The Note: Life and Liberty

ByABC News
March 23, 2005, 12:35 PM

— -- WASHINGTON, March 21 --

To paraphrase Tom DeLay (and state the obvious), the Terri Schiavo dilemma poses difficult legal challenges for those who want to preserve her life.

Despite some public opposition to Congress's action (see below) the Republican leadership seems to have succeeded in framing the discourse around a moral question: if Congress can do something to prevent a woman's death, shouldn't it?

Today, the center of gravity shifts to a federal courtroom in Tampa, where a judge (TBD at this writing) will begin a de novo review of the entire case.

Upon the 1:11 am ET signature of President Bush, Congress has given the federal courts (in this case, the middle district of Florida) jurisdiction to decide whether Schiavo's constitutional rights are being violated. With a Bush-vs.-Gore-like twist, the bill then asks the rest of the world to ignore the precedents set by whatever the judge decides.

He or she could order Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube to be re-connected; he or she could throw out the case immediately; he or she could ask the lawyers to prepare briefs.

There will be demonstrations today outside the Governor's mansion and the state legislature in Tallahassee, and we await possible word from Gov. Bush about the recent developments.

We will leave the legal hand wringing and interpretation to those more qualified, but as lay followers of the law, we have not yet read a slam-dunk argument for why congressional action here is necessary and appropriate above the appeals to the 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, which is usually stated and left unelaborated.

We haven't seen any Republican argue why it's a sensible thing for Congress to get into the habit of picking and choosing jurisdiction for one specific case (rather than, say, for a class of cases, like tort reform) and at the same time, for Congress to pick a side in the dispute it seeks to transfer to the federal courts.

Nor has anyone conceded that making the Constitutional case for this -- first to the judge, then, probably, to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, then, maybe, to SCOTUS, is going to be easy.

But we're not sure that the basic federalism argument -- namely that Congress has no business even thinking about Terry Schiavo's life -- holds, because on issues like abortion and euthanasia, the Supreme Court has given the federal government a significant authority to shape legislation. (The Wall Street Journal's editorial saying Republicans are right here in part because Democrats usually are hypocrites about federalism -- well, that's plain weird.)

Simply saying that "Congress has no business here" does nothing to get those butterflies out of our collective stomach when we see the image of a smiling, very alive, woman in her hospital bed.

And saying that "politics are involved" or that Congress is "responding to its Christian base" ignores the fundamental precept of our democratic polity, wherein political considerations always affect policy decisions, and vice versa.

To be sure, the balance of power that many feel are aggrieved here is predicated on each branch of the government showing restraint and discipline and not allowing politics to intrude too much.

As ABC News' Linda Douglass first reported Friday night, Republican staffers on the Hill circulated a memo predicting political benefit for conservatives who work hard on this issue. The Republican leadership denied producing the memo and disclaimed they were using Schiavo as an instrument to shore up the base in the 2006 midterm elections. (We wonder if the author of the memo will be outed . . . )

If Republicans succeed in using this issue as a way of reinforcing views about Democrats and their secular worldview, it might help a little. No one doubts that the handful of House Democrats (and Republicans and libertarians) who have publicly objected are speaking for many, many more who privately are quite concerned by what Congress is doing. And when we say "no one doubts," we mean it.

Once again, clearing away the personal part, the Republicans are on the offensive and the Democrats are on the defensive. That's a Notable fact.

But anyone who has read any social conservative publication in the last year knows that Christian conservatives have lobbied the leadership on Schiavo, urging Congress to act by either introducing and whipping broad legislation or by a private relief bill. (So the real question for Republicans who think they'll somehow get 2006 votes for this is: why didn't you act earlier? The answer might well be, as Tom DeLay says, "they were going to kill her.")

That's a hard argument for principled people of any stripe to rebut, but public opinion does not seem to be generally on DeLay's side.

"Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain," writes ABC News' Gary Langer this morning.

"The public, by 63-28 percent, supports the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, and by a 25-point margin opposes a law mandating federal review of her case.

"By a lopsided 67-19 percent most think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved."

