Unions in American National Politics by Graham K. Wilson (auth.)

By Graham K. Wilson (auth.)

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There are, for a start, the political campaigns run by individual unions, a topic to which we shall tum shortly. Then there are problems in determining the direction of causality. Is it that union members are unusually likely to be Democrats, or that Democrats are unusually likely to be union members? Or, alternatively, do certain other factors (such as region, or the nature of the plant in which the voter works) cause certain people to be both union members and Democrats? Such questions are hard to answer both in practice and in principle.

30 A commentator noted that 'a whole generation of political leaders is discovering political independence and enjoying it' _31 Those most annoyed by Meany's line in 1972 decided that never again would labour unions effectively be blocked by the AFL-CIO from supporting a Democrat. The disaffected took a number of steps. First, individual unions started to develop an independent political machine. Thus AFSCME trained 900 people for electoral action independent of COPE. 32 Second, the disaffected unions cut back on their subscriptions to COPE and the personnel they seconded to it during campaigns.

The traditionally Democratic (or Republican) voter would not be shifted easily from his or her allegiance. Moreover, the grip of 'machines' on many cities in the United States was strong. The creation of a 'labour' party is not on the agenda anymore. Yet the barriers to effective political action have almost disappeared, too. Voters are increasingly willing to 'split their tickets' between the two parties. The proportion of Americans identifying with the two major parties has declined drastically.

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