A Holiday Gift for the Rest of Us

After Obama picked many centrist, conventional Democrats—and even Republicans—to his Cabinet, his choice for labor secretary is refreshing. Hilda Solis is a progressive with a will to fight and to work with grassroots labor, environmental and immigrant worker movements.

Labor leaders across the board applauded the appointment of Solis, who serves on the board of American Rights at Work, a labor-founded but more broadly based advocacy group. Her ties to labor are deep, going back to at least her state senate days, when she also became a crusader for environmental justice.

In These Times, David Moberg, December 18, 2008

I keep thinking about all of these claims and counter claims about Obama’s cabinet and administrative choices and what they signal for the future of progressive politics. A lot of this speculation seems all tangled up in the identity and cultural politics that, for good or ill, Obama seems determined to muddle up.

Most of what eventually happens will depend very much on Obama’s ability to convince a group of very differently minded people to work together. The open question, of course, is to what end. I think progressives ought to skip these debates altogether. It’s all media hype anyway.

Instead, I think we need to focus on a few specific changes that have the greatest potential for a multiplier effect. That’s why Hilda Solis seems like a real holiday gift. I think the Employee Free Choice act, which Solis surely supports, is out best bet to create a powerful movement that isn’t dependent on Obama.

I would love to see the numbers of people without health care reduced to a few million; I want true national heath care even more. I think a green economic program is great; even better would a rebirth of railroads. If Obama manages the first, and we have a stronger labor movement, we can get the second too.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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