"Views on this issue are informed more by ideological and religious views than by political partisanship. Republicans overall look much like Democrats and independents in their opinions. But two core Republican groups -- conservatives and evangelical Protestants -- are more divided: Fifty-four percent of conservatives support removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, compared with seven in 10 moderates and liberals. And evangelical Protestants divide about evenly -- 46 percent are in favor of removing the tube, 44 percent opposed. Among non-evangelical Protestants, 77 percent are in favor -- a huge division between evangelical and mainline Protestants."

For a flavor of all the arguments, see the Schiavo section below.

Here are some of the phrases we expect to hear today:

1. Texas Future Care Law

2. "Privately, Democrats worry . . . "

3. "Privately, some Republican strategists fear . . . "

4. "Gov. Dean declined to comment."

5. "appointed by " (Clinton/Bush/Bush/Reagan/Carter)

6. "de novo"

7. "err on the side of life in a case like this"

Today, a federal courthouse in Tampa will be the scene of a media swarm and the next developments in the Schiavo case.

Meanwhile, not back at the ranch, President Bush holds Social Security events in Tucson at 1:45 pm ET and Denver at 6:55 pm ET. (This Arizona Republic story chronicles the efforts of an AFL-CIO spokesperson to get two tickets to the event. LINK)

Vice President Cheney is in Bakersfield, CA, where he attends a Social Security town hall meeting with Rep. Bill Thomas at 1:50 pm ET.

The House adjourns around 9:00 am ET for the recess, and the Senate has a period of business scheduled for 4:00 pm ET.

Chances are that Chief Justice William Rehnquist will be on the bench as the Supreme Court meets for arguments today at 10:00 am ET. He was seen getting into a car at about 8:30 am ET at his home in Virginia.

Former Virginia attorney general Jerry Kilgore officially kicks of his gubernatorial campaign with a statewide tour. (His opponent, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, goes on the air with radio ads today in three markets. See: LINK)

The House Administration Committee has a full-day hearing in Columbus, OH to discuss overhauling the election system. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is scheduled to testify.

In New York, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan formally presents his plan for U.N. reform.

And the Fed, the markets, Washington and American drivers await the release of the latest survey of gas prices at 4:30 pm ET.

Howard Dean makes some key staff announcements today; see below for more.

Tuesday, President Bush stumps for Social Security in Albuquerque, NM. He RONS in Crawford. DNC Chairman Howard Dean begins a two-day visit to Tennessee. The Federal Election Commission meets in executive session. Both chambers of Congress are in recess. Former Sen. John Edwards holds a discussion on ameliorating poverty at his University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

Wednesday, the President hosts the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico on his ranch. Also Wednesday, the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform meets in New Orleans. Bob Greenstein and William Beach face off! Dean holds his first Washington, DC fundraiser at H20 in Washington, DC. The Southwestern Political Science Association meets in New Orleans, LA.

Thursday, the FEC meets in an open session.

Friday is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter and the eyes of much of the world (and lots of new coverage) will be on Rome.

The President spends Thursday through Sunday at his ranch with no events scheduled as of this writing.

Schiavo: in Florida:
The Miami Herald has a good overview, including a look at what protests and demonstrations are on tap around the state. LINK

A trio of Herald writers find that many religious conservatives are uncomfortable with the entire affair. LINK

The Herald also has good must-reads about:

Schiavo's life before her medical condition. LINK

The resurgence of Operation Rescue and its key role in this, as well as their effort to connect this to the anti-abortion cause.LINK

Schiavo: in Washington:
The AP's Jennifer Loven interprets politically the President's mad dash to Washington. LINK

Elisabeth Bumiller gets Rich Cizik to do the same. LINK

And she has this graph: "Mr. McClellan said the president made the decision about 6 p.m. on Saturday to return to Washington to sign the bill, after he talked with Joe Hagin, the deputy White House chief of staff, who is staying with him at the ranch. Mr. McClellan gave no indication that Mr. Bush had talked to Karl Rove, his powerful political adviser, who is the chief White House link to conservative groups. Mr. Rove was in Austin over the weekend, Mr. McClellan said."

