Joe Kenehan Center

Friday, August 09, 2002
Is Populism Popular?

The New Republic editors enter into the donnybrook over the merits of political populism that was touched off by Joe Lieberman’s anti-populist remarks at the DLC’s New York Conversation and Al Gore's New York Times op-ed.

Here’s my two cents on the question of whether populism “cost Gore the election” or not:

In the months after the 2000 election, I remember reading the DLC’s very flawed analysis of what happened. I was amused, but not very surprised, that they almost totally ignored the impact of Ralph Nader.

The Joe Kenehan Center reluctantly endorsed Al Gore in 2000. Not out of deep love for the Clinton-Gore record (ideologically I was foursquare in support of Nader’s platform) but out of sober realization that in our current political infrastructure – with its winner-take-all electoral college scheme – a vote for Ralph was a vote for W.

But I wouldn’t have voted for Gore no matter what. If Gore had campaigned with the message that Lieberman now says was right, I could easily have been pushed into the arms of Ralph Nader.

The Joe Kenehan Center lacks the resources to commission polling on the subject, but I suspect that there were a lot of labor-left voters out there who—seeing the threat of a large Green vote throwing the election to the GOP—were lured back to Gore by his mildly populist message. But not enough of them, obviously.

Much has been said about Nader peeling off votes from Gore. Not enough has been said about Gore's populism peeling votes off from Nader.

More Arthur Anderson Fallout: A Shorter Oscar Show?

Your editor is ashamed to admit that I usually get sucked into watching the Oscars. The prospect of a A-list celebrity saying something obliviously stupid or selfish on live television is just too tempting.

A charming bit of every Oscars broadcast, of course, is the ritual introduction of two pasty, bashfully grinning accountants who attest that a respected accounting firm carefully tabulated the results.

Harold Meyerson points out in the LA Weekly that the time-honored accounting segment at next year’s Oscars is likely to have a much different connotation.

Various corporations have turned to the Academy's accountants — PriceWaterhouseCoopers — to monitor overseas manufacturing operations and provide a “sweatshop-free” seal of approval. Meyerson writes that the rigor of PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ reviews has come into question: apparently their investigators neglect to ask workers some fairly basic questions, like if they are allowed to form a union.

He urges the Academy to take the tabulation gig away from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and give the job to someone the public actually trusts—like some Boy Scouts.

Maybe they could just cut the bit and try to bring the show in at under four hours.

Remembering "Joe Kenehan"

Joe Kenehan is a fictional union organizer created by writer-director John Sayles. Kenehan was a main character in Sayles' 1987 film Matewan, played by Chris Cooper. Sayles first introduced the character in his very fine 1977 novel Union Dues.

In Sayles' novel and film, Joe Kenehan travels to Mingo County, West Virginia in 1920 to help a group of coal miners organize a union with the United Mine Workers of America. He is later murdered by private security guards hired by a coal company.

Carter Wright is the founder of the Joe Kenehan Center and the editor of its blog. I work on the staff of the Service Employees International Union District 1199NW, a union of more than 10,000 health care workers in Washington State.

The Joe Kenehan Center is not affiliated with SEIU.