Big Labor invested heavily in an astounding effort to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in favor of Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Halter challenged Lincoln for the Democratic Senatorial nomination in the primary last night, and Big Labor proved to be Halter’s foremost ally.
Halter was also the candidate of the netroots. In good Orwellian style, however, they have flushed Halter down the memory hole. Ouch!
The New York Times described Big Labor’s effort: “They have knocked on 170,000 doors, made 700,000 phone calls, sent 2.7 million pieces of mail and spent almost $6 million on television and radio advertising.” By any measure, that’s a huge effort in a small state with virtually no union workforce.
Halter fell short in his challenge last night; Lincoln narrowly prevailed. What does Big Labor have to show for the its efforts, including those of the hefty gentleman below working the phone for Halter?
Big Labor cost Lincoln a lot of time and money, but it also facilitated the message that she’s an independent advocate of Arkansas’ interest in Congress. It allowed her to portray herself as a foe of special interests. It elicited Bill Clinton’s message speaking at a rally for Lincoln that Lincoln used in her television advertisements: “This is about using you and manipulating your votes.” He ought to know.
An Obama administration honcho — I would guess Rahm Emanuel — called Ben Smith last night to make this pointed observation: “Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” the honcho 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.”
Whatever the merits of the first part of the observation, I doubt that money is going to be much of a problem for Democrats in November. And the hefty gentleman featured in the Times photograph remains available for deployment elsewhere.
AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale responded to the Obama administration honcho’s statement with the observation that “labor isn’t an arm of the Democratic Party.” It may not be the arm; it’s more like the fist.
UPDATE: Michael Barone comments: “Give the unions credit for daring, and for putting their money (or the money of their members) on the line. They’re playing for high stakes–for the ability to plunder the private sector for dues money as they have successfully plundered the public sector (i.e., taxpayers) for dues money in states with strong public employee unions like New York, New Jersey and California. They just came up a little bit short.” As to the difference between Big Labor and Big Obama, he adds: “Obviously this is a case of a divergence of interest between the unions (which want to deter any Democrat from opposing card check) and the Obama administration political strategists (who want to maximize the number of Democrats elected no matter what their position on substantive issues). Which brings to mind the old saying about honor among thieves. When you’re trying, in different ways, to plunder a once productive private sector economy, you won’t always agree on how to do so.”
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