Our traditional view of American political parties is outdated and blocks our understanding of what is happening in the 2016 election cycle. We do not have a Democratic Party supporting the workers and the Republican Party supporting the corporations. Since the 1960s, a third group has developed. We now have three factions competing for control of two parties. When the music stops in 2016 one group will be without a party. No one wants to be that loser.
What is that third camp? President Kennedy allowed the unionization of federal employees. State and local workers had been granted that privilege earlier. We started to see the development of a “Carer” faction. They “care for” the public as they work either directly or indirectly for the government and provide services to a client base. Nearly half of all union members are now government employees. These unions have supplanted private unions as major donors to the Democratic Party. A related group cares intensely about the environment and other ways to save the world.
By the late 1960s, a reaction to this group had started. Richard Nixon sensed that. His call to the “Silent Majority” was the first political kickback of the traditional labor group against the Carers. Spiro Agnew defined them as “an effete core of impudent snobs.” Ronald Reagan brought working people into the Republican column again with his call for traditional American values.
The most lopsided electoral college returns in the last fifty years were achieved by Nixon and Reagan when they brought labor voters into the Republican column and left the Democrats with only the Carer vote. Republicans accept the workers’ votes but don’t want them as a significant factor in their party. When the GOP reverts to its corporatist roots, it loses – or barely wins – at either the presidential or congressional level.
Our political system has become increasingly dysfunctional over the last fifty years because we don’t recognize the growth of this third faction and how it impacts the system and the players.
Labor and the media are at odds because the media still views itself as an ally of the workingman when it has, in reality, become an arm of the Carer faction. Archie Bunker illustrates this change. Before “All in the Family” the workingman was G.I. Joe and his wife, Rosie the Riveter. After Archie, they were racist idiots. Now the wisest people are the government bureaucrats trained to guide everyone. Media decides what stories can be safely reported to the ignorant masses.
Those in the press and Hollywood still haven’t figured out the distinction between the workers and the Carers. By continuing to tout the virtue of the “objective, neutral government expert,” the media continues to pick favorites. Politicians appealing to ordinary workers call for “common sense” and the experts snicker.
The contest between the groups plays out in many ways on the issues and primary contests for 2016. The factions have different interests on various issues.
Carers want clients. Corporatists want cheaper labor and more customers. Because these groups control the parties, opposition to immigration is seen as an extreme position. Historically integration ebbed and flowed. Organized labor has always wanted to limit the supply of labor to maintain the level of wages. Workers today face stagnant wages and a weak labor utilization rate. Unemployment among less skilled workers of all races is very high. As well as safety issues, immigration creates more competition for jobs, so the working class has every reason to oppose the free flow of immigrants.
After years of delay, the administration denied permission to build the Keystone pipeline. In a major dispute, the environmentalists, and other Carers won, while the labor segment of the Democratic Party lost.
In the 2016 primaries both parties are splitting. Their “nasty establishments” are real but different. For the Democrats, open immigration plays to the government worker and Service Employee International Union factions and those who see themselves as caring people. Any appeal to the industrial union labor voter is gone. Trump appeals to these voters. Union leaders are openly saying their members could defect to him.
Corporatists represent the Republican establishment in the persons of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and, perhaps, Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz and other Republican candidates working to limit immigration are appealing to crossover labor “Reagan Democrats” who are anxious about jobs.
In the fall, the parties’ nominees will determine the fervor and position of the three factions. Another question will be whether the low-income black and Hispanic U.S. citizens realize the impact of open borders on their own employment options? Will the black vote stay overwhelmingly Democratic? Will Hispanics vote ethnically or to improve their personal opportunities?