Slogans are powerful tools, particularly during elections. When a campaign finds a phrase or buzz word that catches on, it can take on a life of it’s own. The Trump campaign used this masterfully in 2016. Employing positive and negative phrases, like an artist, the campaign manipulated the frustrated canvass of the American voter until a fictional image became, for many, a reality they could not pass up. Problem is, it was little more than words, with completely transparent substance. Little if anything will actually flow to and sooth the pain of those same desperate voters. Instead, they are now left with undefined cliches like “Make America Great again”. So what meaning / policies could actually fulfill this angry, desperate and volatile plea for solutions?
Going back in time, searching for a better time (Make America Great Again) we must find things that actually were better and then attempt to identify what made them better. From FDR’s New Deal up until the Reagan administration, one of the things that significantly contributed to many increases in wages, safety, security and basically “The American Dream” was the labor movement and here I mean the accomplishments of UNIONS. In the 2016 election I can almost guarantee that a resurgence of unions is not and will not be one of the Trump administration policies. Regardless, the revitalization of unions may very well be one of the most basic and effective changes that those on the wrong end of current downward trends should be considering.
As the article below from The Nation Magazine, by David Madland explains in some detail, it is probable that the Trump “administration … will make it exceedingly difficult to protect Americans’ basic rights—especially as its policy prescriptions ‘to rebuild the working class” prove hollow’.” Madland goes on to say:
“Unions—more than any other organization—give people a real say in the economy and in politics. They help raise wages, reduce inequality, and boost economic mobility. But even more importantly, unions help people feel their own agency. They provide workers—particularly those with less education and lower incomes—with the means and opportunity to stand up for themselves and participate more fully in our democracy. Union members are much more likely to vote, take political action, join other groups, and be more charitable.”
Effectively since the Reagan administration there has increasingly been a giant bulls eye on anything categorized as a union. The first targets were unions in the private sector, but today the attack has been firmly aimed at public unions (state and federal employees, even teachers, police and firefighters) as the last substantial force of resistance. Meanwhile the propaganda from big business and the wealthy fund massive campaigns to make most people subconsciously resent unions. The simple truth is that “Unions serve as an alternative source of power that workers control—not the government, and not the wealthy. That’s why they’re one of the first things that authoritarian leaders go after.” This fact is somehow overlooked by the exact people who would most benefit from the proliferation of unions. “President-elect Trump has proclaimed that he ‘loves’ so-called ‘right to work’ (the ultimate in misleading names) measures, which weaken unions by cutting their funding and membership.”
In so many ways democracy is just a balancing game and today, in the USA, the game is tipping completely out of balance favoring the wealthy and powerful. “Typically, countries seeking to stay on a democratic path strengthen their labor movements. It was true in the aftermath of fascism and World War II in Germany and much of Europe, and more recently in South Africa in the aftermath of apartheid.” Amazingly, the American public became so angry and frustrated that it has elected the exact opposite, an oligarchic, authoritarian pseudo-fascist and expects this to somehow re-balance the scales. They were sold slogans that very likely may throw out some misleading tokens, but will not make anything “great again” except if you are already one of those doing pretty damn well right now.
Read the rest of Medland’s article for more details on the need for the revitalization and expansion of unions.