The paper tiger

Teachers’ unions strongly backed the Democrats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races, notes Edspresso. The unions strongly opposed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent. But union power proved to be a “paper tiger.” The union-backed candidates lost.

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  1. Bill Leonard says:

    I wonder how much the blogger really knows about politics.

    The reality is, the party out of power typically wins offices and makes gains during the non-presidential year elections. (Recall that in 1982, an immensely popular Ronald Reagan was in the White House. That year the GOP lost 26 House seats and control of the Senante. Similarly, the GOP gained control of the Congress in ’94, with Bill Clint9n the sitting president.)

    Other fators at work: Independents, black bloc voting and the young elected The Anointed One. In the elections this week, a lot of Independents went for the GOP candidates, and blacks and the young by and large stayed home.

    And, in the midst of the current recession, I’m betting that incumbents will have a tough time of it in states where unemployment is in or near double digits.

  2. While I don’t think the teacher’s unions, or unions in general, are as politically powerful as they once were it’s hardly time yet to dismiss them as paper tigers.

    I’d point out that a good chunk of the stimulus money went to the car companies with, if not with the explicit purpose of saving union jobs, at least with that as a result. Also, the cash-for-clunkers program had a similar aim in mind. So the unions have the power to direct large flows of federal funding in their direction.

    Similarly, NCLB has been largely defanged although not before raising the education issue noisily to the national stage.

    It’s politics. You may not win every fight but losing a battle doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t win the war.

    The teacher’s unions aren’t done even if the trend of things doesn’t appear to be to their liking.

  3. Charley Cowens says:

    The three losers in your sample of 3 were Democrats endorsed by the teacher unions (as they do almost automatically). You could just as well say “Democrats (or Obama) shown to be paper tigers.”

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Problem with union voting is that they usually turn out a pretty good percentage of their members. WHich is to say, they’re maxed out.
    When the opposition gets really stirred up, more of the non-voters show up. Independents go for the rep/conservative voter.
    The unions, having maxed out already, can’t make up the difference.
    Except for what is known as “the margin of fraud”.

  5. Bill Leonard says:

    What Richard Aubrey said! In my experience — including working both local and statewide campaigns — union clout matters:

    1. In money and in-kind contributions. Democrats typically get most of the union’s campaign contributions, endorsements and in-kind contributions, such as the underwriting of campaign literature. In urban California areas, it’s tough to get elected locally if your campaign collateral doesn’t carry either the union bug or the “labor donated” imprimateur.

    2. In bodies. In local elections, unions can be very effective in turning out membership as precinct walkers, transport to polling places, and the like.

    3. In actual votes for candidates or measures — and then only in local, occasionally regional, elections. In California, I can think of only one instance in which labor turned out ballot power statewide: the defeat of a right-to-work ballot measure in 1957.


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