FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dick Gephardt Disgraces Himself … Again

by DAVID MACARAY

In 1988, the labor union I belonged to, the AWPPW (Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers), hoped Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt would win the Democratic nomination for president.  Of all the candidates in the field (Al Gore, Paul Simon, Jesse Jackson, Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis), Gephardt was judged to be the most labor friendly.

Not only was Gephardt clearly moving further and further to the political left (having started out as a centrist), his personal story was compelling.  His modest net worth and natural humility made union folks believe that he was the one candidate who could genuinely empathize with the problems and challenges facing working people.

Yes, Michael Dukakis’ people were Greek immigrants, and, yes, Jesse Jackson had managed to rise above poverty and racial bigotry.  But for working folks, Gephardt was the real deal; he didn’t just talk it, he walked it.  He was brought up in a struggling, working class family in St. Louis, Missouri—his mother a housewife, his father a Teamster member who drove a milk truck.

But after getting off to a great start, winning the Iowa caucus and finishing second in the New Hampshire primary, Gephardt hit the wall.  Like any front-runner in a national primary, he soon discovered he had a bulls-eye painted on his back.  The other candidates attacked him mercilessly.  Negative advertising, a lack of charisma, a shortage of money, and the withdrawal of the UAW’s earlier endorsement combined to sink him.

He ran again in 2004, but this time didn’t make it out of Iowa.  He finished a distant fourth to John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean, and withdrew the next day.  By 2004, he was one of organized labor’s staunchest and most vocal supporters, having gone on record as opposing Clinton’s NAFTA agreement and criticizing as potentially catastrophic the notion of so-called “free trade.”

Gephardt boldly predicted that corporate America’s wildly enthusiastic embrace of “globalization” was a glorified scam, one that would result in a catastrophic  loss of jobs at home as well as a huge windfall for the corporations, both here and abroad.  Instead of the people benefiting, it would be the oligarchies who profited.  He couldn’t have been more right.

In 2004, organized labor was once again split on whom to support.  While the eastern, Ivy League-bred and New Age “techie,” Howard Dean, was seen as the face of Labor Future, Gephardt, the stolid and dependable choice of America’s traditional “smoke stack” unions, was seen as the face of Labor Past.  Being depicted as superannuated didn’t help.  Still, that any big-time union would choose a Johnny-come-lately like Dean—or a silver-tongued pretty boy like John Edwards—over himself was a body blow to Gephardt.

According to union insiders, despite the clear evidence that unions were doing pretty much what they’ve always done—going their separate ways for God knows what reasons, and backing opposing candidates—Gephardt nonetheless believed he had the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in his pocket.

Reportedly, when Gephardt didn’t get that endorsement (the House of Labor dragged its feet until the last minute, announcing that it wouldn’t commit until later in the primary, eventually throwing in with John Kerry), he was devastated.  He went into a monumental funk, drenched in disillusionment and self-pity.  And that was that.

So what does a labor union supporter and former 14-term congressman do after abandoning all hope of becoming president?  Does he hook up with a union and use his connections to further the cause?  Does he put his Northwestern University bachelor’s degree and University of Michigan law degree to use by doing public interest work?  Does he teach, write books and go on the lecture circuit, extolling the virtues of America’s workers?

No. He turns his back on what he formerly stood for and goes for the easy money.  He places his snout in the trough right next to the other guys.  Gephardt becomes a lobbyist.  Not only a lobbyist, but a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs.

This former critic of Wall Street is now a booster of Wall Street.  With his knowledge and connections, there were a dozen ways Gephardt could have helped the labor movement.  He could have made a difference.  Instead, by defecting, he defiled his legacy and further fanned the flames of cynicism.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

WORDS THAT STICK

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail