UNITED STATES: Elections deliver more of the same
BY BARRY SHEPPARD
SAN FRANCISCO — The November 5 elections in the United States saw modest gains for the Republican Party, which now controls both houses of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate). However, the Congress remains essentially evenly divided between the Republicans and the Democrats.
The Republican gains are a result of two factors. One is the popularity of President George Bush and widespread support among most Americans for the "war on terrorism". There is less support for a war against Iraq, but there remains a majority in favour of that inevitable war. Towards the end of the campaign, Bush campaigned hard for Republican candidates running in close races and he campaigned strongly on the war issue.
The other factor was that the Democrats presented no alternative on the major issues confronting the country: the "war on terrorism" and the sagging economy. At one time, it could be said that there was a bipartisan foreign policy, but there were certain differences between the parties on domestic issues. In recent decades, however, the Democrats have moved to the right so that there is hardly any difference between the two capitalist parties on anything.
Right after September 11, an almost unanimous vote endorsed the Patriot Act, a sweeping and far-reaching attack on civil liberties. There was a similar bipartisan vote on billions more dollars for the military and to beef up the repressive forces at home. Almost all Democrats joined the Republicans to support the war on Afghanistan. And more recently, there was big bipartisan majority vote to give Bush the power to wage war on Iraq unilaterally and without further consultation with Congress.
We should recall that it was Democratic President Bill Clinton who pounced on the pretext of the bombings of two US embassies to enact, with bipartisan support, an "anti-terrorism" law in 1996 that paved the way for the Patriot Act.
It was also Clinton who first championed and pushed through "welfare reform". The Republicans want to take this further, but so far there have only been timid opposition voices in the wilderness among the Democrats. The huge tax cuts for the rich that will progressively take place in the next years were enacted with the support of the Democrats.
Some Democrats have opposed tax cuts on the grounds of being opposed to budget deficits, the position the Republicans held in the 1990s. Of course, cutting the taxes of working people would help the economy, but that's not what the Republicrats have in store for us.
The Republicans will push ahead with further cuts in social spending, with the support of enough Democrats to pass such measures. Some Democrats will attempt to explain away their "giving in" to the Republicans by pointing to the Republican's victory in the elections.
Underneath this basic bipartisan agreement is the drive by the ruling class to establish a New World Order, extending the US military, political and economic dominanation of the world. The war against Iraq is the next stepping stone along that path. Bush made this clear when he announced that Washington will not permit any nation to ever again match the US in military might. If any major Democratic figure has taken issue with this pronouncement, I have not heard about it.
At home, the New World Order means attacks on the rights, organisations and civil liberties of working people. For example, Bush is pushing for a new "Homeland Security Department" to put under one agency various police, intelligence and other agencies, creating a more efficient spy force. The only objection the Democrats have raised was that Bush wanted the power to hire and fire the civil service workers at the bottom of the new super-agency at will, in violation of civil service laws and union contracts. But then the Democrats agreed to a "compromise", where any worker Bush wants to fire or move to another agency may appeal for arbitration, but Bush will have the final say.
How far the drive toward the New World Order will get at home and abroad will depend on how much resistance gets mounted to it. We have to prepare for a long and perhaps arduous fight against the "endless war" our rulers are preparing for us.
There are some bright spots. The anti-war and pro-Palestinian demonstrations of tens of thousands in San Francisco and Washington DC last April pointed the way forward. Then there were the October 26 demonstrations against the impending war against Iraq of 75,000 in San Francisco and 100,000 in Washington. Demonstrations were held of thousands in many cities across the country that day. The following week, there was a demonstration of 25,000 in Boston against the war.
These demonstrators represent a minority opinion. When the war begins, there will be a reaction in the population to support it at first. Whether this support will erode depends on how fast a US victory comes, and the extent of US casualties. A quick victory for Washington will embolden the warmakers. If the US gets bogged down, and there are big demonstrations in the Arab and Islamic world, and in Europe, mass support will begin to wither.
Internationally, the big demonstrations in London, Florence, Melbourne and other places have given a boost to anti-war forces in the US.
Another bright spot was that the Green Party took an anti-war stand, and did better than previously in these elections. In Massachusetts, the Green candidate for governor spoke at the anti-war rally and got over 3% of the vote. In California, the other place I have details of the campaign, the Greens made substantial gains.
Peter Camejo was the Green candidate for governor of California. He spoke at the October 26 anti-war rally in San Francisco. He received 5.3% of the vote statewide, and that includes some pretty conservative areas. The places he got his highest vote were Mendocino county with 16.3% and San Francisco with 16%. In seven other counties he got over 10%. In San Francisco, Camejo beat out the Republican to come in number two.
One factor in Camejo's showing was that the Democratic and Republican candidates were so repulsive. Gray Davis, the incumbent Democratic governor, who was reelected, was up to his ears in money from Enron and others in the energy cartel that created the phoney energy crisis in 2000 and 2001. Davis was personally responsible for ripping off billions from the state treasury and donating it to the cartel. Davis' politics are to the right of Clinton's. The Republican, Bill Simon, was the candidate of the far right of the Republican Party.
But the character of the two major party candidates for governor was not the main factor for Camejo's showing. Others on the Green slate did well too.
Camejo's campaign broke new ground for the California Greens. He was well received in Latino communities, and not just for the fact that he is a Latino, but for the fact that he stood for bilingual education and against the racism Latinos have felt from the establishment, including Davis. Camejo had a lot of radio time on Spanish-speaking radio stations. His stand in favour of the rights of Mexican immigrant workers without papers was exemplified in his marching with 500 immigrants demanding their rights. At the rally following the march, he was the featured speaker.
He also was a featured speaker at a rally of some thousands of Muslims, mostly Pakistanis, to protest the racist treatment they have received since September 11.
Davis was so frightened of Camejo that he would not appear in the same room with him. There was only one televised debate between Davis and Simon. Not only did Davis say he would refuse to come to the debate if Camejo was also present, he demanded that Camejo not even be allowed in the building.
From Green Left Weekly, November 20, 2002.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.