Round 2: Battle Against Bush Continues
Over the past year, a powerful movement to drive George Bush from office was born and developed. Many of us built demonstrations at his campaign appearances, passed out anti-Bush leaflets, marched against the war at the Republican National Convention and urged our friends, neighbors and co-workers to get out and vote against him. In the face of real obstacles, on Nov. 2 a vast outpouring of working people and those for oppressed nationality communities - African-Americans, Chicano-Latinos, Asian and Native Americans - rejected him and his policies. This was not enough to get Bush out of office, but because so many did so much, we’re in a better position to fight the attacks that are sure to come over the next four years.
It is a good thing that the country is polarized and that many hate the Bush administration - along with everything it stands for. It is exactly this sentiment and righteous anger that needs to be reinforced and strengthened over the next four years. A serious enemy requires a serious opposition, and the only common ground possible with Bush and his corporate backers is a battlefield.
The United States is ruled by the very rich, by a class of wealthy billionaires who have created an empire of injustice. Bush is their yes man - a small-minded person in service of the biggest capitalist interests.
His election is a challenge to all who care about equality, peace and freedom. And that same election is an indictment of our political system, which is nothing more than a democracy for the elite who dictate to the rest of us.
From the beginning, the movement against Bush faced some serious obstacles: the Bush campaign got and spent more money from corporate America; the role of Kerry himself’ the post 911 political context and the fact that Republican Party cheats - specifically in their attempts to ‘suppress’ the vote of African Americans and other oppressed nationalities.
The amount of money that a political campaign raises and spends is one of the most reliable predictors of the outcome of any electoral campaign. At the end of the day, Bush had more corporate backers than Kerry and this was reflected in the amount of money his campaign spent.
Money allows a candidate to do amazing things. For example, manufacturing the belief among a section of the American people that George Bush has ‘character’ or is somehow worthy of respect. Here is man who lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and has the nerve to call the butchery that is taking place in cities like Fallujah ‘liberation.’
The Russian revolutionary, V.I Lenin, made a very telling remark about the ‘democracies’ in Europe and the United States - the capitalist democracies are stable and good for the big business because there is a direct relationship between the money that they invest in a candidate, party or government and the influence that they have over the affairs of state. To put it another way, under capitalism you get the best government that you can buy. The 2004 election vindicates this astute observation.
Many workers and oppressed people in the U.S. think the Bush presidency stinks. Yet many who punch a time clock or who are out of a job found voting for Kerry a hard thing to do. As a result, more than a few did not go to the polls. Others did so figuring that ‘ABB’ - Anybody But Bush - would be a step forward. Among those who really wanted to get Bush out of office, the true Kerry enthusiast was the exception.
The nomination of Kerry presented the anti-Bush movement with a real problem. Kerry is typical representative of corporate America, a rich man in the service of his class. On one of the vital issues of the day, the war on Iraq, the Kerry ‘solution’ is not radically different from that of Bush. It is essentially to send more troops and hope the other western powers want to join the blood bath.
Certainly, on a range of issues Kerry was much better - for example, on reproductive rights - but the bottom line is this: the refusal of Kerry to advocate a progressive program, take a clear stand on the war and to address many of the concerns of the Black, Chicano-Latino and other oppressed nationality communities made him a liability in the effort to remove Bush from the White House.
That Kerry was forced to spend the final days of the campaign trying to shore up strength in northern African American communities, as shown by his Nov. 2 visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, illustrates the underlying weakness of his bid for the presidency.
The Bush campaign constantly drew on the most reactionary sentiments to be found on the American political terrain. Public opinion is never uniform, and even in the most progressive of communities there are backward views - which the strategists of the Bush campaign exploited as a means to expand their base of voters.
First, the events of 911 were drafted into service for Bush and company. After the attack on the World Trade Center, accompanying the sadness and grief, there was a shockwave of racism and national chauvinism. The U.S. ruling class took a sharp swing to the right, as did their politicians in congress. 911 was turned into a green light for a war to defend and expand U.S. empire. Since then, real polarization on issues, from Iraq to the economy, returned to center stage, but still, the wave of reaction shifted the sands of U.S. politics, leaving the voters of rural Ohio or Wisconsin more concerned about security and ‘terrorist attacks’ than residents of New York City.
Second, ‘values’ and ‘wedge issues’ were cynically utilized to manipulate some of the worst sentiments of a section of the American people. Specifically, the Bush campaign’s promotion of poisonous attacks on the rights of gays and lesbians, particularly the right to marry, stands out. Along similar lines, the Bush campaign made it clear efforts would be made to curtail women’s reproductive rights.
