The Democrats did
not provide a single reason for the oppressed layers of the
population to rally to their support. This is the real source
of the Republican victory, not mass support for Bush and his
right-wing program. The picture presented by the media of a
people enthralled by their war-time leader is absurd. Working
people in America have not suddenly and unaccountably decided
that they passionately desire war, tax cuts for the wealthy,
handouts to corporate interests, and the destruction of jobs
and public social services.
US midterm election: the meaning of the
Posted November 7, 2002 thepeoplesvoice.org
By the Editorial Board
statement is available as a PDF leaflet to download and distribute
The Republican sweep in the November 5
midterm election sets the stage for an enormous intensification of the
social and political crisis in the United States. The attempt by the media
to present the election result as a vindication of George W. Bush and an
expression of popular support for his policies is an exercise in cynical
Even to speak of the Republicans
“winning” the campaign is misleading. The November 5 election was not
seriously contested by the nominal opposition party.
It was a political debacle for the
Democrats. The rout was across the board, with the Democrats ceding
control of the Senate, losing seats in the House of Representatives, and
going down to defeat in a majority of gubernatorial races. The Republican
Party now has the presidency and a majority in both houses of Congress for
the first time since the election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Adding the
Supreme Court as another right-wing stronghold, the Republicans are in
control of all three branches of the US government for the first time
since the Hoover administration in 1930.
The Bush administration is under no
illusions as to the breadth of popular support for its policies, but it
will exploit the collapse of any opposition within the political
establishment to carry out an unprecedented attack on the working class.
Already given the green light by the House
and Senate, the White House is expected to launch war against Iraq in the
next few months, with incalculable consequences for the peoples of the
Middle East, America and the world.
Well before any invasion, the domestic
implications of the US war drive will be felt when a lame-duck session of
Congress—with Republicans in control of both houses—meets to adopt
appropriations bills to fund all government domestic and social service
programs. With military spending soaring, and tax receipts slashed by the
recession and stock market slide, the Bush administration is demanding
significant cuts in social spending. These will only be the down payment
on massive retrenchment once the full cost of war in the Persian
Gulf—and elsewhere—is felt.
The first order of business in the
lame-duck session will be passage of legislation to establish a new
Department of Homeland Security, to centralize all federal police and
security forces into a single agency. The bill was stalled by a dispute
over Bush’s demand to strip workers in the new department of their civil
service protection rights and collective bargaining rights. Now it will be
full speed ahead with a measure whose premise is that American workers
must sacrifice their democratic rights in the name of the “war on
For all intents and purposes, the outcome
of the November 5 election was decided weeks ago when the Democratic
congressional leadership made the decision to grant Bush sweeping
authority to wage war against Iraq. It is not possible for a party to
conduct a serious election campaign against an administration whose
authority it has boosted with a vote of political confidence.
Bush’s political mentors decided to frame
the Republican campaign as a referendum on the administration’s war
policy, and the Democrats meekly obliged. This, however, was not simply a
tactical mistake. It was a devastating self-exposure.
The Democrats rationalized their support
for an unprovoked imperialist war by claiming that to do otherwise would
be political suicide, adding that once the war question was out of the
way, they could concentrate on opposing Bush’s domestic policies. They
simply ignored a rash of public opinion polls revealing widespread
disquiet over the war and declining support for Bush’s militaristic
In reality, in supporting the war they were
supporting the entirety of the administration’s program. It is
impossible to separate Bush’s predatory foreign policy from his policies
of repression and social reaction at home. They are two sides of the same
agenda—one that is pursued in the interests not of the American people,
but of the corporate and financial oligarchy.
In the end, the Democrats were neither able
nor willing to propose any serious measures to deal with the growth of
unemployment or the worsening crisis in education, health care and
housing. They dared not challenge Bush’s tax handouts to the rich, his
attacks on social programs, or his record military budget. It was
capitulation all down the line.
The Democrats’ collapse was all the more
significant, given the context in which it occurred. The Republican
administration is widely seen as illegitimate, having come to power on the
basis of electoral fraud and judicial fiat, and its leading personnel are
implicated in massive corporate scandals.
Yet, unlike the 1998 and 2000 elections,
there was no significant mobilization in minority or working class areas,
where loyalty to the Democratic Party is traditionally strongest. The
Democrats did not provide a single reason for the oppressed layers of the
population to rally to their support.
This is the real source of the Republican
victory, not mass support for Bush and his right-wing program. The picture
presented by the media of a people enthralled by their war-time leader is
absurd. Working people in America have not suddenly and unaccountably
decided that they passionately desire war, tax cuts for the wealthy,
handouts to corporate interests, and the destruction of jobs and public
The November 5 vote was a watershed
election. It heralds the breakup of the American two-party system—a
system that provides no outlet for the working class to express its
interests. The two parties, the media and the existing electoral machinery
are entirely subordinated to the narrow and selfish interests of a small
and privileged elite. Mass alienation from the political system is
reflected in the dismal turnout at the polls—an estimated 38 or 39
percent, the second lowest in history.
The very fact that the Republicans can
monopolize all of the levers of state power, despite the acknowledged fact
that the electorate is evenly divided, testifies to the undemocratic and
dysfunctional character of the political system.
The debacle of the Democratic Party brings
to an end the period when the social concerns of the working class could
be mediated within a system of two capitalist parties. The American ruling
elite cannot any longer sustain a credible reform party of big business.
Millions of working people are losing their
illusions in the Democratic Party, but they as yet see no alternative.
The yawning political vacuum on the left
results in a seeming Republican juggernaut. This, however, will reveal
itself to be the prelude to a colossal social and political crisis.
Precisely because the US political system no longer provides any outlet
for the expression of the real feelings of the American people, popular
anger and frustration will inevitably take the form of convulsions and
upheavals. It will not take long before serious social struggles begin to
erupt in the US.
The discrediting of American capitalism’s
traditional reform party means that the growing social crisis will tend to
drive the working class along the path of independent political struggle.
This must be recognized and made the basis of a new political strategy.
There is no looking back after November 5.
The time has come for the American working class to begin the arduous task
of constructing an independent political party. The entire experience with
the Democratic Party points to the programmatic basis upon which such a
party must be built. It demonstrates that there can be no serious
opposition to political reaction and war unless it is based on opposition
to the capitalist system itself. The midterm election has posed in the
sharpest manner the unpostponable task of creating a mass socialist
alternative to both parties of big business.
The task of building this alternative is
being undertaken by the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist
Web Site. We pledge to our readers and supporters in the US and
internationally that we will intensify our efforts to construct the mass
socialist party of the working class.
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