Report by Joelle Fishman, Chair CPUSA Political Action Commission, to the Nov 18, 2006 meeting of the CPUSA National Committee
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Congratulations on an extraordinary year of labor-led all peoples front organizing and fight back. The right-wing stranglehold on Congress has been broken!
The elections are a stunning people’s victory – part of a hard fought quarter century battle to defend democracy. It is a victory being celebrated around the world.
After all the assaults on workers’ rights, all the efforts to dismantle the gains won for African American and Latino equality and women’s rights, all the efforts to dismantle the gains of the new deal benefitting seniors and youth, all the post 9/11 fear tactics and war profiteering, the voters said “enough is enough.” They chose hope over fear.
The results of this election mark the beginning of a shift away from right wing ideology.
The voters gave a mandate in this election to change the direction of the country. A mandate to withdraw from Iraq. A mandate for livable wages and good jobs with health care. A mandate against corruption and the influence of corporate greed.
Union activists and their community allies, having delivered this spectacular election victory, are now preparing for the legislative battles which promise to be fierce.
Those battles will be fought on a new terrain of struggle, more favorable to labor and people’s forces. The tyrannical, arrogant and inhumane Bush administration has been weakened.
Our analysis of this election will help develop the tactics that can further broaden and deepen the all peoples front. What is accomplished now will help determine the ability to change the White House and defeat the ultra-right in 2008.
We have been deeply involved. Our relationship with the working class and people’s movements have been deepened in many election districts. Examination of these lessons will enable us to develop conclusions and project tactics going forward.
We brought with us to the election experience our all peoples front strategy and our unity tactics. We said that defeating the ultra-right was paramount to all progress, and that the broadest unity was needed to bring about that defeat. We identified labor, African American, Latino, women, and youth voters as the core forces within the all peoples front that have the power to build unity on issues and organize large numbers.
Our special contributions were welcomed and appreciated. They helped move the project to Change Congress forward.
This election victory brings us closer toward defeat of the ultra-right. It brings us closer toward the next stages of struggle for anti-monopoly government and for socialism.
Our experience in this election emphasizes that the country needs a larger and stronger Communist Party. Our vision for a society free of exploitation, inequality, hunger and war speaks to the hopes and aspirations of the people.
Hopefully our discussion of the elections and our involvement with the working class and people, our connection to the core forces of the all peoples front and coalition building, will be interwoven with, and prepare us for the discussion on building the Communist Party, the YCL and our press.
The 2002 and 2004 elections were dubbed post 9/11 elections. It was very difficult to overcome the manipulation of fear of terrorism.
This year was the post-Katrina election. The first national election since this administration’s callous, racist disregard for human life was exposed to the people of our country and the entire world – in the midst of the storm, before the storm and continuing until this day.
At the beginning of this year, we projected the possibility of overcoming Rove’s 9/11 fear-of- terrorism campaigning. We predicted the potential for a voter upsurge that could change congress at a time when the pundits were saying that it couldn’t be done. Even two months ago, the pundits were saying that only the House could change.
We said it would take an upsurge based on majority opposition to the war, an upsurge based on mass reaction for the rights of immigrants, an upsurge reflecting the majority need for health care and higher wages. We said leadership from the core forces of the all peoples front would be needed to turn anger into organization and votes. We didn’t know if it would materialize, but we projected it, we fought for it, and we helped lay the basis for it.
In the end, the wave for change did materialize. The Democrats won majorities in both houses of Congress with six seats in the Senate and 30 plus in the House. There were some unexpected wins and some disappointments in the campaigns we were part of. In every case there was important groundwork laid for the future. Overall it was a great victory that changed the political landscape of the country and created a much better terrain of struggle.
The wave for Change was propelled by anger and frustration at the economic hole that working class families find themselves falling deeper and deeper into. This week it was announced by the USDA that 35 million – 1 in 12 Americans – are going without food each week, but the agency won’t call them hungry!
