The president may be down in the polls, but his policies are still in place and moving forward. The situation reminds me of the old Texas saying, “That rattlesnake may be hurt, but it still can bite.”

This administration cares nothing for public opinion. The only thing it understands is power. It wants to keep it and grab more. The democratic movements have to wrench some of that power out of its hands this fall, and they have to be savvy — they cannot allow racism, vote suppression, cronyism and thug-tactics to steal another election.

The only thing that can blunt Bush’s neoconservative agenda is to change Congress from GOP to Democratic control, thereby shifting the political balance of forces. That would put the working class and democratic forces on far better footing for the struggles to come after Nov. 7.

A tall order, but possible, and necessary. What is the alternative? The continuation of the Bush agenda? Let’s take a glance at what that would look like.

Sticking to pre-emptive war

Last month the administration released an update to its 2002 “national security strategy.” The 2002 strategy came on the heels of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when the president was riding the highest approval ratings of his administration — some 80-90 percent. It outlined a new U.S. foreign policy of unilateral and pre-emptive war — placing the U.S. as judge, jury and executioner in world affairs, implementing a shoot-first, ask-questions-later policy. The 2002 security strategy targeted Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the main enemies, along with a number of other countries including Cuba. The pre-emption and unilateralism policy laid the basis for the quagmire that is Iraq — and Afghanistan too.

The 2006 National Security Strategy — ignoring the fact that the president is in the basement public opinion-wise — reconfirms the reckless unilateral and pre-emptive war policy. “We fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to arrive in our country. We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it,” the president said in introducing the update.

Agenda steamrolls on

The 2006 document says, “We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.” The Bush administration is building towards an attack on Iran. Their philosophy is: handle a problem by making it worse. This administration is not backing down an inch, and not just on foreign policy. At the Food and Drug Administration the neoconservatives and the Christian Coalition are holding the “morning after pill” hostage. The Interior Department is on overdrive processing big business permits for oil drilling on federal land. The Bush neo-con agenda steamrolls on. If its control of Congress continues, it will be emboldened to go even further.

Capitalism’s vanguard

To those on the left who say, “It’s the capitalist system that has to be fought. The Democrats also support capitalism,” I ask, “How can you defeat capitalism if you can’t defeat its vanguard — the Bush administration?”

The Bush agenda is capitalism on steroids. It is carrying out a forced march of global corporate capitalism through the barrel of the gun. Bush’s new national security strategy offers platitudes about democracy and freedom. But the basic “freedom” that it is concerned about is the freedom to exploit, otherwise known as free enterprise, “free trade” and “free markets.” This is their definition of “democracy.”

Private property is ultra-right’s ‘moral imperative’

The 2006 security update seeks to “ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade.” The document proclaims: “The liberty to create and build or to buy, sell, and own property is fundamental to human nature and foundational to a free society.” This economic “freedom” is presented as a “moral imperative,” to be imposed by unilateral military might.

The strategy calls for reforming Iraq’s economy “based on market principles” (i.e. eliminate public ownership and control of oil and other sectors). It pledges to advance this agenda through global corporate arrangements like the Middle East Free Trade Area — launched — when, you ask? — in 2003, the same year as the invasion of Iraq.

For trade unionists, farmers, students and environmentalists around the world and in our own country, “free trade” is synonymous with a global race to the bottom for wages, working conditions, environmental protection, democratic rights and other decent hard-won living standards. Yes, some Democrats are pro-free trade. But they are also more inclined to be influenced by and responsive to the people’s movements. And that’s what the most reactionary section of the U.S. ruling class doesn’t want. Capitalism faces some major challenges, and this group wants the must ruthless, dedicated enforcers in the driver’s seat. That’s why it’s backing the GOP.

A political defeat for the Republicans — the vanguard party of 21st century capitalism — means a setback to their militarist corporate-state global project and a necessary step for the working class and allies to advance the agenda of democracy and social and economic progress.

Terrie Albano (talbano@pww.org) is editor of the People’s Weekly World.

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