THE FALL NLRB SEASON


My latest Prospect piece explains why this fall could be the last opportunity for pro-labor NLRB decisions for a long time, and suggests what some significant ones could be:

Over the past months, the GOP has escalated attacks on the NLRB as a rogue job-killing agency, and Republicans’ willingness to use procedural tactics to block even recess appointments further raises the likelihood that once the pro-labor majority reaches its January expiration date, the board could be left to languish until the next presidential election. Although President Barack Obama inherited an NLRB with three vacancies, it took 14 months for him to fill any of them, due to a familiar combination of Republican obstruction and Democratic hesitance. Since then, “they’ve been playing defense,” says law professor and former NLRB attorney Jeff Hirsch, “and I don’t fault the board for that because they haven’t had a lot of time.” Come January, “I would be stunned if they actually get a third member on,” he adds. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Republicans are trying “everything they can to prevent the NLRB from actually doing what it’s intended to do.”

Check it out.

EARTH TO A PATRONIZING PLANET


The Netroots Nation conference has traditionally been an occasion for mainstream media types to take a whack at the unreasonableness of the left. Michael Grunwald offered up, if not a classic, a fairly representative example of the genre on Swampland yesterday. Take this paragraph designed to dispatch left criticisms of Barack Obama with patronizing parentheticals:

It’s true that President Obama is not as liberal as some Daily Kos bloggers would like him to be. (Although he has blogged at Daily Kos.) He continued some of President Bush’s national security policies. (Although he did end the war in Iraq.) He ignored left-wing calls to nationalize troubled banks. (Which turned out to be the right call.) He’s pushed for middle-class tax cuts and public-employee wage freezes that his base dislikes, and he’s outsourced most of the Republican-bashing that his base craves. (Which may be why he’s way more popular than his party.)

Let’s take the parenthetical potshots one at a time:

It’s true that Obama has posted on Daily Kos – although the most prominent instance was when he took to Daily Kos to criticize progressives for being too hard on senators that backed John Roberts (more on that one here and here).

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DAYENU, PAUL RYAN!


Peeling through all the layers of deception and immorality in Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan requires a modern dayenu:

If he cut taxes further on the rich but didn’t end Medicare, it would have been enough.

If he ended Medicare but didn’t end Medicaid, it would have been enough.

If he ended Medicare and Medicaid but didn’t claim he was protecting them, it would have been enough.

If he claimed he was protecting Medicare and Medicaid but didn’t claim it would boost employment, it would have been enough.

If he claimed it would boost employment but didn’t claim unemployment would fall to 2.8%, it would have been enough.

If he planned to cut taxes for rich people and end Medicare and Medicaid but didn’t call it a deficit reduction plan, it would have been enough.

MORE ON EXPOSURE VERSUS ENDORSEMENT


Alyssa’s post this week on Game of Thrones inspired me to dredge up a 2005 post I wrote on differences between the approaches liberals and conservatives bring to media criticism:

Is the problem what kind of behaviors and images are shown on TV, or what kind of ideology is advanced there? Do we care what the media exposes or what it endorses?

My original post is here. This led Alek to post a thoughtful response in the comments here. I don’t think Alek and I are too far apart on this.

I also want “a simple policy of letting media creators both expose and endorse whatever they want.” I don’t believe in obscenity laws (or the overturned ban on depicting animal cruelty, or libel laws for that matter). That’s why I started the post staking out my disagreement with Rick Santorum’s view that “if it’s legal, it must be right…it must be moral” (and thus if it isn’t moral, it shouldn’t be legal). But we should still talk about the stuff they’re creating, right?

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WHY SHOULD THEY GET WHAT WE TOOK AWAY FROM YOU?

Was recently listening to the journalists on Slate’s Political Gabfest pondering why union density is so much higher amongst public sector workers than the private sector. None of them mentioned the most important difference: It’s harder for a government to get away with running a terror campaign against the union.

There’s more oversight and accountability to restrain public sector management from threatening workers for union activity, implying benefits to keeping out the union or danger with it, holding captive audience meetings against the union, or just firing union leaders. Only some of these tactics are even illegal. And bosses get away with those all the time. (Check out this reportfrom Human Rights Watch, or this one from Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner). Consultants get very wealthy guiding companies on how to run fear campaigns against employees trying to organize. It’s a lot harder for the TSA to cut anti-union consultants a check than it is for Wal-Mart. When it comes to organizing, the fundamental difference between public sector and private sector workers is that public sector workers have a better chance at organizing free from fear. So lots and lots of public sector workers do.

