First Item of Business

Now here's your first challenge: take on the Democrats.

11.04.08 11:18 PM ET

Congratulations to President-elect Obama.

What an impressive campaign. The book has been rewritten, and this will be discussed and analyzed for years.

One gets the sense that as good as Obama was when this all started about two years ago, the campaign made him better. Much better. As difficult and long as the process is, it forges presidents. It is a gauntlet that prepares leaders for the kind of physics they will face in the White House.

“No Drama Obama”—it’s a well deserved nickname. Obama’s equanimity throughout the course of this roller coaster campaign communicated a temperament well-suited to the Presidency. And boy will he need it. Because the hard part has just begun.

Obama needs to show he is not going to be rolled by the special interests of the Democratic Party. He needs to gore an ox.

Obama has proved he can be popular. Now he must prove he is unwilling to be unpopular. Because that’s what it takes to be a true leader. There is discussion that Obama will be the first “wired” president. Watch out for that one. Plugged in is good. Driven by and held hostage to mass opinion, not so good.

I admire and respect Obama enough that I chose not continue working for Sen. McCain after the primaries. But aside from my political differences there is one charge against Obama that continues to give me pause. There is scant evidence of him taking truly unpopular positions (being against the war in an Illinois State Senate district doesn’t qualify) or going against the interests of his party. John McCain has made a career of showing the courage to stand up powerful interests, including his own party (campaign finance reform, Gang of 14, earmark opposition, torture policy, the surge, opposition to the Medicare prescription drug bill).

President-elect Obama has so many challenges and so many opportunities. But he’d be wise early on in his administration to find at least one issue where he could provide some evidence that he is not simply going to be rolled by the special interests of the Democratic Party. He needs to gore an ox. A great place to start would be with Big Labor.

This election, Labor put its money where its special interests lie. They spent upwards of $400 million to support Democrat candidates. The cost of their financial largesse? Pledging support for the Orwellian-sounding Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), proposed legislation that would be the most radical change in labor law since the 1930s.

EFCA strips employees of the right to cast secret ballots in union elections and forces them to declare their intention publicly, which would subject them to coercion from union organizers. This is a solution in a search of a problem. Private ballots are a sacred Democratic tradition. So sacred that ten Democrats who are supporting EFCA today wrote a letter to the Mexican Congress in 2001 urging support for private ballots, which was just affirmed by the Mexican Supreme Court. The real but unstated “problem” is dramatically declining labor rates, from a third of the private work force in America in the 1950s to around just seven percent today.

This legislation is nothing but a Trojan horse full of goodies designed to make it easier for Big Labor to organize and impose hefty union dues on a workforce already stressed by the recent economic downturn. One of those presents calls for a federal bureaucrat to arbitrate terms of employment for an automatic two years if an agreement is not reached in 120 days. So, if you’re labor, why negotiate?

This legislation is so outrageous that the liberal icon George McGovern has come out of retirement to campaign against it, saying, “We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.”

Most employers in this country have no idea about EFCA. And when they discover it may be coming around the bend, they are going to revolt. This issue could turn into a firestorm and severely handicap Obama’s presidency before it gets out the crib, much like gays in the military hampered Clinton’s early days.

Obama should recognize that economic circumstances have dramatically changed and it would be wrong to impose this legislation on a workforce already in crisis. It’s not in the best interests of the country or his Presidency.

Gore this ugly ox and Obama will demonstrate he is truly his own man and capable of great things.