Campaign for the Unemployed

With unemployment at 9%, we should take two lessons. First, this is untenable long term. And second, Democrats should make every effort to win the trust (and the votes) of this unfortunately large demographic.

Unemployed Americans are a natural Democratic constituency. They’ve been wronged by corporate interests, and feel the system — the unrestrained free market, so belovéd lately by the right — has left them behind. And as they partially dependent on public support, unemployed Americans are less likely to be taken in by the right’s anti-”big government” shills (the tea party). The unemployed understand the value of the social safety net, and should (absent some bizarre cognitive dissonance) wish to see it continue. And when you’re out of work, it’s the first thing on your mind: a worker’s identity, as one of the unemployed, cuts across other divisive sociopolitical cleavages. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or a fundamentalist: if you’re looking for a job, providing for your family is priority #1.

More, Republicans seem to be doing everything they possibly can to alienate this bloc of voters. Herman Cain essentially told everyone without a job that it’s their fault they’re out of work — when in this economy, we know that’s not the case. How easy is it to be excellent at your job, but become part of a random downsizing initiative that takes no account of your individual value? (Granted that Cain explained away his callousness at the last debate — but why should that matter? The sound bite’s on record. Run with it.) And the Republican wing of the Senate, helped along by two Democratic defectors, refused to even open debate on the only job-creating bill that any party has even proposed in months. While Republicans debate whether Cain’s “9-9-9″ plan is a secret tool of Satan, and muse poetically about how ending gay marriage and other “threats to the family” would magically restore the economy to its previous grandeur, the candidates’ Senate colleagues aggressively block any attempt to provide necessary relief to this neglected set of voters. Why should we let them get away with it?

A bizarre quirk of campaigning for the unemployed is that your goal is, naturally, to eradicate your supporters as a distinct bloc. So be it. When your voters return to the rolls of the middle class, they’ll remember whose policies helped them to get there.

3 comments

  1. MarshallDog · ·

    My dad has been un- or under-employed for at least ten years. He was laid off from his city job mostly because of internal politics but partly because of budget cuts. He once told me he always votes Republican because when Democrats run things nothing ever gets done. In an ironic sense, he does have a point. But I prefer a party that does nothing to one that constantly tries to abolish the social safety net.

  2. Have you ever heard the term “regulatory capture”? You know, that thing where the regulated industry gets to help write the regulations and the regulators swap places with the regulees routinely? There hasn’t been an unrestrained free market in living memory, and restrictions all too often serve the interests of the well-connected at the expense of the majority. To claim otherwise, when someone as intelligent and well-educated as you does it, is a pretty obvious lie.

    Was there any reason Obama had to logroll his jobs proposal into a single bill? I’m assuming some elements would succeed on their own.

    Finally, I’ve been laid off. From that, first, I didn’t feel any solidarity with other unemployeds. They were my competition for another job, I wanted them to die. Or at least not beat me out for a job. Granted, my monkeysphere has very sharp boundaries, but still I don’t think it’s an uncommon attitude. Second, accepting the social safety net would have been dishonorable so I didn’t file for Unemployment. Third, it was my fault. If I’d been a better worker, the company would’ve valued me more than the people it kept – or wouldn’t have had layoffs. The current economy has raised the merit threshold for success, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It hasn’t changed the laws of nature that tie superiority to success and flaws to failure and death. Fourth, my unemployment was my problem. Because she depends on me, it was also my cat’s problem. It was noone else’s problem and had I remained unemployed long enough to need relief it would have been noone’s duty to give it to me. It certainly should not have been public policy to give it to me.

    1. Fourth, my unemployment was my problem. Because she depends on me, it was also my cat’s problem. It was noone else’s problem…

      Your particular case of unemployment may or may not be, but in aggregate, high unemployment affects the economy to a degree that it does become everyone’s problem.

      …and had I remained unemployed long enough to need relief it would have been noone’s duty to give it to me. It certainly should not have been public policy to give it to me.

      On the contrary – it’s perfectly good public policy to have extensive social benefits as long as they are combined with a high degree of labour market flexibility, i.e. making it easy to both hire and fire employees.

      See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexicurity

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