The question has come up in conversations I’ve had recently: What kind of political animal is the Bush administration? Where does it fit on the political spectrum? What political label should we attach to it?
Here’s my opinion.
Given its aggressive, unilateral, and imperialist strategy of global domination, its policy of economic austerity, its attacks on labor, the racially oppressed, women, gays and lesbians, and other social groups, its subversion of democratic rights, and its sometimes deceptive, sometimes crude appeals to jingoism, anti-unionism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and fear — usually wrapped in the language of “fighting terrorism” — the Bush administration does not easily fit the category of a “normal” bourgeois democratic regime.
While it operates within the framework of a capitalist democracy, it is not typical or mainstream. It occupies a different point on the political spectrum than its predecessors or a future Kerry administration.
The Bush administration is not the same ole, same ole. In fact, I believe that its outlook and policies constitute a political rupture from earlier administrations. The rupture is not across-the-board, to be sure. Similarities exist with previous governments. But — and this is a big “but” — the ruptures are so significant, so substantial, that “conservative-authoritarian” is a more appropriate political characterization for this administration than “bourgeois democratic.”
While ideological notions drive every administration and its policy choices, this administration’s ideological outlook is extreme and representative of the most reactionary, militarist, anti-labor, anti-democratic, racist section of the transnational corporations. We can’t say that it is fascistic, but sometimes traces of fascist thinking are evident in its speeches and in its policies.
Capitalism is elastic enough to accommodate a considerable range of political regimes, stretching from antimonopoly to fascist. Thus, under capitalism, what kind of regime gains political ascendancy and what policies it pursues should be of great concern to every democratic-minded person. Just as it is a fatal and inexcusable mistake to blur over the differences between a regime under which democratic rights are freely (or relatively freely) exercised and a fascist regime in which open terrorist dictatorship substitutes for democratic rule, it is also exceedingly harmful to make no distinction between a liberal or centrist government and a conservative-authoritarian one.
The reason is simple: the political complexion of a government and the degree of democracy within a society create either a much more or much less favorable terrain on which to struggle for democratic rights, equality, and peace — not to mention working-class emancipation and socialism.
Thus, a Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum attitude toward presidential politics seldom makes any sense. But in current circumstances, when we face the prospect of the re-election of an administration that more easily fits the label of conservative-authoritarian than bourgeois democratic, and when we know that this administration would turn its re-election into a mandate to ramp up its plan for unrivaled dominance on a domestic and global level, such an attitude is simply ridiculous.
Thankfully, this attitude has practically no currency these days. Millions of people of diverse political persuasions realize that Bush is cut from a different political cloth than past presidents or his current opponent for the presidency, and that it’s imperative to evict him from his office.
Of course, it won’t be easy. Make no mistake about it: Bush, Cheney, and Rove are frothing at the mouth to extend their lease on the White House for another four years. But this election will be decided neither by the polls nor the mass media, nor the grasping for power of the Republican right, but by which side is able to turn out its supporters on Election Day. And that plays to our advantage. This election is ours to win!
Sam Webb is national chairperson of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.