Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote


Politically-active Americans who identify themselves as liberal or progressive often make the mistake of thinking that the electoral process and politics are equivalent. There are two major errors people make if they start with this false premise. Either they focus on voting or campaigning for the candidates they support, or they opt out of the electoral process entirely in favor of other kinds of political activity. The November 2nd congressional elections provide the opportunity for us to understand the value of getting involved in each kind of activity, getting out the vote and participating in post-election political activity. We need to be involved on both levels in order to preserve and advance the major victories which have been won over the past year and a half.

Non-electoral forms of political activity, including involvement in the wide range of organizations, both local and national, that comprise the broad-massed people's movement and offer a refreshing alternative to traditional political structures, from Earth Day celebrations and local food cooperatives to anti-war demonstrations and teach-ins, defending the rights of immigrants, supporting gay marriage and opposing "don't ask, don't tell," supporting the One Nation Working Together March For Jobs in Washington, D.C. on October 2, and writing letters to the editor in response to the issues of the day are all vital to strengthening democracy and building public pressure on particular issues. They are key factors in achieving changes in specific policy and eventually deeper social transformations. It is an unfortunate fact, however, that many people who engage in these important forms of social activism fail to fully appreciate the significance of the electoral process and active participation in it. Thus engagement in non-electoral political activity becomes an end in itself – a way to influence public policy regardless of who is in office.

A left-wing variant of this outlook is that some become so cynical about the nature of the two-party system that they choose to confine their involvement in politics to third-party activism, even when it is futile, brings no real political change, and actually improves the chances of the Republican right to win elections by siphoning off votes and grassroots enthusiasm. People in this camp often appear to suffer from the delusion that the political representatives of the two main parties are more or less the same, i.e., that Sarah Palin holds the same views and shares the same goals as John Conyers, or that there is no real difference between Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow. Leftists of this "purist" variety deal in slogans like "Obama is the same as Bush," even claiming it is the President and the Democrats who pose the real threat to working families.

Fortunately there are tens of millions of Americans who oppose this apathetic trend, define themselves as politically active, do not make the mistake of underestimating the importance of elections, and refuse to buy into the tired old slogan that the Republicans and Democrats are no different than Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

But perhaps the biggest problem in American civic life is the belief that after donating one's time and money and voting for a favored candidate, one's responsibility ends, because elected officials will either solve society's problems or create new ones, which the next election will attempt to fix. Such ballot-focused individuals are correct in seeing elections as the biggest political mobilizations that take place in this country, and that they fundamentally determine the balance of power at the local, state and federal level. Nevertheless, they fail to see the importance of what happens between Novembers. Another factor, of course, is that for millions of Americans work and family issues prevent more than temporary commitments to political activity of any sort. For many people free time for political work or community involvement is just not available.

For America's progressive voters there is no room for apathy or "sitting it out" this election year. After the Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party, America is standing on a political precipice. If enough voters are hoodwinked into voting against their own economic interests and the health and well-being of their families and communities, then the obstructionism cynically practiced by the Party of No will result in a violent lurch to the right unparalleled in the American political experience. If the Republicans retake power in the House and Senate, the already feeble regulation of Wall Street will be totally abandoned.

An historic outpouring of more than 70 million Americans in 2008 began to turn the page on the Bush years and Republican and corporate domination of American politics, along with all the grave damage inflicted on the country by financial schemes, the outsourcing of jobs, and the near total deregulation of the petroleum, mining and financial industries. A grassroots upsurge led to the epoch-making election of America's first African American president in 2008. But now, just 22 months into Obama's presidency, the Republican Tea Party (lavishly funded by extremist billionaires like the Koch Brothers, whose political views are to the right of the John Birch Society) has mounted a far-right resurgence that threatens the significant gains of the past year and a half. Obama and the Democrats have managed to achieve important political victories, often by single-vote margins, in the face of total Republican intransigence, driven by the fanatical desire to return to power and force America's working families to suffer once more under the failed policies of the Bush years, coupled with even more terrifying excesses such as the abolition of the 14th Amendment, the total dismantling of Social Security, an end to unemployment insurance, and the complete deregulation of the oil, mining and financial industries. Even in the face of such frantic opposition, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have managed to win significant victories in health care, education, regulating Wall Street, providing loans to small businesses, and shoring up our ravaged manufacturing sector. At the same time they are attempting to wind down two fundamentally misconceived wars left behind by the Bush Administration, in which hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and billions of dollars have been looted from the US Treasury.

