One of the biggest races to watch in last night's primaries was the Democratic run-off between U.S. Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln and challenger Bill Halter in Arkansas. Progressives, including labor unions, put a lot into Halter and damn near got him over the 51% mark. Their point: you can't pander to the working class in your campaign and then vote against them on the issues.
In the past year, Lincoln has stood in the way of both the Employee Free Choice Act and the public option. Those are two huge policy points in the progressive world. Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake.com warned Lincoln last fall that if she stood with Republicans to filibuster against the public option, that she would draw a primary challenger. Hamsher made good on her promise and Lt. Governor Halter was a tough row to hoe for Lincoln.
In the aftermath of Lincoln's slim win, the White House -- or, rather, unnamed senior officials -- took to the mats with the unions. "Labor is humiliated," the source said. "$10 million flushed down the toilet at a time when Democrats across the country are fighting for their lives, they look like absolute idiots."
Money is on Rahm Emanuel for that one. He's probably the only guy in the Beltway who's arrogant enough to call the union leader "absolute idiots."
In response, AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale offered this: "We are not an arm of the White House or the DNC or a political party. We work on issues. And if we feel like someone is standing up for working families, we support them, and if they don't, we won't support it. In the past, people would have assumed that was talk, but now we have backed that up with action.
"Is the lesson they are taking out of tonight that they can go after labor and anonymously trash us and we will put our tail in between our legs and slink home? That ain't happening," Vale added. "My name is Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO and I'm proud to fight for working families and I don't hide behind anonymous quotes."
If labor sits out the November elections like they say they will, there's a very good chance the now-blue Senate seat will turn red. That may be a lump the unions are willing to take to prove their larger point to the administration and not be taken for granted. At the very least, it's a solid bargaining chip to get the Obama camp to make some actual moves on the policies that workers care about.
One FDL commenter wrote this: "Hey, Labor, come sit by us gays! The view is great."
And they should. Considering that the White House and the Congress have now sold out labor, gays, and environmentalists (There's no more climate aspect in the climate bill, only energy.), the three camps should join forces to really get some movement. Let's see Dems try to hold on to their majorities without us.