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How Unions Could Help Democrats Turn Red States Blue

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Listen to this full episode of The New Abnormal on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon and Stitcher.

Journalist Hamilton Nolan tells The New Abnormal that Democrats have a unique opportunity to galvanize support in Republican-held states by embracing the trade union movement and winning back votes from working families.

Nolan, who has written a book called The Hammer: Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor, tells The New Abnormal’s co-host Andy Levy that the decline in support for Democrats in states like West Virginia can be linked to one key thing—a steep drop in union membership.

“I have a chapter in the book about West Virginia—a perfect example of a state that was a blue state when it was heavily unionized. And the decline of unions led directly to that state becoming a red state, because people lose that connection with the progressive type of values that naturally come along with being a union member,” he said. “When you take away that union density, you sort of cast out all these people into the void and you leave people hopeless, and you leave people with lower service industry jobs that don’t pay them as much, and their lives get worse. All these things that lead them to become cynical and sort of provide the fuel for a guy like Trump to rise up. But you also destroy these powerful political institutions, which is what the unions were, and relegate them to the sidelines.”

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Nolan says it is time for Democrats to take advantage of a wave of unionization in the U.S. to win back voters.

“Post pandemic you have millions of workers now who say that they want what unions have to offer. Unions and public opinion polls are extremely popular today, as popular as they’ve been in 60 years,” he said. “It would be great to see the Democratic Party really prioritize organized labor in a way that we haven’t seen maybe until Biden, although Biden himself could also be doing a lot better.”

“Investing in labor organizing is gonna pay off long-term politically in ways that the sort of transactional election-to-election politics never will,” Nolan said.

Listen to this full episode of The New Abnormal on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon and Stitcher.

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