I am going to stand up for a union leader and then tell you why. I can’t stand when people or organizations get involved in some form of public forum and then are not willing to stand up and acknowledge their position or actions without being apologetic after the fact. Case in point, ABC news is reporting (here) that Donna Dewitt, the outgoing president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, whacked (with some vigor apparently) a piñata with the face of Nikki Haley, the South Carolina Governor and staunch anti-unionist, blazoned across it. A few of Haley’s publicly stated anti-union sentiments were printed across the bottom, so obviously this was not a personal threat or attack but a political statement. Provocative, yes, but burning political leaders in effigy, for example, is a long standing form of political dissent – though I imagine these days you would be arrested for not having burn permit, but I digress.
Here’s the part that drives me crazy. When the Governor made some comments on the incident she did not respond in faux outrage at some imagined personal threat, just that the video didn’t represent the people of South Carolina. Donna Dewitt didn’t apologize either (good for her!), saying that there was no ill intent, just a difference of position on unions. Everyone understood that this was a good natured jab at a political opponent with some attempt at humor. They were not chanting “Death to Haley” and burning police cars in downtown Columbia, this was essentially a union event with an immature attempt at levity at the Governor’s expense.
So we have a video that nobody seemed to take to seriously. Both sides made negative comments about the other (to be expected), but there was no real outrage or perception of a threat, real, imagined or created by the spin masters – a non-event.
So why then did the AFL-CIO issue a clarifying statement disavowing the “piñata incident?” I’ll tell you why, because in today’s public world, no one can have a harsh opinion of anyone else. You can’t call the other guy an A-hole anymore. The AFL-CIO was not willing to handle the imagined heat of some people saying this was inappropriate and was trying to get out in front of the story - so much for the union backbone of old. The funny thing is that there is no story to get out in front of, nobody cares, not even the Governor – the target of the event. This small non-event highlights to me the reason why everyone hates politics. Political organizations, and clearly unions are political organizations, are more worried about what others believe about them instead of what they believe themselves. Stand up for what you believe in, state your position, and respectfully debate the other side. Political correctness has made us a country of worried gossip mongers and opinion hounds. Enough I say. Good for Donna Dewitt for not apologizing for a non-issue, good for Governor Haley for not blowing this out of proportion, bad for the AFL-CIO for caving in before there was even anything to disavow. Hoffa must be rolling in his shallow grave in the Meadowlands!