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Wake up! Big tent helps workers
Nate Silver & President Obama this week echoed Mayor Pete's 2020 primary lesson, while Biden's Amazon news is a reminder the left wins on policy when the big tent wins on politics
Earlier this week, Nate Silver pointed out what we’ve been saying since our re-launch last month: the 2020 election “ought to have been a pretty big wake-up call but doesn’t seem to have been.”
November’s election results - and threats evidenced by a disruption to our peaceful transition of power - have reinforced our original case why We Need a Welcome Party Now, as we wrote in our inaugural re-launch Substack post last month.
We have also reflected on how our NBC opinion pieces from the last two years show that the electorate continues to be distorted by the 8% on the far-left, and our South Carolina chair Lauren Harper made The Case for a Jim Clyburn Day to re-learn the Big Tent lessons of the 2020 primary.
But it is not just us and Nate Silver.
President Obama weighed in again yesterday, sharing an article that calls for reflecting on where we can be a bigger tent nearly a year after he warned progressives of movement-damaging rigidity.
Fruits of Big Tent Labor
This week, progressives are taking a victory lap after the president’s vocal support of Amazon workers forming a union in Alabama, and reasonably so. One labor historian noted that the president’s video rendered him “as good as FDR.”
That victory for the left, and workers, can be traced back to a year ago this week when Pete Buttigieg began the trend of big tent candidates dropping out of the presidential race to endorse Joe Biden. At the time, the Online Left alleged that he “did so for the greater good of a Democratic Party establishment that is hell-bent on sabotaging Bernie Sanders.”
Perhaps the former South Bend mayor actually did it for workers, for whom the “greater good of the Democratic Party” is more than just a thought exercise. Perhaps he was hell-bent on sabotaging Trumpism, as House Majority Leader Jim Clyburn was the week before.
The Online Left anger towards the Mayor spawned articles like Why Young Progressives Hate Pete Buttigieg long before he endorsed Biden. The borderline nihilism of a political philosophy that assails members of one’s own party for motives that are demonstrably untrue was laid bare Sunday night in a YouTube video featuring the man Buttigieg and Clyburn (along with 81 million others) helped make president.
But, as is often the case, the Online Left is learning the wrong lessons from the coalescing behind Biden and the echoes of FDR, whose presidency was renowned neither for corporatist royalism nor lack of job-creation initiatives.
The Online Left complained during the 2020 election that Biden was too centrist, too much a moderate, had been in Washington too long. But, thanks to some clear-eyed party stalwarts and the irrefutable math that shows most voters stand far closer to the center than Twitter would lead one to believe, Biden prevailed, likely staving off the compounded catastrophe that would have been a second Trump term.
Fast-forward to Sunday night: A president following through on his election-eve vow to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” In the video, Biden warned Amazon against some of the anti-union tactics the company has been using at its facility in Bessemer, Alabama, where union leaders estimate that 85 percent of the tech giant’s workforce is African American.
Imagine how disappointed those evil corporate Democrats must be to watch their standard-bearer throw his weight behind a union drive in Alabama.
The Online Left should consider the roots of that victory. It didn’t happen because Biden fired off some inflammatory tweet vilifying those who disagree with him, as many in the party’s Twitter-centric wing are wont to do even after spending years complaining about the former president’s propensity to do the same. (Last week, the Washington Post was compelled to issue a statement in support of a reporter who faced a torrent of online abuse from the Online Left for merely doing her job, simply because it was seen as counterproductive to a Cabinet nominee’s chances in the Senate.)
And it didn’t happen because Bernie Sanders is president. He’s not. Biden won because the party’s mainstream -- and the rest of the country -- managed its risk.
At The Welcome Party, we like to talk about risk in politics because we are so close to losing it all. As Stan Greenberg said in yesterday’s interview on The Rise of the Biden Republicans, we’re in a battle for democracy whose outcome is uncertain.
We understand that because this country is a jumbled mosaic of ideological views, ignoring the risk of embracing one pole can unintentionally end in increased governing influence on the opposite pole.
And unlike in the 1990s, the center and far-left are mostly aligned directionally, with disagreements centered on speed and language. It is on politics and outreach to the middle where the challenge lies. As NBC framed out post-election reflection in November: to achieve the left’s policy goals, ignore the left’s campaign advice.
“Future Former Republicans” - Hug Kasich, Help Workers
The Online Left derided Mayor Pete’s call for outreach to create “future former Republicans” and Biden’s similar approach.
As current press secretary Jen Psaki said at the outset of the primary, following their critiques would lead to “such a small party (we) will not be able to win. Governing is not about saying ‘You don’t agree with me, then you can’t be part of the conversation.”
The Pete-Biden-Clyburn approach won. And signals are that Biden is still striving for progressive milestones, particularly with regards to labor. He launched his campaign from a Teamsters hall in Pittsburgh. He tapped a liberal big-city mayor and former union official to head up the Department of Labor. Even Bernie’s campaign manager on Sunday called Biden’s message “monumental.”
Conservatives love to wax rhapsodic about the time Ronald Reagan fired 11,359 air traffic controllers who were on strike. It was a sign of Reagan’s strength, his willingness to stand up to Big Labor.
Maybe, someday, the Online Left will fondly remember in the same way Biden’s decision to have the back of the little guy and confront Big Tech. In a gentle borrowing of his predecessor’s media habits, he did so by circumventing traditional media and wading into a private-sector dispute to speak directly to the people. He came to the aid of workers facing off against a multinational behemoth -- even one that donated $1.7 million to his campaign. It’s about as pro-labor a stance as one could take, and some experts think it’s an unprecedented use of the White House’s bully pulpit on behalf of unionization.
The Politics of Addition Mitigates Risk
Not to mention, standing up to Big Tech happens to have cross-aisle appeal. How about that? Everything doesn’t have to be entirely zero sum!
In the face of such wins for labor, the Online Left’s practice of subtraction - explicitly calling for a smaller tent - should lead to some introspection. Sunday’s victory occurred because the party obviated risk, and still wound up with its desired outcome. Put another way, the desired outcome -- hailed by experts as a groundbreaking wielding of presidential power on behalf of unionization, with far-reaching consequences for the future of both work and corporatism -- came about because of the risk management, and because of a focus on addition.
That’s the thing about risk. Often, there is reward in avoiding it - for the Democratic Party, and for workers. Whatever the motivations alleged by the purists. It’s a lesson the party would do well to learn as we look to 2022 and 2024.