How Can Labor Motivate The Base For The Mid-Terms?

This won't work for the mid-terms, but I had this interesting idea the other day.

Everyone loves a Democratic primary, right? After all, it pushes centrist Democrats to the left, and that's what we like to see. So why not apply that strategy to President Obama? I think having someone like AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka run against him in the presidential primaries (or even pretend to run against him) would not only make the president a stronger candidate, it would also fire up the base -- because Trumka is a great speaker with a knack for communicating economic issues in plain language. I see it as a win/win for everyone: The unions would get White House support for employee card check, and Obama would get a refresher course in how to excite the Democratic base.

Of course, that doesn't solve the immediate problem:

“People are evaluating this a little bit differently from three months ago,” said Jon Youngdahl, political director of the Service Employees International Union. “Our goal obviously is to have a majority for Speaker Pelosi next year. That’s driving a lot of decisions.”

The stakes of labor’s participation may be even higher this year than in 2008 when new voters, including students, came out in droves, overwhelmingly supporting President Obama and the Democrats. Political experts say these midterms, unlike in 2008, will not be a “surge” election — students, for instance, are markedly less passionateabout the Democrats this year.

In a base election, the party that gets its traditional supporters out to vote is more likely to carry the day. And the Republicans’ base, even if parts of it are insurgent and unpredictable, is highly motivated to topple the Democrats.

Unions feel a need to respond, and that means energizing their rank and file. “You have to go educate your base, mobilize your base, inspire your base,” said Larry Scanlon, political director of the state, county and municipal employees’ union.

[...] A.F.L.-C.I.O. leaders say that they will spend around $50 million on races in 26 states and that unions already have 1,500 full-time campaign workers on the ground. The service employees have budgeted $44 million for the election, while other unions will spend tens of millions of dollars more. All told, labor strategists say their ground troops will make more than 10 million phone calls to members’ homes, distribute millions of fliers at workplaces and knock on millions of doors.

But Charlie Cook, a nonpartisan political handicapper, questioned how successful labor’s push will be. “The question is, how effective can labor be when so many of their people are unemployed or underemployed and just not happy campers?” he said. “How effective will they be in getting people to do the hard work — to do the phone banks, the get-out-the-vote?”

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