Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Labor and the Netroots

Nathan Newman has a great post up that shares many of my frustrations over the Netroots general attitude towards the Labor movement, or working class issues in general.
I'll admit that part of my annoyance at the full court obsession with FISA is that it reflects the broader liberal blog obsessions with goo-goo process issues, as opposed to a populist focus on the core economic and social justice issues that matter in most peoples' lives. Doug Kendall, who I have the most serious respect for, has the best critique I've seen (written with Dahlia Lithwick) of Obama's defensive responses to the guns and death penalty cases at the Supreme Court. However, his point is that Obama should have played offense by highlighting the pro-big business decisions of the Supreme Court this session-- something most of the blogs haven't done either.
I've had minor and major rants over the years on the netroots ignoring labor issues-- including criticizing the first Yearly Kos for it. Which goes with my critique of the the criticism of Obama. Here Obama spends a few weeks slamming free trade, attacking the bankruptcy bill, calling for massive taxes ont he wealthy to cut taxes for working families-- and the blogs think he's "betraying" liberalism because of FISA. I can almost guarantee that if in a side comment Obama had said something nice about Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, most of the blogs wouldn't have noticed since they wouldn't know what it was. But mention a subdetail of FISA and many folks went to town on what he was missing, just as they'll criticize him for any distinctions he makes on death penalty or gun jurisprudence.
Part of economic populism is actually caring enough to know the details of how corporations are screwing workers every day, whether in the intricacies of labor law or the fine print of trade agreements. And the difference between the modern history of elite liberalism and economic populism has been that liberals know chapter-and-verse on the legal details of process rights, but don't pay that much attention to these details of corporate exploitation and power.
As I've noted, it's fine and right to criticize Obama on FISA, but if you don't even talk about the other workers rights' litmus tests that matter -- or worse yet don't even know what they are -- it's not a balanced critique.
I'll have to check out those supreme court cases, because in the whirlwind of the last weeks I definitely missed out on that. The only point I'd take up with Newman is that I wish I'd seen Obama slamming free trade, the bankruptcy bill and calling for massive tax cuts on the wealthy! I don't know what he's talking about, but I would have flown through the roof if I'd heard those things! While everybody was in a feeding frenzy over FISA, I remember still being in a rage about his economic advisors and his immediate reversal on trade.

But back to the point, the disconnect on labor and working class issues within the netroots drives me nuts, and it's one of the issues I hope to have a better perspective on after attending the Labor caucus at Netroots Nation which will discuss this very divide. Again like Newman said, there's nothing wrong with intense activisim on these issues, but I wonder sometimes why diaries on trade and working class issues slip right down the recent diary list without much notice at all.

On to Austin!

1 comment:

  1. Ha! Yeah, I got really stoked for a second at "slamming free trade" too. Oh well, it's still a good piece.

    Have a great time with H at Netroots. Liveblog that shit!

    And hey, I'll be in town off and on for the week that starts on Sunday. I assume you'll be back by then?