Pinkerton: Labor Unions Are the Bulwark Against AOC’s Socialism

The Moderate Left vs. the Extreme Left

“Big Labor May Save New York From AOC’s Socialism: Even public-sector unions favor old-style incumbent Democrats to radical insurgents like her.” That was the headline atop an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on February 19,referring, of course, to the extreme leftism of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

In the piece, Steven Malanga argues that New York City’s labor unions are opposing AOC because she’s too left-wing for them.  And this issue matters most immediately because the nation’s largest and most influential city will elect a new mayor this year.  AOC herself is not a candidate, but she will seek to help elect a like-minded comrade.   

In addition, New York state, dominated by the city, will hold gubernatorial and senatorial elections next year, and AOC is considered to be a potential primary challenger to Sen. Chuck Schumer.  

According to Malanga, the unions know that AOC is aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), an outfit that routinely attacks unions for being insufficiently left-wing; Malanga quotes the DSA’s declared strategy for “militant . . . classwide struggles.”  However, most unionized workers are interested in bigger paychecks and greater benefits, not the revolutionary stuff of, say, Cuba or Venezuela.  

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 27: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) leaves the U.S. Capitol after passage of the stimulus bill known as the CARES Act on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. The stimulus bill is intended to combat the economic effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Indeed, unions blame AOC for blocking Amazon’s expansion into New York City, which would have brought in 25,000 jobs, as well as billions in wages and revenues. As one construction union chief said of her influence, “Politics and pandering have won out over a once-in-a-generation investment in New York City’s economy.”

We might note that when Malanga talks about unions as a bulwark against socialism, he’s not just talking about construction unions, which are traditionally somewhat conservative; he’s also talking public employee unions, including the teachers’ union.  Needless to say, nobody thinks of the teachers’ unions as conservative—unless, of course, one is comparing them to AOC and the DSA.  

At the same time, nobody thinks of the Wall Street Journal as a pro-labor union publication. So when the Journal lauds unions as a bulwark against hard-leftism, the relationship is entirely tactical: If and when the threat from AOC goes away, the Journal’s affection for unions will also go away. 

Yet almost certainly, AOC is not going away. Indeed, at age 31, she rates now as one of the brightest stars in the Democratic Party, and she could continue to shine for decades to come.  

So AOC’s likely long-term presence—and threat—might cause Republicans to think about their traditional, mostly hostile stance toward labor unions. The GOP might need the unions, just as Malanga says, as an additional bulwark against socialism.  

o that raises a tantalizing possibility: Perhaps the Republican Party will wish to actively court the labor vote. 

The Democrats have a firm grip on the urban left, and they also have been doing well in affluent suburbs. Today, virtually all the suburban House seats around big cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia are represented by Democrats, and the Dems have even gained seats in suburban Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas. In fact, Democrats hold the seats representing the ten wealthiest Congressional districts in America, as well as 41 of the top 50

Yes, of course, Republicans should look to win back as many of those seats as possible, and yet at the same time, we should realize that the two parties are in the midst of an historic realignment—as Democrats become the party of the rich (and the poor), while Republicans become the party of the middle.   

As it happens, just last year, this author wrote a piece for Breitbart News headlined, “‘Essential Workers’ Point the Way to a Republican Workers Party,” and then a few weeks later followed it up with a similarly themed piece, “The Republican Party of Cops, Nurses, and Other Workers—All Together.”

Since then, leading Republican figures such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthySen. Josh HawleySen. Marco Rubio, and Sen. Rick Scott have declared that the GOP is now the “workers party.” Moreover, a new NBC News poll bears McCarthy out: Support for Republicans is rising among the White working class, as well as among the Hispanic and Black working class.   

To be sure, the Democrats won’t easily give up their claim to the working class. President Joe Biden has a decades-long connection to labor leadership, and just last week he brought labor chieftains to the White House, declaring, “I want to make it clear I’m a labor guy.”  

Yet on the other hand, Biden supported the free-trade deals that are anathema to unions, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

More recently, the Biden administration had been curiously quiet about the attempt of Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, to unionize; that unionization vote, of course, pits workers against the mighty Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post. Finally, on February 28, just as the voting was starting, Biden released a video urging the workers to vote but conspicuously not telling them which way to vote, yea or nay on the union. So we can see: Biden seems to need the good will of Bezos and the Post just as much as he needs the workers.  

In other words, “Middle Class Joe,” the fella born in blue-collar Scranton, PA, must contend with “Globalist Joe,” who takes his cues from Wall Street, Hollywood, and Big Tech. These neoliberal nodes support not only free trade, but also a slew of social and cultural issues that fall into the category of “woke.”  

Yet perhaps the greatest flashpoint is another cause connected to wokeism, namely, environmentalism

The Greens Defeat the Blue Collars

For a half-century or more, one piercing critique of the green movement is that it has pursued exotic environmental goals at the expense of jobs and economic growth.  That is, the mostly affluent greens have been besting the non-affluent blues (blue collars).

Indeed, one can look at the brief track record of the new Biden administration and see already that the greens are winning—perhaps because the 46th president owes more to green donors than to ordinary voters. Thus Biden hired John Kerry, the ultimate environmental elitist, to be his “climate czar,” and on his first day in the Oval Office, he killed the Keystone Pipeline, taking away thousands of blue-collar jobs.  

Yet of course, greens want still more, and they even want it to be Greta Thunberg-friendly. As the trendy-left New Republic magazine argued, “Canceling the Keystone XL pipeline was a solid start. But the Biden administration needs to do more than reward the youth climate movement with opening-month executive orders.” [emphasis added] 

Yes, that’s what avant-garde greens want now: a specific Biden pander to the “youth climate movement,” which consists, of course, mostly of the children of rich green liberals; the magazine suggested “establishing a youth council to advise the Biden administration on climate and other policy matters.” Ah yes, just what the nation needs: a White House office to host trust-fund kids.  

In the meantime, the young adults of blue-collar Middle America are more likely to be looking for jobs or perhaps attending a state college.  

Out of this obvious class cleavage, green vs. blue, we can see political peril for Democrats—and opportunity for Republicans.  

Read the full article here.