The stakes in the 2002 elections couldn’t be higher – nor the outcome less certain, with 47 seats in the House and nine in the Senate seen as “toss-ups.” But we’ve learned one thing: Beware the racist politics of division and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” as Nov. 5 approaches.
The Bush Republicans are beating the war drums louder and louder in a frenzied effort to drown out the pain and suffering of hungry children, jobless parents and seniors unable to afford needed medicines. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd called this strategy “the worst kind of election-year politics.”
The rightwing does not want this mid-term election to be a referendum on the Bush administration policies. Instead, they want them portrayed as a collection of individual races, fought out in the context of a country at war.
They know if the rightwing loses control of the House and seats in the Senate, Bush will have a harder time pushing through a unilateral war against Iraq and a Department of Homeland Security with unlimited powers, and will derail Bush’s plans to use armed forces as scabs in case West Coast dock workers strike.
The White House is certainly aware of the steady decline in public support of their policies, of concerns about a war on Iraq and about abridgment of constitutional rights. Especially, there is anger and distrust at corporate looting of workers’ pensions, health care and jobs.
Yet, the voice of the voters is coming through.
At the Justice Department, Rev. Jesse Jackson rallied with the AFL-CIO, the National Organization of Women and others to challenge Attorney General John Ashcroft’s attacks on democratic rights, including the warehousing of African-American youth in prisons at home, and plans to send them abroad to die in a war for oil .
As a result of all the questions asked about the Bush war policy at Iowa coffee klatches and New Hampshire town hall meetings, Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean changed his position to question the war on Iraq.
On Sept. 19, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and 18 members of Congress announced their opposition to Bush’s request for unlimited power to wage war against Iraq.
They say their counter-resolution, calling for cooperation with the United Nations, is much closer to the feelings of their constituents.
An even louder outcry can forestall sending troops to Iraq and, at the same time, solidify the national mood to defeat a Republican majority in both the House and Senate.
After having seized the White House in 2000, there’s no telling what the corporate ultra-right will do to capture the House and Senate this year. They have opted to divide and conquer in an effort to woo as may unions away from the AFL-CIO’s Labor 2002 campaign.
As Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, warned, “There is a deliberate plan on behalf of the [Bush] administration to try and divide the AFL-CIO and separate some of the unions away from the House of Labor.”
It’s no wonder. Labor 2002, with its thousands of flyers, phone calls and union-member-to-union-member home visits has the potential of reaching every union worker on the issues, and a get out the vote campaign on Nov. 5 that will change the balance in Congress.
There are parallel campaigns in the African-American and Latino communities and by organizations of women, seniors, youth, environmentalists and family-farm organizations. This alliance is key to winning universal health care, union rights and living wage jobs. But the rightwing has a specific approach toward creating divisions and breaking off the historically progressive African-American vote.
The dirty deed was carried out in Alabama and Georgia when Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who had spoken out for a just peace in the Middle East, were targeted. With the complicity of some Democratic leaders who backed her opposition, plus a national mobilization of right-wing Zionist forces and a vicious media campaign, 40,000 Republicans crossed over to vote in the democratic primary and unseat McKinney.
Cynthia McKinney serves on the Armed Services and International Relations committees. She asked the common sense question on many minds – shouldn’t there be an investigation into the facts surrounding September 11? As a result of that question, many disturbing facts are now being brought into the light of day.
“Throughout my career,” said McKinney, post-election, “ we have proudly brought Blacks and whites, Asians and Latinos together. … as we continue to speak out … on behalf of those who are sick and tired of greed being more important than human needs, my supporters will be right there.”
The end of right-wing control of Congress is the single most urgent task before the people’s movement, in order to put a brake on Bush’s unending war abroad and at home. Every race is critical. Every vote counts. Every action, no matter how small, counts.
Joelle Fishman is the chairwoman of the Communist Party’s Political Action Commission. The author can be reached at email@example.com