The crisis of the Democrats deepens as the foundations of their power continue to crumble.
Far more than the Republicans, the power of the Democratic Party rests on its domination of various major institutions in American society: the media, government bureaucracies, academia, and labor unions most prominently. Without the constant exercise of power on its behalf by insiders in these spheres, the Democrats’ share of the vote would decline by an unknown but probably measurable degree. Money, propaganda, information and ideas, and manpower flow from these institutions to help the Democrats.
Yet each of these institutional spheres faces a crisis. The mainstream media’s influence remains substantial, but is in constant decline, with the newspaper industry leading the way down the tube. The “higher education bubble,” to use the expression coined by Professor (and blogger) Glenn Reynolds, stays inflated only by vast subsidy and shaky loans, causing a generation to become indentured to their education debt. Burlington College, run by Bernie Sanders’s wife Jane, no longer exists, due to risky borrowing aimed at funding expansion, a problem that is very widespread, and which resembles the problems of individual students and the industry as a whole.
Labor unions, though representing a declining share of the national workforce, continue to generate vast political contributions for the Democrats. Industrial unions like the United Auto Workers and United Steel Workers chose to pursue compensation packages that have gutted the level of employment of their members, and driven production overseas, so their ability to keep Democrats in power is declining, though substantial. It is only among government workers that unions are growing.
Government bureaucracies may have the most staying power, and with their command of inside information and decision-making power, they are the most formidable base of support. But as the emergence of the expression “deep state” demonstrates, a growing number of Americans realize that government employees are an interest group, as selfish as any other, and feasting on the involuntarily confiscated funds that Americans otherwise might spend on themselves. It is only a small sign, but it may be significant that:
Nearly 400 workers have left the Environmental Protection Agency in recent days, the agency said Tuesday, a wave of departures that soon could take the agency’s staffing to its lowest point in almost 30 years.
Now comes evidence that among the most sacred of sacred cows supporting the Democrats no longer carries the weight it used to: teacher unions. Unlike EPA bureaucrats, teachers have a largely favorable public image, and are in contact with large numbers of individual Americans. And their unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have now become “paper tigers” – fierce in appearance but powerless – in the eyes of Jeanne Allen, CEO and founder of the Center for Education Reform. Writing in the Washington Examiner, she makes the case that they, too, are in deep trouble:
The latest evidence of their vulnerability is Illinois' education funding compromise, signed into law last week, which has huge national ramifications. The bill was adamantly opposed by teachers' unions, yet their opposition crumbled as Republicans and Democrats came together to boldly improve Illinois' education system. (snip)
That all changed last week. The bipartisan agreement created Illinois' first private school choice program, aimed at helping low-income and working-class families attend a school of their parents' choice. The agreement also addressed equitable funding for public charter schools, taking the innovative schools of choice from 75 percent of per pupil funding to 90 percent. Finally, the bipartisan law created a new funding formula to benefit traditional public schools and fund teacher pensions.
What's most telling about the teachers' unions defeat in Illinois is that this is not a unique story, but that it's taking place in a state they would have never dreamt of "losing." After all, the AFT was founded in Illinois. The reason for teachers' union decline in influence is rooted entirely in its status as a paper tiger. (snip)
In May, teachers' unions lost a series of major races in another deep-blue state in a deep-blue community -- the Los Angeles Unified School District. Pro-public charter candidates secured their first-ever majority on the LAUSD school board, with upsets that included defeating the union-supported school board president.
Several years ago in Wisconsin, another state dominated by union politics, Gov. Scott Walker pledged to expand school choice and advocated for a series of reforms as part Wisconsin Act 10. The teachers' unions (along with other public sector unions) protested relentlessly, but not only was Walker able to expand education options in Wisconsin, his Act 10 was passed and he would later go on win re-election twice, once as part of a recall and later re-election.
Ms. Allen neglects to mention that Act 10 required that union members be offered the choice of not joining or re-upping their membership. And once union membership was no longer required, almost 40% of union members left the movement - a crippling decline in union dues and therefore political funding for Democrats.
In other words, Democrats have less and less of an advantage in behind-the-scenes support from big, powerful, moneyed, and self-interested groups, forcing them to rely on the power of their ideas to persuade voters.
In other words, a serious crisis.