Unions lay a $10 million egg in Arkansas
posted at 9:30 am on June 9, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
The midterm elections were already going to be tough for Democrats, thanks to rising public revulsion over federal spending and the unpopularity of the one bill Democrats took nine months to shove down the throats of a nation deeply opposed to it. In red states like Arkansas, the only hope would be to keep centrists on the ticket in order to minimize the damage. Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent, would have a tough time getting elected anyway, but for the hard-Left union activists, she did reluctantly support ObamaCare and has not yet had to cast a single vote on Card Check. That wasn’t enough, however — and now the unions just spent a fortune attempting to unseat her in a race that Democrats are going to lose in the end anyway:
Consider Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, renominated in 2004 by an 83%-17% margin and reelected that November by 56%-44%. One big headline of last night’s news coverage was that she won her Democratic primary runoff over Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. But her margin was only 52%-48%. And in recent polling she trails 3rd district Republican Congressman John Boozman by a 59%-34% margin. Her runoff victory and her “I’ll keep fighting” election night speech may close the gap a bit in Jacksonian Arkansas. But not by much. …
But Lincoln feel afoul of the barons of organized labor when she, after co-sponsoring the unions’ card check bill effectively abolishing the secret ballot in unionization elections in 2007 as every other Democratic senator did when the bill had no chance of passage, turned tail and opposed it in 2009. It was obvious to anyone in, say, the Wal-Mart or Tysons Food headquarters in Arkansas, that this bill had the potential to do to their companies what the United Auto Workers contracts did to General Motors and Chrysler. Blanche Lincoln, scion of a rice farm family in receipt of huge annual crop subsidies, understood this and acted accordingly. She wanted to win reelection and knew that card check was political poison in almost entirely non-unionized Arkansas.
Big labor decided to teach her—and all Democratic members of Congress who were quailing at the prospect of voting for card check—a lesson. The lesson would be that, however much a vote for card check would reduce your chances of winning a general election, opposition to card check would result in your defeat in a Democratic primary. …
It’s a huge defeat for the unions. White House political operatives are already complaining, as Ben Smith notes in Politico, that “Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” [a senior White House] official said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.” But the unions are not just interested in maintaining Democratic majorities. They’re interested in making sure that all Democratic incumbents will vote when bidden for card check. The message they wanted to send to Blanche Lincoln, and to all other Democrats, was: the minute you announce against card check, your career is over.
If that’s the message they wanted to send, why spend $10 million on a telegram when Arkansas voters would have done it for free? Neither Lincoln nor Halter have a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning the general election. They may be patting themselves on the back for making Lincoln’s life miserable for three months, as Michael Barone says, but it’s not impressing anyone outside of the SEIU and AFL-CIO. The rest of the political world sees a $10 million purse that has dissipated — in a primary fight in an unwinnable state.
As the White House bitterly complained last night, that kind of money would have come in handy in November. Instead of blowing it on Arkansas, they could have spent it in Pennsylvania, for instance, where both union influence and a comparatively tight Senate race would have held more promise for Democrats. Certainly the unions will target Pat Toomey anyway, but now they will have to use other funds to protect Joe Sestak. Or how about California, where Carly Fiorina will use her personal fortune and massive fundraising skills to target a union darling in Barbara Boxer? That race will be much close than anything in Arkansas. That union money could have been spread around in House races to help prevent a GOP takeover, too.
The unions will have money in November, but they lost more than just $10 million in Arkansas. They lost a sense of power, especially in organizing, and any claim to rational and expert leadership on the Left. Lincoln was, after all, the incumbent in an anti-incumbent year. If the unions couldn’t knock her out of the race with $10 million and a credible candidate — in two tries — then obviously union leadership has a competence issue. And the investment of $10 million in an unwinnable attempt to hold the Democratic seat in a red state by running hard to the Left is nothing short of breathtakingly insane.
Democrats and union members need a reality check, not Card Check. Current leadership in both organizations is leading them off a cliff.