Commentary Magazine


Par for the Course

Thoughtful Democrats have perfected the art of rationalizing votes for Barack Obama, although they concede that some of his central themes (e.g. opposition to the surge) are tragically flawed. Mickey Kaus demonstrates:

My main hangup in voting for Obama today is his support of “card check” legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot in union recognition elections. That would be both a violation of democratic principles and a practical drag on the economy, threatening to spread Detroit/UAW-like inefficiencies while reviving the wage-price spiral of the ’70s. If Obama wins, and Democrats gain the expected majorities in Congress, “card check” will be hard to stop. I’ll even concede that it will be harder to stop “card check” under Obama than “comprehensive immigration reform” under McCain. But there’s a chance–even a good chance. It’s not easy to defend “card check” in public. Will Democrats want the public to know that carrying Big Labor’s water was their first priority upon gaining unified control of the government? Press coverage won’t help their cause. Some moderate Democratic Senators–Mark Warner?–might balk at cloture-time.

But suppose “card check” passes, and unions mount their expected organizing campaigns. If the new law has the expected semi-disastrous consequences, its impact will be partially self-limiting (unionized firms will lose business). And Democrats won’t be able to avoid accountability for any economic deterioriation. It will certainly be a lot easier to reverse “card check” than reverse the impact of a failed immigration semi-amnesty. Misguided labor laws can be repealed (think Taft-Hartley).

So, a significant piece of legislation which Obama supports would be dangerous for the country. But that’s okay, because it won’t become law. Or it’s so awful that it can’t pass. Or if it does pass, we’ll get rid of it. (As to the latter, when was the last time the GOP had 60 seats in the Senate? That is what it would take to break the inevitable filibuster Democrats would mount at the behest of Big Labor to preserve their crowning achievement.)

But why take the risk ? And doesn’t it say something about Obama that he would back a piece of legislation so extreme that his supporters have to bank on its being unacceptable to the vast majority of the public? The card check bill, like the opposition to the surge, should shed doubt on the conviction that Obama possesses brilliance and bipartisan inclinations heretofore unseen in politics. But no, it can’t be. He’s really, really smart. He understands this stuff. He just has to.

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