You Can’t Win, If You Don’t Run

Strike Unions

           Pearl River      My lifelong habit of reading the newspapers that stack up while I’m traveling persists, because I swear it pays dividends.  Reading online can never capture everything that is in print, so I maintain the hard copy is a way to harvest what is easily missed otherwise.  For all I know, some items that are thought to be of niche interest never make it online.  I could be wrong, but that often seems to involve articles that involve labor among other groups.  A case in point that I stumbled onto this trip was a race by a former strike leader in Nebraska as an independent to unseat a Republican incumbent this November.  That was interesting to me.

Dan Osborn, the aspirant in question, was a mechanic for Kellogg’s cereal plant in Omaha and led a strike in 2021 of 1400 workers across Nebraska plants for 77 days until they won a contract against the odds on a second ratification vote by the union.  He was subsequently fired by Kellogg on what he claims were trumped-up charges, which were likely the reward for beating the company.  He’s in an apprenticeship program now, as he looks for a new career at 48 years old.  He claims that the idea of running for the Senate started when he was approached by a number of the railway union leaders, who continue to smart over their inability to win paid sick days in their last contract bargaining round.  I’ll admit that working class solidarity gets me every time.

The article in the Times paints his campaign as quixotic.  Nebraska has become another deep red state with a one-party polity infected by Trumpism.  The incumbent Deb Fischer is sitting on a war chest of over $3 million in this small state, while Osborn has only a tad over $200,000.  Osborn is a veteran of the labor wars, but a political neophyte facing his first contest in the electoral lists and doing so as an independent even if he is likely to be endorsed by the state labor federation and the Democratic Party.  On issues, he’s a bit all over the map, unsure about both Biden and Trump.  Having witnessed first-hand the two-term election of Democrat John Bel Edwards in Louisiana, his positions seemed similar.  He is for abortion rights, while also being pro-guns.  On workers’ issues, he’s foursquare in advocating an increase in the state’s minimum wage and expansion of organizing rights to make unionization more accessible.  The Times pooh-poohs the odds of any labor leader winning election, citing cases from far afield in New Jersey, Chicago, and Minnesota, and they could have added Boston, if this had been a serious point they wanted to make.

My take is different.  Sure, his odds are long, and he might get his butt handed to him.  Look at what even happens to the pros, as former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, got collaborated and humiliated by Trump by twenty points in the Republican primary after spending millions.  Whatever?  The bottom line remains that you have no chance of winning, if you don’t even run.  In Louisiana and Arkansas, we saw an almost record number of Republicans come back into office in the legislature and elsewhere, because they had no opposition.  Without people like Osborn and many others being courageous or crazy enough to run, even against the odds, there’s no accountability from the incumbents, and there’s no democracy in practice.  How would people know there are other ways to think about issues and rights, if there is no contest?  We need fewer coronations and more contests, no matter how red or blue the state might be.