Monday, January 11, 2010

Once Again, This is Why You Lose

Over on Huffpo (C/O Ryan Grim) there's another cogent reminder of how you lose power:

Freshman Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who has long been critical of the surtax on the wealthy, which he worries could hit small businesses, spoke up in favor of the tax on insurance. His comments about union opposition to the tax struck some on the call as surprising. Big Labor may be opposed to it, he told his colleagues, but the unions support the Senate plan, which must mean that they'll go along with a bill that includes such a tax.
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"I said that the unions supported the Senate bill, which they did," Polis told HuffPost. "So that was just a simple factual statement that the unions supported the bill in the Senate. That was my only mention of unions in my comment."
Although Grim correctly points out that the AFL-CIO didn't support the bill, the story shows why reflexively supporting something like this is a giant mistake. If you support something that does not benefit you, and that you had no hand in, the people who did develop it and who do benefit will simply take you for granted. If all the unions (as opposed to the AFL-CIO) had said "we will not accept this without changes", it would have made it perfectly clear that the Senate bill was going to need changes, and the Senate would be gearing up to discuss what sort of changes it would or wouldn't accept.

(After all, these are unions we're talking about, and even the most obstinate Senate Dem is going to be a wee bit cautious about drawing their fury.)

But because unions like the SEIU acted like "team players" and gave the bill their full-throated support, the unions have little leverage. Had they been a bit smarter, a bit savvier, and played their cards closer to their chests, they could be more effectively influencing reconciliation.

Then again, that assumes there's going to BE one. Yes, Pelosi is saying that the House isn't getting "rolled" on this one. But there, again, she has no credibility. The House has been rolled over, and over, and over again, to the point that it's rapidly becoming roughly as effective and influential a parliamentary body as, say, the Russian Duma.

(Or whatever Saddam had rubberstamping him.)

If you think it's bad now, just wait until what the coming year brings. I shudder to think at the sort of doctrinaire right-wing twaddle is going to masquarade as a jobs stimulus program or climate change legislation. It'll make your head spin.

Sure, the Senate Republicans will still oppose it, no matter how right-wing it is. But why wouldn't they? By keeping two or three people around that might relent, those forty people ended up having far more impact than the entire House of Represenatatives.

Sad as it is to say, the unions could learn from them.

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