The wave for change was propelled by the ballooning number of young people being killed in Iraq, and the resources being squandered on needless war.
The wave for Change was propelled by the arrogant over-reach of the Bush administration and Republican leadership of Congress, rife with corruption and decay, lacking checks and balances.
The election became nationalized. Voters in the majority wanted checks and balances and a Democratic controlled Congress.
The controversial “fifty state strategy” proved effective for the Democratic Party as election districts across the country assumed to be unmoveable came into play.
Rejection of the Bush Agenda
The media has minimized or undermined the election results by claiming this election does not represent a change in thinking in the country. They focus on the election of Blue Dog or conservative Democrats. But this election was indeed a resounding rejection of the Bush administration and right-wing Republican control of Congress.
The voter turnout of 40.4% is the highest in a mid-term election since 1970. The core forces of the all peoples front turned out in large numbers and voted overwhelmingly Democrat.
Union members turned out in big numbers and voted 74% for Democrats. An enlarged turnout by Latino voters went 66% Democrat, showing a significant shift away from Republicans.The youth vote increased by more than 2 million voters compared to 2002, with 10 million voters under 30 coming to the polls, voting 61% Democrat (CIRCLE 11/8/06, NYT 11/9/06). African American voters turned out 89% for Democrats. Women voters went Democratic by 56%, but single women voted Democrat 2 to 1. The Jewish vote increased 10 points for Democrats to 88%.(NYT 11/9/06)
No Democratic incumbent was defeated in the general election. Some prominent Republicans went down to defeat and others won re-election by razor thin margins by distancing themselves from the Bush administration.
Democratic gains in Congress were made in every region of the country. Desperate Republican National Campaign Committee television ads trying to scare voters about Nancy Pelosi being Speaker of the House by labeling her a “San Francisco liberal” backfired in every district where they were aired. The ads lost votes for the Republican candidate and gained votes for the Democrat.
At least seven of the newly elected members of the House will join the Congressional Progressive Caucus bringing the number of members to at least 71. Two Progressive Caucus members were elected to the Senate (Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown.)
The leverage of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific caucuses is greatly enhanced. Members of those caucuses will chair at least half of the committees and subcommittees of the House.
Adding to the rejection of the Bush agenda, Democrats gained six governors and now hold a majority for the first time since 1994. (Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Maryland) Six state legislatures flipped to Democratic control. (New Hampshire, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin.). (Pew Research 11/8/06) Democrats netted 264 pick-ups in state Houses and 60 pick-ups in state Senates compared to eight each for the Republicans.
The rejection of the Bush agenda is even deeper if voter suppression and voter protection issues are taken into account . The combination of purging voters from the roles, obstacles to voter registration, voter intimidation, voter misdirection, inadequate and inaccurate voting machines were all a factor in this election, especially in working class precincts and majority African American and Latino precincts which vote heavily Democratic. The total vote lost could equal as much as 5 points, more than the difference in a number of races that are now being recounted.
Democrats Christine Jennings in Florida, where 18,000 blank votes were discovered due to voting machine irregularities; Victoria Wulsin and Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio where uncounted absentee ballots were discovered, and Patricia Madrid in New Mexico have not conceded as of this date. They are all candidates supported by Emily’s List which is raising money for potential recounts. Reps. Rush Holt and Robert Wexler want immediate legislation to require a voter verified paper record.
The upsurge vote against Republican control was so large in this election that it was able to overcome most of the obstacles plus election day dirty tricks of which there are many horror stories. Massive voter turnout succeeded in changing Congress despite these huge roadblocks. Non-partisan election protection teams at the national and state level did an outstanding job of monitoring this election. A complete overhaul of the election laws is required to safeguard the vote with paper trail, and to amplify the voice of the voter with instant runoff voting, public financing of elections and other reform measures.