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FOR ONCE IT WOULD ACTUALLY BE GOOD FOR OBAMA TO LISTEN TO DAVID BROOKS

If Barack Obama only listens to one piece of advice from David Brooks (and unfortunately, he seems to listen to a lot more than that), this would be a good one on the Supreme Court:

I think, if I were sitting there in the Obama White House, from a Democratic perspective, I would say: Hey, we’re going to lose six to eight senators. We’re never going to get another shot to nominate a liberal. Let’s take our chances with this one.

If Obama’s going to give David Brooks’ views more weight than Paul Krugman’s (let alone Barbara Ehrenreich’s), let’s hope he at least takes this rare bit of good advice.

ANDREW BREITBART: NOT CONTROVERSIAL

From Andrew Breitbart’s attack on Congressional Democrats for walking outdoors:

The first sign that a plan was in place was the ham-fisted, high-camp posturing of the most controversial members of the Democratic caucus walking through the peaceful but animated “Tea Party” demonstrators on Capitol Hill. There is no reason for these elected officials to walk above ground through the media circus amid their ideological foes. The natural route is the tunnels between the House office buildings and the Capitol. By crafting a highly symbolic walk of the Congressional Black Caucus through the majority white crowd, the Democratic Party was looking to provoke a negative reaction.

Emphasis mine, because Breitbart’s use of the word “controversial” as a stand-in for “Black” pretty much tells you all you need to know about Breitbart and the right-wing drive to blame Black and gay congressmembers for going where angry White people could see them.

(This is the same school of thought in which “carefree” kids are ones who aren’t gay and don’t know about anyone that is)

Unless we’re supposed to believe that two-term Rep. Andre Carson became on of “the most controversial” Democrats based on the content of his character.

THINGS I’VE BEEN WONDERING (NON-SNARKY, EARNEST EDITION)

Points for answers. Extra credit if you can identify the podcasts I’ve been driving with recently.

Do GOPers make their global warming messaging about attacking Al Gore because they think he’s unpopular and they want to discredit science? Because they think he’s popular and they want to discredit him? Or just because they want to change the topic?

If Barack Obama combined a blue ribbon panel with a moratorium on firings of service members for being gay, how many Democrats in Congress would back him up?

Does having Democrats running the federal government make people who don’t like abortion but want it to stay legal feel more (not 8%, but maybe 1%) comfy identifying themselves “pro-life” without worrying about an abortion ban?

How do thousands of already-and-now-permanently married same-sex couples affect the fight for equal marriage rights for everyone else in California?

When will America have its first Supreme Court nominee who’s open about having had an abortion?

Is Obama serious about using our leverage to push Bibi?

Is Bruce Springsteen the only liberal immune from being tarred with the “elitist celebrity” brush? If so why?

CRAZY LIKE A FOXY REPUBLICAN?

Brian Beutler is asking why the National Republican Senate Committee would simultaneously run ads attacking and praising newly-minted Democrat Arlen Specter (to get re-elected, Specter would likely first have to overcome a challenge from the left in the Democratic primary, then beat Pat Toomey in the general election).

I think it’s a mistake to take the purpose of the NRSC’s “pro-Specter” robocall at face value. It makes more strategic sense as another anti-Specter, pro-Sestak call aimed at Democratic primary voters. Here’s what the ostensibly “pro-Specter” call actually says:

Yesterday, our Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak voted for President Obama’s budget, which contains spending increases for Democratic priorities like housing and environmental protection. But don’t Pennsylvanians deserve an independent voice in Congress? Our new democratic Senator Arlen Specter has been that voice. Last night, Senator Specter stood with conservative Senate Republicans in opposing the Obama budget. So call Joe Sestak at 610-892-8623. Tell Joe Sestak that Pennsylvanians want an independent voice, not another vote for the Obama agenda.

Look at it this way. Picture yourself as a liberal Democratic PA primary voter. Here are the words that stand out in this call associated with each candidate:

Joe Sestak: for President Obama’s budget, Democratic priorities, housing and environmental protection, Obama agenda

Arlen Specter: new Democratic senator, stood with conservative Senate Republicans, opposing the Obama budget

If I’m a Democratic primary voter (and I am), all of this will just make me more inclined towards Sestak, and less towards Specter. And the fact that the GOP is ostensibly vouching for Specter will just make me distrust him that much more. Which is exactly the point: Hurt Specter’s standing with Democratic base voters so that Joe Sestak emerges as the nominee (and more power to them).

