With a note of defiance, leaders of the broad democratic movement vowed a determined fightback against George W. Bush’s extreme right-wing agenda in a second term.
While soberly reflecting on the gains of the Republican right in the Nov. 2 election, they rejected calls for retreat or compromise.
“We will never give up,” said Kim Gandy, president of the 250,000-member National Organization for Women. “We must fight back against Bush’s regressive policies on every issue. Now is not the time to be timid. We must not give in to an agenda that endangers our rights, our freedoms, our liberty, and our lives.”
Gandy hailed the women’s equality movement and its allies for their efforts in turning out 56 million votes against Bush-Cheney. She urged a grassroots effort to block any Supreme Court nominee or cabinet member “who would deny our rights and liberties” and called on senators to filibuster Bush nominees who would turn back the clock on women’s equality.
Referring to the one-million-strong march on Washington last April 25, she added, “We must continue to march for women’s lives across the country — expanding our million marchers into millions of voices speaking up for women’s rights.”
Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, also sounded that undefeated note in a post-election interview at the federation headquarters. “This was the biggest election mobilization we have ever had,” he told the World. It included 250,000 union volunteers and 5,000 staff working full time across the nation, with 78,000 volunteers in four battleground states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.
“Working people make this nation work,” Trumka said. “The problem is that the nation isn’t working for working people. That’s why it was so easy to mobilize union members in this election. They are looking for someone who will stand up for them against the corporate interests.”
George Kourpias, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, praised the thousands of ARA volunteers who pounded the pavement to get out the vote. He warned of “difficult days ahead for older Americans,” citing Bush’s threat to privatize Social Security. “The Alliance and its allies will not allow this to happen,” Kourpias said. “We will continue to lead the fight to protect a Social Security system that provides guaranteed benefits … for comprehensive health care seniors can depend on through Medicare, including affordable and accessible prescription drugs.”
Tony Fransetta, president of the 118,000-member Florida ARA, told the World that, while Bush won by pandering to the Christian right on wedge issues like gay marriage, “now he wants to spend his political capital on issues that are completely different, like privatizing Social Security.” With these policies, said Fransetta, “the rich will get even richer and the poor will fight to hold onto what they’ve got.”
“True religious values look after the well-being of all God’s children, the poor and the disabled, not just the rich and powerful,” he commented.
Democratic presidential contender Rev. Al Sharpton warned that Bush will try to “erode some of the gains we made under the civil rights movement and he clearly will have economic policies that will reward the rich.”
“If there ever was a time that we had to gear up activism and put pressure on Congress like we’ve never done before, now is the time,” Sharpton said.
The fightback mood resonated in the peace movement. Veterans for Peace (VFP), Military Families Speak Out and others scheduled protest marches, rallies, and vigils on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, as the bloody U.S. assault on Fallujah contnued in Iraq. VFP planned a vigil at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where hundreds of wounded GIs are being treated. Patrick McCann, a spokesperson for VFP and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, told the World, “People feel bummed out by the elections. Many are angry. They are looking for someone to step out and provide some leadership. Who better than veterans? We are building a very positive, strong movement against this war.”
League of Conservation Voters President Deb Callahan said, “While we are deeply disappointed in the results in the presidential race … we are enormously proud of the fact that LCV won seven of eight congressional races where we invested significant resources. … In total, nearly 90 percent of our endorsed congressional candidates were victorious.” In Illinois LCV helped elect Melissa Bean to a House seat and played a major role in Senator-elect Barack Obama’s primary victory with an aggressive ad campaign based on clean air issues. “We will not rest until all three branches of our government are represented by pro-environmental public servants,” Callahan said.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, warned that the religious right, crowing that they were key to Bush’s victory, are demanding payback. “We’re not about to roll over and play dead,” Lynn said. “Millions of Americans oppose the theocratic agenda of the religious right. Bush’s victory in a close race by no means gives him a mandate to knock down the church-state wall.”
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