October 25, 2008

Get Thou to the Other Party!

Justin Katz

Thomas Schmeling and Pat Crowley have been engaged in an interesting conversation that began when a commenter told Crowley the following:

I'm a democrat and I think the state employees unions are one of the biggest problems with the state at the moment. Public employees paid by tax dollars should not be union (emergency workers and possibly even teachers are an exception, though I have serious issues with the teachers unions).

Crowley's response?

then your not a democrat
there is another party for you, it is called republican. They need your help. Feel free to join them

Schmeling, being a man of great integrity (albeit often applied toward erroneous ends, in my opinion), took exception to that push toward the door, and conversation continued, including this from Crowley's boss at the National Education Association in Rhode Island, Bob Walsh:

There may be room to argue about the various stands and positions for which unions may advocate, but if you are arguing against the very right of unions to exist, public or private, then you are not a Democrat.

It is, and should be, a threshold issue - a litmus test - an entrance exam.

To begin with, let's note the sliding measure. Even I support the "right of unions to exist" as a self-standing proposition. I also support people's right to hold any particular job without belonging to a union — that is, I oppose unions' claimed right to maintain monopolies of significant swaths of the employment landscape. Even in the public sector, unions would be tolerable if they had to compete — collectively — with an array of talented and motivated individuals who are more flexible in their demands and more willing to acknowledge the twists and turns of economic reality.

Of course, it's clearly in the financial interest of the NEA's well-remunerated executives to impose such a litmus test. But it's also part of the left/Democrat scheme that has performed such wonders in Rhode Island. Democrat partisans pull together a coalition of interest groups that won't stray from the party even if they disagree on virtually every other aspect of the platform. Indeed, considering unions and the welfare industry, one could say that the party has created interest groups. So, a socially conservative state worker votes for Democrats to preserve his employment package. A recipient of public assistance (and the army of workers who administer it) does likewise. Throw in the blue-at-birth Democrats and the left-wing ideologues.

There's nothing wrong with coalition building, but the strategy is now expanding beyond the point at which various constituencies vote together and then encourage elected officials in their own ways. Consider this tidbit that I came across while developing this post (emphasis added):

Having been out-fundraised by more than 5-to-1 this month in large donations, supporters of a California constitutional marriage amendment are warning they will lose on Election Day unless they receive a heavy influx of donations in the next week.

Thanks mostly to money from Hollywood, homosexual activist groups and the California Teachers Union, opponents of Proposition 8 have raised $11.3 million this month, supporters $2.3 million, according to data on the California secretary of state's website. This week alone, from Sunday through Thursday (Oct. 19-23), opponents raised $3 million to supporters' $844,000. The aforementioned state data includes only donations of $1,000 or more.

The union's leadership, in other words, is not merely supporting candidates who uphold its members' interests; it's behaving as an ideological action group. Money siphoned from the public, crouched behind the education of children, is directed toward another group's "litmus test."

I don't know where the anonymous RI Democrat who sparked Crowley's ire stands on any particular issue, but all Rhode Islanders should keep an eye out for evidence of this chain of links, because it's the very thing that's strangling the state. Furthermore, members of the various Democrat constituencies should have no illusion about the cost of being sated. Your union perks also cost the state in welfare and in increasingly liberal public policy. Your liberal predilections empower the unions to create rigid rules preventing the state from salvaging its collapsing education system.

If a particular item is part of the "entrance exam," then your group and party leadership will feel no compunction about assuming that you support it.

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The whole argument is moot,because all one has to do to join a political party is register as a member of that party for voting purposes.Of course it's no guarantee you'll feel welcome at a party function.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 25, 2008 9:53 PM

I don't know Joe, I think there may be more to this. When party operatives tell one of their voters, on an issue that's way to the left, "think like we do or gtfo" I think we may be seeing a tipping point in the making.

I don't think it will tip in time for this election. But it's tipping...

Posted by: George at October 26, 2008 12:12 AM

Actually,the two people taking the GTFO position are NEA officials,and I don't know if either holds a position in the Democratic Party leadership.
In any event people can't be "excommunicated"from a party-there are bound to be divisions within either party,which is why there are primaries.In the case of RI the Democratic primary is usually tantamount to the general election,which is why that party may attract a wider sample of citizens than the Republicans.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 26, 2008 6:09 AM

"Actually,the two people taking the GTFO position are NEA officials,and I don't know if either holds a position in the Democratic Party leadership."

Yes, this didn't strike me until after a good night sleep. Members of a special interest group would certainly like their cause to be a litmus-test for being a member of a political party, especially of the more dominant party in a given state. But it is entirely in the hands of the party to define itself, its platform, its values.