If the NRSC were really trying to make Sestak less popular, wouldn’t they slap him with terms like “big government” or “energy tax” or “taxes for tuition benefits for illegal immigrants who come here to study abortion”? Do they really think “environmental protection” is a turn-off for Democratic primary voters and opposing Obama is a turn-on? They may be tone deaf, but not that tone deaf.

RUSH’S JUDGEMENT

Of course l’affaire Limbaugh is fun to watch, both for the drama of Republicans inching onto the limb of wanting the economic recovery plan to work and then scurrying off of it when Rush roars, and for the ongoing beating the Republican brand is taking. That said, I think one of the angles getting missed in the discussion of this is that Republicans fear getting on Limbaugh’s bad side because he has a singular ability to shape the opinion of a noteworthy minority of the country.

For better or worse, right-wingers have a leader who can keep right-wing elected officials in line. Does anyone disagree that there’s no equivalent leader or organization on the left with the same level of clout to hold elected progressives – including the President – accountable?

MAJORITY AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE

Now that the Senate has voted for cloture on the stimulus, I gotta say it’s striking how the goalposts have moved in terms of what the media consider a majority out of 100 senators. The dominant sense you’d get from following mainstream media coverage of the debate is that 61 Senators is the cut-off for a Senate majority, and if Obama’s initiatives don’t make it past that post he hasn’t garnered that much support (and he isn’t really that bipartisan). That’s not how I remember things being covered during the Bush administration, when the same talking heads did their talking about the filibuster as though it was an extreme measure.

Put differently, with a Republican in the White House the onus was on Democrats to justify why anything would be worth a filibuster; with a Democrat in the White House, the onus is on Democrats to scare up 61 votes.

When John Kerry talked about filibustering Sam Alito’s Supreme Court nomination (which, compared to the stimulus package, is also far-reaching in impact but most would agree was less time-sensitive to get done), that was covered as an antic from the fringe. But amidst the veneration of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the starting assumption seems to be that the very most moderate members of the Senate GOP Caucus by default will filibuster the President’s bill unless they get to rewrite it.

Is this an unfair comparison? And if not, then do we blame the media, or blame the Democrats for having lacked the parliamentary-style party discipline to better control the media narrative?

That said, I don’t think there’s much evidence that the public cares terribly much about what Nancy Pelosi rightly called “process arguments” – who’s obstructing who, who’s more bipartisan, etc. And the latest polling suggests that as with the Presidential election, the GOP may be capturing media cycles without capturing voters. Another reason to hope the Conference Committee leaves the Nelson-Snowe crew with a token accomplishment or two but otherwise churns out the bill best designed to actually stimulate the economy – whose success or failure is what voters will actually remember a year from now.

ORSON’S GAME (OR “SPEAKER FOR THE MOYNIHAN DEMOCRATS)

Having spent middle school reading pretty much only the novels of Orson Scott Card, I was as surprised as anyone to see him pop up in 2004 endorsing George Bush and straight-ticket Republican voting because “as a Democrat, what can I say to that except that, because my party has been taken over by an astonishingly self-destructive bunch of lunatics who are so dazzled by Hollywood that they think their ideas make sense, I have to agree that right now, any President but Bush and any Congress but a Republican-dominated one would be disastrous.” After the election, Card revealed he’d voted for Bush the first time too). But I can’t say I registered the same surprise when Card rose again to call for us to vote Republican in the 2006 midterm elections (“there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war”), or most recently this past October when the self-professed “Moynihan Democrat” endorsed John McCain, with a special dig at the “reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation’s prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor.” You might wonder why Card keeps identifying as a Democrat. Wonder no more: four years after endorsing Bush at Slate, he got himself this press on the same site:

Orson Scott Card, the science-fiction author and registered Democrat, sparked a similar Web backlash when he endorsed McCain just a few weeks before Election Day…For him, national security is paramount.

I bet many of us in college got to meet someone convinced their right-wing views on the issue of the day packed extra punch because they were prefaced with “As a loyal Democrat…” But you can pull off the same trick in the national media too. It seems there are not diminishing returns to self-proclaimed apostasy. Take Tammy Bruce, who years after writing one book taking us “Inside The Left’s Assault On Free Speech and Free Minds” and another “Exposing the Left’s Assault on Our Culture and Values,” got the San Francisco Chronicle to publish her “Feminist’s Argument for McCain’s VP” and identify her as a “registered Democrat her entire adult life until February.”

Look forward to 2010, when Moynihan Democrat Orson Scott Card announces, more in sadness than in anger, that he must buck the President and Congressional leadership of his own party and endorse a Republican takeover of Congress, for the sake of our children’s safety. The column almost writes itself.