This article in The New York Times, “Conservative Leads Effort to Raise Minimum Wage in California,” illustrates both the potential and common road blocks for forming “left-right” coalitions of the sort that I advocate in “Building Compassionate Populism.”
On the one hand, the article reports:
Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire, rose to fame by promoting a ballot initiative that essentially eliminated bilingual education in California. He went on to become publisher of The American Conservative, a libertarian-leaning magazine.
But after decades in the conservative movement, Mr. Unz is pursuing a goal that has stymied liberals: raising the minimum wage.
A promising development, no? But the article concludes:
Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, was hardly enthusiastic when informed of Mr. Unz’s plans.
“He has not shown a great deal of support for workers’ issues in the past and was nowhere to be seen in the legislative debate here, so it’s not really clear what the motivation is here,” Mr. Smith said. “But he is saying some things that are the same as what we’ve been saying all along.”
As I argued in my “Building Compassionate Populism“:
Knee-jerk reactions lead activists to oppose an idea if the wrong people propose it, and support an idea if the right people propose it, in order to strengthen their own movement.
I’m afraid this incident reflects what I was talking about. Hopefully in this case, the California Labor Federation will reconsider its initial reaction and explore the possibility of a fruitful alliance on this issue.