Republican officials will occasionally insist that the party’s core focus is changing. Gone are the days in which GOP leaders championed the interests of the wealthy elite, the argument goes. We’re now supposed to see the party as a populist party that stands with and for America’s working class.
The pitch continues to be bizarre, as evidenced by Republicans’ unshakable focus on corporate tax breaks, but in case anyone needed fresh evidence that discredits the underlying idea, consider how some GOP presidential candidates are responding to the United Auto Workers strike. NBC News reported:
Sen. Tim Scott said during a Monday campaign event, when asked about the United Auto Workers strike, that then-President Ronald Reagan “gave us a great example” when he fired striking federal workers in the 1980s. ... His remark came in response to a question at a meet and greet in Fort Dodge: “Would you as president ... insert yourself in the labor talks?” an Iowa voter asked.
The South Carolina Republican was quite candid about his position. “I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike. He said, you strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me,” Scott declared. “To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely.”
There are a variety of relevant details to keep in mind in response to rhetoric like this, most notably the fact that it’s illegal under federal labor laws for private companies to fire workers in response to a strike.
But it’s also worth noting that the senator wasn’t the only GOP presidential hopeful taking steps down this path. Former Ambassador Nikki Haley appeared on Fox News and complained about President Joe Biden offering too much support for labor.
“[W]hen you have the most pro-union president, and he touts that he is emboldening the unions, this is what you get,” Haley told viewers. The Republican added that we’ve reached the point at which workers, encouraged by Biden, “start asking for things that companies have a tough time doing.”
And therein lies the point: Yesterday’s rhetoric from Scott and Haley was dramatic, but it was not altogether unexpected. Not only have both of these GOP presidential candidates staked out similar positions before, but they’re part of a field of Republican White House hopefuls who are running on unmistakable anti-union platforms.
If the GOP is going to pitch itself as a workers’ party, it’s going to eventually have to start taking positions in line with workers’ interests.