Steve Rosenthal

Steve Rosenthal is the former political director of the AFL-CIO, and has been a labor and progressive strategist for nearly 40 years.  

Recent Articles

Will Trump Steal a March on Democrats in the Midwest?

It’s time for Democrats to begin their ground game in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

agenda_2020.jpg Memo to the Democrats who claim their presidential candidates are moving too far to the left to beat Donald Trump: Stop worrying and get to work. Before and after each of the last two sets of Democratic debates, I read countless opinion pieces and heard numerous pundits arguing that Democrats are moving too far left and handing Trump re-election on a golden platter. In an unprecedented Democratic nominating process, in which a whopping 24 candidates are competing to take on Trump, it’s only natural that they are looking for ways to separate themselves from the pack. Most of them have long records of service and got involved in politics because they care about a core set of issues—so it’s not shocking that they are going to use the campaign to talk about those issues. The pundits can write all the pieces they want suggesting a grand scheme of “winnability” and which issues they would like the candidates to put forth to win the voters they...

Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Actually Talking Union

Responding to the pro-labor upsurge, candidates are no longer shunning the “u” word.

For more than a quarter century, the American labor movement has been struggling to convince Democrats of the value of unions and the crucial role they play in the struggle for social and economic justice. To be sure, most Democrats have given lip service to the importance of unions, but at the highest level of Democratic campaigns—the presidential—even lip service has seldom been heard. During the past three decades, a running question raised by union activists about Democratic candidates for president has been, “Did s/he use the ‘U’ word?” Meaning, did the candidate even mention unions? Unless they were speaking to a union audience, the answer was usually “no.” Today, for the first time in my life, we are seeing something of a reversal. Take one look at this (massive) lineup of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and you will find the most outspoken, pro-union crop of candidates we have seen in a very long time. In fact, an...

How Democrats Can Avoid Turning Their Presidential Primaries into a Circular Firing Squad

Some rules of engagement for Democratic candidates and their supporters

I’ve been around the business of politics for a long time, and while I’m convinced that with the proper work and plan Democrats will win the White House in 2020, I feel the need to caution the party against engaging in a traditional primary battle. Since the Democratic/progressive/liberal communities seem united on the absolute need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, I am suggesting that Democrats stay on the high road, unite the party for the 2020 fall campaign, and perhaps in the process build a base of support among voters that will be impenetrable for Trump. With that in mind, I’m offering Democrats some “Political Rules of Engagement,” in the hope that they keep their eyes on the prize of defeating Trump, rather than attacking each other. Rule 1: Don’t try to stifle new ideas, new opinions, or new plans. Many of the Democrats elected to congress and state legislatures in 2018 are new to the process. They’re not career politicians . For that...

To Beat Trump in 2020, Democrats Must Build a Wall

Not between the U.S. and Mexico. Rather, two blue walls of states where Trump can’t prevail.

Democratic hopes of ousting Donald Trump in 2020 might just hinge on building a wall. No, not a border wall between Mexico and the United States, but rather an electoral wall that will block Trump—or any other Republican—from winning the White House in two years. You will recall that grim night—Tuesday, November 8, 2016. As the presidential election results came in, a storyline emerged about Hillary Clinton’s crumbling “Blue Wall”: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had fallen, thus, electing Trump president. To win back the White House, Democrats must focus on building two walls. One is the “New American Majority Wall,” which includes Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia. The other is the “Heartland Wall,” which comprises Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If Democrats successfully erect these walls, there is no path for Trump to win the 270 electoral votes he needs to be re-elected. The Democratic...

For a Dead Movement, Labor’s Been Showing a Lot of Life

The right promised its anti-union campaigns would yield Republican victories in 2018. But unions have been bouncing back, as the GOP’s defeats make clear.

Union workers and minimum wage activists march during a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on September 4, 2017. Google the phrase “unions are dying” and you’ll see a host of news stories reporting this demise over the past year—celebrated on the Right, lamented on the Left. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of this death have been greatly exaggerated. Union membership has been in decline in the United States for the past 40 years as a result of de-industrialization, globalization, automation, fierce employer opposition, and labor laws that make it extremely difficult for workers to organize—as well as some self-inflicted wounds. Today, just 10.7 percent of American workers belong to a union. Since their inception, unions have constantly been under attack from right-wing elected officials and the corporations that support them. With sweeping Republican victories at the state level during the Obama years, anti-union forces upped their efforts to...