2014 Elections: A Framework for Struggle to Turn the Tide

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A report to the National Committee,  Communist Party USA
New York, January 14, 2014

Appreciation to all the members of the Political Action Commission for the collective ongoing work and this resulting report.

The winter ice may have slowed things down this January, but the challenges in 2014 are heating things way up.

People's poet Amiri Baraka, who just passed away recently said, reminiscent of Paul Robeson, "Art is a weapon in the struggle of ideas, the class struggle."

We can turn that wonderful comment around and say that class struggle and the struggle of ideas and politics is an art.  In 2014 we are called upon to employ that art with depth of understanding, dialectics and passion.

This report offers a framework for the 2014 elections.

What's at Stake

As the new year begins, the immediate struggle is focused on restoration of long term unemployment benefits and food stamps.

During the "economic recovery" poverty has deepened for the many, while wealth has been concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.

Millions of families have been forced into a life-or-death crisis by the cruel actions of the extreme right-wing Republicans.  Their priorities are to repeal the Affordable Care Act which six million people have signed up for so far, block immigration reform, environmental measures and all progressive legislation, and oppose President Obama. 

I am thinking about one comrade who lost everything after the factory where he worked moved out, whose wife is severely disabled, and how hysterical she became when their food stamps were cut by two-thirds and their medicaid transportation to the doctor was stopped as a result of the sequester.

Fifty years since the War on Poverty more than half (54 percent) of all Americans, two-thirds (65 percent) of African Americans and 59 percent of Latinos say that one or more family members living in poverty. We will all agree that this is unacceptable, even more so in the midst of great hoarded wealth, as practically all of the benefits of the "recovery" have gone to the richest one percent.

An overwhelming 86 percent of Americans agree that "the government has a responsibility to use some of its resources to combat poverty."  Over 80 percent support increasing the minimum wage tied to inflation, universal pre-kindergarten, helping low wage workers afford quality child care, nutrition assistance and college scholarships. (Center for American Progress and Half in Ten. 2013)

We can add that the best solution to poverty is living wage jobs and the right to a union, healthcare, social security and strong pensions, and quality integrated public education. 

The extremist Republicans are on the wrong side of each one of these issues that enjoy overwhelming majority support, including among low income Republicans.

The extremists hide behind their condemnation of big government in general to appeal to popular frustrations and underlying racist stereotypes. 

This debate is not abstract. 

"On your own" small government does not give individuals more freedom and control over their lives.  It gives giant monopoly corporations complete control.

It is very welcome that from the Pope to the President, the evils of extreme income inequality are being brought to the front burner, and influencing public debate.

"It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare,"  says Pope Francis in the context of calling for an end to "the structural causes of inequality." Which fundamentally is capitalism.

Around the world resistance to the anti-people austerity agenda is growing, amidst many cross-currents.  More progressives, socialists and communists have won election in countries from Japan to Chile.  But, as well, extreme right austerity forces have captured some elections.

In New York, our nation's largest city, after decades of Republican mayoral rule favoring Wall St., voters enthusiastically elected Bill deBlasio by 77 percent, embracing his fearless campaign to end economic inequality, tax wealth and repeal stop and frisk.  This shows the new ideological climate in the country and big shifts in class consciousness.

A new consciousness is also emerging for racial equality.  The "All-In Nation Poll" shows "more than 7 in 10 Americans support "new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality in America through investments in areas like education, job training, and infrastructure improvement"-including 63 percent support among whites. Support for reducing this inequality even garners monetary support-61 percent say they would be willing to invest "significantly more public funds to help close [the] gap in college graduation rates" between Black and Latino students and white students".(Center for American Progress, October 2013)

A majority movement organized around all these equality issues has the potential to turn the tide.

The 2014 elections up the ante in the struggle for the direction of our country.

The extreme right wing, acting on behalf of the one percent and biggest corporate interests, is frantic to keep and expand control of Congress, state houses and Governors.  They do not want to tax the rich or cut the military budget or create jobs or raise the minimum wage.

The election has only just begun and Republican dirty tricks are in full swing. Putting up fake websites pretending to belong to the Democrat but with slanderous content.  National money laundering by 17 conservative groups in the Koch brothers network to get fabulous sums into local races and flip control of state government. New plans to suppress the vote. Many millions of dollars already spent on negative TV ads, including in New Hampshire where Scott Brown may run against Jean Shaheen. 

