Biden’s signature (as I’m writing this). I’ll explain why I think this signals that Joe Biden is the “last Democrat.” Links to follow.
- Joe Biden is attempting to re-do the Democratic primaries. Instead of starting with Iowa and New Hampshire, the White House wants to start with South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia, and Michigan. New Hampshire law dictates that they have to be the first primary, so whatever state tries to be first will immediately get undercut by NH. Michigan is attempting to work its way higher up the rankings. The inclusion of Michigan on this early primary list makes Pete Buttigieg’s decision to move there over the summer look more calculating. He claimed he moved there for family, which even Politico doubted at the time. Biden’s attempt to meddle in these primaries is notable, but faces many hurdles. If SC/GA appear earlier in the primaries, many white progressives will face a long, uphill battle (see Buttigieg, Warren, Sanders, etc.).
- New York Republican Representative and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin is making a hard push for RNC chair. Zeldin’s unsuccessful run in New York, which helped numerous other GOP candidates win across that state, has him well-positioned to lead the party. Republicans should install him in that seat.
- Nate Cohn wrote a piece in the New York Times attempting to quantify Donald Trump’s impact on the midterm ballot. His best estimate is that Donald Trump equaled a five-point drag on Republican House races. If Trump wasn’t an issue for these midterms, the average Republican should have performed five points better. Lee Zeldin in NY and Ron DeSantis in FL wildly overperformed that drag on national Republicans. Sean Trende agreed with this analysis.
- Related to the last two points, here’s your polling stat of the month: Donald Trump among Republican college grads has a 48% favorable rating versus 50% unfavorable. Ron DeSantis among Republican college grads has an 80% favorable rating versus 9% unfavorable.
Where you can find me this week
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[11/28/2022] China boiling over on Zero-COVID – Conservative Institute
[12/02/2022] News media enters a dark winter – Conservative Institute
Joe Biden: the Last Democrat.
The US Congress passed legislation on Thursday to avoid a railroad worker standoff. The final vote in the Senate was 80-15 in favor of blocking a strike and forcing the unions to accept a previously brokered deal, which not all unions had agreed upon. Joe Biden is expected to sign it. My overarching takeaway is this vote is an evolution for the Democratic Party. It could be an evolution for the Republican Party too, but the jury is still out on that.
In voting against union workers to side with union bosses and corporate interests, Democrats are abandoning what was once the core of their base: the working class. Republicans aren’t fully ready to shift over into representing this group, hence the scattered vote.
This legislation and its vote have fascinated me for the last few months because it’s contrary to what Democrats say and believe about themselves. Democrats do not stand with the “little man.” Here’s my current thesis: this vote signals a significant shift for the Democratic Party – the Wilsonian/FDR New Deal Democrats are dead. The next generation has no connection to this core set of beliefs. Joe Biden is the last Democrat.
I could sit here, as a conservative, and describe how this legislation involves Democrats abandoning union workers. But how about I let the other side do it? Here’s a left-wing op-ed published in the New York Times Thursday evening, ahead of Biden’s signing ceremony:
In a statement that perfectly captured the yawning gap between Democratic Party rhetoric and behavior, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced railroad companies as rapacious profiteers who “have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers.” Then, just one sentence later, she announced that House Democrats would stand with the profiteers.
Mr. Biden can still deliver a more equitable outcome. He said in a statement on Thursday that he will sign the bill as soon as he receives it. But if the president means a word of what he says about the value of unions and the needs of workers, he will instead refuse to sign this bill and press the railroads to offer workers a better deal.
The federal government has long recognized that the transportation sector’s role in the broader economy requires special handling, and Congress long ago reserved to itself the power to intervene in railroad labor disputes. Mr. Biden has good reason to worry that a strike would cause significant economic disruptions and could add to inflationary pressures.
But the president has picked the wrong side of the fight. He should be pressing the companies to make concessions. The big freight railroads have cut about 45,000 jobs in recent years, reducing the number of workers on their payrolls by 29 percent, according to the federal Surface Transportation Board. Cutting costs has allowed them to hand out almost $200 billion in stock buybacks and dividends since 2010, and post-pandemic demand has driven profits to new heights. But the railroads have pushed their remaining workers to the breaking point.
A site on the hard left, the Socialist Alternative, said: “Anyone with illusions in a “pro-labor” Biden administration or Democratic Party need to look no further than today’s vote. This wholesale betrayal of working people confirms what we already knew: this is the party of the rail corporations and the bosses.”
