Commentary

Republican right-wing control of all branches of federal government on behalf of the biggest corporate and military monopolies is a most dangerous step back for economic and labor rights, democratic and civil rights and peace. The warning light is flashing.

While Bush and the Republicans claimed, on the campaign trail, to be concerned about issues affecting working people, not a moment has been lost post-election to push through a pro-corporate, pro-military, anti-worker agenda. The first step was denial of union rights for workers covered under Homeland Security. On the drawing boards are plans to privatize 850,000 government workers’ jobs, right-wing judicial appointments, and the war.

Every aspect of life is up for struggle. For the millions and growing of unemployed, the struggle is how to put food on the table and keep a roof over the head. For seniors it is the choice between medicine and heat. For workers, it is the right to a union. For immigrants, it is the right to be treated equally. For young people, it is the chance for an education and the fear of being killed at war. For the whole world, it is saving the planet from nuclear destruction.

The Bush administration and the media portray this election as a Republican sweep. A deeper look shows that the election results are not all in one direction. They are close and quite varied, including some significant victories, especially at the local level.

As Rep. John Conyers put it on November 6, “Political cross-dressing has provided the Republican Party no mandate for a radical conservative agenda” of tax cuts for the rich, judicial appointments and tort reform.

This was generally a very low turnout election, 39 percent overall, although in some states it was considerably higher. Less than 20,000 votes decided control of the Senate. Less than 20 percent of the electorate voted for Republican candidates. Nearly as many voted against, and far more stayed home, underscoring the lack of a mandate for the Republican right-wing agenda.

There is a big struggle underway within the Democratic Party as a result of the lack of a frontal attack on the Bush program in this election, including the divided votes on the tax cut and the war. There is discussion within the labor movement as well. Mark Anderson of the Food and Allied Trades said, “If anything, this election should demonstrate to those people who want to be centrists that it’s a failed tactic.” John Sweeney says, “we (labor) are going to drive an agenda.”

Nancy Pelosi’s election as House Minority leader is a result of the closeness of the contested races, the large votes received by most members of the Progressive Caucus, and grass roots pressure from a section of Democrats who are demanding a strong, opposition program to the Bush agenda, including the AFL-CIO, NOW, the Congressional Black Caucus, and groups like Progressive Majority, Voices4Change and MoveOn.

The labor movement and the organizations of the nationally and racially oppressed and women, in particular were mobilized.

The AFL-CIO targeted 25 Governors, 16 Senators, 47 members of Congress, and dozens of state legislators for support. 17 million leaflets were distributed at work sites. 5 million phone calls were made at phone banks. 15 million pieces of mail were sent to members’ homes. 750 staff members were assigned to the effort. 4000 political coordinators volunteered their time. On election day, there were 225,000 volunteers on the street. This includes the Alliance of Retired Americans.

In the battleground races, 72 percent of union members voted for the Democratic candidate. Thousands of union activists traveled to these key election districts to aid volunteers from local unions and other organizations get the message out and speak with voters.

Black churches and organizations like the NAACP had active voter drives across the country. In anticipation of election day problems, several hotlines were set up on Nov. 5 by the NAACP national rapid response team, People for the American Way and the National Coalition on Black Civil Participation.

Southwest Voter Project registered 20,000 new Latino voters in eight states: Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and California. Their Get Out the Vote project reached 253,729 voters, with a goal of 60 percent turnout among Latinos.

In South Dakota, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) was re-elected by a slim 524 vote margin. Returns from the Pine Ridge reservation put him over the top against Bush-picked candidate Rep. John Thune. During the summer, 4,000 new Indian voters had registered, and voter turnout was up 20 percent, based on the issues of sovereignty and economic needs.

NOW endorsed candidates, and participated in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives in all key states. In Portland, Maine where Chellie Pingree ran for Senate, the NAACP, League of Untied Latin American Citizens, Peace Action Maine, Health 2000, American Muslim Society and Asian American Heritage Association all sponsored voter drives this fall.

All this political mobilization is the foundation for the massive organizing that is now on the order of the day. As Kim Gandy, president of NOW, said, “This election is a clarion call to everyone who values peace and wants a just and fair society for themselves and their children – we must join together with each other and with brave allies to defend fundamental human and civil rights and to renew our dream of full equality. We have faced and beaten formidable odds before, and we will do no less now. We must mobilize and organize as if our lives and the futures of our children and families depended on it. They do. And as our numbers double, watch out, George Bush – here comes trouble!”

Joelle Fishman is the chairwoman of the Communist Party’s Political Action Commission. The commentary is based on her report to the CPUSA’s National Committee, which will be published in serial form. She can be reached at joelle.fishman@pobox.com

PDF version of ‘Elections show need to organize, organize, organize’

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