Here at Irregular Times, we’ve been writing a lot of articles lately pointing out the numerous disappointments of the Democratic Party. Since the Democrats won the House, Senate and White House in 2008, they’ve squandered a number of opportunities for positive change and have more than occasionally mimicked Republican policy priorities. Sometimes, it may feel like there’s no point at all in electing Democrats rather than Republicans (and sometimes, as in the case of paleolithic Democrats like Bobby Bright, there actually is no point).
But it’s wrong to extrapolate from the many disappointments of the Democrats to claim that there is no difference at all between the Republicans and the Democrats. There are differences, and some of them are important.
Take, for instance, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. When I came upon a page chock full of Thermos brand products, all slapped with “Made in the USA” logos…
… it looked awfully suspicious to me. I hadn’t heard that Thermos had its goods produced in the USA, and it’s sad but true that the list of manufactured items made in the United States (where not coincidentally there are minimum wage laws and worker protection laws and environmental protection laws) is small. It’s so much easier for manufacturers to keep prices low by producing their goods in countries like China, where workers are routinely paid sweatshop wages and where even the U.S. government acknowledges child labor and forced labor are common.
I wanted to find out for sure where Thermos produced its big drink container and its plastic food and drink “FunTainers,” and thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, I can. It requires manufacturers like Thermos to post information about health and safety certifications online where consumers can verify those certifications. Such certifications also include country of origin information, which previously could be difficult to obtain in online research.
It turns out, thanks to the legally-mandated certifications you can read here and here, that these items are indeed made in China. Without verifiable certifications of working conditions (which to my knowledge Thermos does not provide) we cannot confidently conclude that these Thermoses were produced in humane circumstances. The “Made in the USA” logos placed on these items at CafePress.com are conclusively bogus — and again, we have the legal requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to thank.
When the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 came up for a roll-call vote in the Senate, every Democrat who cast a vote cast a vote for the bill. This useful and consequential bill passed thanks to the Democrats.
13 Republicans in the Senate, on the other hand, voted against this bill. For some reason — you’ll have to ask them — they didn’t want publicly-chartered corporations to have to share this information. The Republicans who voted against this utterly reasonable transparency in manufacture were:
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
John Ensign (R-NV)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Democrats are disappointing when it comes to worker protections and transparency of information, yes — but the Republican Party’s record is worse. There’s a reasonable argument to be made for finding a third party or independent alternative, and a very strong argument to be made for creating more of these alternatives. But when a voter only has a choice between a Republican and a Democrat, there’s often some good to be done in voting for the Democrat.