Starting with a lie-filled campaign to block health reform, the Republican Party, decked out in its Tea Party costumes, stormed town hall meetings in a flood of rage. Simultaneously, the media wing of the GOP, Fox News, along with several hundred corporate-funded right wing shock jocks blared forth torrents of anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic, and anti-Obama rhetoric to stir up the Party's right-wing base. These shameless tactics have certainly lured the lunatic fringe out of the woodwork and onto center stage. Not surprisingly, given the residual racism that infects the No Party's simmering base, right-wing America has rushed to participate (Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck pointing the way) in both electoral and non-electoral political activity, toting guns and brandishing their racist signs at hate-filled demonstrations and rallies. At this crucial juncture, the corporate-funded right wing seems more attuned to the value of social movement building than the progressive Democratic base.

The degree of success of the radical right will ultimately depend on whether we can rekindle the grassroots spirit that delivered an historic, earth-shifting victory at the polls in 2008. To accomplish this we must shake off any apathy the Republican obstructionists and the corporate media have managed to instill in the first 22 months of the struggles of the Obama administration and the Democratic majority. This majority is substantial in the House, but hangs by a thread in a Senate paralyzed by the constant filibustering tactics of the Party of No. The Republicans have only one goal in mind, to bring down Barack Obama, return to the disastrous policies of George W. Bush, and move from there to a far-right dystopia that will surpass the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in its assault on reason and the pain it inflicts on the American people.

Just two years into the Obama Administration and the new Democratic majority, who were handed the daunting task of trying to deal with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, with no help whatsoever from Republicans, is no time for the country's progressive base to contemplate throwing in the towel. The critical task before us is to get out the vote and get to the polls on November 2. If we can get fired up to engage in this all-important election, we will succeed in preserving the Democratic majority in the House and Senate. We will then have a powerful wind at our backs, and the renewed strength to continue to forge a broad alliance among America's grassroots organizations – the labor, civil rights, environmental and anti-war movements, all of which have begun to grow and unite in strength, community by community. Without a doubt we are now engaged in a mighty struggle with the extreme right. Ours is the struggle to preserve and extend America's democratic ideals, the dreams of countless working men and women who have fought since the Revolution to improve the lives of America's people. We are fighting to defend the interests of the majority against the depredations of the richest two percent, who have everything that money can buy, including the Republican Party and its Tea Party wing.

The responsibility for stopping the Tea Party this November lies in the hands of America's progressive, working-class base. The labor movement was the first to enter this fight. Union members and their supporters are already going door to door and working the phones in a skillfully coordinated effort to reach labor voters in key congressional districts. Unions are also airing commercials that slam Republican candidates for pursuing their long-held dream of privatizing Social Security and eliminating unemployment benefits, a real nightmare for millions of Americans that must never become reality. The labor movement is also holding Democratic candidates responsible for protecting Social Security, not just from privatization, but also from benefit cuts and threats to raise the retirement age, moves that would have a devastating effect on America's seniors and other beneficiaries.

Labor's commitment and unity will be a major force in this election struggle. But even though labor's role was crucial to the outcome in 2008, it alone cannot prevent a GOP takeover. Republicans have obviously proven they have no solutions for the economic crisis, only roadblocks to policies that benefit working families, and tax cuts for the rich. At every attempt to move forward, they have stood united, intransigently opposed to every major investment in job creation President Obama and the Democrats have offered, and every effort to fix our broken health care system. They have shattered all records in their cynical use of archaic and fundamentally undemocratic parliamentary procedures such as the filibuster, to weaken the economic recovery, stand in the way of financial and credit card reform, slow the passage of the health care bill, and consign scores of judicial appointees to limbo, in a concerted effort to stall the economic recovery and wreck President Obama's progressive agenda – all with the aim of achieving political victory in the midterm elections. They must not be rewarded for their obstruction and total lack of ideas about how to solve the country's problems, and how to come to the aid of those who have been hurt worst in the Great Recession, the millions upon millions of unemployed and the 43 million Americans who now live in grinding poverty and don't have a home to live in, access to health care, or the means to provide for their families.

