Recently the St. Louis Post-Dispatch printed an article about President Bush’s standing in Missouri. According to the Post-Dispatch, the president isn’t very popular. In fact, Bush has found himself in “politically unfriendly territory.”

The article went on to say, “a majority of likely voters in Missouri now view the president unfavorably.” The main reason — the war in Iraq. Fifty-four percent of likely voters said they did not think the war in Iraq was worth it. Sixty percent of likely voters are calling for at least some troops to come home. And only 6 percent of Missourians think the war has made America safer.

These are pretty amazing numbers and in many ways indicate a sea change in voter opinion. Bush carried Missouri in 2000 and 2004. But if these numbers are any indication of things to come, the Republicans are going to have a hard time winning Missouri in 2008. More urgently though, it also means that Missouri’s progressive forces have an opportunity — a little extra breathing room — as we gear up for the mid-term elections.

In many ways, this is the political opportunity we’ve been waiting for. While right-wing Republicans, blinded by their ideological arrogance and war-mongering, go on the defensive, chanting “stay the course” or some other nonsense, progressive forces — unions, community groups, people of color — can go on the offensive and take initiative. They can reframe the terms of the debate, raise the issues and push Democrats to take a pro-peace, antiwar, bring-the-troops-home stance.

But that’s not all. The Republican agenda in Missouri is more bankrupt than ever. Matt “Baby” Blunt, Missouri’s governor, cut over 100,000 Missourians off Medicare, slashed the education budget, and repealed state workers’ right to organize into a union. And many union voters think he will support “Right to Work” legislation if it is introduced again. So on domestic issues too, Missourians are ready for a change.

On at least one issue, the writing is already on the wall. This past April the Give Missourians a Raise Coalition, consisting of the Service Employees International Union, Missouri Pro-Vote, Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and other organizations, started a campaign to get Missouri’s minimum wage increased from $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour, adjustable for inflation. They needed to collect 93,000 signatures by early May. In a little over five weeks the coalition collected 210,000 signatures from registered voters.

If working-class voters come out in November, it’s likely that Missouri’s minimum wage workers will get a much-needed raise. And, according to the coalition, the minimum wage vote will increase democratic U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill’s vote 3-4 percent above right-wing Republican candidate Jim Talent’s. The outcome of that race can make a huge difference on the national scene as well.

A lot of work still needs to be done. We’re only about four months out. Unions, community groups, people of color, and others are beginning to identify, educate and mobilize their base while building unity with other progressive forces. This is the only way we can defeat the ultra-right. Let’s shift the political balance of forces and take back our country.

Tony Pecinovsky (tonypec@pww.org) is the district staff person for the Communist Party in Missouri and Kansas.

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