Trumka Criticizes Obama as "Aligned with Tea Party" on Jobs, Media Gets It Wrong
Previously I noted that the reporting on the AFL-CIO's revamped political strategy was raising as many questions as it answered. Of course we wouldn't expect the AFL-CIO to lay out a perfect map of its plans, but the attempt to lay out even the broad thinking behind the new strategy is starting to get confusing, particularly as conveyed by political reporters most interested in reporting an answer to what they see as a yes or no question: Will the AFL-CIO "support" the Democratic party and/or Barack Obama?
Politico's answer, following Trumka's comments at a Thursday morning roundtable with reporters, is "Labor to ditch Democrats." To be fair to Politico, Trumka does appear to have taken a more critical stance; TPM describes these comments as his "harshest critique of President Obama to date."
"This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Trumka also said:
"I think [Obama] made a strategic mistake when he confused job crisis with the deficit crisis a number of months ago—when he would talk about job creation and then the same sentence talk about deficit reduction and people got the two confused. And he helped with that."
At the same time, nothing in Trumka's reported quotes boils down to unions "ditching" Democrats. My read on the plan, as both Trumka and AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer have reportedly described it in several interviews, is to sit out the races of truly crappy Democrats, focus less on direct contributions to candidates, and work to ensure that election-related organizing efforts contribute to an ongoing structure for action and advocacy by and for workers (union and non-union) that continues past election day rather than ceasing in the belief that Democratic victories mean working people's victories. That could represent a significant shift in resources away from the priorities of the Democratic party, but it doesn't represent a statement (pledge or threat, depending on your leanings) that unions won't be organizing around elections or that they'll be supporting a greater proportion of non-Democrats than in recent cycles. But political reporters don't quite know what to do with a political strategy that's focused on something other than flatly supporting or flatly opposing the institutional priorities of a major political party. Except when they're writing about the tea party.