And St. Pete Times' Wes Allison writes that Rep. Tom DeLay has been the catalyst for the extraordinary Congressional intervention.

". . . analysts and critics say the Schiavo case has provided the perfect chance for DeLay, who has been facing questions about his ethical conduct, to work on his image and divert attention from more troublesome matters. It's also an opportunity to woo social conservatives who will be key to ensuring the Republicans maintain their hold on Congress in next year's elections." LINK

"DeLay said he had kept tabs on Schiavo's case since it made national news five years ago, but first took action Monday by asking Sensenbrenner to start working on Weldon's bill. Asked why now, DeLay said, 'They were about to kill her.'"

A duo of New York Times reporters write that "While House Democrats initially allowed the broader measure to pass, the public attention the case has drawn, combined with some of the Republican maneuvering, helped provoke the objections on Sunday. Democratic critics called the intercession a violation of the separation of powers and said it was unseemly and infused with politics. The opposition was from individual Democrats and not an official position taken by the party leadership." LINK

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington and Mike Allen stayed up all night, and Note that Sen. Levin (D-MI) objected to the bill to Wolf Blitzer, but not on the Senate floor. LINK

The Washington Times' Amy Fagan Noted that "Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Florida Republican, joined the band of Democrats in opposing the bill. She said she 'burned up the phone' calling medical experts in Florida, and in the end decided that "to second-guess the Florida Legislature, the Florida courts . . . is wrong.'" LINK

Saturday in the Washington Post, Chuck Babington looked hard through the Frist '08 prism, with Gary Bauer (pro) and Jim Jordan (not so much) punditry. LINK

A trio of USA Today reporters assesses the personal, political, and policy implications of the weekend. LINK

Sunday's Los Angeles Times had an outstanding Peter Wallsten look at how some say the evangelical Christian conservatives of the GOP base were driving the train this weekend. LINK

The New York Daily News points out that New York's two Senators (sometimes known as "Chuck and Hillary") both skipped weighing in. LINK

Schiavo: the arguments:
The Los Angeles Times ed board calls Congress' action a "midnight coup" and denounces it from head to toe. LINK

From the Wall Street Journal's editorial board this morning: "We'd have more sympathy for this argument if the same liberals who are complaining about the possibility of the federal courts reviewing Mrs. Schiavo's case felt as strongly about restraining the federal judiciary when it comes to abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues they don't want to trust to local communities. In any event, these critics betray their lack of understanding of the meaning of federalism. It is not simply about 'states' rights.' Conservatives support states' rights in areas that are not delegated to the federal government but they also support federal power in areas that are delegated."

Here's what Andrew Sullivan had to say on Sunday: " So it is now the federal government's role to micro-manage baseball and to prevent a single Florida woman who is trapped in a living hell from dying with dignity. We're getting to the point when conservatism has become a political philosophy that believes that government -- at the most distant level -- has the right to intervene in almost anything to achieve the right solution. Today's conservatism is becoming yesterday's liberalism." LINK

Here's a response of sorts from conservative constitutional law expert Mark Levin, writing in National Review's The Corner: "I see this more as a struggle between the elected branches and the judiciary. The Florida legislature and Governor Jeb Bush did, in fact, attempt to intervene in the Schiavo case a few years back, and prevent the removal of her feeding tube. But the Florida Supreme Court ruled, among other things, that the governor had no such power. Yesterday, Florida Superior Court Judge Greer, in essence, said the same about congressional authority. He quickly dismissed the relevance of the House subpoenas with this statement: "'I have had no cogent reason why the committee should intervene.' The state judge, therefore, contended that the House had to convince him of the legitimacy of its subpoena to compel witnesses to appear so it can conduct hearings. I've heard nothing from academia about this stunning judicial assertion." LINK

Social Security:
The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman had a must-read Saturday about why Social Security is such a big issue in Iowa. Hint: lots of old people. LINK

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews surveyed the reach-out efforts by the GOP to court Hispanics and African Americans on Social Security. LINK

