I’ll admit that labor — unlike, say, civil liberties — has not been a longstanding preoccupation of mine. It’s always be on my radar, and I’ve always been generally supportive of unions, but if you flip through this blog’s archives or my larger body of work, you’ll find barely anything on the subject. So what changed?
Several things. Wisconsin was one of them. DC was another. The longer I’ve stayed in this city the more dissatisfied I’ve become with what Mike Konczal once referred to as pity-charity liberalism. This country’s deep systemic problems cannot be solved with robust welfare programs alone. Not if those programs are still to be administered by the few, with no meaningful input from the many.
What this country then needs must be a significant rebalancing in the distribution of political power. I see no evidence that this can be achieved through what have become the conventional means for creating change. So if we’re going to expand democratic participation to a far broader swath of the citizenry, we need to first redefine what it means to participate. Surely, in an enlightened democratic republic, it is not sufficient simply to vote and mouth off from time to time.
What we need are broad-based coalitions that can provide a serious counterweight to centralized power. And I believe unions are the best model we have of how that would work.