The late Jack Kemp, a six-term congressman from western New York, HUD secretary, and unsuccessful candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, once proudly referred to himself as a “Lane Kirkland Republican.” Kemp’s willingness, indeed his eagerness, to associate himself with compulsory unionism, long personified by the business-bashing Kirkland, who headed the AFL-CIO from 1975 until 1995, proved to be a political albatross for him during his 1988 presidential run. Kemp’s ties to the union hierarchy also undoubtedly became a detriment for former GOP Sen. Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential bid after Dole selected Kemp as his running mate.
Jack Kemp wasn’t the first Republican politician to wave an olive branch at Big Labor by opposing Right to Work, and a number of others have emerged since he slowly faded from the political scene. But there are significantly fewer pro-forced unionism Republicans nowadays, and the key reason why is plain: It virtually never pays off.
The latest evidence comes from Indiana. In yesterday’s Hoosier State primaries, five candidates backed by the self-styled “Lunch Pail Republicans” challenged Right to Work supporters. All five Republicans supported by this Big Labor front group lost. (See the first link above for more information.)
A sympathetic account of the “Lunch Pail Republicans” written before yesterday’s election results were in (see the second link above) provides additional confirmation that GOP politicians buy themselves nothing of value by making selective concessions to Big Labor:
[I]t’s possible to imagine a scenario in which unions throughout the state concentrate on influencing Republicans rather than electing Democrats.
So far, that doesn’t appear to be happening. Brenda Pike, the executive director of the Indiana State Teachers Association, says her group focuses mostly on making Republican primary endorsements in districts Democrats have little chance of winning anyway. “I don’t think that hurts us,” says Patrick Bauer, the Democratic leader in the House.