But a new inspiring uprising is underway, emerging from impoverishment in the midst of plenty, as young workers and unemployed seek a decent, safe and peaceful life free from racism, bigotry and war. 

The challenge in 2014 for labor and community, left and progressive, is to build an inclusive and lasting grassroots movement that connects low wage worker and other organizing with registering new voters and participating in the electoral process.

The six southern Republican Senators who voted against extending unemployment despite high joblessness in their states should be held accountable on election day.  (Georgia -Saxby Chambliss, Mississippi -Thad Cochran, Alabama - Jeff Sessions, South Carolina - Lindsey Graham, Tennessee - Alexander Lamar, Kentucky - Mitch McConnell), 

Instead of sitting it out, this is a time to organize, organize, organize.

In 2013 mass pressure and organizing stopped a war on Syria, stopped cuts in Social Security from being part of that budget deal, and forced many corporations and legislators to withdraw from ALEC over Stand Your Ground laws after Trayvon Martin was killed. Each deserves study to learn lessons.

Last year's mass lobbies, hunger strikes, marches and civil disobedience for immigration reform with legalization and a path to citizenship, has led to door knocking as we speak in the Congressional Districts of 30 Republicans demanding they force Speaker John Boehner to call a vote in the House.

A huge national push for Congress to raise the minimum wage has just been launched around the Fair Minimum Wage Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller which is supported by President Obama.  It would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, indexed to inflation. This would give a raise to 27.8 million workers.  It would boost the economy and create about 85,000 new jobs.

The $10.10 amount represents a compromise in the Senate based on the projection that with the Earned Income Tax Credit minimum wage workers would be brought above the poverty line. 

We should support this national organizing push and at the same time support the demand for $15 and a union that fast food workers are fighting for. 

The minimum wage has already been raised  above the federal level in 19 states, and in New Jersey voters passed a referendum 61 percent to amend their constitution to include the minimum wage increase indexed to inflation . More states including Illinois and Massachusetts will vote on ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage this year.

This campaign squarely addresses inequality and can have a big impact on the elections. Every candidate for Congress should be asked if they support.  If not, they will be exposed as on the side of big corporations and not the people.

In responding to a question about the quality of these minimum wage jobs, Harkin expanded the discussion and called for an end to austerity, saying the federal government should reallocate capital to build the infrastructure our children need for the future and create millions of jobs.  He called for an upgrade to the electric grid for the whole country and high speed rail and upgrading the human infrastructure from Head Start to science and technology research. 

His answer shows a shift in the debate from austerity to poverty and worker's rights. This head-on repudiation of austerity is an argument that can be won on the basis of majority support for meeting people's needs and creating jobs.

To the extent that some Democrats and the President go along with the false notion that there is a deficit crisis requiring austerity measures, they are playing into the hands of the reactionary, anti-people corporate forces whose main political voice is the Republican Party including the tea party. 

The same can be said for those Democrats who support the Trans Pacific Partnership, sanctions on Iran, and cuts to Social Security, inaction on global warming, all of which endanger jobs, peace and quality of life, and have strong public opposition.

The best defense is a good offense. More elected officials like the leaders in the Congressional Progressive Caucus are needed to stand firm for progressive taxation like the Robin Hood Tax, improve Social Security, massive investment in job creation for infrastructure and social needs, aid to Detroit and other cities to protect workers' pensions, an end to deportations and immigration reform, to name a few. 

Voters rejected tea party candidates in Virginia. Voters showed, in the 2013 municipal elections, that they are searching for solutions and ready to support more advanced demands in and outside the Democratic Party.

When Kashant Sawant ran on a platform of a $15 an hour minimum wage against a Seattle City Councilman who had voted against a living wage ordinance, the campaign took off and she became the first socialist in decades to win the non partisan election. Voters didn't worry about "socialist," and some were attracted by it, when they saw a strong agenda that would benefit them. Union and community groups representing those who are unable to make ends meet are rallying in large numbers to win the $15.