Posted by: Monique at October 26, 2008 7:42 AM

But this is Rhode Island. Don't you think those special interest groups pretty much call the shots in the Democrat party? True a party leaders cannot change the way people register or vote.

But they can turn people off (like Carter to me) or turn them on (like Reagan to me). In 1980, when I started to "get it" many, many others started to "get it" too. In 2008, if Mr. Schmeling is "turned off" and gets it (about his party)... then maybe, just maybe we're near a new 1980-like tipping point. All our side needs is for a leader to emerge...and I hope that will happen in relatively short order.

Posted by: George at October 26, 2008 8:51 AM

Its not that I want to encourage this further, but since my name has been used here, I did want to pop in to clarify something for George:

1. My comments expressed no disagreement with the Democratic Party or any part of its platform. I was only arguing that it's a tactical error to tell people to go away because they disagree with a plank in your party's platform- even a central one. (What would happen to the GOP if they threw out every Republican who said he was pro-choice?) I thought the better tactic was to try to persuade the person. That's all.

My agreements with Pat far out number my disagreements. This one is hardly going to cause me to change my fundamental commitments.

2. I think your hopes for a "tipping point" are misplaced. It seems to me that any "tipping" that's going on right now is solidly in favor of the Democratic Party. That's clearly true on the national level, and I would not get your hopes up for the direction to be different in RI for the time being.

A significant part of the reason for the GOP's national slide has been the divisiveness of its rhetoric. Witness Michele Bachmann. That rhetoric, unfortunately seems to have been replicated in RI. (the recent Hamas "hearts" Obama" stuff on the Ocean State Republican blog comes to mind...in fact the entire blog comes to mind!). As long as that remains the strategy for creating a Republican majority in RI, I think the RIGOP can expect to stay right about where it is.

Posted by: Thomas Schmelng at October 26, 2008 11:44 AM

"But this is Rhode Island. Don't you think those special interest groups pretty much call the shots in the Democrat party?"

Not really. Contrary to popular belief there is a two-party system in RI.
There are the hack Democrats who are interested in patronage and cronyism with many of them possessed of enough sense to support lowering taxes and welfare/union benefits.
Then there is the Looney Toons branch which supports ultra-high union and welfare benefits (even for illegals), an Orwellian plan for "Economic Growth" which calls for taxes over double our neighboring states and the sacremental worship of baby killing and diseased, pathetic "men" who are attracted to other men's rectums.
By the way, did anybody else see Jack Welch on George Stephanopolus? As soon as he said "Rhode Island" I laughed out loud knowing full well what he would say. He went on about how GE withdrew from the place he called "crazy Rhode Island" with "the highest taxes in America" and "the highest unemployment in America" and which "strangles small business". The program will be on the ABC website sometime today. I am SURE it will be referenced on Radio Free RI tommorow.
All I could think of was that coterie of economic geniuses Jerzyk, Handy, Sgouros, Moura, Segal, etc., etc., etc.

Posted by: Mike at October 26, 2008 11:47 AM

My point is this...

When Jimmy Carter destroyed the democrat party for me, the instant I felt that way I did not realize that millions of other American were experiencing the same awakening.

If Mr. Schmeling, a dedicated democrat, is inclined to say "I think the state employees unions are one of the biggest problems with the state at the moment. Public employees paid by tax dollars should not be union". I am hopeful that, faced with the dismal state of the state, many other Rhode Islanders are experiencing the same awakening. It may very well not be a tipping point in direct favor to the Republican party, but may well signal a change that puts both parties on a path to saving the state by focusing its leadership on helping all Rhode Islanders and not the special interests that RI Democrat leaders have been beholden to and inclined to favor in their policies.

I disagree that any "tipping point" favors Democrats. The Democrat party represents more entitlement, more government, and those are the things that have led to the mess we are in (albeit with lots of help from many incumbent Republicans). The momentum may still belong to the progressive/big government crowd, but not for much longer. Or God may help us.

Posted by: George at October 26, 2008 12:32 PM

Um.... George:

Please note, I did NOT say the words you attributed to me. Nor do I agree with them.

Please be more careful with your attributions.

If Mr. Schmeling, a dedicated democrat, is inclined to say "I think the state employees unions are one of the biggest problems with the state at the moment. Public employees paid by tax dollars should not be union"

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at October 26, 2008 12:39 PM

My mistake. Appologies to Mr. Schmeling. Nevertheless, such a debate taking place among Democrats is encouraging to say the least.

Posted by: George at October 26, 2008 3:29 PM
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