The GOP has stood in the way of climate change legislation, steadfastly denying or minimizing the very real dangers to health and the environment posed by industrial pollution and the consumption of fossil fuel. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) immediately went to the defense of BP after the Gulf Oil oil spill, and offered the committer of the crime his heartfelt apologies. Barton accused the President of "shaking down" the oil giant because he demanded the company pay for the cleanup of millions of gallons of oil it spilled and pay for the damage it caused to the communities of the Gulf Coast by poisoning the ecosystem on which its fishermen and tourist industry depend. We all need to be acutely aware that the same man who apologized to BP, Joe Barton, is set to become the new Chairman of the Energy Committee, if the Republicans retake the House. It comes as no surprise, as well, that the Republican election effort is being massively fueled by a gusher of petrodollars from the coffers of Big Oil.

In August the GOP voted in lockstep against a bill offered by the Democrats to provide the emergency funding necessary to keep teachers in the classroom, cops on the beat, and firefighters protecting our homes. One of their main objections to the bill was that the funding would be paid for by closing that loopholes that reward US corporations with tax breaks for shipping millions of jobs overseas. For the Party of No such paltry considerations as the education of America's children and and the protection of our communities should never stand in the way of attempting to defeat every single item on the Democratic agenda, no matter how urgent and absolutely necessary it might be.

The Republicans also voted almost unanimously to protect the rights of health insurance companies to deny coverage to the sick. In a united chorus they continue to claim that health insurance companies should be have the right to deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions like diabetes and asthma. Addressing the Value Voters Summit in Washington, DC on September 17, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee callously compared the plight of people with pre-existing conditions to someone attempting to buy fire insurance for a house that has already burned down. Repeal of the Health Care Reform Law is at the top of the Republican agenda if they retake the House and Senate in November. To prevent this from happening, America's real values voters need to stop the party of Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich, and Beck from seizing majority power in the mid-term elections.

The burst of moral courage provided by their impending retirement from the Senate fortunately permitted Senators George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and George LeMieux (R-Florida) to join with the Democrats in September to pass a bill that funneled $30 billion in TARP money to community banks, to enable small businesses get the loans they desperately need to expand and hire. The primary beneficiaries of the TARP funds, the "too big to fail" banks, have stubbornly refused to use the money the taxpayers gave them to provide loans to small businesses. Prior to the passage of the small business/community bank loan legislation, every Republican voted in unison against tax benefits to help small business owners provide health coverage for themselves and their employees.

Before passage of the history-making Health Care Bill, when insurance company bureaucrats unfairly denied millions of Americans coverage in order to increase their profit margins, the Republicans' only words of comfort were, "You're on your own."

In 2007, in the twilight of the Bush years, the Republican Party stood in the way of raising the minimum wage and even tried to block provision of health care to the country's poorest children. Today they are holding up passage of the START nuclear weapons reduction treaty with the Russians. They also say no to giving women workers stronger protections against gender-based job discrimination. They said no to improvements in the Department of Veterans Affairs and essential investments in our country's education system, no to infrastructure repair and development, no to clean energy, no to high-speed Internet access to thousands of communities currently without it, no to new healthcare technology, and no to investment in hundreds of Community Health Centers. With all of this obstruction, it is no wonder they've become the "Party of No."

They have no ideas of their own. All they have to offer are reactionary soundbites and hatred aimed at immigrants and Muslims. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind about the very real threat to the basic tenets of the Constitution posed by Republican immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia. And the Republican Party attacks on public school teachers, union members, and the millions of unemployed who depend on unemployment insurance are nearly as intense in their hate-filled scapegoating. Many Republicans have even pledged to hold congressional hearings on the legitimacy of President Obama's claims to American citizenship if they gain power.

Given the terrifying prospect of what a Republican victory portends, voters generally, and progressives specifically, are faced with a very real choice. Either we can sit back, refuse to pull our own weight, and watch apathetically as the Republicans return to power, or we can stand up to the threat, get involved, and cast our votes to preserve a political terrain that is finally favorable to the interests and needs of working families. We must also work to promote a political environment that ensures the complete withdrawal of our ground forces from Iraq next year and the start of withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Labor law reform and pro-working-class appointees are possible only with increased Democratic majorities. The record proves that it is only the Democrats in Congress who will fight to maintain and expand the new health care reforms which they finally passed under intense Republican opposition and a campaign of misrepresentation based on outright lies such as "death panels" and the enforced rationing of health care by the federal government. The new Health Care Bill will add more than 30 million uninsured Americans to the health insurance rolls. It is a powerful step in the right direction and must be defended and expanded.

