Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Dick Gephardt Disgraces Himself … Again


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



David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases