Many years ago, when I headed a teachers’ union, I took on as my responsibilities not only the handling of members’ grievances but, where I could, I addressed their well-being, too. On one occasion I made grocery deliveries once a week to a single woman who was confined to her bed after major surgery. I did it because it was the decent thing to do and because she was the only union member in a large elementary school. Most of her fellow teachers were members of the NEA, our union competitor. The least I could do was provide her with a little solidarity.
The grocery deliveries went on for 6 weeks, until she was well enough to return to work. Imagine my surprise when days later, I received her resignation in the mail. She’d decided to join the NEA. Stunned, I tried to understand how I had failed her. Should I have visited more often? Offered to do her laundry?
After castigating myself for a couple of days, I called the woman and asked why she’d decided to resign from the organization. She sounded surprised to hear from me and her reply was curt. She’d didn’t want to be the only union member in her building anymore. It was better to join the majority. Naturally, a silence fell between us because I was speechless. Finally, as if to fill the gap, she added: “I’m not obligated to remain a member just because of what you did for me.” Next, I heard a click and the conversation was over.
She was right, of course. She owed me nothing. Good deeds are their own rewards. But, I am in debt to her for the lesson she taught me: People are as unpredictable as wind change.
Charlie Cook in the National Journal commented on the fickleness of human behavior, recently. (‘The Democrats’ demographic problem” by Charlie Cook, reprinted from the National Journal in The Week, 12/12/14, pg. 14) In it, he notes that while the Democratic Party is ecstatic about the rising population growth among Latinos and other minorities — groups that tend to vote democratic — those celebrating would be wise to take note of another set of statistics: the growing disenchantment among white lower and working class Americans – party stalwarts – who are rethinking their allegiance because they believe the organization has shifted its focus from the broken economy to health care, the environment and civil rights. Cook warns, “White, working-class voters no longer see Democrats as the party of the New Deal but as the party of minorities…” (Ibid pg. 14)
Statistics support Cook’s claim. Obama has only a 27% approval rating among non-college educated whites and in the last election, the party was crushed outside the urban areas. (Ibid pg. 14) if the Democrats hope to regain power in Congress and retain the White House, they are obliged to rethink their assumptions about working class loyalties. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat, agrees and has challenged his colleagues to refocus on job creation rather than social programs. Cook and Schumer may be right. A change could be in the wind. Looking to the 2016 elections, Democrats would be wise to rethink their assumptions or hold on to their Whigs.