Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Best GOP wedge issue ever, and they can't do a thing with it

Chris Ladd, GOPLifer.

Republicans are being handed the kind of wedge issue that comes along once in a generation and they are utterly oblivious to the gift. The last great Democratic Party constituency, African-Americans, is pitted against the party’s last great organizational bulwark, public employee unions. The waves of protests over police brutality that ignited nationwide over the killing of Michael Brown have focused on race. Protestors so far have failed to appreciate why police, like so many other public employees, are consistently shielded from accountability to the people they serve.

No one seems to have thought to combine the protests over an unaccountable police force with the protests by some of the same people in some of the very same neighborhoods, over the failure to provide a decent public education to poor and minority communities. Both problems have the same root cause – unions that shield their members from accountability.

This nails it, but the lack of accountability is powerfully enabled by the grand jury system.  This does not happen to the degree that it actually does happen without well-connected, wealthy, white conservative grand jurors.  It also doesn't explain why police officers are predominantly Republican voters, and police unions now predominantly endorse Republican candidates in Texas and elsewhere, but let's not quibble.  Especially with this.

All of the major officials involved in the Ferguson case, from the Governor down to the local DA are Democrats. The officials investigating the Tamir Rice case in Cleveland (keep an eye on that one) are Democrats. Only in the Staten Island case are there any Republicans in decision-making roles.

Debates over urban access to effective public safety or effective public education are exclusively intraparty fights among Democrats. Despite the black community’s importance as a Democratic voting bloc, African-Americans always lose that fight with the unions. Every. Single. Time.

When the Democratic Party is faced with a conflict between a public employee union and a black urban population desperate to gain access to the public services that union is supposed to deliver, the union wins. This is the civil rights logjam that has blocked black communities from access to the prosperity that they deserve. Republicans do not own this problem and they should not help perpetuate it.

Unions provide workers with higher incomes and job security. They impose costs not only in wages, but in inertia, making it difficult for a unionized industry to adapt to changing conditions and serve its customers. A union collectivizes power, but along the way it also collectivizes accountability, creating an inherent incentive toward mediocrity and shielding the worst actors from the consequences of their actions. It is very hard to fire a worker who is protected by a union.

In four paragraphs, you've got the trouble with LEO accountability, the trouble with unions (notwithstanding the many valuable things accomplished for middle-class Americans), and the trouble with the Democratic Party (too indistinguishable from the Republicans in too many ways) gutted, filleted, and laid bare.  And it gets worse for Democrats from here.

In an old-fashioned labor union for coalminers or steel workers, the costs of a union are born by wealthy capital owners. The benefits flow to lower income workers who otherwise have little access to power and limited opportunities to support their families. That’s an outdated vision of a union’s mission which died a long time ago.

Now turn those conditions around. What happens when the beneficiaries of the union are college educated, white professionals and the people bearing the cost of unionization are politically powerless and economically exploited? Try to fire an incompetent or crooked police officer and watch what happens.

An institution that collectivizes the benefits and accountability of factory workers imposes some moderate, but generally tolerable costs. An institution that collectivizes the pay and accountability of police officers gets people killed.

African-Americans and other low-income, under-represented constituencies find themselves on the losing end of a carefully structured racket. More-affluent white citizens can flee to suburbs that have been structured to limit the power of public employee unions. Smaller municipalities and school districts combined with well-connected, well-educated voting population help level the playing field for white suburbanites with money. Meanwhile back in the city center, those most in need of public services to enable upward mobility find themselves at the mercy of institutions with far more political muscle than they can match.

And now, the reveal (well, half of it anyway).

This is an historic opening for Republicans to profit by doing the right thing. We could defend the basic civil rights of an oppressed community. Along the way we could we undermine a policy we generally loathe, mandatory unionization of public employees. In the process we would further our goal to broaden the opportunity for all to seize opportunities in a market economy. 


We haven’t been able to recognize, much less exploit this opportunity due to some very serious problems we are unlikely to address.

That's right; I almost forgot.  You're Republicans.

Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise made news over the holidays when his deep, old ties to white supremacist organizations surfaced. This is important because it is the rest of the story.

We are all supposed to pretend that the Republicans won the South because Southerners coincidentally discovered some fresh interest in low taxes and “liberty” at the same time that the Federal government started enforcing Civil Rights legislation. It’s a lie and everyone knows it’s a lie, but it has taken on a Santa Claus quality as a sort of public myth necessary to maintain the basic legitimacy of our political order.

This is so perfectly demonstrated in the Twitter back-and-forth I had with Greg Aydt over the past weekend, and it is a lie he has worked hard, long hours to perpetuate.  It even came up in a conversation Bill O'Reilly had with David Duke.  But let's not quibble with that, either.

Republicans now control Congress, something that eluded us across most of the 20th century. Almost half of that majority comes from Dixie. Sixty percent of it comes from places that failed to outlaw slavery prior to Lincoln. None of it comes from a major urban area. The party isn’t going to do anything substantive about Steve Scalise because it lacks the leverage to free itself from white supremacist ideology. And that brings us back to our problem.

There are too few Republicans who possess even the most distant understanding of the concerns of the black community to even recognize the shape of this opportunity. And if they did, it would be monumentally difficult to muster a core political bloc inside the GOP that cared. For Republicans, white supremacy will not pay the bills forever. Somehow the party will have to find a broader base on which to build a political appeal. Despite the sugar-high of the 2014 election, the clock is ticking and the outlook is miserable.

An opportunity exists and there are a few Republicans in the North with some potential to tackle it. New Gov. Bruce Rauner in Illinois could be particularly well-positioned to win on this issue if he has the insight to even recognize it. That remains to be seen. Most Republicans seem content to respond to this historic political opening by keeping their backs turned.

Like Ladd, like Grits, I see an opportunity squandered by the GOP.

Indeed, pandering by Democrats to police unions is the main reason significant criminal-justice reform didn't begin in Texas until Republicans took over the Legislature in 2003 for the first time since Reconstruction. While Dems were in charge, police unions had virtual veto power on criminal justice bills, whereas Republicans feel little need to pander to them.

Grits doubts Republican pols will seize the opportunity Ladd identifies, in part because the party contains too many elderly ex-Dixiecrats who flipped sides in the Reagan era and have little interest in civil rights or appealing to black constituents. But it's absolutely correct that the GOP has been presented with a "once in a generation" opportunity if its leaders possess the boldness and foresight to seize upon it.  

They just can't hide the hoods, white sheets, and burning crosses fast enough to capitalize on it.  There's going to have to be a massive die-off among the Republican base before they can manage to moderate themselves enough to attract more than one Mia Love.

Reaching out to African Americans -- while undercutting the stranglehold the Democratic Party has on municipal unions -- is really Scalise they could do.  But they won't, because they can't.  It's just too much cognitive dissonance for their lizard brains to process.


Charles Turner said...

I started a thread about this on a2k. Hope you don't mind. But I am not a popular political poster. So far no responses. It's a tough subject and one that embarrasses me.

PDiddie said...

I would not ,never will mind, Edgar. The problem is that it is a complex premise, and requires entertaining a wide range of critical thinking, far more than the vast majority of conservatives can muster. And the most critical element is the cognitive dissonance associated with making an sincere appeal to African American voters, who would be pretty cynical of the attempt.

Mia Love, Ben Carson, Herman Cain, and Ben Carson are all noteworthy exceptions, but their numbers do not a movement make.

PDiddie said...

One of those Ben Carsons was supposed to be Alan Keyes.