There was a spontaneous aspect to the wave for change, but elections are generally not won spontaneously. At the center of the peoples victory was the role of the labor movement. The AFL-CIO Labor 2006 program was the largest and most successful ever. It was carried out in conjunction with Change to Win.
Labor 2006 expanded their outreach by including the families of union members along with the union members themselves, and by including Working America members and their families. Thousands and thousands of worker to worker, neighbor to neighbor, family and friend discussions and conversations were held at work sites, door to door and on the phone.
Across the country we participated in these walks and brought other union members and community folks along, and in some cases had key areas of responsibility. The acceptance of Communists in the labor movement proved to be at a high level.
13.4 million union voters were reached in 32 states by 200,000 union volunteers. A final four days program was put into effect, involving 187,000 union members, to counter Rove’s 72 hour program. On election day, 5.6 million voted. One out of every four voters on election day was a union member, or union household member. According to the AFL-CIO 74% of those members voted for union endorsed candidates – who for Congress were all Democrats. Those union voters also moved others.
As the Labor Commission said, the onward and upward mood of union members was as important as the numbers who participated. In the working class communities of Philadelphia, people felt they had such a big stake in the outcome of this election, they would do everything possible to defeat Santorum.
This force of the multi-racial, multi-national organized labor movement proved that it had the strength to successfully take on Karl Rove. Labor’s political independence developed to a higher level.
Labor’s role is also greatly enhanced.in state houses across the country. In Minnesota, in addition to electing progressive Keith Ellison as the first Muslim to serve in Congress, 35 union members were elected to the state legislature – 14 are new.
As a result, labor emerges from this election in a key position to lead – along with allies – in the legislative battles ahead. Workers have been waiting a long time to improve their wages and working conditions. At last organizing the unorganized, issues of trade and raising the minimum wage, and ending the war can get heard. But the pressure will have to be constant. Already opposition has been announced. For example, even on the minimum wage which would benefit 15 million workers, Sen. MeCain is raising objections.
Independent Voters Shift
Labor’s outreach in these elections reached into the suburbs and rural areas, carrying with it independents and swing voters, voters in the “middle,” who have sometimes been ignored by Democrats.
The shift of independent voters toward Democrats which took place was necessary to win the House and the Senate. Independents voted 57 percent to 38 percent for Democrats, an increase of seven points
There were also shifts among “values voters” – largely rural evangelical and Catholic who had voted on the basis of opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Outreach by labor and faith based organizations who supported ballot questions to raise the minimum wage and opposed the war as moral issues moved these voters to reorder their top issues. Efforts in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri plus active campaigning by the Democratic candidates for the senate in rural areas created a shift in voting patterns.
In Western Pennsylvania, at a meeting of 600 evangelicals, the issues of healthcare and jobs were presented from the Bible as part of a concerted effort to see beyond abortion. A 50 percent turnout on election day successfully defeated Santorum and right-wing Republican Melissa Hart.
Voters in all six states where raising the minimum wage was on the ballot passed the measure overwhelmingly: AZ, CO, MT, NV, OH. In Ohio and Missouri our comrades collected signatures, pulled votes and helped strategize these campaigns.
An exit poll by Zogby showed that Iraq was the top moral issue among Catholics, born-again Christians and frequent church attendees. Poverty and economic justice topped the list as the “most urgent moral problem in American culture.” There was an eight point shift toward the Democrats, with 41% of evangelicals and 55% of Catholics voting Democratic. (This was a Moral Values Election, Jim Wallis, Sojourners, 11/15)
This shift has long-term implications. If Democrats do not respond legislatively on the issues of war and poverty they stand to lose their new support in 2008. On the other hand, the Republican Party needs the voters in Missouri and Ohio if it is to remain a national Party instead of limited to the South. These areas remain a battleground. These are areas where the Peoples Weekly World, the Communist Party and YCL need to be.