Jonah Furman, another hard left union organizer, described it as a “Full sellout from the White House for the majority of rail workers who rejected the deal the President brokered, preemptively denying them the right to strike. This was the “which side are you on?” moment, and the White House chose the railroad bosses.”
He added this quote from a Democratic-leaning rail worker, “Many of my coworkers were Democrats that went to Trump and haven’t looked back. This just gives them more ammo the Democrats don’t care about us.”
Democrats have all the rhetoric of their union worker past. But they’ve pulled a complete 180, running in the opposite direction. Leftists of all stripes believe that, from the NYT to the socialists at your local coffee shop. “Woke capitalism” is all the rage these days, but what’s hilarious is that these liberal corporations have no interest in dealing with unions any more than their predecessors. That leaves business management and union bosses on the same side of the ledger against union workers.
A case in point is John Fetterman, who just won the Democratic Senate race in Pennsylvania. He campaigned and got presented as a union worker, constantly parading around in Carhart hoodies and dressing down. Fetterman isn’t a blue-collar worker, and he’s never held a real job in his life. Fetterman is a blue-collar cosplayer. He’s a Harvard grad that immediately jumped into politics. Democrats don’t even have blue-collar workers they can toss into races anymore; they have to invent them, like Fetterman.
The other political irony is that Biden and the Democrats explicitly used their rhetoric against union workers. They convinced everyone to punt a decision on this rail strike until after the midterm elections. Once the elections passed, Biden immediately pivoted to getting Congress to pass legislation to prevent a strike. It’s not a broken promise; Democrats manipulated union workers to make one midterm cycle easier.
I’m of two minds about all these developments. On the one hand, I think similarly to Luke Thompson, who said of the unions: “These guys had leverage in September because they could have tanked the economy before the midterms. But they chose to be good Democrats over holding out for a better contract. Partisanship over membership. They deserve zero sympathy now.”
He’s right. Union leadership chose politics over their membership; they lost their leverage, and this is the cake they get to eat. Union leaders from the 20th Century and further back would have never capitulated. Biden also pushed the OSHA vaccine mandate on this same crowd, threatening to fire them all. That didn’t go over well.
On the other hand, I see this as an opportunity for Republicans to drive a stake in the heart of the Democratic mythos. The GOP has a chance to take blue-collar workers away from Democrats for a generation. Senator Marco Rubio struck the right tone and balance in his statement:
“By now everyone should realize nothing good happens when Congress gets involved in issues best left to the private sector. But our involvement in this debate was inevitable once the Biden Administration, freight rail companies, and labor leaders negotiated a deal rail workers themselves did not support.
“One of the most confusing aspects of this debate is how the union members—some of the hardest-working men and women in the country—were left behind by their union bosses.
“Negotiating with the Biden Administration and the companies, the bosses struck a deal that didn’t address the core concern of their members: paid sick days. Sure, there was the addition of one new personal day, as well as tweaks around the edges to the penalty system to allow a few days of unpaid leave for medical appointments—so long as they were scheduled 30 days in advance, and only on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday—but the deal underwhelmed and alienated the men and women doing the hard work. And so the rank-and-file of four of the 12 unions involved, including the largest, rejected it.
“Congress should have sent everyone back to the negotiating table, but instead it told rail workers to suck it up and be grateful. If we had to get involved, we should have worked to meet the demands of the workers instead of appeasing labor leaders and companies. Because the truth is that the companies risked a nationwide shutdown of freight rail because they wouldn’t give their workers any paid sick days.
“America’s freight rail industry is critical to our economic success, and there is no doubt that it has been a financial success recently, paying out about $200 billion in dividends and stock buybacks over the past 12 years. But financial success is not the sole measure of what is good for our nation. The industry cut nearly one-third of its employees over the past six years, even as demand surged. Workers worked more, had less time at home, and got punished for falling ill.
“As conservatives, we should believe in the dignity of work—that work isn’t just a way to make money, but is also a means to provide for our families, participate in our communities, and build a better nation. When workers are treated as little more than line items on a spreadsheet, they become indistinguishable from the freight cars they service.
“Our nation’s economic priorities have swung too far toward efficiency. As a result, we’ve become less resilient. We’ve seen that with supply chains, and we’re seeing it now with rail workers. The President, labor leaders, and rail companies should have done better by the men and women who keep our nation running every day. Asking Congress to intervene on their behalf against the workers was unjust and unfair—and it won’t go unnoticed by those who wake up tomorrow and go to work.”