However, in her acceptance speech Sawant does not  place her main fire on the extreme right-wing, but rather says "Democratic and Republican politicians alike primarily serve the interests of big business," disregarding differences between the parties and within each party and leaving the right-wing forces, centered in the Republican Party, off the hook.  A reflection of the position of Socialist Alternative, an affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International.

The Lorain County AFL-CIO in Ohio reluctantly decided to run it's own independent slate of two dozen union members for city council seats in four towns after the Democratic mayor took anti-union positions.  They won. 

In New Haven, Connecticut the Democrat line was used by a labor community movement to elect 23 rank and file union members and community allies as a super majority on the 30 member Board of Alders, and a progressive African American woman mayor.

Similar experiments are taking place across the country.  In Chicago, where public education has been under attack, the teachers union has formed an independent organization to run candidates, organize at the grass roots and build alliances with community.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is considering a run for President in 2016 "to educate, organize and mobilize the working families of our country to stand up for their rights."  He wants to continue to shift the debate away from austerity to the idea that "we need to make government work for all the people, not just the 1 percent."

In Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba, civil rights lawyer and a founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, was elected mayor of the state's capital city with 88 percent of the vote on a "Black progressive agenda."  In 2014 he is planning a 50th anniversary commemoration of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the historic voter registration battle waged by Fannie Lou Hamer.

Organizing the South is of top significance, with it's key African American vote, growing Latino vote and the challenge to empower white workers to vote in their own self interests against the extreme right-wing.  The possibilities to sweep the South are growing as the UAW organizes in the auto plants, and as the North Carolina Moral Monday protests expand to Georgia and South Carolina where Republicans who dominate the state legislature are up for re-election.

A Moral March will be held in Raleigh on February 8, organized by the North Carolina NAACP and a 160 member coalition including labor, civil rights, faith, environment and youth organizations with a 14 point people's program.  NAACP chair Rev. Barber says, "We're calling on all people of good will to stand against these extremists who are attacking poor, and women, and labor, and unemployed people, and the sick, and, most horribly, what's fundamental to our democracy, which are our voting rights."

Our People before Profits message and program resonates well within the growing realization in our country that there is need for a new politics that does not allow the one percent with unlimited spending to determine the agenda. 

The idea that our country is not broke and that it is sensible to tax the rich and divert funds from the military to human needs and job creation is appealing to more and more people in our country.  It's time for us to consider where and how to field Communist candidates as part of the mix and within the overall strategy to defeat the extreme right-wing and build a people's grass roots movement.

Balance of Forces

On November 4, 2014,  43 U.S. Senators, all member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Governors in 36 states, and most state legislatures are up for election.

Senate

The greatest danger to working people would be a Republican take-over of the U.S. Senate where Democrats have a 55-45 majority, short of the 60 needed to override a filibuster.  In 2014 there are 21 Democrats and 14 Republicans up for election.  There are  five Democratic open seats (Tom Harkin - IA, Carl Levin - MI, Max Baucus - MT, Tim Johnson - SD,  Jay Rockefeller - WV) and three Republican open seats.(Saxby Chambliss - GA, Mike Johanns - NE, Tom Coburn - OK)

If Republicans add six more seats they will win the majority. As of now, it is very close. Ten Democratic incumbents are only ahead by one or two points in the polls. 

The Tea Party, with 23 percent support, is running primary challengers against all the Republican Senate leaders to either win or at least to influence the debate to the right.

The states with Senate seats up for re-election where Romney won for president in double digits are: Arkansas (Pryor-D), Alaska, Louisiana (Landrieu-D), Montana, South Dakota (open) and West Virginia.(open)  Romney also won North Carolina (Kay Hagan - D).  Democratic Senators up for re-election in these states face hugely financed opposition from their Republican opponents.

Senators whose terms expire in 2015

House

Republicans have a 17 seat majority in the House.  All members are up for re-election, and 26 open seats, 9 Democrats and 17 Republicans. The House is hard to change in a non-presidential year. 

In 30 congressional districts where no one is yet opposing the Republican incumbent, an unprecedented door to door effort is underway to identify and help candidates run. (Boldprogressives.org; MoveOn; Democracy for America.).  In Wisconsin  Democrat Kelly Westlund stepped forward with an economic populist campaign to run against Rep. Sean Duffy (R-7).