The request by Republican Reps. Johnson and Boehner to have the Labor Department look into AFL-CIO tactics got a squib in the Saturday Los Angeles Times. LINK

Newsweek's Bailey, Wolffe, and Lipper look at the private Bush/Cheney/Rove meetings with GOP MOCs to convince them of the cause, along with a brief Rove interview and a poll showing the usual numbers on the usual questions. LINK and LINK

Yesterday's David Broder column in the Washington Post looked at Rep. Clay Shaw's add-on accounts, which look a lot like what the "final" deal will look like IF the final deal doesn't have carve-outs. LINK

Ron Brownstein's Los Angeles Times column, however, says that add-ons are increasingly rejected by Democrats (as the camel's nose under the tent) and eschewed by many conservatives (including in the Administration), and while Brownstein isn't ready to write the obit for the overall effort, he has the Fat Lady warming up. LINK

(And if there is a final deal . . . )

Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller got his study of how personal account holders would allegedly do in the free market written up by Jonathan Weisman in Saturday's Washington Post, and Trent Duffy was completely unimpressed. LINK

Big casino budget politics:

Q. When a Bob Novak lede begins like this: "In a half-century of watching Congress, I have never seen anything like . . . "

The predicate is usually:

A. Congress's swollen budget resolutions

B. Democratic reluctance to cut entitlements

C. Democratic manipulation of the traditions, rules and etiquette of the Hill

D. dissident Republicans mucking it all up.


The Washington Post's Jeff Birnbaum returns to Gucci Gulch, and writes about Connie Mack's taxing life. LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg's Saturday New York Times review of the week's budget developments told (at least) us things we didn't know about Senate budget votes on education funding and a Social Security tax CUT. She also smartly lets an Administration official give voice to the sentiment that intraparty things aren't as dire as some of the coverage has suggested. Totally worth a read. LINK

In Sunday's New York Times, Eric Schmitt lead breathlessly:

"For the first time in a decade, communities across the country are bracing for a major round of military base closings, and they are mounting aggressive lobbying campaigns to stave off cuts and other changes that some independent experts say could dwarf the previous four rounds combined."LINK

Bush agenda:
The Washington Post's Paul Blustein gets on the front page with his look at Paul Wolfowitz's careful lobbying for the World Bank job. LINK

Sunday's Los Angeles Times fronted Janet Hook's look at the Republican legislative successes so far, and asked Ronald Reagan's famous "is that all there is?" question. Note in particular Karl Rove's alleged button-holing of Ray LaHood, who has an award named after him. LINK

Julie Mason's snappy Sunday Houston Chronicle "White House Watch" column dangles the prospect of Rove-Karen Hughes conflict before its readers. LINK

Sunday's Washington Post carried a near must-read from Jim Hoagland on what Bush's recent foreign policy personnel moves mean. LINK

Judicial politics:
New Hampshire political consultant Michael Hammond writes about Dr. Frist and the nuclear option in a Union Leader op-ed that is anti-nuclear. LINK

George Will's weekend column marshaled all the conservative arguments AGAINST the nuclear option, and urged Republicans to work for a filibuster-proof 60 seats in 2006. LINK

Joe Klein predicts that "Reid will win the judicial battle" and Notes that Reid and Frist "are not talking -- at all -- about the really divisive issues." LINK

Sunday's Washington Post had Charles Lane doing some Red/Blue work in his look at the best-selling "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America." LINK

2008: Democrats:
John Harris' Sunday Washington Post political Notes column cast Karen Finney's hiring by the DNC as a Hillary Clinton thing (and also Notes Tom Vilsack's hiring of B.J. Thornberry to run his PAC. LINK

The AP has the Thornberry story, too. LINK

Vilsack spokesguy Matt Paul says there is no title yet and this is all, naturally, about 2006.

Still, if you don't know why this is a key development, you aren't paying enough attention to 2008 jockeying. (Note hint: Thornberry used to work at the . . . yeah . . . which is led by . . . um-hum . . . and that group is charged with . . . yep. And he's also thinking about running for . . . )

Vilsack's visit home to Pittsburgh and his ed-board with the Post-Gazette (expansive on the future, reticent about his future) garnered him some good press. LINK

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein catalogues Sen. John Kerry's efforts to keep his supporters engaged (and in line). LINK

Time's Perry Bacon has a similar piece, including the possibility of a Kerry endorsement in the Los Angeles mayoral race -- not for the incumbent.

