Big political shifts are under way

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The yearning in our country for a new direction and new priorities has taken hold in the 2008 elections. Voters turned out in record numbers for the primaries, propelled by economic necessity and determination to end the war, and inspired by the historic breakthrough of a woman or an African American as a major party candidate for president.

Voters of all races and nationality backgrounds and all walks of life, young and old, women, men, union members and unorganized, flooded the polls, undeterred by the constant corporate media barrage of racism, sexism and divisive tactics which might have suppressed the vote.

When Barack Obama surpassed the 2,118 delegates required for nomination, his unity appeal and outreach to Clinton supporters deeply touched the country and was greeted around the world.

Unity — especially unity of African American, Latino and white voters, women and men — will have to be fought for and forged anew, broadened out and deepened in this new phase of the battle to defeat McCain and the corporate ultra-right in Congress.

The choice is clear — stay with the Bush-McCain race to the bottom or come together and raise up the whole country with a landslide defeat of the Republican ultra-right.

Sounding like Grover Norquist, McCain speaks of never-ending war and shrinking government, privatizing services and cutting funds for human needs. In sharp contrast, Obama speaks of strengthening government to provide health care and jobs, address global warming and end the war in Iraq.

Obama’s program is not radical. Left and progressive voters will push for a stronger break from corporate control. This should not be cause for pulling back, but rather for greater involvement.

A landslide vote that is organized to stay in motion after the elections can challenge the demands that Wall Street and military interests will make on the new administration. Obama has shown he is ready to listen.

Big political shifts are under way. When Democracy Corps surveyed 45 congressional districts that voted Republican with big margins in 2004 and 2006, they found the majority of voters now plan to vote Democratic. Like the whole country, these voters are beleaguered by rising prices, rising death tolls in the war, rising unemployment and the inability of their state and local governments to maintain basic services due to federal budget cuts.

The big battles in Congress on war funding, Iran, children’s health care, extending unemployment benefits and immigration are connected to the elections. If the pressure is kept on, vulnerable Republicans and some conservative Democrats may be forced to change their votes or lose re-election.

But the business community has raised record sums and is also mobilizing with divisive messages against workers’ rights and civil rights.

During the primaries unions made different endorsements. The labor movement now has a pivotal role to unify and mobilize working families and their communities for November.

Thousands of grassroots union volunteers are already in motion as part of the largest-in-history labor mobilization, visiting co-workers to talk about the issues with the “McCain Revealed” program.

The Obama campaign, drawing upon the candidate’s community organizing experience, is also looking toward the grassroots. Unity for Change house parties across the country on June 28 will bring neighbors together for voter registration and getting out the vote.

A national coalition of peace and economic rights organizations is also gearing up for grassroots voter registration and mobilization.

Planned Parenthood Action is launching a One Million Strong Know McCain campaign with house parties June 14-20.

A host of creative projects to expose McCain’s record are being launched online.

African American, Latino and youth voters who could be decisive in this election are gearing up.

All these efforts can involve new activists, build for the landslide and take up top issues of concern.

As AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker told the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists convention, “This election cannot be only about John McCain’s failings. It must be about working people’s vision — our vision of a new direction for our country. A vision that includes universal health care, the elimination of poverty, good jobs and the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act … [W]e are going to spark a movement of those who are ready to make their voices heard in shaping the new America we must build together — and we are going collect our debt this November.”

The Communist Party USA’s emergency program to repair, renew and rebuild America is a contribution toward this effort. It is available at www.cpusa.org.

Joelle Fishman (joelle.fishman @pobox.com) chairs the Communist Party USA Political Action Commission and is also chair of the Connecticut Communist Party.