Palin is new Joe McCarthy, says AFL-CIO Trumka

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking at a labor gathering in Alaska, said Sarah Palin’s radical right rhetoric is “poisonous, dangerous and strikes of McCarthyism.”

In a speech Aug. 26 to the Alaska AFL-CIO, he said that in a charged political environment, “her kind of talk gets dangerous. ‘Don’t retreat, reload’ may seem clever, the kind of bull you hear all the time, but put it in context. She’s using crosshairs to illustrate targeted legislators. She’s on the wrong side of the line there.”

Trumka’s criticism followed by one day the victory of Palin’s choice, lawyer Joe Miller, over incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Palin’s support for the Tea Party was seen as a continuation of the feud she began when she beat Murkowski’s father, Frank, the incumbent governor in an earlier GOP primary.

Miller, Palin’s choice, has come out against any government-provided benefits for the unemployed and has called for the privatization of both Social Security and Medicare.

Trumka came down hard on Palin for quitting as governor of Alaska last year:

“What is this crazy magnet that’s pulling people to the right?” Trumka asked. “Look at your former governor. Who is she, anyway? Sarah Palin? She used to have a job, your governor. You knew her. Or thought you did,” Trumka said. “I know I thought I did. She seemed like a decent person. An outdoorswoman. Her husband’s a Steelworker. She seemed to take some OK stands for working families.

“And then things got weird. After she tied herself to John McCain and they lost, she blew off Alaska. I think Sarah Palin quit so she wouldn’t have a record that could be scrutinized.

“Instead, she’s hanging out on cable TV, almost a parody of herself, coming out with conspiracy theories about President Obama and his ‘death panels.’ Then she goes to Texas and talks about ‘union thugs.’ What? Her husband’s a union man. Is she calling him a thug?”

“That’s the dangerous rhetoric that McCarthy, the late GOP senator from Wisconsin, who served from 1949 through the mid-50s, also engaged in,” Trumka said.

“Using that term ‘union thug.’ That’s poisonous. There’s history behind that rhetoric That’s how bosses and politicians in decades past justified the terrorizing of workers, the murdering of organizers.”

McCarthy, to whom Trumka referred, waved sheets of papers during speeches before Congress that he often said contained lists of Communists who had allegedly infiltrated government and unions. Though none of his charges were ever proven, he succeeded in ruining many reputations and lives.

Palin responded to Trumka on Facebook and Twitter by, essentially, dodging the issues he raised altogether. She said “Rich is understandably upset” because of the state of the economy and called on her “union brothers and sisters” to join “our commonsense movement.”

Unions across the country have repeatedly rejected Palin’s attempts to pass herself off as pro-labor.

The Mineworkers castigated her earlier this month, for example, for supporting Tea Party leader Rand Paul in his Senate bid in Kentucky. They reminded miners in that state how the Palin-endorsed  Paul had said “accidents happen” as he declared his opposition to federal government involvement in regulating mine health and safety.

“People need to come to the table in good faith,” Trumka declared. But that’s not Sarah Palin. She’ll go down in history like McCarthy. Palinism will become an ugly word.”

Photo: AFL-CIO solidarity march in Anchorage, Alaska, before Richard Trumka’s speech. (ProgressiveAlaska)


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of