What, in fact, are the ‘values’ of Bush and company? Let’s recall an incident from his past, when he was still governor of Texas. It pales beside 100,000 dead in Iraq, but it speaks volumes of his character. A woman on death row appealed for clemency. She had become a born-again Christian. In her appeal to live, she had the support of fundamentalist preacher Pat Robertson and the Pope. Bush heard her case and then entertained his friends by mocking her. “Pleeeease don’t kill me,” he said. This is from the mouth of someone who purchased the strategists, focus groups and TV time to convince some people in Ohio that he had the authority to talk about ‘moral issues.’
Fraud and Intimidation
Those who cheat once are inclined to cheat again, and Bush could serve as the poster boy for this rule. It’s a well known fact that Bush lost the popular vote in the 2000 elections, and that he ‘won’ Florida with fraud and intimidation, along with a wink and a nod to the Supreme Court. This time the same garbage was in play.
The Bush campaign worked hard to keep oppressed nationality voters away from the polls - especially in the battleground states. In Ohio, the Bush campaign’s noisy talk about sending challengers to polling stations where African Americans would be voting was an attempt at intimidation, pure and simple. Also in Ohio, the Republican-organized election process meant long lines and waits at places where African Americans were likely to vote. In terms of time and energy required to exercise one rights, this added up to a new kind of poll tax.
At this stage of the game, it’s hard to know how many percentage points Bush picked up through voter suppression efforts and if these efforts were enough to affect the outcome of the elections. That said, the past and present practice of Bush and his political operatives raise legitimate questions about just how fair U.S. elections are.
Next Four Years
Two closely related dynamics will shape moves of the Bush administration over the next four years.
One dynamic is the so called ‘war on terror’ which in reality is a war for domination and empire. The elites who rule America have long been feeling competitive pressure from their rivals in Europe and challenges from the independently minded in the third world. So the empire is striking back in Latin America, Asia, Africa and especially the Middle East, where control over oil can give any big power a strategic leg up on its rivals. Unfortunately for Bush, the unfolding defeat in Iraq limits his options. No doubt, top advisors in the Bush administration are dying to attack Iran, Syria and North Korea, but for the time being, the road to Tehran, Damascus or even Pyongyang runs through Baghdad - and the Iraqi resistance blocks the way.
The other dynamic is that the Bush administration will continue its efforts to restructure the U.S. economy. The goal is an economy that is ‘lean and mean’ - where the big corporations make the maximum profits. The result is a tattered social safety net where the American worker is locked in a race to the bottom. We need to make sure these attacks are met with an active and determined resistance.
Fronts of Struggle
The demand for peace and the support of efforts of the oppressed in the third world to gain liberation are vital tasks for progressives in the period ahead. In terms of domestic politics, there are five key spearheads of struggle.
First, we need to defend of our standard of living. Bush’s economic policies mean that we are in the midst of a protracted attack on our standard of living, including attacks on wages and working conditions. Key battlegrounds include beating back concessions in the unions, health care and budget cuts. Successful resistance requires a movement stronger than the one that currently exists, as well as building unity between the organized and unorganized sections of the working class.
Second, we need to fight against racist attacks and national oppression. Because the U.S. is a white supremacist country, all of the attacks on poor and working people have a greater impact on oppressed nationalities. We can expect a continuation and intensification of racist attacks. These attacks take many forms: police brutality, further attacks on already-gutted affirmative action policies, the continued policy of incarceration of oppressed nationalities, wrongful imprisonment, and attacks on public and bilingual education. Key battlefronts in this area include the movements against police terror and immigrants’ rights.
Third, we need to defend democratic rights. The new red squads operate under the moniker of Joint Terrorism Task Forces. They are active in many cities, with local, state and federal agents colluding to take away the rights of political activists. Police repression of political groups is more obvious and more sophisticated, particularly with the implementation of the Patriot Act.
The struggle to preserve civil liberties intersects in many places with the struggle to defend immigrants’ rights and against national oppression. This, combined with the importance of preserving space for open political struggle, will make it an important front in the coming period.
Fourth, as shown in the elections, the continuing struggle to expand democratic rights for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (Queer) people will take a prominent role in the coming period. The primary battleground for this struggle will be the issue of marriage rights.
Finally, there has as been a stepped-up attack on women’s reproductive freedoms. The future promises a sharp battle over the next appointments to the Supreme Court, with a real possibility of issue being fought out state by state.
Victory is Certain
In the final analysis, Bush and company represent a small handful of people - the rich and powerful. This fact is recognized by a substantial section of the American people, who are eager to fight back. They hate Bush and deeply resent the direction the county is moving in. It is vital that the anti-Bush movement stay mobilized and determined to fight.
We are heading into a period of struggle on a large scale. The Bush agenda will meet with complete and total defeat. It’s an agenda that is anti-people in every respect. As such it has the capacity to do the exact opposite of what Bush and has wealthy backers want - our opposition to his plans and practice can unite the many to defeat the few.