In his brilliant book, The Plot Against America (2004), Philip Roth offered a fictitious, nightmarish version of American history. Sadly, the political scenarios unfolding in our country are not fiction but fact.
On Nov. 3, 1964, Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election. That debacle for the Republican Party did not go unchallenged. Immediately, conservatives set about organizing to sway Americans to buy into their anti-tax, anti-regulations, anti-government ideology. They have been at that mission for fifty-four years and have carried it out so successfully, that the radical right has gone from a minority within a minority party in 1964, to the party in power – in all three branches of government.
What we are facing now are the results. We’ve gone from the War on Poverty to the War on the Poor. In 2018, 41 million Americans are living in poverty. In Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, author Alissa Quart writes that “much of what previous generations took for granted, including home ownership, decent health care, a comfortable retirement, is now out of reach.” Since 1964, the labor movement’s fortunes have waned, almost to the point of extinction, and the loss of good-paying jobs has contributed to the widening gap between rich and poor.
In 2018, 41 million Americans are living in poverty.
Labor’s ranks are depleted and it has grown weary in the decades-long battles fought against Wall Street’s bottom-line, profit seeking corporations. However, labor was once a mighty force. The need to revitalize, re-imagine, re-configure and rebuild labor’s ranks is critical to the turnaround so desperately needed in this country. Labor at its best, with its historic commitment to solidarity, is the only countervailing force that can stand against the depredations unfolding in our country.
The big question: Can labor, charged with the mission of representing the interests of working people, rally, rebuild, and take on the mighty forces arrayed against it? The interests unleashed in 1964 aimed their blows at organized labor. They feared the power of a strong labor movement and were determined to crush it. A brighter future is within our reach, should we accept the challenge.