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Lew and Loomis

Erik Loomis, over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, is probably the figure in Left Blogovia whose actual policy preferences are closest to mine. His labor-first instincts seem to me exactly correct. His writing I sometimes like and sometimes don’t—his Labor History posts are excellent, but his shorter posts are sometimes clunky and unpersuasive. And, sadly, his political analysis is for shit.

Which is what struck me, really, about his note this morning on Why Jack Lew’s Labor Views Matter. He is (in my arrogant one) completely correct that it matters if the Secretary of the Treasury is unsympathetic to labor, collective bargaining and the lives of workers. He is furthermore correct that it should be a big deal within the Party if any prominent person has—or even is accused of having—a union-busting background.

One of the commentators (the perhaps ironically nommed witless chum) said The left needs to treat people like this the way Republicans treat people who have sane views on abortion. It’s not nice or fair, but it’s how to run a political party. And my response was—YES! That would be awesome! Also, ponies!

Realistically, it seems to me the most that can be hoped for is that during the confirmation hearing, Senator Sanders or Senator Frank or the ghost of Senator Kennedy would ask pointed questions about it, and that Secretary-Nominate Lew would be compelled to mouth platitudes about support for collective bargaining, the labor movement and the working man. And then be nominated. It wouldn’t change anything at all about the nominee or the running of the Treasury, really, but it would make me feel better.

Which is, of course, a vitally important role of our Party.

More thoroughly, I want anybody in my Party, at any level, to be aware that if he tells a union (or a union-backed organizing unit) to go screw, it’s going to cause trouble down the road. Just as the Other Party and the pro-life organizations, as the witless chum remarks, or several other groups within the various Parties. And one of the ways people know which groups have that power is to look at who gets an apology. Does Chuck Hagel have to apologize for homophobic comments? Yes, so we know that the LGBTetc community is (finally) powerful enough to contend with. Does labor get an apology from Jack Lew?

So. Mr. Loomis is completely correct to demand such an apology. The question is whether he will get it… this is where the blogs that claim (rhetorically) to do analysis get into trouble: an analysis would state that demanding an apology isn’t a good use of the (extremely) limited resources of the labor movement; if Jack Lew were to defend his union-busting and refuse to apologize, he would still be confirmed and that would be bad; remembering that everything is a trade-off, Mr. Lew’s positives in the position probably outweigh his negatives for workers. Most important, before you can demand an apology, you have to build up the outrage in the community. You have to actually have that political power before you can use it, and the way to get that political power is through…

Well, in part, it’s through things like demanding an apology from Jack Lew. It’s through making sure everybody knows when a union-buster gets a pass from the administration. That’s not all there is to it, but it is an important part of the rhetoric. So when Mr. Loomis calls for progressives to hold the president accountable in appointments, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he thinks the President will actually have to account to progressives. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that he thinks that progressives should actually be working on this specific issue this time. But if he doesn’t shout about it—doesn’t make it clear that this is the sort of thing that we should be shouting about, well, then, nobody will care, and we’ll never get anywhere.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,