Editorial

This is a deeply divided country. Out of some 114 million votes, George W. Bush garnered just over 3 million more than John Kerry. Bush will claim a mandate for his extremist agenda. Hell, he claimed a mandate when he grabbed the White House in 2000 by one Supreme Court justice vote. But the reality is at least half the country is against him.

We will not fully analyze the results here. Questions of what happened and how to move ahead will be the subject of discussion, probing and sober analysis for weeks to come. Certainly the right-wing control of so-called “moral” issues will have to figure large in the conversations.

All the new voters, the young people and especially the voters who waited in extraordinarily long lines to cast their ballots, should be congratulated. Determined to make sure “every vote counts,” many people waited hours, sometimes in the rain. Some reports said voters were still voting in the wee hours of the morning on Nov. 3 because the election apparatus couldn’t handle the turnout. Is this any way to handle elections? Voter suppression, dirty tricks and possible vote theft are major concerns. How can the GOP say it wants to promote democracy and free elections in Iraq and Afghanistan when it actively works to suppress the Black, Latino and minority vote here? Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice did not enforce hard-won voting rights but stood idly by while vigilantes intimidated voters. The two major “Election Protection” hotlines received 400,000 complaints. Why is it left up to grassroots organizations to enforce federal laws?

Every vote must be counted. The blood, sweat and tears that went into winning the right to vote for all demand that.

These systemic problems with our most cherished democratic right, including the lack of uniformity from state to state, county to county, precinct to precinct, need to be addressed in a serious, democratic way and remedied on the federal level.

The election results were a setback for our nation and the struggles for labor and civil rights, peace, democracy and equality. It’s important to remember, at times like these, the insightful words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “The moral arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Every righteous movement has had setbacks. From our country’s revolutionary birth to our second revolution to end slavery, in the struggles to expand voting rights, legalize unions and fight fascism, setbacks have happened. Yet the movements carried on. We can do no less today.

While the results were a setback, a magnificent, progressive, grassroots electoral movement has been born. With the labor movement as its backbone, it encompasses women, African Americans, young people, Latinos, environmentalists, Native Americans, civil rights groups, Asian and Arab Americans, seniors, religious people, Internet activists, artists and first-time voters. They came together to wrest our country back from the grip of a small group of far-right extremists. This new grassroots movement did heroic work. It couldn’t win yet against the fear, racism, sexism, homophobia, terrorism and corporate power the powerful far right group wields, which influenced significant numbers of people.

We need to nurture and build this new, progressive movement, in a wider and deeper struggle against the Bush agenda. We can’t give them an inch. This new administration will try to remake the already conservative Supreme Court in its more extreme image, setting back civil, labor and women’s rights for years to come. It will continue to erase the separation of church and state. It will pursue policies that fatten corporations’ profit margins. It will try to continue endless wars, invasions, torture and regime changes. They will continue to lie. It will continue to cut social programs, education, deny people health care and living wages. They will continue trampling democratic rights and the Constitution.

We have our work cut out for us. A wise man once asked, “Why do workers struggle?” And then answered, “Because they have to.” We struggle because we have no other choice. So the struggle continues. The most powerful tools the working class and allies have are unity and organization. We have to build on the “street heat” and unity we have developed in the struggle against this ultra-right vision and agenda.

During the last days of this incredible campaign battle, “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen rallied for Kerry and sang his hit song “No surrender.” Its refrain is a fitting end and direction for the struggles that lie ahead. In 2004 millions of anti-Bush, pro-Kerry Americans signed up to walk precincts, organize on issues these were actions that went beyond getting involved in a single election campaign. We were taking a stand for the future of this country and world.

“We made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, believe me, no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter’s night with a vow to defend
No retreat, believe me, no surrender”

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