Changing Party Alliances

The two major political parties are both alliances of diverse groups, and the dominance of these groups varies over time. The more obvious changes have been in the Republican Party as the religious right, once laughed at as nuts by much of the party establishment, now appear to be dominating the party. Meanwhile the libertarian components of the GOP have dwindled in influence to the point where they pretty much can be flushed down Grover Norquist’s toilet. The nomination of Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination with the support of many who do not consistently vote Democratic might also bring about a change in the Democratic Party.

Obama won with both traditional Democratic voters and with the support of independents. His election was part of a trend for educated and affluent voters to switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, leaving the Republicans as the home of the uninformed Joe Six Pack Voters. This trend has been in motion during the Bush years as increasngly those who oppose the foreign policy, conservative social views, and restirctions on civil liberties under the Republicans have moved to the Democratic Party.

Some Democrats have not been comfortable with the changes this has brought to the party. Hillary Clinton attempted to capitalize on this with her attacks on Obama supporters as elitists. Another group which might see their position change is labor. Marc Ambinder still sees labor as “the backbone of the Democratic Party” and sees card check as the top priority of labor in the Democratic Party.

The problem for both labor and the old Democratic establishment is that, despite having a majority in both houses of Congress, passage of card check is far from certain. Not all Democrats will necessarily go along, and the Republicans have hope for a successful filibuster.

This raises the question of how many of the affluent, better educated, latte drinking voters who backed Barack Obama see this as their issue. Just as the religious right might be taking control of the GOP from the Republican establishment, there is the potential for newer Democratic voters to change the nature of the Democratic Party.The new, younger, and more educated Democratic voters tend to be have far more connections to the “new economy” than to labor.

This actually is not a new phenomenon. Just as the Iraq war motivated many new voters to attempt to take control of the Democratic Party and change its priorities, we saw a similar movement in opposition to the Vietnam war. The difference then was that George McGovern failed to win the support of labor and party regulars. Rather than backing McGovern they stayed home and allowed Richard Nixon to win in a landslide. (Nixon was also helped by the greatest campaign slogan ever: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw–Reelect Nixon in ’72). Today labor and George McGovern are on the opposite sides of card check, as McGovern explains in this video:


Those who see McGovern as a far left socialist might also be surprised by this.

2008 is a different era than 1972. Obama won with a unified Democratic Party, including the support of organized labor. Obama is not going to ignore the wishes of labor, but we also have a different type of  economy than in 1972. We might also have a different Democratic Party than we had in the past where labor’s role is not as important.

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