Red to Blue Jumpstart and Frontline candidates

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Governors

In the previous elections, Republicans captured a large majority of Governorships and state legislatures, which has led to a reactionary, anti-labor, anti-public worker sweep of legislation across the country.  There are 19 Republican governors seeking re-election and three open Republican seats. 

There are 10 Democratic Governors and four open Democratic seats in this election.

In the estimate of the Democratic Governors Association ten states with Republican governors can be flipped including in the key states of Ohio, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida and Maine. National attention is focused on the campaign of Rep Wendy Davis in Texas who stood courageously against state legislation denying women's reproductive rights.

Open Seats:  Republican-held: AZ, NB, TX;   Democrat-held: AK, MA, MD, RI

Seeking Re-election: Republican-held: AL, AK, FL, GA, IS, ID, KS, ME, MI, NV, NM, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, WI, WY; Democrat-held: CA, CO, CT,  HI, IL, MN, NH, NY, OR, VT

Voter Turnout

Many factors that will contribute to the election results are beyond our control including the jobs report at the time and the degree of success with implementation of the Affordable Care Act and immigration reform.  But we can help determine the outcome of the election through mass struggle which changes consciousness and alters the public discourse; and through voter registration, education and turnout.

Voter registration and voter turnout is the most fundamental way to empower the working class in all its diversity.  It expands our democracy, teaches the power of collective action and prepares working people to run for and hold elected office.  North Carolina is the poster child for extreme voter suppression laws, but roll-back in voting rights has been legislated in many states. 

There is a major push underway to update and restore the Voting Rights Act.  The initial bi-partisan bill introduced in the House does not require Florida, Ohio or North Carolina to get pre-clearance before amending voting laws.  These states have all had serious setbacks to voting rights in recent years and voting rights advocates hope to get that changed.

Labor and people's organizations are not taking this election year lightly.  They are geared toward record turnout mindful that if turnout had been higher in 2010 we probably would not be faced with Speaker Boehner and all the obstruction today.

The danger of low voter turnout is a warning and must be understood and acted on in the 2014 elections or they could be lost. The election of more progressives shows people are hungry for a pro-worker agenda, which gives optimism.

Labor 2014 will roll out in April connecting with community outreach and Working America. Door knocking on behalf of support for raising the minimum wage is part of the extraordinary effort that is planned.

The Voter Participation Center works with the Rising American Electorate (RAE) voters - single women, people of color and young voters 18-29 - who were all critical to the re-election of President Obama and some important Congressional victories in 2012.  Their survey reveals that as many as 21 million RAE voters are not yet committed to vote this year.  Next week they are starting a voter registration drive in nine states geared to 1.2 million unregistered voters. We should take note that the Republican National Committee is also targeting RAE voters in an attempt to attract voters "especially in Hispanic, African American and Asian Pacific communities."

The NAACP is preparing "an unprecedented effort online and on the ground to Protect, Defend and Advance the movement for civil rights and human rights with three key initiatives:  Protecting voting rights for millions targeted by voter suppression, Defending the safety of youth against stand your ground laws, Advancing gains made in 2013 against racial profiling and the death penalty.

The National Council of La Raza has an extensive voter participation program in place for its affiliates across the country, focused on voter registration drives, voter education on key issues, election protection and get out the vote materials. NCLR is partnering with Mi Familia Vota for a voter  registration drive to register 250,000 Latinos in 2014.  Nationally, one-third of newly eligible voters in 2014 will be young Latinos, young Asians or recently naturalized immigrants, equaling 3.2 million new voters..

The Sierra Club is building on their election successes in Virginia and Colorado in 2013 to mobilize 2.1 million members and supporters on the basis of where the candidates stand on popular climate solutions including job-creating wind and solar energy growth and strong standards to protect our air and water and public lands.   Other environmental organizations including NextGen Climate Action and the League of Conservation Voters are now determining their target races for 2014.

The Communist Party and YCL

One of the major contributions that our Party has and continues to make is our strategic focus on building a broad alliance to defeat the extreme right-wing and within that the critical role being played by the core forces for social change - labor, African American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Island, Native American, women and youth voters who are being hurt the most and have the most progressive voting trends.

Our understanding that in order to build unity the key obstacle, racism and other bigotries, has to be tackled is also a contribution to electoral progress.

