Thursday, October 30, 2003

Dean: union man?

The union winds are shifting in Dean's direction. His campaign has been working for months to break the lock that Gephardt and more traditional Democrats have on the union vote and their efforts are finally starting to pay off. First came the IUPAT and California Teachers endorsements last week. Now comes word from Business Week that Dean is almost certain to get the endorsement of the SEIU, one of the two largest unions in the country.

What's more, it appears that other major unions like AFSCME, CWA and IBEW are seriously looking at Dean as well. Apparently the leadership of AFSCME has soured on Wesley Clark, especially since the general decided to pull out of the Iowa race. If Dean gets SEIU plus any one of those three then the union momentum will definitely be on Dean's side.

This is not just a matter of the legs that these endorsements will give to the Dean campaign (and that help will be considerable). It is also an indication to the political establishment that Dead could be as good at playing the insiders game as he is at rallying the grassroots. Winning over union support requires a lot of glad-handing, back-scratching and deal-making. The very kind of skills that will be necessary for a Dean administration to accomplish anything once it comes into office. The fact that Dean, who one year ago was an essential unknown within the national union ranks, is managing to pull support away from long-time union supporters like Gephardt speaks volumes towards his ability to build viable coalitions.

Those who think that Dean's success is merely a by-product of his feeding red-meat to the base are sadly misreading what is going on.


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