By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But finally, this is also a matter of identity. The Republicans really are the party of the rich, in war and peace, sickness and health, for richer or -- well, richer. The Democrats are not the party of the poor, of labor, of working- or middle-class Americans in that sense at all; they take far too much money from the rich themselves to have anything resembling a clear class identity.
Consider, for instance, the Democrats‘ performance on the airport-security bill that passed the Senate and is scheduled to come up for a vote in the House this Wednesday. At first glance, getting this bill this far looks like a clear Democratic victory, one that’s rooted in the fundamental shift in public opinion toward government. The one contentious issue in the bill is whether to federalize airport-security screeners -- currently almost entirely nonunion minimum-wage employees who work without breaks or hope of advancement, and who tend to move up to fry-cook jobs at McDonald‘s after about six months looking at luggage. In the wake of September 11, this is now a system with no visible public support: Fully 82 percent of Americans, in one recent Washington Post poll, favored federalizing airport screening.
While Senate Republicans went along with the bill, there remained a strain of Texas conservatism that was resistant to its logic: House GOP leaders Dick Armey and Tom DeLay have been rustling up votes against it, and only under pressure did the White House finally announce that W. would reluctantly sign the bill if it federalized the screeners. But Senate Republicans exacted a price for their support. As amended by Montana’s Conrad Burns, the bill still may be an ideological step forward, but contains enough anti-immigrant and anti-worker provisions that it should give the Democrats pause. It requires that all screeners be American citizens of at least five years‘ standing -- a far stiffer requirement than you find in the armed forces, which are home to 48,000 noncitizens today. Nor does it provide security screeners with any right to form unions -- quite unlike the heavily unionized police officers in virtually every major American city. In consequence, one of the great odd-bedfellows alliances has come together to oppose the bill, with officials of the Service Employees International Union -- one of the most progressive and effective unions in the land, which has successfully organized the screeners at LAX and San Francisco -- making common cause with Tom DeLay to try to kill the bill in the House.
Odd though this tale may be, it illustrates the asymmetric commitments of the two parties: The GOP will let nothing stand in its way to help its business allies, while the Democrats periodically blow off their core allies in labor -- usually, though not in this case, in deference to business. (In this particularly complex instance, the Dems acquiesced in having anti-union, anti-immigrant language inserted into what remains an important political and policy breakthrough.) Inconstant Democrats are indifferent to at least some of their friends; too-constant Republicans are indifferent to almost all of their nation -- and increasingly display a defiant, dull imperviousness to reality.