Utilizing the People's World, our Party can help raise class consciousness among these forces, and bring new members into our ranks. A larger Communist Party is a significant contribution toward pushing through to a higher stage of political development in our country toward the goal of socialism.

The new organizing and multi-racial movements emerging in the deep South that we are participating in have the potential to break through old voting trends.  Being part of this movement is important not only for the elections this year, but  to establish organization in the South and win new gains nationally.

Our work in the new movements among low-wage and unemployed workers in alliance with unions and community groups is also important to the 2014 election, as we help to make the connections between the issues, the class struggle and the campaigns. It is possible to reach out to fast food and Wal-Mart workers in every community or neighborhood or rural area with voter information.

The demands to extend unemployment and food stamps and raise the minimum wage  and expand Social Security are winnable. They clearly expose the Republican right-wing. 

Whether we are in an isolated area with only a couple of members or in a large metropolis with many Party clubs there is something we can do.  On-line and off-line.

A simple petition to Congress can be taken out in the community along with voter registration cards.  If there is a labor or community effort under way, joining in is the way to go.  If there isn't, one or two Party members can start it off.  Others will join in. With the perspective of ongoing organizing locally and enlarging or creating an active club of the Communist Party and/or YCL.

The People's World is a critical part of this election, of shifting the debate and providing a class struggle approach to deepen understanding. It is at the center of building the Party and YCL.  If everyone sends in their experiences and conclusions and shares the articles, our paper can become grand central station on-line for all the exciting activities that will go into this election year.  It can be the place to go to turn the tide!

The new experiences electing union members and community allies to local office outside of the Democratic Party reflect frustration and anger with Republican obstruction, with Democrats who go along, and with the distress of every day survival.  We are challenged to look anew at how to build independence in the context of defeating the extreme right-wing.  And also to look more seriously at the possibilities and circumstances for fielding Communist candidates.

A network of progressive public official friends and allies is being organized in order to share information and ideas, give support, and also contribute to the 2014 elections. Participation is needed from many more parts of the country. 

What we experience and learn in the 2014 elections will enrich our Convention discussion, and also develop our thinking on how the work we do connects with the bigger goal of transforming our country toward a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable socialist future. We have to find a way of blending all these struggles together so one adds and strengthens the other.

The struggles for unemployment, food stamps and to raise the minimum wage and win immigration reform are an immediate clarion call.

President Obama's State of the Union address is expected to focus on income inequality. It will set the tone for this election year and coming up onto 2016. 

What we do now can make the difference for this election and  for a movement and Party that can further turn the tide to end the inequalities that are destroying our lives, our nation and our world.

 

PHOTO: U.S. Capitol, public domain

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Comments

  • This is an excellent report, like Jim Lane writes.
    The collectives need to discuss and take action on the issues raised.
    Lane also makes a good point on "red state(s)" we need to work to make all states voting "state(s)"(there is something to vote for in most cases).
    Motion and the "art" of dialectic politics is extremely important-real radicals like M L K, Du Bois, Marx, Lincoln, Douglass, Tubman, Robeson and Seeger always encourage optimal voting actions by the greatest numbers, as all events and issues interpenetrate and educate.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 01/29/2014 12:17pm (8 months ago)

  • Excellent report and guide to action. We need to keep doing these as the elections unfold. Here in Texas, working people have high hopes because of outstanding progressive candidates, unity of labor, and because national organizations are coming in to help.

    The Democrats are "betting the farm" on the women's vote. It worked in 1994 when Ann Richards was elected governor and could work again. "Texas is not a red state," they say. "Texas is a nonvoting state."

    Disgust with Republican rule is pretty much universal, but it is not yet known whether or not turnout will improve enough to effect turnaround.

    --jim lane

    Posted by Jim Lane, 01/27/2014 7:52pm (8 months ago)

  • 6 years into his presidency and Obama is just now talking about 'income inequality'? I bet after the November election he goes back to ignoring the subject.

    Posted by Che Kerouac, 01/25/2014 6:06pm (8 months ago)

  • This is the most concise and accurate summary of the preent situation I have seen anywhere, Congratulations.

    Posted by JOE FRAZIER, 01/25/2014 3:58pm (8 months ago)

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