Cindy Adams is just ga-ga over Spamalot and Hillary Clinton. LINK

The Harvard Independent chatted up Harvard Institute of Politics Fellows Mary Beth Cahill, Brad Carson, and Maggie Williams. LINK

Guess which one -- when asked if there will be a woman on a major party ticket in 2008 -- said this:

"All signs show that Senator Clinton is seriously looking at it. There's going to be a very high-quality Democratic field, but, yeah, I can't wait to see that, to see a woman run for President."

2008: Republicans:

The New York Post's Fred Dicker explodes his latest exclusive: two "prominent Republicans" tell him that an upcoming Rudy Giuliani political "summit" will be used to kick around a Rudy run for governor in '06 or a presidential run in '08, with more on the table than CW has it, including a run down the road. LINK

The AP's Marc Humbert Noted the appearance of Rudy Giuliani in a commercial touting the benefits of a west side of Manhattan stadium. LINK

In spite of all the excitement in DC, Sen. Frist did make it to New Hampshire (where he was asked about the health of Sen. Jim Jeffords.) LINK

Did you hear the one about the Irish breakfast in a state run by Italian-Americans and a Mormon?

The Boston Globe's Raphael Lewis covers the South Boston's St. Patrick's Day breakfast, with plenty of jokes about Mitt Romney, Traveling Man. LINK

Names absent from the story: "Kennedy" and "Kerry."

The Associated Press printed Gov. Romney's Mormon joke in its entirety. LINK

Bob Novak's weekend column had the RNC reminding Republicans that incumbent parties generally lose seats during a President's second mid-term election. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont checked in from Iowa's 1st congressional district, quotes John Lapp (always a Note-approved tactic) and sees Rep. Nussle's district as a weathervane for the mood of the nation in 2006. LINK

The Arizona Republic gives the affianced Phil Singer the kind of influence in politics we think he deserves. LINK

Roll Call's Stu Rothenburg thinks Democrats have a real shot at winning several new governors' mansions in 2006.

The Washington Post Style section's David Montgomery gives the C1 front treatment to Joe Steffen, the former aide to Gov. Ehrlich. LINK

Jim Rutenberg and Winnie Hu told the story of how Mayor Mike and Speaker Giff don't get along any more (with Ed Skyler not in the role of peacemaker) in Sunday's New York Times. LINK

Chairman/Gov. Dean and the Democrats:
Today, a key Democratic source tells The Note, Howard Dean will announce that Tom McMahon will be the DNC executive director.

Also slated to be announced: Pam Womack (a long-time DGA fixture) will lead the effort to work with state parties to help identify resources and programs that are needed to maximize efforts on behalf of Democrats in every state.

Womack's presence is meant to send a message that Dean will live up to the pledge he made during the race for chair, that he will give unprecedented assistance to the state parties.

No decisions yet on political or field director.

The DNC's jackie-of-all-trades from 2004, Tracy Sefl, is leaving the party to join the SEIU-funded anti-Wal-Mart campaign. She'll serve as communications adviser and research director for the nascent group. It's a move we think the Walton family will surely Notice.

Dean, in Canada, called Republicans "brain dead," which is not perhaps the most politic phrase to use right now. LINK

Keying off the fact that "Iowa is one of only two states, along with Mississippi, to have never elected a woman either to Congress or as governor," the Des Moines Register's Lynn Campbell looks at why that is. LINK

A must-read for those political strategists working for a woman who might run for president in 2008.

