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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going for the gold

Massachusetts labor has little to lose -- and a potentially great deal to gain -- by setting its sights on Scott Brown next year. But they weaken their argument out of the gate with a less than perfect messenger.

Regular readers know I am unimpressed with Brown's common man touch, the barn coat and pickup truck great symbols that mask a voting record that has consistently favored financial institutions and the wealthy. He has talked the talk of a difficult childhood while favoring tax cuts over unemployment benefits, bank profits over summer jobs for kids.

Polls suggest he is the most popular politician in the state and no well-known Democrat has shown a willingness to even test the water on a potential challenge. Union leaders may be grasping at straws in thinking they can take him on and win.

But that long shot has one straw with the potential to provide traction: Brown's support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's effort to bust the pubic employee unions that did not support him. As University of Akron political science professor David Cohen notes:
“President Obama should send the Republican Party a big thank-you note. Republican governors and state legislatures have done the impossible: woken a slumbering Democratic base, one that slept through the 2010 midterm elections."
Labor is in a fight for its very political life. The Wisconsin episode was more a national conservative effort to weaken its clout as it was to balance the budget, particularly since the teachers who it was aimed at readily conceded on the financial concessions Walker sought.

That success will only embolden the Koch-backed Tea Party to keep trying -- and force labor to fight for its life.

One word of advice for Massachusetts union heads though: Robert Haynes is not the man you want carrying your message. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO chief is very damaged goods after foolishly trying to defend his acceptance of a $72,700 stipend for serving as a member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield board of directors.

That's probably a lot more than most of his members have been pulling down annually during this recession. And to dismiss it as "pennies a year" on health insurance premiums is a tone-deafness that Brown surely does not exhibit.

Of course, now all Massachusetts labor needs is a viable candidate.

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