Labor Advocate Online
KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, November 7, 2004
by Bill Onasch,
Election Not the Only Story
As we dissect the election we can’t afford to ignore what’s still the most vital issue of concern–the war being waged in our name, with American workers in uniform, in Iraq. A major urban battle is shaping up in Falluja. Insurgents have mounted deadly attacks elsewhere. Martial law has been declared by the American-installed government in Baghdad. A lot more will die soon in this lie-driven war for Big Business.
Truth is the outcome of the election didn’t much matter as far as this war is concerned. In his concession speech Kerry told supporters, "Now, more than ever, with our soldiers in harm's way, we must stand together and succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror."
Now that there are no more votes to be hustled for Kerry it’s time for the antiwar movement to get back on the job of organizing mass opposition to this war.
The best promoter of education about and opposition to the war among American workers is US Labor Against the War. USLAW has scheduled an important leadership gathering in Chicago on December 4. I plan to attend and report back on that meeting.
Questionable Counts, Unquestioned
There were plenty of problems with voting, and vote counting, in the November 2 election. This time around Ohio was the center of attention. It’s unknown how many, after gauging what was in some places hours-long waiting lines, gave up without voting. It is known that no vote for president was recorded on some 92,000 ballots--though unknown how many of these chose to abstain, or how many may have been pregnant or hanging chads of the Florida 2000 variety. There were computer glitches such as one that awarded Bush 3,893 votes in a precinct that had only 800 registered voters.
Because of these problems Kerry delayed conceding the election. In the end, Democrat lawyers decided there were not enough substantial challenges to reverse Bush’s reported lead. "In Ohio," said Edward B. Foley, who teaches election law at Ohio State University, "there is a cloud over the process, even though there is not a cloud over the result."
We shouldn’t shrug off such miscounts of votes–which were widespread across many states–even if they do not affect the ultimate winner. Everyone’s vote should count. This is not rocket science. Every precinct should be able to have reasonable waiting times, clear methods of voting, and ability for accurate counts and reporting.
A few continue to insist the election was stolen from Kerry. Given that the Democrats and independent monitoring groups had thousands of lawyers in the field checking out election day complaints this charge can only be credible if you think the Democrats were willing co-conspirators in such brazen fraud. This seems to me extremely unlikely.
By all means let’s continue the fight to count every vote. But we should not allow conspiracy spinners to keep us in denial. Bush won. We have to face that reality as unpleasant as it may be. Our task now is to organize ourselves for the big struggles ahead.
Some Democrat Soul Searching
Barney Frank, the most prominent openly gay member of congress, cited the Democrat mayor of San Francisco’s performance of gay marriages as a major contributor to Kerry’s defeat.
Bill Clinton said on Friday that during his presidency he had worked with faith-based organizations and set up an office of religious affairs to reach out to Muslims, Jews and evangelical Christians. In that period, the number of abortions fell by more than 20 per cent and had since risen under the Bush government. "It would shock people who think we are anti-life to know that. But if we don't make that argument, it is not surprising that we are demonized and turned into two-dimensional aliens."
The Nation’s Katha Pollitt wrote, "Maybe this time the voters chose what they actually want: Nationalism, pre-emptive war, order not justice, ‘safety’ through torture, backlash against women and gays, a gulf between haves and have-nots, government largesse for their churches and a my-way-or-the-highway President. Where, I wonder, does that leave us?"
Rabbi Michael Lerner suggests the Democrats need a Spiritual Left. "Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk of a New Bottom Line, so that American institutions get judged efficient, rational and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize people's capacities to be loving and caring, ethically and ecologically sensitive, and capable of responding to the universe with awe and wonder."
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney was somewhat vague about details but pledged labor "will focus on the role of the Democratic Party and advise them where they can be structured."
Morality As A Wedge
As the two major parties become less and less distinguishable in program and practice their marketeers are challenged to find a wedge to separate their guy from the other guy. 2004 was the ultimate test. The polls showed Bush’s approval rate steadily declining but Kerry never seemed to gain on him. How to break out? It’s the moral issues, stupid.
There is no doubt that in hard times, such as these are for the shrinking middle class, more people turn to religion. But unsettled workers also swell the ranks of alcohol and drug dependency, fanatical interest in NASCAR racing, addiction to video games, and immersion in reality television. There is little evidence that religious fervor has suddenly and massively asserted itself in day-to-day life in our country.
The Republicans have long had a special relationship with the Moral Majority, 700 Club set. These theocrats are no stronger today than they were in the first Bush’s time. They are players, not deciders, shakers, not movers. Hotter buttons were required.
What could be hotter than the holy sacrament of marriage? True, a lot of couples don’t bother to use it anymore. True, most marriages eventually wind up in divorce. But everyone seems to think marriage and the family is the number one value to cherish.
And what could be more threatening, more disgusting than to see this sacred institution blasphemed by homosexuals? That’s what Kerry and his gay buddies and abortionist pals want to do to your number one value. This not so subtle appeal to prejudice was reinforced in eleven states with ballot measures banning gay marriage. This turned out to be a key factor in settling a neck and neck race that some had billed as "the most important election in history."
I admit that I am not religious. I do, however, think morals are important. I try to be tolerant of others’ religious views. But, even though I’m personally strictly a straight shooter, I have a tough time accepting homophobia as a moral value. While I think families can be a good thing I can’t accept a moral value that prevents women from determining if and when to augment the size of their family.
Their Morals and Ours
Unlike some of the liberal whiners I don’t think American workers, as a whole, are stupid. Nor do I think we, as a class, are mean-spirited. But, over time, we have allowed the bosses to set the parameters of our thinking, to frame the terms of debate, to instill in us their values which keep us divided, disoriented, debilitated.
The major party candidates never challenge the bosses values; they pander to them, exploit them. Unfortunately, most of the leaders of our unions and social movements don’t do much better at taking them on in any principled, consistent fashion.
There was a time when values such as "An injury to one is an injury to all!" were widely fought for by the working class. Even racial and gender prejudices were often put aside in the heat of battle against a common adversary. There were candidates for office, like Eugene Debs, who gained a lot of support expressing values such as "I want to rise with my class–not out of it."
Those are our moral values and we’re long overdue in reclaiming them. Until we do we have nothing to look forward to but Bush & Co.–or worse.
That’s all for this week.
Regards to all