ISSUES OF UNITY
Republican racism and bigotry poisoned the campaign atmosphere in race after race through attack ads, in campaign debates and ballot measures. In many cases the attempt to divide voters and suppress the African American and Latino vote backfired, but in some cases negative referendum votes will now define ongoing struggle and the potential to build stronger class unity.
New conditions of struggle in the new Congress open the door to winning gains, but reaction will have its way if unity of the core forces of the all peoples front is not built. Close examination of these experiences will help further raise class consciousness and develop practical methods to build unity, which is necessary to complete the task of defeating the ultra right and moving forward. The alliance between labor and African American, Latino, women and youth voters is key.
Republican strategy to use immigrant bashing as a “wedge issue” in this election did not work.
Many candidates who campaigned on an anti-immigrant bigotry message were defeated, including Senator Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania who lost by 18 points and Katherine Harris in Florida who lost by 22 points in her bid for U.S. Senate. In the House, J.D. Hayworth (AZ-5) author of the anti-immigrant book “Whatever It Takes,” and Randy Graf (AZ-8) a member of the anti-immigrant Minute Men, were both defeated as were John Hostettler (IN-8), and Rick O’Donnell (CO-7). Voters in Indiana defeated Republicans in two other House seats as well.
Republicans who attacked their Democratic opponents as supporting “amnesty” because they took a stand for legalization and a path to citizenship were defeated in most cases. Latino voters helped make the difference in close races, voting 66% Democrat, angered by Republican policy and inspired by the mega marches, “Today we March, Tomorrow we Vote.” In exit polls, six in ten voters said they believe undocumented immigrants working in the US should get a chance to apply for legal status. (CHRI 11/10/06)
Senator Bob Menendez became the first Latino elected to the Senate from New Jersey, and State Representative Albio Sires was elected to fill Menendez’ old House seat. Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Stabenow (D-MI) and Carper (D-DE) were the subject of attack ads but easily won re-election.
However Senator Jon Kyl (“Kyl is vile”) was narrowly re-elected in Arizona and will now be part of the Republican leadership. Also in Arizona, several anti-immigrant ballot measures passed including making English the official language of the state. In New Mexico Patricia Madrid’s (D) strong campaign to defeat Heather Wilson ( R ) is still being counted.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, corporate America’s right-wing representative in California, campaigned to the center to win votes, positioning himself as a moderate, but also used targeted anti-immigrant phone calls to get out his base and win re-election.
In the House, anti-immigrant ads and campaigning were a factor in preventing the election of Tammy Duckworth (IL-8) and Francine Busby (CA-50).
Republicans poured in $10 million, and used a whisper campaign against Duckworth, an Iraq vet of Thai descent who lost both legs, calling her a “foreigner.” While retaining the seat for Henry Hyde’s successor Peter Roskam, the Republicans saw an erosion of support from the suburban areas outside Chicago where union members campaigned hard, with a loss of 20,000 votes.
Busby’s district in San Diego County, California, includes Escondido, a town with changing demography whose city council voted 3 to 2 to make it illegal for a landlord to rent to anyone who does not have papers. Almost half the population is Latino. Outrage inspired Latino candidates to run for the first time in the local elections.
Our comrades in Southern California helped organize a strong get out the vote drive in that town, which lays the foundation for Latino representation and keeps the momentum going to overturn the anti-democratic council decision, which would require landlords to check the papers of anyone who wants to rent! Yesterday a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop the measure from going into effect today as scheduled.
George Bush has played both sides of the fence, pretending to be for comprehensive reform, but in actuality supporting punitive measures and guest worker programs which relegate immigrants to unequal conditions away from their families. His administration has increased crackdowns on immigrants in recent months for false Social Security numbers used to gain employment.
Black and Latino workers at Smithfield Packing Company in Tarheel, North Carolina walked out en masse in protest of several firings this week due to “no match” letters from Social Security. Two thirds of the 5,500 workers are Latino immigrants. After a two day strike, the company sat down with the workers and reached a settlement, showing the power of united action.
