Strange Bedfellows at the P-I reports that labor is coming up with a new way of supporting candidates, although I’m not sure I’d agree with their headline that includes the term “fundraising war.” Sounds more like moving into the more modern, agile internet age to me.
The Washington State Labor Council on Monday said it has created a new political action committee that would funnel money directly to candidates it feels supports their causes and not to House and Senate party funds controlled by party bosses. Washington State Labor Council President Rick Bender said labor had previously given hundreds of thousands of dollars to those funds
Now the Labor Council will urge members and individual unions to give to the ‘Don’t Invest in More Excuse’ (DIME) PAC. Bender also said the Labor Council would change how it evaluates candidates and look beyond individual votes taken. Bender said unions will take a more holistic approach, considering things like action not taken as opposed to how politicians vote on certain bills.
Yeah, the days of dumping money into party committees probably should have ended long ago. There’s still a place for that, and there’s no reason the state labor council (or other groups) can’t pump money into party committees as situations warrant. But the system of kissing rings in Olympia has broken down, at least as I see it from SW Washington. Candidates that could have scored major upsets have been sold short, and squishy, milquetoast types get an automatic nod. That’s a sign of institutional sclerosis.
Sizing up political candidates is an inexact science anyhow, and it would be great to see this labor initiative develop into a flexible apparatus that can put pressure on Republicans and Democrats who act like Republicans, and maybe throw some money at supposed long shots now and again. Kind of a “49 district” strategy, if you will. Whether people like it or not, there is a “gamesmanship” aspect to politics, and for too long our side has been hampered by outdated traditions and tactics.
There’s no logical reason that party institutions need to have such overwhelming control, and you can make the argument that a great deal can be done outside normal party channels. Obviously labor is only one (albeit important) constituent part of the party. Could this be the beginning of a new and vibrant era where all progressives support each other to a greater degree?
If there’s one hallmark of progressivism, it’s a hope to wed practical ideas with hopeful ideals. Busting up the business as usual, business lobbyist clique in Olympia is a necessary precondition to advancing all progressive causes, from education to health care to protecting the environment. Sure, there will be differences and bumps along the way, but at long last it appears labor has determined that it should practice a more nuanced and effective form of politics.
Please don’t misunderstand me, it’s quite valuable to have a strong party structure, and the ranks of the Democratic Party in this state are filled with many fantastic, talented individuals. It’s the party leadership that has failed, not the rank and file.
But this seems to represent a fundamental change in how Democrats are going to be elected. I think we’re all going to be better off because of the labor decision.