The AP picked up's survey of provisional ballot counting in 2004, which found a very wide array of practices state-by-state, which isn't such a good thing, in their opinion. LINK

The Washington Post's Pete Slevin had one of the best profiles yet of Kansas Attorney General Phill (sic-ish) Kline in Sunday's paper. LINK

The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman writes up the Catholic bishops' anti-death penalty push. LINK

Time's John Dickerson Web-exclusivizes his review of Ari Flesicher's book. LINK

His conclusion: "The point is not that all of Fleischer's facts are wrong, it's that he has too many groaners in a book that sighs: 'reporters sometimes want so badly to believe something is true that they ignore facts to the contrary.' Or a book that tut-tuts: 'the news industry typically doesn't work in such a nuanced, more accurate way . . . ' Fleischer raises important points, but the sloppy execution ruins any chance he might have at convincing those in the media to mend their ways. "

The Chicago Tribune's wonderfella, Jeff Zeleny, starts off his occasional series on Sen. Barack Obama with some great anecdotes, including one that suggests that when the Senator walks on water, he does it smoking a cig. LINK

Stephanie Simon looks at how recent gun violence across America has led to increased state legislative activity attempting to make guns both less and more available. LINK

The Washington Post's Brian Faler takes his own nice, belated look at the FEC's focus on regulating politics on the Internet. LINK

Before Jack Heath, Carl Cameron, and Scott Spradling, WMUR had Uncle Gus, who passed away over the weekend, as reported by the New Hampshire Sunday News' talented Pat Hammond. LINK

The union vote: a colloquy:
We received several lengthy rebuttals of an excerpt of a column by Ruy Teixeira about the union vote over the past decade. LINK

We'll print two of them below, and we welcome a counter-rebuttal from those sympathetic to Teixeira's arguments. (Mr. Teixeira told us he prefers to let the debate speak for itself.)

This first essay comes from Steve Rosenthal, who led the AFL-CIO's political program during much of the period in question.

"Ruy Teixeira is flat out wrong on this one. Here are the facts: The exit poll question on union households was consistent in 96, 98, 00, 02 and 04. It was a stand-alone question, something along the lines of "Are you or is anyone in your family a member of a labor union." In 92 and 94 the question was slightly different and instead of a stand alone, it was asked as part of a grab bag, something like, "Do any of the following apply to you" -- and unions were on the list. The AFL-CIO has never used the '94 results because of that anomaly which showed the union share at 13% -- although anecdotally everyone would agree that the Clinton Administration's support for NAFTA and backing down on health care led to a poor showing among union voters in 94 which contributed to the Republican landslide. In the apples-to-apples comparison years of '92 and 94 the union share plummeted from 19% to 13%."

"The mobilization program that we initiated at the AFL-CIO in 96 completely stopped that free-fall, re-established labor as a major political player and set the trend for voter-to-voter practices that have now become "in vogue." In the presidential years the exit polls showed the union household vote going from 19% of the electorate in 92 (with the slightly different question) to 23% of the electorate in 96 to 26% of the electorate in 2000 and it has hovered around there since (oranges-to-oranges). Frankly, it would have made the union case stronger to highlight the difference between 94 and the years that followed, but we chose not to do it."

"To suggest as Ruy does that union turnout was not up dramatically over the years is to defy what knowledgeable observers have seen in the states with their own two eyes. To (for some odd reason) disavow the exit poll numbers for union household voters over that period yet swear by them for other "self described" voters (military, born-again, church attendees) makes no sense. In addition, the AFL-CIO maintains a data file with nearly 19 million union members and family members. That file is routinely matched with voter files after elections to see who voted. Their own data files are consistent with the exit poll data and have shown a sharp increase in union votes over the past decade. There is nothing more accurate than that name-by-name comparison. Plus, the AFL-CIO did a massive amount of voter research (polls/focus groups/turnout models) with its members over the years that I was there (96 thru 02) and more since."

