In 2008, then AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in an interview: "I think that workers are angry and don't think they're getting a fair deal and are going to be very, very receptive to the Obama campaign."
The AFL-CIO got behind Obama in a big way deploying more than 250,000 volunteers that made millions of phone calls, distributed millions fliers that resulted in millions of dollars of contributions.
That was then. This week, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told a crowd that without bolder action by President Barack Obama on the economy: “I think he doesn’t become a leader anymore, and he’s being a follower.”
During a recent appearance on The Willis Report on Fox Business Network, I said Obama was “too timid, almost child-like” in his initiatives concerning the economy.
A few days later, Trumka called out Obama exclaiming he was doing “little nibbly things around the edge that aren’t going to make a difference and aren’t going to solve the problem.”
Holy metaphors, Batman! Politics never cease to amaze me. I believed it impossible that Trumka and I would ever have converging opinions on anything.
Even more stunning is a major labor leader dressing down publicly a sitting Democratic president. Labor unions have unconditionally surrendered their support to Democratic candidates ever since their glory days in the 1950s.
Trumka perceives Obama as a weak leader that has compromised his principles and turned his back on his constituency, including labor unions and independents, to gain traction with the Tea Party. Trumka is particularly angry with Obama for allowing the Republicans to set the nation’s agenda.
He is convinced that Obama is simply looking to bolster his poll numbers through rhetoric and little else, least of all results to fix the economy.
Trumka isn’t alone in his perception of Obama’s failed leadership on the economic front.
According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans who regard Obama as a strong leader has dropped to 49 percent from 58 percent three months ago, and those who believe Obama can get things done has dropped to 44 percent from 55 percent. A majority of independents now regard Obama as an ineffective leader.
So disenchanted are labor leaders, there is now talk of creating their own “super PAC” rather than give money to the Democrats. There is a feeling in the air among labor that Obama’s presidency is a failure due to his inability to create jobs, improve the economy and bring back confidence among the American people.
Unless Obama pulls a rabbit out of a hat and actually introduces a jobs program that is credible (don't hold your breath), labor unions are hedging their bets for the 2012 election.
Four years ago, Republicans would have never dreamed that labor unions might actually be receptive to overtures. But this economy is such a mess, and unions are losing so many jobs, that they have stopped looking to the White House for solutions.
If Obama isn’t the candidate that unions will support, they will be looking for an alternative, and if it isn’t Republicans — based on their lack of enthusiasm for the current slate of potential presidential candidates — 2012 might actually see the rise of a legitimate third party candidate supported by the unions. What a game changer that would be.
There has never been a time when there was a more dysfunctional relation between the American administration and American business. Unfortunately this isn't about to change.
The bold action needed on taxes, regulation, budget cuts, trade and entitlement reform is nowhere to be found. Every successful venture, including running a country, starts with a vision. Our country has no vision and Obama is incapable to provide one.
The vast majority of American businesses and entrepreneurs have already begun looking past 2012 for our recovery to begin. This should not be a surprise. What is a surprise, of tectonic electoral proportions is the unions seem to be also looking past Obama. This shift would make an Obama re-election mathematically impossible. Without strong, passionate union support to balance out the Tea Party, Obama cannot win the Midwest and without the Midwest, Obama cannot win a second term.
The one true problem this nation faces is a lack of confidence. With confidence restored everything else is manageable. We lost our confidence in the last 18 months of the Carter administration. We were being held hostage literally by Iran and figuratively by an incompetent administration.
Today, America is once again depraved of leadership and Obama won’t — or can’t — make the tough decisions to turn this nation around. All the talk of a “hard pivot” towards jobs nearly three years into this presidency impresses no one, not even the unions.
Don’t be surprised if in 2012, union members are back on the phones, posting fliers and raising millions of dollars; but this time for a candidate other than Obama.
It is time for us all to look past our current malaise towards the re-emergence of a strong, vibrant and prosperous America.
Just as in 1979, we were rescued by 1980; in 2012 we will be back on our feet again.
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