Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Reaffirming Moment

At a time when the election feels increasingly dominated by television spots, cheap pitches for money, and a never-ending stream of debates, it's nice to see America's unions starting to take sides. Though I'm not in a position to predict the long term impact of the recent endorsements by the United Transportation Union and the International Association of Firefighters for Senators Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd respectively (though I know they're both bad signs for John Edwards' continuing viability as a candidate), I'm excited that after months of largely uneventful campaigning things are starting to get moving.

The International Association of Firefighters endorsed Senator John Kerry in September of 2003, and were quickly followed by endorsement decisions by the unions of Steelworkers, Teamsters, Food and Commercial Workers, Utility Workers, and the Laborers Union of North America.

Looking at past union endorsements and the eventual success of their picks may cause one to wonder what role these old-fashioned union endorsements play in a rapidly-changing election landscape. For instance, it was the generally-uninspiring Dick Gephardt who received the majority of union support in 2004 before a disappointing fourth place finish in the Iowa caucus. But it's what IAFF President Harold Schaitberger said about his union's endorsement of Chris Dodd that reaffirms the notion that unions are among the seemingly small group of voters that still understand the significance of a presidential election and don't just tag along with early winners in the polls: "We make decisions that in some people's view are not conventional. Whatever the D.C. people need to say, so be it. This is for real for us."

Is Dodd still a long shot? Yeah, but when long shots, especially ones with decades of Senate experience, get at least some of the attention they deserve it's something to celebrate.

If the pictures didn't give it away, it was Senator John Kerry's backing by the IAFF that many credit with his come from behind victories in New Hampshire and Iowa in 2004.

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