The Mistake of Relying on Idealism Over Decency (Rep. Candice Miller)

I applaud President Bush's announcement on Friday that he will step in to assist our automakers, and I support his efforts to protect this vital industry and American jobs. It is my hope that he will act soon to deliver support to the industry from the Wall Street bailout fund that Congress authorized in October. With three million jobs and the fate of the American manufacturing industry on the line, inaction is not an option.

That is why I was deeply troubled by the irresponsible act of the United States Senate when they failed to support the needed bridge loans to our domestic auto industry.  It seems that it was more important to some members of the Senate to force blue collar workers to take lower wages than it was to protect the industry.  This on top of the fact that many of these same Senators had previously voted to give Wall Street a $700 billion bailout while asking none of their workers to take reductions in pay. These Senators also failed to take in to account that the domestic automakers have been going through drastic restructuring measures for the past several years and that these same workers have already taken on a great share of the burden of this restructuring through massive layoffs in addition to historic concessions in the 2005 and 2007 labor agreements.  That is why the Republican members of the Senate were incorrect to focus their ire at the workers, and from a political perspective it was a huge step backwards in any Republican effort to building a majority coalition in the future.

These Senators seem to view past actions and previous statements from union leadership as entirely representative of their membership and erroneously concluded that the entire union membership is in lock step with the Democrats.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The fact is that many of these UAW members are hard working social conservatives who are pro-gun, fiscally conservative, believe in a strong American military, and were the foundation of the Reagan Democrats, a large percentage of whom have cast their votes for Republican candidates in past elections. I am afraid today that because of the actions and the rhetoric of these mainly Southern Republican Senators that our ability to attract these voters in the future has been severely diminished. Additionally this will limit the ability of any Republican to win fiercely contested campaigns for Congress or the state legislature as well as making it increasingly difficult to win a statewide election in Michigan or anywhere in the industrial Midwest.

These recent actions have led them to believe that the GOP does not value their hard work but instead believes them to be lazy, over paid slackers that are destroying the automotive industry. These hard-working Americans, who share many of our ideals, now feel betrayed and alienated.

What else are they to conclude when many of these same Senators voted in favor of the $700 bailout to Wall Street. Is this the sort of change we need: casting aside our hard working blue-collared laborers, yet coming to the immediate support of Wall Street paper pushers whose irresponsible actions caused the problem in the first place?

In a time when we should be focused on rebuilding and finding ways for our party to make the lives of Americans better, our reluctance to help  blue-collared workers could be taken as a major misstep. In fact it is the action of relying on idealism over decency to individuals with families, mortgages and children that has dug an even deeper hole for our party throughout this vital region of the nation.