Dump Trump, Ditch Mitch and don't fall for the old GOP social issues sucker play

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Hear the snickering?

Turn around. See who's making fun of you.

It’s Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. They're counting on you to vote for them on the social issues. 

Trump, McConnell and the rest of GOP union-busting crowd are again trolling for union votes with the same old social issues sucker bait.

Their idea is to dupe working-class voters by hiding the GOP’s real agenda: making rich people like themselves richer and wiping out unions.

You’d think it would be mission impossible to get so many working folks to vote against their own livelihoods. But with the social issues, it’s often been mission accomplished.

“The great dream of conservatives ever since the thirties has been a working class movement that for once takes their side of the issues, that votes Republican and reverses the achievements of working-class movements of the past,” Thomas Frank wrote in What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

Published in 2004, the book is as timely as ever.

Added the author: “Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there’s a good chance they’ll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.”

You could substitute “Kentucky” for “Kansas.”

The social issues scam is basically “bait and switch,” wrote Joanne Ricca in “Politics in America: The Right Wing Attack on the American Labor Movement.”

The paper was published in 2002 when Ricca was a researcher with the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. It’s still timely, too.

“The Right needed to build an electoral base to take power,” she explained. A two-prong strategy emerged:

  • “Create issue groups, especially around the gun control and abortion issues, to manipulate voters to support Right Wing candidates against their own economic interests.”
  • “Create a religious front to manipulate peoples’ faith to support right wing candidates.”

The Right understood that its candidates could hardly campaign “openly and honestly on an ideology that is a threat to a majority of the people and our democracy.” So, the Right deliberately manipulated “voters through single issues – particularly abortion, gun control, school prayer, crime, and taxes.”

The bait and switch thus “allowed candidates to conceal their real pro-corporate, anti-worker agenda,” according to Ricca.

All along, unions have been exposing the Right’s social issues fraud. (Most union members still vote for union-endorsed candidates.) Indeed, the Right fears organized labor as its biggest obstacle to success.

Simultaneous with their social issues shell game, Republicans declared holy war on unions.

“Unions are the most powerful worker-based organizations in our society,” Ricca wrote, adding, “….They can organize effective opposition to the Right. Non-union workers never gather together in such a such a way, have the resources to fight for their rights, or work collectively to promote their economic interests.

“Unions can also join with other progressive organizations (seniors, women, civil rights, environmental, and consumer) to create a powerful and effective force to challenge and defeat the Right. Unions are the major source of funds to elect candidates who will truly represent the economic interests of working families. Union households vote at a significantly higher percentage than non-union households, so union members have much greater power to decide which candidate will win.”

So, in addition to pushing a pointedly anti-union legislative program—notably redoubling its campaigns to pass state “right to work” laws—the Right trotted out the social issues to split the union movement. Ricca quoted Neal Knox and Ralph Reed.

Said Knox, a former National Rifle Association bigwig: “[The gun issue] is the one thing that will spin the blue-collar union member away from his union.”

Said Reed, who helped start the Christian Coalition: [Issues like school prayer and abortion] … are the bridge that gets you to constituencies that aren’t with you on the economic issues.”

Not coincidentally, the NRA and Christian Coalition are allied with the National Right to Work Committee, Ricca pointed out.

Larry Sanderson, a veteran Kentucky labor leader from Paducah, said he had a ready answer for union members who vote on guns and not on kitchen table economic issues, union issues:

“‘You can’t buy a gun if you don’t have a job. You’ve got a good job thanks to your union. And who would love to take away your union?" 

It's not Joe Biden and Amy McGrath.  

"Republicans aren't pro-life," said Jeff Wiggins, Kentucky State AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer. "They're pro-birth. They don't care what happens to the child after he or she is born. Most Democrats are for you from 'cradle to grave.'" 

So brothers and sisters, watch who’s sneering at your behind your back, pointing at you and whispering, “sucker!”

And don’t kid yourself, Trump and McConnell just want your vote, not the pleasure of your company. Trump won't have you over for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. McConnell won't invite you to sup at his comfortable digs in Washington or Louisville. 

Jim Pence, another old union guy like Sanderson and me, nailed it with the motto of his feisty--and sadly now defunct--Hillbilly Report blog: “Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many, and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much.”

Five days to go, brothers and sisters. Dump Trump and Ditch Mitch.