I can always tell what kind of night it was for Hillary Clinton by heading over to the NEA and AFT web sites and checking the press releases. If NEA has one about its “robust, targeted, and well-organized communications and field programs” or AFT has one with a headline containing “Union Members Pivotal…” it means she won. If there is nothing, then the affected state has been dropped down the memory hole.
If you remember way back to last October, when the NEA board of directors approved the Clinton endorsement, the union distributed talking points to its activists to explain the decision. Among the reasons given were:
* “Acting now allows us to pick our champion, and build credibility with the campaign, and that candidate, while demonstrating our value as a real player with substantial political power to bring to the table. We need to ensure that our views are part of the conversation on policies and priorities – not to concede that space by sitting on the sidelines. Acting now gives us a valuable voice in the room early, and often when it comes to working with the next administration.”
* “When we waited until the RA vote in 2008, we were one of the last organizations to endorse Obama. This left us, and our key issues in a position of little relevancy to the candidate and excluded us from being part of the team. We’ve learned that when we don’t act soon enough, campaigns go around us and organize our members without us. By the time they receive our official recommendation, their platforms are developed and they are well on their way to winning or losing.”
So the idea was to prove relevancy and value to Clinton by demonstrating political power. The problem is that even in the states Hillary won, she captured the union household vote by relatively small margins. Last night, Bernie Sanders won the union household vote – 49% to 47% – in Michigan, of all places.
The overwhelming union commitment of staff, money and resources to Hillary’s campaign should be producing overwhelming margins for her in union households, and helping her margins with other demographics. How impressed can she be with the relevancy and value of NEA and AFT if they can’t even deliver their own members?
If Clinton wins the nomination, she will owe it to African-American voters, who are voting for her in waves the unions can only dream of. They are not only rescuing Clinton’s campaign, they are saving the unions from an embarrassing loss of face and backlash from rank-and-file members.
NEA and AFT’s best-case scenario now is a Clinton presidency, but one in which she owes them no special debt of gratitude – sort of like an Obama presidency. It could be worse, but they had much higher hopes.