That’s where I fall on this – the unions and company management have negotiated for two years; they should have come to a deal. That’s the purpose of private-sector collective bargaining. The government stepped in and prevented the two parties from negotiating a contract.
I recently started reading the memoirs of George P. Shultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. Before working in the Reagan administration, he served as Secretary of Labor under Richard Nixon when Nixon entered the White House in 1969. When Nixon and Shultz started, there was a strike from longshoremen. Lyndon Johnson had used statutory measures under the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent a strike from occurring, punting any resolution of that strike until after the 1968 elections.
Under Taft-Hartley, the president can declare a national emergency and prevent a strike from occurring (I’m wildly oversimplifying things, but that’s the gist). That statuary period ended after the elections, and a strike loomed. LBJ and the Democrats dumped the issue on the next president’s lap. Nixon faced a choice: what should he do to deal with a strike that would undoubtedly cripple parts of the economy?
Shultz went to Nixon and gave his advice: Do nothing.
A professor of economics from Chicago, Shultz’s theory was that a strike would allow market pressures to force the two sides to a deal: “If we avoided direct intervention here, we could deliver a forceful message signaling the administration’s commitment to the free collective bargaining system. We would also teach labor and management an important lesson about allowing private economic processes to work” (pages 30-31, Turmoil and Triumph).
What happened? Nixon took that advice, and Shultz was proven right:
“Pressure continued to mount on labor and management. Finally, lo and behold, after about six weeks, labor and management got together and settled the strike. The longshoremen went back to work. The result was as much as I had predicted: the collective bargaining process was reinvigorated. By allowing the pressures inherent in the market to have their effect, people were forced to find their own solution. This approach was a sharp contrast to that taken in the Kennedy-Johnson period, when high-level intervention and “jawboning” in major disputes were routine. The result then had been a predictable flow of cases into the White House. As I said to Nixon, “If the president hangs out his own shingle, he’ll get all the business.”
Currently, we’re missing that kind of insight because Biden and the Democrats don’t want a strike. I understand why they don’t want a strike. Still, they’re also undermining the entire collective bargaining process and, by extension, unions.
On the flip side, there’s an opportunity here for Republicans to steal that coalition from Democrats. Marco Rubio sees that and is signaling that to others. The rest of the GOP leadership sits in an older mindset that agrees with Democrats on this point. However, Republicans should have blocked this legislation and encouraged the workers to strike and get what they requested.
Biden is the last Democrat. And I say that because he’s the one choosing to abandon the core of Democratic support from the 20th century to now. Wilson, FDJ, Kennedy, LBJ, Clinton, and Obama liked to talk about standing up for the little guy. That was the trope of all Democratic politicians going back to Andrew Jackson. Biden has abandoned that mindset. What comes after Biden? We’ve seen some of it: the credentialed class pursuing woke capitalism.
Democrats represent the ascendance of the leaders of woke capitalism. The progressive left heads these corporations, the same ones undercutting the working class. That leaves Republicans to represent the cultural values of the working class. Biden is signaling a total abandonment of union workers with this legislation.
For me, that’s shocking to see. But it presents an opportunity for Republicans. What’s ironic is that Republicans don’t even have to take a side to win this group over. All they have to do is remove the government from the equation and encourage private bargaining. A small government solution is staring them right in the face, and all Republicans have to do is take the path they know well.
Instead, both parties are siding with management and union bosses. While this is an unforced error for Republicans, it could be a seismic shift for Democrats. If so, Joe Biden is the last Democrat of his kind.
Links of the week
Beijing Eases Covid Curbs, Letting Some Patients Isolate at Home: Move marks a shift away from core tenet of China’s Covid Zero Societal concerns, stretched resources behind the relaxation – Bloomberg
Higher food prices worsen hunger crisis this holiday season: What many Americans hoped would be the first normal holiday season in three years has instead been thrown into crisis by inflation, with Christmas on the horizon – ABC News
U.S. Government to Backstop Mortgages Above $1 Million in High-Cost Areas: Highest limit applies to most expensive regions; level also set to rise in rest of the country, reflecting increased home prices – WSJ
Our falling birth and marriage rates reflect the lie that only singles have fun – Karol Markowicz, NYPost
HLN Gutted by CNN Layoffs – Variety
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!