I’m not one who thinks elections don’t matter nor do I believe they are diversions from making fundamental change. In 2008, the election changed the political landscape for the better and opened the possibility for great change.
In 2010, the extreme right gained the momentum, won elections in many states, elected a majority in the House and has since been able to advance much of its political agenda.
The class struggle, rather than stopping during an election, actually intensifies. In this election the most reactionary section of the 1 percent is making a big push to advance its political agenda. When we consider this and the fact that not all progressive forces who could have been involved in 2010 were involved, we see the urgency of bringing all progressive forces into motion in 2012.
Obama has made some bad policy moves, but he does not see eye to eye with the Republican policy, and most of the 1 percent wants the first African American president defeated in the worst way. This battle is bigger than Obama the candidate. The issues involved are critical to the fight for democracy and advancing the class struggle.
The AFL-CIO understands what’s at stake. Even though they have disagreements with some of Obama’s policies, they are jumping into this election with both feet. Their recent announcement that they would put 400,000 union members in the field going door-to-door talking to working families all across the country is crucial to defeating the right danger in November. This massive grassroots crusade to convince working families to go to the polls and vote their class interest is just what is needed. Four hundred thousand union workers going door-to-door educating and organizing for a big vote and talking face-to-face with millions of working and middle-class families can have a tremendous impact. Door-to-door and face-to-face they will have to challenge racist and anti-working-class ideas that are fostered by the extreme right. The great thing about an army of 400,000 workers going door-to-door is that it will not only potentially bring people to the polls but will have a long-term positive impact on the ongoing fight for economic and social justice.
The national civil rights organizations also understand what is at stake. The black vote could be over 80 percent for Obama and against the Republicans. Latinos and youth and students should be a landslide for the president too. But for these things to happen, work must be done.
Recently, hundreds of thousands all across the country have taken to the streets to protest the cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin. They forced the final arrest and indictment of Zimmerman.
This was a huge victory and at the press conference one of the speakers connected justice for Trayvon with a call for massive voter registration. The fight for Trayvon is connected closely, of course, to the fight against racist “stand your ground” legislation in 25 states and this connects to the struggle against the American Legislative Exchange Council, the extreme right-wing outfit that has produced boilerplate legislation for every right-wing cause in the country. People in the movement for justice for Trayvon Martin understand these connections.
We can expect that this will have an impact on the coming elections. People can see the great human tragedy resulting from the racist obsession with guns and vigilantism being pushed by the right wing, especially since Obama’s election.
The recent racist shooting spree in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and so many other police and non-police acts of racist violence and killings are related to the racist atmosphere created by an ultra-right determined to defeat Obama. The growth of violence in black and Latino communities has and continues to be rooted in poverty, joblessness and structural racism, and none of this was even mentioned in all those Republican presidential debates. They failed to mention it because it is their policies that contributed to the creation of the crisis conditions.
The movement for justice for Trayvon Martin is part of a pre-election democratic surge against the right, and anti-racism is a powerful mobilizing force in this epic battle.
In 2008 many voters went to the polls in great numbers to protest the racist policies of the Bush administrations, especially after Katrina. This November millions of all races and nationalities will see the elections as a way to protest the political complicity of the Republicans in the rise in gun violence, the many cases of police and civilian killings of people of color.
Just last week the 99 percent movement organized the training of 100,000 activist for the 99% Spring Actions protesting the 1 percent.
Black and Latino, civil rights and immigrant rights groups are mobilizing thousands to do voter registration and education.
Women’s organizations are also organizing to bring out a large vote, spurred on by the Republican attacks on reproductive rights and women’s equality in general. The women’s vote potentially is the largest part of the anti-right-wing vote. “Rock the Vote” and other voter education and registration campaigns aimed at youth are also being initiated. The LGBT organizations are in motion as well. And a new national movement is taking on the attempt of the Republicans to suppress the vote.
Most of these groups are pushing against the main agenda of the extreme right. While they have real differences with aspects of President Obama’s policy, they understand that the main danger is the right danger.
At the same time there are many basic issues that they see eye-to-eye with the president on. They will vote against the right-wing opposition but they must be prepared to continue the struggle on their issues in the post-election.
In the case of the groundbreaking Occupy Wall Street Movement, which is an amalgamation of different political trends, even with a vocal anti-Obama trend in their ranks, their main issues of concern and actions are actually in harmony with much of Obama’s agenda.
When you put together what all of these groups are doing to defeat the right-wing agenda, you see a broad grassroots nationwide movement come to life. And that is what is needed to build the unity and people power necessary to deliver a strategic victory for the people in November.
This is a basic part of the big picture politically.
The way to not repeat what happened in 2010 is to keep up the pressure (based on issues) in the post-election.
Some are saying they are “tired of supporting the Democratic Party,” and that they want to work for a third party now.
A lot of people are impatient, myself included. Impatience is a normal human feeling to have. But if it leads to any form of withdrawal or marginalization or boycotting the coming historic election struggle, it is not in harmony with what broad progressive masses are doing today.
The broad democratic/left/progressive forces are getting there but they are not at the point where it is possible to build a national people’s party capable of competing and winning national elections while holding the neo-fascists at bay. Especially in presidential elections we have to deal with the real relationship of forces today.
If Obama is defeated it will not speed up progressive change. In 1932, if Herbert Hoover would have defeated FDR, would that have sped up the establishment of the New Deal? I don’t think so.
On the other hand, what those 400,000 organized workers and hundreds of thousands of others who are fighting to maximize the vote against the Republicans are doing will make a huge contribution to the advancement not just of effective immediate actions but of real political independence over the long range. A progressive third party capable of democratizing the electoral system, winning public office, holding the extreme right at bay while building a viable democratic pro-people presence in every state cannot succeed without the whole-hearted inclusion of forces like those 400,000 workers going door-to-door.
What is going on today is building a necessary political foundation for transforming our country into an advanced democratic nation.
Victory will be ours but we must lay the foundation for it and this cannot be done through propaganda and agitation alone. It requires the mobilization and organization of millions.
These mass organizations understand this. And again, despite the fact that they don’t agree with Obama on every point, they know they must act against the main danger.
If the right loses the majority in the U.S. House and does not win the White House, it will open up the possibility of positive change especially if the movement continues after the election. Frustrations and some real short-comings aside, the united multi-racial labor and people’s movement has a winning strategy. They understand that the solution to making big changes in the future lies in changes we can make today.
Photo: President Obama speaks at Southern Maine Community College, March, 30, in Portland, Maine. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP