Labor Advocate Online

Some Initial Thoughts On the Election
by Bill Onasch

Believe me, I share the pain of the Anybody But Bush movement. I know all too well what the next four years has in store for us. Now that he is a lame-duck, with no future elections of any kind to distract him, the occupant of the Oval Office can shed the few restraints that kept him and his merry band from going hog wild. It won’t be pretty.

I sympathize with and respect all those good union folk, civil rights activists, feminists, environmentalists, and peace partisans who devoted so much time, effort and money to try to oust the arguably most reactionary administration in history. They fought a good fight for the right motives. Bush’s victory cannot be blamed on them.

I was not part of this ABB movement. Granted, there are some differences between Bush and Kerry–though they are few and hardly fundamental. A persuasive case can be made that Bush was the worst of those two choices. But I believe the traditional acceptance of restricting choice to one of two Establishment evils has resulted in them being increasingly evil, their differences ever shrinking. No meaningful progress can be made until working people reject and replace this ritualized exercise in futility and failure.

And failure is more and more the operative word. Many good people in ABB understand the Democrats are beholden to the boss class. They continue to support them because they want to be "realistic," "practical," to at least moderate and influence Establishment politics.

But it should be clear to all those willing to see that the Democrats are not only subservient to the dictates of our bosses; they are also losers!

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Democrats underwent a sea change under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR patched together an improbable coalition that fraudulently, but successfully, sold itself as a party representing the "common people"–workers, farmers, family merchants, self-employed professionals–opposed to the Republicans purported to be the party of Big Business. Generations of workers were raised on this scam as the Democrats won five straight presidential elections. Some try to keep the myth alive even today.

But even that Democrat Party, phony as it was, is long gone–for good. After Reagan made big inroads into blue collar workers the Democrats started reinventing themselves. They renounced their old "tax and spend" ways, adopting the GOP mantra of "fiscal responsibility." Taking support of their traditional base for granted, they kept unions and social movements at arm’s length while rejecting their liberal past, embracing a new moderation. They were a gentler, though scarcely kinder, version of Reaganism. More and more, elections became personality contests with few detectable substantive differences.

Bill Clinton, who is an exceptional politician, thrived on this New Democrat approach but no one before or since--not Mondale, Dukakis, Gore or Kerry–has come close to Slick Willy's performance.

A majority of the American people think the Iraq war was a mistake. More jobs were lost during the Bush administration than during any other since Herbert Hoover. Real wages have declined. Health care is in crisis. Many workers have watched their retirement plans go down the drain. College tuition has gone through the roof.

How could this administration survive an election? It prevailed because the nominal opposition failed to present itself as a credible alternative.

The fact is there is no political living space for more than one Republican Party. This time around those that bellied up to the electoral bar preferred Bush to Bush Lite. Again, as in most elections, the majority, suspecting unhealthy contamination as well as bad taste in both brews, decided not to drink at all.

Already New Democrat strategists are spinning what went wrong. Their instant solution is for the Democrats to link up with "moral" issues Bush exploited so effectively–that is pandering to religious, racial, and sexual prejudice. They also say the party must look to candidates that better fit in to NASCAR crowds--which they perceive to be gun-toting good ol’ boys and security moms. Such thinking is what will likely drive the future direction of the Democrats. Such thinking condemns them to being perpetual losers.

If we are to lose why not at least lose on our own, fighting for what we really believe in?

As a matter of fact I think if we organized on our own, around a principled program that advances the interests of the working class majority, with the tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours our movements devoted to this recent fiasco–we could actually win.

As our organizations meet to assess the damage from this election, and to discuss a strategy for dealing with Bush’s second term, we need to add an agenda point for building a genuine, independent, working class political opposition in the United States.

11/3/2004