Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Not A Coincidence

Charlie Mahtesian sees storm clouds on the horizon in the Democratic Party's bid to retake the House of Representatives.

The factors Mahtesian believes can prevent the Democratic Party from reacquiring a majority include the $66 million raised by the Congressional Leadershp Fund and sister group American Action Network coupled with the $300 to $400 billion the Koch network will be spending on political and job campaigns; "the reliable a-noun-averb-and-Nancy Pelosi strategy;" Democratic infighting between supporters of centrist incumbents and those of progressive challengers; and California's "top-two primary system."   (And he does so without such a run-on sentence.)

If Democrats fail, those will be the primary reasons cited, along with the recuirrent theme of the mainstream media that the Democratic Party has gone too liberal, too far left, and become divorced from the moderate values held by the mythical, enlightened, moderate voter.

But the GOP might maintain its House majority for a reason that has been largely neglected.  Sean McElwee and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate have reported on research recently conducted by three political scientists who

found that the passage of right-to-work measures decreased Democratic vote share by 2 to 3 percentage points in both presidential and down-ballot elections—enough to have swung Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump in 2016. They also found that these laws reduce turnout and demobilize blue-collar workers, with blue-collar workers less likely to report receiving a contact about voting in right-to-work states.

Yet, the Michigan and Wisconsin legislation is ignored in any analysis of Trump's victory in 2016, when observers point out that Clinton stayed out of Wisconsin and was not the hero of the white working-class- among which she smothered Barack Obama in 2008- that Barack Obama was in his campaigns.

 A similar scenario now threatens to play out in House races this fall. McElwee/Stern continue(s)

Right-to-work laws also increase Republican power in state legislatures and shift policy to the right. Using historical data, Feigenbaum, Hertel-Fernandez, and Williamson estimate that right-to-work laws lead Democrats to control fewer seats than they otherwise would, by 5 to 11 percentage points. In addition, the authors find that after the passage of right-to-work laws, state policy shifts to the right, even when Democrats control the legislature.

And as bad luck would have it the U.S. Supreme Court has begun hearing

oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a challenge to the idea that public-sector unions can collect fees from nonmembers in 22 states. The court may as well skip the charade of arguments altogether. There is simply no question how the justices will rule in Janus: After Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, they divided 4–4 on this exact question. Since then, Republicans installed Justice Neil Gorsuch on the court, and no one seriously doubts that he will come through for the party that kept his seat open for a year.

The plaintiff's argument rests on a bizarre notion of the First Amendment, one in which paying union dues to secure better wages, benefits, and/or working conditions is somehow a "political" act. The GOP's

framing of unions reflects a profoundly cynical vision of workers’ rights, turning free riders into “compelled riders” who are forced to accept benefits that they reject on political grounds. It also has no real constitutional basis. Eugene Volokh, a right-leaning libertarian who generally opposes unions, contributed to an amicus brief explaining why (Justice Samuel) Alito’s theory is completely incorrect under an originalist understanding of the First Amendment. “Compelled subsidies of others’ speech happen all the time,” the brief explains, “and are not generally viewed as burdening any First Amendment interest.” The government can spend tax dollars on speech with which taxpayers disagree; it can compel lawyers to pay state bar dues, then use the money to promote messages that some lawyers detest; it can even collect a special assessment on teachers to promote education policies that some teachers dislike. Of course it can also let unions collect fees from nonmembers to cover contract negotiations.

(Or it can tax residents to pay for a police department which in many instances some citizens believe administer justice in a more punitive manner toward blacks than against whites, arguably a "political" act.)

Nevertheless, as McElwee/Stern notes, the Court will almost definitely rule against AFSCME, against unions, against workers.  If it does so- and if labor does not mount an extremely successful counter-attack- income inequality will continue to grow, and probably at an acclerated rate.

When President Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) launched his attack upon workers by crushing the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, a (thus far) 37-year decline in income equality was ushered in.  It's conveniently neglected when historians compile their list of greatest USA presidents, in which Reagan is frequently rated disgracefully high. Similarly, if the GOP retains its House majority, A the effect of Janus v. AFSCME will be ignored. It shouldn't be.

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