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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, May 08, 2003


Dean promotes foreign labor unions

posted by Editor at Thursday, May 08, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
As much of the country focuses on the aftermath of the war in Iraq, Howard Dean wants to add a new ingredient to foreign affairs: trade unions.

If General Motors can move a factory from Detroit to Mexico, the presidential candidate asked labor leaders yesterday, why can't organizers from the United Auto Workers unionize Mexican employees?

"If you do that, you begin to build a sense of hope among Mexicans that they can build their country," Dean explained.

Speaking at a luncheon with New Hampshire labor leaders, the former Vermont governor mentioned the recent war just once - and then only briefly, accusing President Bush of waging "a war with no way to pay for it." Instead, Dean proposed his own theory of foreign affairs: organized labor as a buffer against terrorism.

"Trade is not just about money, it's about defense," Dean told 50 or so union workers at the Barley House restaurant in downtown Concord. "If you help create middle class countries that believe in democracy . . . you have created a country that is not a threat to the U.S., nor will they willingly harbor a group like al-Qaida. They have too much to lose."

In a brief lunch-time appearance, Dean put traditional union concerns - health care, pension reform and workers' rights - at the center of America's economic future. Dean has often described himself as representing "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." The people assembled for yesterday's lunch represented the core of that base. They cheered loudly at any derogatory references to the president. Most responded favorably to Dean's suggestions that the government assume a bigger role in health care and worker safety.

"Most of us think the government has to play a role in this chaos," said Mark MacKenzie, president of the state AFL-CIO. "From a policy perspective, everybody's got to take a look at health care."

Upon arriving at the restaurant, Dean shuffled around a large table stacked with cold-cut sandwiches and sodas. He shook every right hand in the room, but didn't waste any time by asking names or indulging in small talk. Awaiting his introduction by MacKenzie, Dean sat stiffly between two construction workers on an upholstered banquette.

James Casey, commissioner of the state Department of Labor, said he was impressed by Dean's record as Vermont governor, especially in health care. Casey, who's endorsing Dean for president, said more ambitious plans, such as the one proposed by Rep. Dick Gephardt, require too much government funding to really work.

"What better way to stop the bleeding than a doctor, Governor Dean," said Casey.

Dean held back from criticizing the particulars of Gephardt's health care plan, saying only that he though it was too expensive. Instead, Dean proposed a plan that would devote half of the president's tax cut to health care. He also stressed the need to increase competition in the prescription drug industry.

"We've got to get away from this notion that government can't do anything right," he said.

A recent poll of likely New Hampshire voters puts Dean in a statistical tie with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. While yesterday's crowd was relatively quiet and restrained in their questioning, many of them seemed impressed by Dean's Democratic credentials.

"I like how he sounded on health care," said Joey Ientile, a business manager for Local 686, a construction workers' union in Manchester. "Rising health care costs is a national problem, not just here in New Hampshire. . . . When is this going to stop?"

And while Dean attacked the Bush administration of bowing to the demands of corporate leaders at the expense of organized labor, he mentioned one Bush tactic that he recommended Democrats adopt.

"It is not his policies that are popular," Dean said of the president. "But he lays out a clear, unambiguous path, and people know where he's going. . . . If we lay out a clear, unambiguous Democratic path, most people will pick the Democratic agenda."


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.