Monday, August 29, 2005

Democratic Party And The Union Vote

There is an interesting editorial on FoxNews by Martin Frost concerning the Democratic Party and the potential loss of the union vote.
The raw numbers are perhaps the most telling:
According to Dionne, Kerry won union households in Pennsylvania 62 to 37 percent while losing non-union voters 55 to 45 percent. The story in Michigan was similar. Kerry won the union vote 61 to 37 percent, while losing the non-union vote 55 to 44 percent.

Equally dramatic was the percent of votes that came from union households — 30 percent in Pennsylvania and 37 percent in Michigan.
I also agree with this commentary:
Several large unions have broken from the AFL-CIO (search), arguing that labor should concentrate more on recruiting members and less on politics. Since the bulk of labor’s money has gone to Democratic candidates in recent years, this will have an impact on Democratic campaigns.

But the impact goes far beyond dollars.

The Democratic Party has relied heavily on organized labor to provide the ground troops to run campaigns and, more importantly, the votes necessary to carry key industrial states in presidential campaigns.
The magnitude of the impact remains an interesting question. While the unions might not be paying as much to "get out the vote" how likely is it for people that voted for Democrats in prior elections to suddenly switch because of the lack of union pressure? It is more likely that they don't vote at all. Lack of union voter turn-out would definitely hurt the Democratic Party, but not as much as union voters switching sides, so this would likely lessen the political impact. The editorial also makes this comment:
Labor has a multiracial make-up and minority union members probably will continue to be solidly Democratic, but white union members — without a strong push from the top — may not be as reliably Democratic as they have been in recent years.
While this is probably generally true, I don't think it can be taken for granted. Bush made some significant inroads among African American and Hispanic voters. It is unrealistic to think that there will be earth-shattering changes in the voting patterns of these demographics; but significant changes are indeed possible.

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