The Employee Free Choice Bill failed in the US Senate a few days ago. The Bill would have made it easier for unions to organise workers, rather on the lines of Labor’s proposals in
. A majority of Senators (51) were in favour of the Bill but it required 60 votes to set a timetable for the end of the debate. Without a limit being set to the end of debate Senators can delay a vote indefinitely by ‘filibustering’. This is the American custom of ‘cloture’; unlike British and Australian practice it means that a simple majority cannot enforce its legislative will. Cloture
became infamous for its use by opponents of civil rights legislation, it used to require a 2/3 majority to enforce cloture but in 1975 it was reduced to 3/5. The cloture rules have evoked debate on the left. The rightward shift of American politics since the 1960s that has culminated in the Bush administration saw the left increasingly rely on the cloture rule. In 2005 a filibuster by Democrats against controversial Bush judicial nominees evoked debate, Nathan Newman argued
that the left should not rely on the cloture rule, as it was a major bar to progressive legislation. Newman has also been a persistent critique
of the left’s reliance on the courts. With the likelihood of a Democrat president and Congressional majority from 2008 his views seem accurate. Remember the desperate lobbying of Brian Harradine about this and that which meant nothing after 2004. But Newman also correctly argues
that a progressive agenda cannot just focus on the goal of 50%+1:The real challenge for progressives is not getting 51% of the vote for President or Congress but moving towards 60% plus across all voting groups. That is unlikely to happen with just Democrats, but will likely happen when we achieve enough support in the public that Republicans start running towards our issues to protect their incumbents. We’ve seen this happening in areas like clean energy and (with a bit of gamesmanship) the minimum wage…the core challenge for progressives is not the narrow political gamesmanship that has been Karl Rove and company’s stock in trade but winning the public over to full support of our ideas and policy goals. Nor can progressives just rely on the Democrats. In California the Democrat assembly majority has knocked back legislation that would have made it easier for unions to organise workers employed in casinos on
Indian Territory. Indian tribes are key political players in the
US. Is the American system that allows gambling on Indian lands an example of how economic opportunities might be provided for indigenous populations elsewhere?