A truth that has been hammered into me since I was an undergraduate majoring in speech at UNI is that the meaning of words is in people and not in the word itself. This implies that the idea(s) that what a word symbolizes can change. I would like to provide an example of this change for two words whose meanings are being “demonized” and argue for their rehabilitation.
The first term is government. As I grew up in the 1960s there was a respect for and a belief in our representational democracy as the hope for all people. Admittedly there are many examples of where Americans have fallen short of the ideals as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. But many of the protests and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s had at their core the belief that if different people were pulling the levers of power then government could be a force for improving the lives of Americans. The idea that government was not the solution but was the problem became prevalent in the 1980s and this process is continuing today. The idea that we should give up on our form of government is not an option in my opinion. I think that it is the best tool that people have to fight the interests of large corporations and oligarchs that are trying to control and monopolize America.
The second term is unions. Without a doubt the labor movement of the early 20th century resulted in the expansion of workers' rights in the post World War II era. Combined with the actions of government at that time there was a large expansion of the middle class. Many of the rules of the work place, such as paid overtime for any work over 40 hours a week, retirement benefits, and health insurance, were the results of collective bargaining by unions. There has always been a pushback from the interests that view labor as just one of the cost inputs in business rather than the people who are essential in making capitalism work. The attacks on unions are continuing today at both the federal and state level. Yet there is hope. According to a webpage at talkpoverty.org, “Young people also hold the most favorable attitudes towards labor of any generation, and their support for political parties skews heavily towards those that support pro-worker policies (like standing against “right-to-work” laws)...”
The combination of the rehabilitation of the words “government” and “unions” can provide a much-needed continual remaking of America. These two terms should be viewed favorably. They are the path that we need to take. This will require an informed and educated electorate. As Iowans we have a unique opportunity to do that. Many of the Democratic presidential candidates will be here in Clinton County this year. Meet with them as they come here to speak to you. Visit www.clintoncountydemocrats.org to find a schedule of events and activities. Get involved and caucus on February 3.