Only Democrats will vote for investments in transportation, our decaying infrastructure, clean energy jobs, the protection and further strengthening of Social Security, tax breaks for working families, and reforms that prevent Wall Street from once again committing the same crimes that caused the thunderous Crash of 2008.

The choice before us is clear, and the choice is ours to make.

(Photo courtesy

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  • Only Democrats will vote for investments in transportation, our decaying infrastructure, clean energy jobs, the protection and further strengthening of Social Security, tax breaks for working families, and reforms that prevent Wall Street from once again committing the same crimes that caused the thunderous Crash of 2008.


    That's not true. They will only vote for war, insurance company and big pharma profits, and Wall Street bailouts.

    Posted by Louis Proyect, 10/20/2010 1:31pm (14 years ago)

  • With the advent of the new website for PA,this writer's comments on this specific story were perhaps lost-hope those may be retrieved at some point.
    For now,I would like to commend this article,with some qualifications.
    This article's citing the progress for workers and unionists fought for by the Obama administration,as a Democratic administration,with many examples,is well taken. The distinction between electoral process and politics is well taken.
    However,the restrictive parameters of the Democratic Party do not allow for the righteous,radical measures of progressive and left currents in almost every field of political activity imaginable. These range from public ownership of all capital and natural resources,to free education,to universal employment and training for all.
    This is not a cry for sectarianism. On the contrary,it is a call and cry for expansion of democracy. Many Democrats,like congressman Conyers,former congressmen Dellums,Stokes;others like Boxer Feinstein,and Kucinich,congresswoman Lee,the whole Congressional Black Caucus,and other caucuses,have themselves pressed to expand democracy with more radical and progressive measures within the Democratic Party.
    Also,there is no contention in this comment that all,or even most of the positions of the officialdom of the Democrats are backwards or negative. The article here establishes that.
    It is simply the recognition of the fact that progressive,independent political positions of many Democrats,Communists and Independents make for advance positions,many extending and advancing democracy,many struggled for within the Democratic Party,many struggled for in the political arena in general.
    For historic example,on Presidential candidacy,many Democrats did not fight for nor think that a Shirley Chisholm could be able or should be able to run for President.
    Progressive forces and radicals did,and supported her.
    These forces came from within and from outside the Democratic Party. This changed the whole thinking of the electorate and the Democrats, opening peoples' minds to what was organizationally possible,and what the electorate could be expanded to be.
    Democracy can become bigger and change the Democratic Party,internally. Democracy can become bigger and also change the Democratic Party externally,that is-in the whole political milieu,thereby putting external pressure on the Democrats to change.
    The CPUSA is a change agent and a political party,as such,it can spur positive change for all Americans.
    Can we offer an alternative for the working people,and field candidates? Can we operate as a legitimate political party?
    We already do.
    We have done it before.
    Not only this,but we have done it in exemplary fashion.
    Do we know the history of Benjamin J. Davis Jr. and Pete Cacchione?
    BUT,BUT,BUT,we can hear the naysayers now-"there's too much anti-communism","that was a different time","everything is new now","we have to break with communism now and protect the the U.S. from that spectre which haunted Europe",ect,ect.
    The bulkhead on this website says "Communist Party".
    It is not true that "only"the Democrats will vote for progress,the article mentions the exception of Voinovich and LeMieux,add to them the Independent,the Socialist,and the independent voting Democrat,and then we start to understand that a name is not a thing,and that the working class votes issues and not names,and our name-Communist- will not in itself make us unacceptable or acceptable to the working class in the United States of America.
    Believe it or not,the working class,to a large and growing extent understands how anti-communism cripples democracy and human liberty in general.
    The more we learn from the past,alongside the working peoples in the present,in struggle,the more will be learned.
    For now,we must learn to march,and vote,with all : liberals,progressives,leftists,socialists,Democrats,Communists,rightists-even Republicans,when they march and vote for progress.
    How else can we be the unity builders that Communists are? One Nation Together shows how we can.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 10/10/2010 8:42pm (14 years ago)

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