By Robert Holst
I am an active member of my union. I pulled the legislative affairs short straw. It is a job not many would want to do. You have to pay attention to a lot and read endlessly. Sometimes I wish I could forget a lot of what I have seen happen and what I think will come to pass. But we do what we need to do because I probably won’t see the benefits of my labor in this arena but I hope my children will.
This brings me to my point. Many of my brothers in sisters in labor often ask me why we endorse the candidates we endorse when they don’t do a hell of a lot for working people. I always dreaded that question because there is no easy answer. But as time goes on things often reveal themselves to us, as they are wont to do. Now when I hear this question I am often reminded of the quote from Joseph de Maistre, which says,
“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”
It is our job to make them do for us. We get bombarded around election time with requests to register to vote. We are told who is in our best interests to vote for from many different sources like newspapers, employers, civic groups, and family. We process this information and make a choice based on the available information. Rarely ever is there a follow up effort. We cast our votes and hope for the best. When it doesn’t quite go the way we hope we blame the politician or the party they belong to.
I equate this to buying a new car and never putting gas in it and then blaming the car for not running. I suggest we are the ones to blame. We have seen throughout history people when engaged make a difference. Wars have been ended. Civil rights won for whole races of people. Even the Tea Party ushered in their candidates – for the most part to the detriment of working people, but they did it. Some now call for a revolution.
We go from being completely disengaged to calling for an armed overthrow of our government. Where is the rational thought? Where are the activists? Martin Luther King and Gandhi changed their circumstance without violence. Why is it now the only alternative? Unions do endorse folks that sometimes don’t do a lot for labor once they win but at least they are not hurting the labor movement. I have spoken with many elected officials since starting down the path of being a labor activist.
Often times they are not always aware of exactly how legislation may affect a certain group of people. That is where we are supposed to come in. To reach out to them and let them know what we think. To force them to pay attention and to let them know we certainly are. Politicians are not super geniuses. They are like us. They make mistakes and form their own opinions on the information available to them.
We have allowed them to more or less become what they have become at this point. They are like nannies doing what is best for the unorganized masses that don’t know any better. We know better and it is time we let them know that.