Elections in the United States are never as simple as they appear on the surface. A number of things have to be taken into account.

Of all the countries that are considered political democracies, the United States has the most restrictive and complicated electoral laws. The two major parties – Democratic and Republican – are accorded special status in all elections. These laws aim to restrict choices to the narrowest of possibilities.

Choices are further constricted by the huge role of large sums of money in elections. While the financial oligarchy contributes to both of these parties, it contributes most heavily to the Republican Party because it makes the fewest concessions to the people.

Another factor is that the media is controlled by a handful of corporate monopolies that are part of the corporate-military axis. In the main, they decide what to print and what slant to give it.

The Democratic Party, mostly controlled by the corporate monopolies, is the party that makes the greater concessions to people’s needs. For that reason, it has its mass base among the people, starting with the labor movement and the movements for racial and gender equality. Experience has shown that formal independence without this base in the people is an exercise in futility. A successful party independent of monopoly capital’s control will depend on this mass base, and, first of all, the labor movement and other democratic movements – those for peace, equality, women’s rights, protecting the environment, etc. Without the leading role of the organized sector of the working class, which embodies men and women of all the races and national groupings in our country, there can be no successful, effective third party.

While labor and other people’s movements have not opted for such a party, they have moved toward greater political independence. Labor has its own electoral apparatus in COPE, which ruling circles are trying to restrict as much as possible. It is pressing to elect more and more workers to public office, and has put forward the slogan “Vote like a worker,” which points to fighting for people’s needs. More and more, it champions programs for racial and gender equality, the defense of Social Security and Medicare and the environment, etc.

One of the greatest challenges in the struggle for true political independence is the large number of non-voters. They are justifiably upset that there seems to be so little done that serves their needs. But abstention only strengthens the far right with its savage drive for power, property and profits through war, repression and brutal assault on democracy and even the most elementary needs of the people. Non-voters need to be won to join in building the increasingly effective movements of labor and its allies.

The Bush administration and the Republican Party menace people’s programs. They are moving toward endless war, with Iraq next on their agenda, greater and greater repression, undermining and curtailing democracy, cynically using the terrible tragedy of Sept. 11 as a cover for their aim of total corporate-military domination both at home and abroad.

Their aim is to control the key raw resource of our era, oil, as basic to subjecting the rest of the world to the corporate-military axis, along with military bases all over the world to meet any kind of challenge, even from its “allies” – that is, the other imperialist countries – all at the expense of the American taxpayer and the lives of ordinary people. This is characteristic of modern imperialism, as Lenin pointed out.

This is why the key task today is to defeat their drive for total control. They are a danger to the American people and all humanity. They cynically use the issue of fighting terrorism to further their own agenda.

Indeed, terrorism must be fought and dealt with by all nations of the world through the U.N. But for George Bush, who didn’t even get a plurality of votes in 2000, to assume the “great leader” mantle – proclaiming without evidence who is a terrorist and labeling those who challenge his policies as unpatriotic – is not the way.

Terrorism cannot be defeated just by trying to repress it. You also have to deal with the underlying conditions. The organizers of terrorism demogogically use these conditions to recruit people angry with their conditions and who don’t see another way to fight to improve their lives and those of their countrymen.

Thus, the 2002 elections are vital to defend democracy by defeating this drive. That requires the broadest possible fight, involving temporarily even those sectors of the ruling class who realize the danger of the Bush administration’s go-it-alone policies.

Only by defeating the most dangerous and extreme rightwingers – the Bush administration and its supporters – can we move to the next stage of the struggle. Any effort, no matter how well intentioned, that does not take on this great and immediate danger weakens the fight for a future without war, terrorism and repression. It complicates the struggle for democracy and programs of the people.

Arnold Becchetti is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA and a member of its Education Commission. He can be reached at pww@pww.org