November 7, 2014
By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.,Ed.D.
Washington DC – Was it the Republican voter suppression, the well-off Boomers who have grown more conservative, the disengagement of voters from President Obama or just a failure of voters to vote?
In the recent election, the voters were more disgusted, more bored and cynical about the mid-term than at any other time in the last two decades which added a measure of suspense right up to the final counts.
Only 29% of the electorate said that that had been "enthusiastic" about voting in November.
Only 22% of Americans think their personal finances improved since Obama took office; 57% believe that the standard of living in the country is getting worse; and more than five years after the official end of the Great Recession, 77% remain worried about the economy's direction and a record 76% of American adults aren't confident their children's generation will fare better than their own. That's a landslide vote of no confidence in the American dream.
The voters saw no candidate that would commit to the erosion of the stultifying gridlock that has been pervasive in Washington for sometime.
We need a "new politics" that can find ways of revitalizing the tradition of honorable and move away from the continuation of paralyzing, hyper partisan warfare.
The ugliness that the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision had on the "purchase" of elections disgusted most people. The court handed over elections to people who already have enormous power and they gave approval to efforts to keep the powerless from voting. Designing the rules of this game will have a long-term effect on economic inequality that has been gained through politics.
It has become no longer the battle between the two candidates in the race but, rather, the battle between the wealth of the Koch brothers, Paul Singer and others on the right and Tom Steyer and George Soros on the left.
Spending by outside groups went from $52 million in 2000 to $1billion in 2012. In this mid-term election cycle 19 billionaires and their families alone contributed over $20 million to right wing SuperPACs.
Democracy has been sold to the highest bidder.
For the organized trade union movement it is time to re-evaluate its role in the electoral process and move on to new bold initiatives to protect working Americans in the 21st century workplace. It is time to capitalize on our people power in a way that becomes focused on peoples' economic self-interest.
Legislative halls are no longer the venue for justice. The battle now must become more strategic and local and apply tactics that will strengthen the collective voice of the disenfranchised class in America.
The strike, massive demonstrations and aggressive organizing campaigns must reignite the fever of those who seek safety from the horrors in the workplace.
Unions must put aside their proclivity to raid one another's jurisdiction and forge a joint fight to apply a wedge against recalcitrant employers.
Workers' capital must be pitted against the abusive capitalists who have no clue as to how others live. The divisions are deep. How else do you explain the recent comments of the venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who suggested that criticism of the 1% was akin to Nazi fascism, or those coming from the private equity titan Stephen Schwarzman, who compared asking financiers to pay taxes at the same rate as those who work for a living to Hitler's invasion of Poland. Who are these two kidding? Any pension fund trustees that hires these two to manage their assets need their heads examined.
It is time to draw upon the history of our nation and apply and utilize the tactics and strategies that proved to be so successful in the 1930s and 40s and 50s to the modern-day workplace. We must organize the workforce into a cohesive team of millions who will stand upon against these tyrants. Perhaps it is time to reinstate the "Sons of Liberty" who wreaked havoc on the British forces during the early days of this Republic and ridded the new nation of the British government.
A Greek proverb says that societies become great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.
Our lives and those of our children depend on a great society. It is now up to the workers and their representatives to take charge.
***Thomas J. Mackell, Jr. is Special Advisor to the President of the International Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO