Well, if you were looking for suspense and unpredictability this election cycle, you probably woke up Wednesday morning as disappointed as the DNC leadership team. This mid-term went just as we all knew it would, despite Big Labor's strong effort to mobilize its membership. Perhaps without Labor's contribution, the Democrats might have lost a few more seats in the House, and Harry Reid owes SEIU his soul for sparing him eternal Tom Daschle icon status, but aside from these situations, what did we get for the millions of dollars in membership dues spent on this election?
As is often the case, we will probably never know exactly how much money was spent by Big Labor during the 2010 election cycle. However, we do know that it was a LOT. AFSCME, along with SEIU, likely spent upwards of $100 million each. UFCW, CWA, and the other larger unions probably spent around $50 million as well. These rough estimates do not even count the amount of money donated in the form of paid union staff sent to battleground states working as de facto volunteers for the DNC.
I can't help but think that this massive amount of money could be better spent on some wild idea like, say, addressing the direct needs of our membership. Think of what we could do if we invested the several million dollars into organizing and member education and mobilization. Hell, we could start a program to give high school graduates full scholarships to the National Labor College. Any of the aforementioned possibilities sounds better to me than the flushing noise that is still ringing in our ears from Tuesday.
The Democrats received this shellacking, as Obama properly phrased it, not because the Democratic base wasn't mobilized enough, or because rank-and-file union members didn't do enough labor walks in October. The Democrats lost because they lost their memory of the last decade and decided it would be nice to try bipartisanship. They lost because they sucked at governing over the last two years. The lack of a unified strategy exacerbated their situation.
I hope I live long enough for the labor movement to come out of this comatose state in which we hand over large amounts of cash every two years to an entity that hasn't reciprocated since FDR was still alive. Now's as good a time as any.