Saturday, September 05, 2009


By my count, the Republicans have tons of national holidays. Christmas, Easter, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day come immediately to mind. Whether it’s marketing their devotion to the Prince of Peace or the Art of War, the GOP spin machine can rally the troops like no other. What about Thanksgiving? It’s a Puritan holiday, and Puritans would surely be Republican. Then again, even Democrats like me love to eat, it’s just that we might choose tofurky over dead bird.

What about Independence Day? Can the Republicans claim to be more patriotic? I guess some would make that claim. And when you see the flags come out in the neighborhoods round about July 1st, you can make a pretty good guess that you’re driving past a GOP household. But screw that, Democrats like me certainly enjoy fireworks every bit as much as Republicans, except perhaps for the fireworks that sometimes erupt between a Congressman and a young page. (OK, OK. That was a cheap shot. Neither side of the aisle has cornered the market on perversion.)

Washington’s Birthday and Columbus Day can’t possibly be associated more with one of the two Parties than the other. Frankly, they don’t seem to captivate the attention of EITHER liberals or conservatives any more. Hmmm. We might want to work on that a bit – figure out a way for those holidays to regain their relevance, or scrap them in favor of different celebrations (like Michael Jackson Day or, if we need a woman, how about Madonna Day once she passes).

So that leaves two -- two days for the Democrats. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is definitely one of the Democrats’ holidays. Just recall how that holiday was opposed by such “moderate” Republicans as John McCain. Still, we have reached the point in our society when MLK Jr. is a hero to Republicans as well as Democrats – only an out-and-out racist would refuse to admit his appreciation for the man. So let’s say that MLK Jr. day LEANS Democratic, but we’ll call it a holiday that all Americans can enjoy.

And then there was one.

To be sure, every decent American supports the concept of laboring. We all respect the idea of working hard for a fair wage. But historically, it was crystal clear that without a labor movement, the average American worker was grist for the exploitation mill. And in response to that ugly fact, the labor movement developed. So, with that in mind, what do you think the rank and file of the GOP thinks of the labor movement? Positive thoughts? Even neutral thoughts? I wonder. Over the decades, that movement has come to be associated in Red America with (a) mob-like violence and intimidation, (b) horrible corruption, and (c) un-affordably high prices on consumer goods resulting from ridiculously high wages and benefits for union workers. Even such laws as the “minimum wage” legislation are common objects of ridicule, particularly among small business owners who feel like they can’t turn a profit as long as they must “overpay” their support staff.

I can only imagine what it’s like for someone like my mom, who was born at the beginning of the 1920s, to reflect on how the power and prestige of Labor has devolved during the course of her life. We all still toast the concept of labor, but the toast is half-hearted. It extends to individual laborers insofar as they are viewed as hard working and not overpaid. But when the topic turns to labor unions, or even labor laws, much of the nation has become largely disdainful, and the remainder of the nation has become quite apathetic. Who is standing up for the working class today? Got me.

Of course, that will all change on Monday. On that glorious day – the Democrats’ favorite holiday – we will be treated to one op-ed after another praising the cause of the working man. Perhaps there will be a jeremiad or two about how our economic “recovery” has been confined to Wall Street, but hasn’t yet been felt on Main Street. And surely, we will have the token essay from Robert Reich or Paul Krugman urging us to do more for the little guy. (At 4’ 10”, Reich’s passion on the subject can’t be denied.)

By Tuesday, though, all the concern about the working class will be long gone. Tuesday is Barack Obama’s “back to school” day. He’ll be giving his pep talk to the American school kids, taking on such a controversial subject as how the kids need to “stay in school.” Innocuous, right? Apparently not. Thanks to the GOP spin machine, this has morphed into one more opportunity to mock our new President. So around the country – and even in “progressive” Montgomery County, Maryland – schools will be setting aside areas for children whose parents do not want them to have to listen to the President give an address. A Washington Times editorial has even compared Barack’s address to a “move suggestive of the Pyongyang public school system.” In short, by COB Tuesday, whatever “bump” labor may have enjoyed from Monday will have been eviscerated by the horrific image of Barack Obama as Big Brother, polluting the minds of our nation’s youth with socialistic propaganda … like how the kids need to stay in school.

And that’s just Tuesday. The very next day – or as we laborers call it, “hump day” -- Barack will go to Capitol Hill and address that august collection of free-thinkers on the subject of health care reform. Surely, he will announce his support for legislation that is needed to insure the working class – legislation that will include the so-called “public option.” But that’s just a “wink wink, nod nod” kind of support, our TV talking heads assure us. We all “know” that the U.S. Senate will not support the public option, or any other kind of reform that the health care industry can’t abide. So, the talking heads continue, Barack’s REAL job is to “appease the base” by talking tough on the public option, and then begin the face-saving process of trying to broker a workable “compromise.” If successful, Barack can declare victory that he has passed a bill that makes material, positive changes to our nation’s health care system. How material? Probably not much. How positive? Probably not much. But that’s not what’s important, the talking heads assure us. What’s important is that SOMETHING gets passed … so Barack can quickly get past this entire debacle.

Will the working class get their health insurance? Well no. But that’s OK, we’re assured. We have to be practical about such things. It’s just not practical to expect the wealthiest country in the history of the world to provide health insurance to its low-paid workers. I mean, it’s responsible to advocate such an idealistic position on Labor Day. But that’s a one-day holiday. We won’t be voting on health care reform until Columbus Day, or Thanksgiving, or Christmas. By then, all good Democrats should have learned their lesson, appropriately taught by the talking heads: even when their Party controls the Presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, when it comes to the cause that has been of central concern to their core constituency for the past two decades, their job is to sell that cause out without even a fight.

Remember On the Waterfront? Remember Marlon Brando’s character? That’s a great, inspiring Labor Day flick. That’s true labor-movement heroism. Screw pragmatism; sometimes you have to fight for what’s right even if it means getting the tar beaten out of you.

Come Tuesday, though, it will be time for all good Democrats to know their place. This is a Republican country – even when the Republican Party is run by numbskulls. And until the Democratic “base” intends to fight for something important to them and throw uber-pragmatism to the wolves, a Republican country it shall remain.

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