"That data too has been consistent with the exit polls and shown a sharp increase in union votes. Furthermore, as virtually every other segment of the Democratic vote has either ticked down or gone into the dumper both the turnout and "vote for Democrats" among union members has consistently gone up in the exit polls. Against all of these trends and declining union membership, labor by and large has held the vote and the percentage Democratic. It is a one of the only positive trends in the entire electorate for Democrats. Finally, it is completely dishonest not to compare how union members have been voting -- both in terms of turnout and vote for the Democrats -- to their demographic peers. Comparing AFL-CIO post election polls conducted by Peter Hart Research to exit poll data, non-union white men have given Republicans a 20 to 25 point advantage in every election, while white men in unions have given Democrats a 20 to 25 point advantage -- that means that in most cases union white men are outperforming their non-union demographic peers by some 40-50% for the Democrats. To attempt to suggest that labor's mobilization program hasn't worked is a cheap shot and will come as news to the tens of thousands of union members who have worked exceedingly hard in campaigns and seen the fruits of their labor in their co-workers flocking to the polls. The problem overall is not that union members aren't voting in record numbers, nor is the problem that union members aren't voting for the Democrats. The problem is that there just aren't enough union members. Teixeira and others interested in helping the Democratic cause would be wise to spend their energies helping to figure out how to increase the ranks of union members."

The second response comes from Karen Ackerman, who currently heads the AFL-CIO political department.

"Ruy Teixeira writes that the labor movement "almost certainly did not" improve its performance in mobilizing union members and their families to support pro-worker candidates in the national elections since John Sweeney became president of the AFL-CIO in 1995."

"That would be news to the business lobbyists and Republican strategists who have modeled their own political action programs after the AFL-CIO's while doing their damnedest to defang the labor movement's efforts. That would also be news to the political journalists who have reported that the unions have been conducting unusually intensive and effective voter education and mobilization campaigns for the past ten years. And that would be news to pollsters of every stripe who have found that union members are more likely to vote than unrepresented workers -- and that they're much more likely to support progressive candidates than voters who are similar in every respect other than union ties."

"The business lobbyists, Republican operatives, pundits and pollsters are right. Teixeira's wrong. Here's why."

"Teixeira bases most of his analysis on just one fact: In 1992 and 1994, the exit pollsters relied on a "grab bag" question to determine whether a voter came from a union household, while, from 1996 on, they went back to using a stand alone yes-or-no-question."

"Assuming, as is likely, that the grab bag question under-estimated the share of voters who came from union households, the fact remains that, using the same standard of measurement, the percentage of voters from union households declined from 18% in 1992 to 14% in 1994."

"Yes, many factors were at work, including NAFTA and the failure of President Clinton's health plan. But the fact remains that voter participation among union members and their families -- and their willingness to vote their economic interests and support pro-worker candidates -- were both in a pattern of continuing decline since Ronald Reagan's first victory in 1980, with the major exception to the trend having been Bill Clinton's win in 1992."

"The labor movement had to do something to restore working families' voice in the political process, and, starting in 1995, we did."

"At a time when the union's share of the workforce was declining (mostly because of layoffs due to downsizings and the trade deficit), union households' share of the electorate bounced back to 23% in 1996, 26% in 2000, and 24% in 2004. Meanwhile, union members and their families, including working class, non-Hispanic whites, were much more likely than their non-union counterparts to support pro-worker candidates, such as Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry. "

"Thus, according to post-election polling by Hart Research, Kerry won by 68% to 31% among union members in the battleground states, while losing among non-union voters. Further, according to the 2004 NEP exit polls, Kerry won non-Hispanic white men who are also union members 57% to 39%, while losing by 37% to 62% among non-union, non-Hispanic white men. Similarly, in previous years, Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Mark Dayton of Minnesota all were elected by winning overwhelmingly among voters from union households while losing among non-union voters."

"Clearly, the labor movement must be doing something right. In fact, in unprecedented numbers, union activists have been contacting their co-workers in their workplaces, on their doorsteps, over the phone, and, last year, by email as well. We've been emphasizing basic economic issues -- jobs, paychecks, health coverage, and retirement security -- that trump divisive social issues. And big business and the Bush Administration find this frightening, which is why they have been supporting so-called "paycheck protection" initiatives to drive unions out of politics, de-unionizing the Homeland Security and Defense Departments, and increasing the Labor Department's paperwork requirements for unions."

"Maybe we should send them Teixeira's article and tell them to get off our case. But they're too smart not to face the facts. Here's hoping that, in the future, Teixeira will also read the exit polls accurately."