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July 26, 2004
Labor Bailing On Kerry/Edwards At Opening Of Convention?

The Washington Post files the kind of report that the Kerry/Edwards campaign didn't anticipate at the start of their four-night love fest. The head of the largest AFL-CIO union, representing government workers, openly speculated that unions would be better off if the Democrats lost in November, sharply criticizing the party for its intellectual bankruptcy:

Breaking sharply with the enforced harmony of the Democratic National Convention, the president of the largest AFL-CIO union said Monday that both organized labor and the Democratic Party might be better off in the long run if Sen. John F. Kerry loses the election.

Andrew L. Stern, the head of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said in an interview with The Washington Post that both the party and its longtime ally, the labor movement, are "in deep crisis," devoid of new ideas and working with archaic structures.

Stern argued that another four years of Bush policies might be less damaging than the stifling of needed reform within the party and the labor movement that he said would occur if Kerry becomes president.

If Stern had wanted to deliberately stick a knife in Kerry's back, he could hardly have chosen a better time. Nor did Stern stop there. He accused Kerry of aiming to use unions solely to bolster his own political ambitions, comparing him to Clinton in this regard. Stern also claimed that the Democrats were nothing more than a "hollow party" and that despite sticking $65 million in its coffers this cycle, he is pessimistic about Kerry helping to energize and modernize the labor movement.

Make no mistake -- Stern is an old-school labor radical, one that wants government to control major aspects of the market, so his criticism may have a silver lining for Kerry amongst centrists. Expect to see the spin go in that direction. However, Stern's timing puts Kerry back on the defensive at the precise moment that he needs to push the positive aspects of his vision for America to the nation. It may not do a lot of damage, but it does speak to the profound lack of enthusiasm that affects a substantial proportion of Kerry backers. Voter ennui, combined with pessimistic commentary from constituency leaders that explicitly deliver the message that they support Kerry only as the non-Bush, will result in a lackadaisical response at the polls in November.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 26, 2004 9:46 PM

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