(Providence, Rhode Island) – It’s Labor Day weekend, so nothing too heavy this Sunday. While everyone loves the extra day off, the labor movement in this country is highly political. Let’s brunch on that and some Labor Day trivia this week:
“The Beginnings” -- U.S. President Grover Cleveland (photo above) is not remembered for much, but in 1894 he signed the legislation that designated the first Monday of September as Labor Day. The observance had been advocated by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which created a parade to honor laborers, hoping it would become a national day of rest.
“Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies” – It didn’t take long for the holiday to become a big political event. Labor Day was the symbolic end of summer, but it quickly became a popular day to campaign ahead of the fall elections. Many states have September primary elections, and - even for those which don’t - the proximity of Labor Day to November meant it was a great time for politicians to deliver big stump speeches in town squares and to shake a lot of hands. This was true especially before the age of television and the Internet.
“This Year” – Democratic candidates Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI)will be at events in New Hampshire, while fellow Democrats Hillary Clinton and former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) will stump in Iowa. Among Republicans, Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), Governor John Kasich (R-OH), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) will also be in New Hampshire.
“Where’s the Donald?” I’m not sure where Republican frontrunner Donald Trump plans to be on Labor Day, but the anti-Trump forces will be out. On September 7, protesters who disagree with Trump’s immigration stance will protest in Dallas. All of this is ahead of Trump’s scheduled visit to the Lone Star State on the Monday following Labor Day.
“Does It Still Matter Politically?” – Well, yes and no. Even after the advent of television, Labor Day remained a big political rallying day. Since it was typically a slow news day, TV cameras would gravitate to political events or parades featuring politicians. They were easy targets, and candidates liked the limelight. But now, with 24/7 access to social media and internet coverage, many candidates are focused on that, rather than on "retail" politics. The 2016 Presidential campaign really started several months ago, so Labor Day has lost its importance as a kick-off date. However, it will still have a lot of political flavor this year.
“A Turning Point” – While political junkies like me watch the campaigning all year long, many people don’t pay attention until after Labor Day, as the election draws near. That might explain why polls often shift dramatically after the September holiday. For example, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter was well ahead of former Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA), but lost in a November landslide. In 2012, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) had a six-point lead over Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), but McCain’s fortunes turned sour, and he lost in November.
“You Got the Day Off?” – Labor Day – or a holiday to honor workers – is held in many countries. Canada holds it the very same day as the United States. Many European countries celebrate their workers on May Day, or May 1.
“Who’s to Thank?” – While President Cleveland actually signed Labor Day into law, a man named Peter McGuire – who was an Irish worker in New York – pushed for a holiday for those who labored year round. He helped spearhead the first parades, and the popularity of the idea spread across the nation. Thirty-three states had already approved Labor Day before it became federal law.
My favorite part of Labor Day is the afternoon cookout. What’s yours? Just drop us a note by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
© Mark Curtis Media, LLC
Photo credit: WhiteHouse.gov