I used to love the Monty Python Show when I was a young lad and I remember one segment that mocked those brain-dead Sunday TV shows during which bland, predictable journalists and “expert” panelists gather to discuss the week’s events.
In this segment, the host introduced several military officials and then portentously asked: “Generals, a question. Would the outcome have been any different at Waterloo had Napoleon had B-52s?” Naturally, this led to a spirited debate about whether Wellington would still have prevailed if Napoleon had had modern air power to call on.
So today I’m hosting an on-line pre-Labor Day panel — right now, and I’m the moderator and sole panelist — to ask a haunting question of my own: Had the U.S. labor movement remained neutral in the early Democratic primaries instead of offering massive ground and air support for Hillary Clinton, would Bernie Sanders have been the nominee?
In this admittedly imprecise yet ultimately revealing analogy, the union movement’s pro-Hillary onslaught in the first caucuses and primaries, especially Iowa, equals Hillary having had B-52s to launch airstrikes against Bernie’s underarmed and underfunded troops. (And trust me, if she had them she would have used them.)
Sure, there were other issues at play that helped Hillary/Wellington— I would emphasize the role of the DNC under Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who in this historical analogy is something like Wellington having Wernher Von Braun, Erwin Rommel, Hermann Göring and Leni Riefenstahl on her/his side.
But still it’s worth asking a few salient questions: Why study history anyway? Why study at all given that there are no good jobs in today’s economy, right? Lastly, if the labor movement’s B-52s had been grounded, could Napoleon/Bernie have prevailed?
Let me now address the latter question. Spoiler alert: If you’re still following me, the Monty Python panel concluded that Napoleon would have defeated Wellington at Waterloo had he had B-52s on his side.
OK, the Democratic nomination was determined by a lot of things — the DNC’s cheating on Hillary’s behalf, the Superdelegate Shit Show, her massive money advantage, Kvetching Uncle Bernie’s (KUB) less than optimal personality, among other things. However, in the views of this panel union support for Hillary was vital during the early primaries, and here’s why:
Hillary eked out victory in Iowa by a fraction of 1 percent. Had KUB won, which the panel believes is a foregone conclusion if the union’s hadn’t rolled out their B-52s, he would have gained all the momentum and gone on to crush Hillary by an even bigger margin in New Hampshire, where KUB won by 22 percent.
Now the KUB campaign would have looked unstoppable and Bernie goes on to win Nevada, where he officially lost by about five points despite flagrant DNC-engineered vote-rigging and where massive union support for Hillary again played a vital role.
So now the KUB campaign has swept the first three states. Hillary/Wellington is reeling; it looks like 2008 all over again when she lost to Barack Obama after thinking she had everything sewn up from the start. The unions get scared — more specifically the union leadership; the staffs at most unions were overwhelmingly pro-Bernie to begin with — and ground some of their B-52s for fear of alienating the potentially winning KUB campaign.
Bernie/Napoleon controls the damage in upcoming southern states and the rest is history: Whereas now the country has settled into into a general pre-general election depression amid the likelihood of a Wellington presidency, under the panel’s scenario there’s still blood flowing through our collective veins. A Bernie-Trump race poses its own set of problems but at least there’d be a reason to get dressed in the morning.
Anyway, what can we learn from this historical parable?
First, if the past is any guide, Hillary is going to fuck the unions, just like Democratic presidents do whenever they occupy the White House. On the campaign trail, they’ll promise labor anything and everything — Obama was going to make “card check” his priority but stabbed unions in the back and now Hillary swears she’s going to reel in “free trade” even though she’s obviously lying — but they change their tune once they win office.
Second, the leadership at major unions is largely to blame for this sad state of affairs. They’re mostly a collection of content, overpaid hacks who live lifestyles relatively similar to their alleged class enemies.
Third, study history but avoid math. Neither will get you a job but at least history is interesting and helps you understand the dreary, grim future we face no matter who wins in November.
I think that’s about it as far as lessons learned, but here’s a bonus anecdote: Just like in typical Third World countries riddled with corruption and inequality, much of our nation’s leadership springs from similar and sometimes identical elite loins. For example, did you know that Fred Hiatt, the ghastly pro-war op-ed page director at the Washington Post, has a brother, Jonathan, who is the general counsel of the AFL-CIO?
Neither did I, until quite recently. Think about it.