At His Service

Lizza, Ryan
November 2003
New Republic;11/10/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 19, p10
The author explores the implications of trade union endorsements for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. Howard Dean is about to take another huge step toward winning the Democratic nomination. According to union officials and aides to several campaigns, it is nearly certain that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will endorse Dean next week. Organizationally and ideologically, Stern's SEIU and the Dean campaign are a natural fit. Because many of its members are employed in low-wage jobs without health benefits, SEIU made it clear to every candidate seeking its endorsement that he or she had to have a comprehensive, written health care plan. But, in the end, another issue unexpectedly trumped health care for SEIU: the war. And it helped Dean stand out. A frequent argument heard at SEIU'S recent political conference was that the war was choking off scarce resources for government social services, upon which SEIU members disproportionately rely. And some of SEIU'S key leaders, who come out of the activist left, strongly opposed intervention in Iraq. On the other hand, there are downsides to the Dean/ SEIU alliance. Dean is building a powerful base of support among two key liberal demographics--highly educated whites and low-income, minority, service-sector workers. While those groups represent the fastest-growing elements of the Democratic coalition, they don't help him attract white working-class voters--who remain essential to winning in November.


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