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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on 2020 labor vote, Texas shooting reaction

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Lisa Desjardins to discuss the latest political news, including President Trump’s attacks on unions and how 2020 Democrats are courting this crucial voting bloc, the status of gun safety legislation after another mass shooting, and what a trend of retirements and resignations among House Republicans says about minority politics.

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  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday. Our Politics Monday team is back, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith from NPR. She also co-hosts "The NPR Politics Podcast."

    Multimedia women, thank you for working this Labor Day. We appreciate it.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Absolutely.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's start with unions on this Labor Day.

    And, Tam, what do we know about President Trump's relationship with unions? He talks a lot about them. Is he keeping those voters right now?

  • Tamara Keith:

    He does talk a lot about them.

    And what he talks about is how he really identifies with the rank and file. And he is constantly saying, well, the union bosses, they don't like me, but the rank and file, they're my people.

    The numbers don't exactly bear that out. Certainly, some rank and file union members and union households did support President Trump and no doubt continue to. But he's really pushing the idea.

    And his idea, I think, the image in his mind of a union worker is somebody with a hardhat and a lunch pail who takes a shower at the end of the day.

    Now, that isn't necessarily reflective of union workers as a whole in America.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And that's what I want to talk to you about, Amy.

    In your podcast, "Politics With Amy Walter" from "The Takeaway"…

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. Thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    … you spent the whole episode last week looking at this. And the face of actual union voters is not what people think it is.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I mean, Tam is right that Trump has made inroads with rank and file members, especially in places that we know are key to the presidential election, in those battleground states. In Ohio, according to the exit polls, he actually won union households by 13 points.

    This is a group of voters that four years earlier Obama had won by 20. So there is something going on there. He did much better overall with labor voters, for example — or union households is how exit polls ask that — than Romney did four years earlier.

    So, yes, he's been able to make some inroads. But Tam is also correct that this image of the hardhat — and, really, we're talking about a white guy with a hardhat or a white guy who's coming out of the mines — doesn't reflect, I think, where labor currently is in terms of its membership.

    It's becoming much more female-centered. Certainly, for — people of color are much more significant influence and force within the labor movement than they have been ever before.

    And think about where — if you're looking to what the most high-profile union-organizing or labor issues have been in the last year or so, it's been the teacher strikes, again, a profession that's heavily female, and the Fight for 15, this — the organizing of fast food workers for minimum wage of $15 an hour.

    So, the service industry also very influential. And we know that, in 2018, women were a very big source of Democratic votes and energy. And I think we should be looking also to those women who are part of labor as a another piece of this.

    One more thing about the labor makeup that's interesting, I think part of the reason that Joe Biden has done as well — or doing as well in the Democratic primary is that he's seen as the candidate, the one candidate who can win back those guys with lunch pails and hardhats in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Ohio.

    And that has, I think, helped submit his front-runner status.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And he obviously pushes that image, that sort of Scranton Joe, middle-class Joe.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, absolutely. Absolutely,

  • Tamara Keith:

    Like, he really — that is part of his pitch.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And, in part, that pitch isn't just to white voters who fit the image.

    He's also pitching that to voters of color who just want to beat President Trump.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. He's saying: This is how we can win. I can get these voters.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Another way that Democrats are hoping to get attention and energize at least their base, maybe some suburban women voters, is the issue of guns.

    We are here yet again on another Monday after another weekend with more gun deaths in this country.

    Tam, where exactly do you think the White House really is on wanting to get legislation through Congress of any kind?

  • Tamara Keith:

    In part, I think the White House is still trying to figure that out.

    I know that they — and I have spoken to people who've been in meetings. The White House at a staff level has been having meetings with gun rights people, but also with victims families and other advocates, staff of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.

    But what they think they can actually do, what they think the president will actually get behind, that's not clear. It's — there's sort of a disconnect right now between the president and the staff, and sort of a disconnect between the president from one moment to the next.

    And what I mean by that is, he keep saying different things that are seemingly quite contradictory, saying, well, we do want to do background checks, but then saying, except, you know, background checks wouldn't have prevented any of the recent shootings, so I guess maybe, well, we need to protect the Second Amendment.

    It's not clear exactly where he stands. The issue right now is that the White House keeps saying, we need to know what is politically feasible. We need to know what can pass Congress.

    You talk to people over in Congress, and they say, we need to know what the president would actually support.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amy, yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    Doesn't that sound familiar?

  • Amy Walter:

    It feels like we have this conversation a lot.

    The interesting element here, too, is what's happening on the Democratic side. And when we have talked to before about, this is a really unique period of time where you have all the Democratic candidates running for president pretty much united around the issue of guns, that's brand-new.

    But now you see somebody like Beto O'Rourke from Texas, who has retooled his campaign since the El Paso shooting, and is running essentially on the issue of gun control, moving even farther than we have heard previous Democratic candidates on issues like having buybacks for assault weapons.

    Will this become part of the debate? He's no longer in Congress, but are there other members of Congress who will say, huh, maybe we should put that into the mix, too?

    That's probably — that is certainly too far for Republicans. The question is, will it be too far for many Democrats too?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is a good transition to another thing we have seen in the last week, which is more retirements from Congress, especially by Republicans. I believe we're at around 11 right now.

    I know it's still early, but lightning round, ladies. Are we going to see another record year retirements from Congress, or no?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, what I will say is that some of these retirements are based on personal factors. Other retirements appear to be based on, well, it's just not that fun to be in the minority.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, that is absolutely true.

    I think we will know if there will be another slew of retirements. There's a special election in North Carolina in a very Republican district on September 10, next week, right?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's next week.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Already.

  • Amy Walter:

    I know. It feels like it's already coming up on it.

    I think, should Democrats win there, that would be another alarm bell and a real worry spot for Republicans, maybe another incentive to pack it in.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    Thank you. You too.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we thank Amy, Lisa, and Tam for coming in on this Labor Day.

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