Curtis Hertel: Virginia’s governor refuses to kill Right to Work. But governing from the ‘mushy middle’ doesn’t work.

Right to Work protest at the Michigan Capitol, December 2012 | Susan J. Demas

As we turn the calendar to 2020, I am excited for the opportunities we have in the new year. In 2020, we have an incredibly important election for the future of the Democratic Party and our nation. 

But we must keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility. We have a responsibility to campaign and govern based on the core principles of the Democratic Party, because those principles are embedded in the people that built our state and our country. 

This is why I am so disturbed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s refusal to support the repeal of so-called Right to Work laws now that Virginia Democrats control both houses of their state assembly. 

Ralph Northam

It is important to remember that the whole point of winning elections is governing. Far too often in politics, candidates say the right thing to get elected, and then forget their values once they are in office. Governing from the mushy middle rarely inspires voters. I am not saying compromise in and of itself is bad, but there are core values that cannot be compromised. As the old saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

The right to organize and collectively bargain has been and should always be a core value for Democrats. The idea that so many teachers, nurses and other hardworking people put their blood sweat and tears into turning Virginia blue and are now being abandoned by Northam is just unacceptable. 

And it is a prime example of why Democrats lose. 

While sexism and racism certainly played their part in Democrats losing the presidency in 2016, the underlying belief among many working-class people is that our party is not fighting for them. Northam’s position on Right to Work is further evidence that sometimes they are right. 

Take it from us – Michigan saw its own version of this scenario in 2008, the last time we took the majority in the Michigan House. When Michigan House Democrats elected a former Republican to be speaker, Andy Dillon, the electorate rewarded us with the legislative minorities that still exist today. 

Right to Work repeal 1st bills for new Labor Caucus members

Democrats are the party that stands up for working people, the party that believes that health care is a right and that all people regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or economic condition deserve an equal chance to succeed. 

We believe that workers, when united together in solidarity, are stronger than when divided. This is the soul of the Democratic Party. I know that instances of Democrats straying from these values are outliers, but we must always remember to talk about and govern from our core values. 

If we fail to remember that, if we fail to stand up and govern based on our values, then why should the people stand up for us in the next election?