It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

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Like a deserted wife who, years after the fact, still insists her husband is due home any day, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka seems a bit out of touch. Making the traditional Labor Day rounds, his assertions about what voters will be swayed by and how races will pan out this fall just don’t jibe with the zeitgeist (or the poll numbers). Here are three examples of positions that might elicit a sidelong glance and puns about “da Nile.”

1. Trumka said yesterday at a press conference that “There will be no Speaker Boehner,” and continued to assert this morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that there’s pretty much no way Republicans will gain control of the House or the Senate.

While, sure, nothing is certain, a Gallup poll released a few days ago showed an “unprecedented” lead for Republicans on the generic ballot. Estimates of how many seats they’ll gain in the House have been hovering around the 45 to 50 range, and they need 39 to take the reins. And while the upper-house outlook isn’t quite so bad for Democrats, with estimates ranging just below the 10-seat mark that Republicans need to hit, prognosticator Larry Sabato points out that of the six times the House has flipped since World War II, “the Senate flipped too, even when it had not been predicted to do so. These few examples do not create an iron law of politics, but they do suggest an electoral tendency.”

2. The AFL-CIO is starting a huge campaign over the next two months to help their friends out in the run up to the election, and Trumka believes that facts can triumph feelings in terms of swaying voters.

He pits himself and the Democrats against the Tea Partyers and their “corporate backers,” not only in terms of having the interests of the “working people” at heart but in terms of capitalizing on the current of discontent running through the country. Recently, and again this morning, he equated Sarah Palin’s “fomenting” speeches, wherein she stirs the people up against the establishment, with McCarthyism. (He also quipped, in response to her calling him a Washington insider, that he spent more time in the mines than she did in her job as governor.) But like it or not, the Glenn Becks and Palins of the world have been effective in their vague, vindicating speeches to the disgruntled masses.

Rather than give them catharsis, Trumka says voters just need to know the facts. He quoted the statistic that for every $1 in tax cuts, only $1.04 is consumer spending is generated, as opposed to $1 in food stamps, which generates about $1.74 in spending. But that stat, while a smart argument against standard Republican fare, is hardly the type of passion-stirring point a volunteer can use to change minds on a stranger’s doorstep.

3. Trumka said that the passage of health care reform is something that voters feel either neutral or positive about in the 400 races the AFL-CIO is trying to help win.

Real Clear Politics’ most recent aggregate average of how people feel about health care is that 51% still oppose it, while 39% percent are in favor. And there’s plenty of less scientific evidence to support the people’s not-so-neutral stance. Tea Party cries about evil “Obamacare” are in no short supply. (Such was certainly the case when I covered Glenn Beck’s rally on Saturday.)

Obama is set to appear with Trumka for a Milwaukee Labor Day event, but if that’s going to turn out to be a really profitable partnership, they’re going to need to acknowledge what the people are feeling — rather than tell the media that the people aren’t feeling it.