As the dust settles from this election year, pro-immigrant forces will have to regroup given the new majority in Congress and raise the bar of expectations for legislation, including repeal of the decision to build a fence on the Southern border, which Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MI) who will chair the House Homeland Security committee, plans to revisit; and a moratorium on deportations. We should be a part of those efforts.
African American Equality
The African American vote increased a point to 89% for Democrats in this election. The voters of Massachusetts elected Deval Patrick as Governor, the second elected African American governor of any state. ( Newhouse News Services 11/15/06). He received more than half of the white vote and 89% of the African American vote for a landslide victory.
Republican efforts to win the Black vote with high profile Black Republican candidates aligned with the Bush administration were rejected. Ken Blackwell in OH got 20% of African American vote in his bid for Governor. Lynn Swan in PA got 13% of African American vote for Governor. Michael Steele in MD got 25% of the African American vote in his bid for US Senate.
Keith Ellison, (D- MN), the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives, will be a new member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Five members of the Caucus may become committee chairs, greatly elevating its stature and leverage. John Conyers (D-MI), Judiciary; Alcee Hastings (D-FL) Intelligence; Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) House Administration, Charles Rangel, Ways and Means; Bennie Thompson (D-MI) Homeland Security. As with the Progressive, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Caucuses, the change in Congress provides an opportunity for new working relations and positive grass roots pressure on the issues.
In Michigan, despite a strong defeat to the ultra-right in the Governor, Legislature and US Senate races, a ballot proposal to ban Affirmative Action in public education, employment and contracting passed 58-42. It was opposed by the One United Michigan Coalition including labor. The Michigan Party emphasizes that while the vote is a big setback, the struggle is not over. Immediately, the president of the University of Michigan announced that she is filing a lawsuit to protect the right of the university to have diversity. Over 2000 students attended the announcement.
Democrats voted to save affirmative action by 64%, while Republicans voted to eliminate affirmative action by 79%. The proposal was confusing. It was called a Civil Rights initiative and a vote NO was a vote to save affirmative action. Our comrades in Michigan worked hard to build unity against this proposal and are continuing the battle to raise understanding that affirmative action is inclusion, not exclusion.
In the Tennessee Senate race, the despicable ad run by Bob Corker against Harold Ford, Jr. showed the long way we have to go to eliminate racial stereotypes and slurs as unacceptable. Had he won, Ford would have been the first African American Senator from the South since reconstruction. The experiences in Michigan and Tennessee require further examination.
In races across the country, vicious ads were aired by the Republican Party that played to racism, fear of terrorism and red baiting as a means of pulling out their base and discouraging voter participation. In many cases they cost the Republican candidate the election, indicating the strong democratic trend among the people of our country. The African American vote was decisive in many close races including the Senate races in Maryland and Virginia. (Rainbow-Push 11/9/06)
Women voters and women’s organizations played a strong role in the 2006 elections. Of ten new senators, two are women, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Amy Klotchbar (D-MN), the first woman senator elected from Minnesota. Women’s participation was key in close campaigns that changed the Senate including Jim Webb (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Two-thirds of minimum wage workers over 16 are women, and women were an important part of the Minimum Wage ballot initiatives.
The Bush administration and the ultra-right have zeroed in on abortion as a wedge issue, but they were unsuccessful this year. A critical win for reproductive rights was registered in South Dakota, where the state’s draconian abortion ban was soundly defeated in a ballot initiative 56 to 44. The Native American vote was important to the outcome.
The right-wing was also defeated in Missouri, when an amendment allowing stem cell research passed and was a factor in the election of Claire McCaskill over Jim Talent.
The ability of the right-wing to use gay rights as a wedge issue also diminished considerably in this election. Arizona became the first state to defeat a ballot initiative that would take away domestic partnership benefits, which are now part of the law in four cities there. Bans on gay marriage or civil unions were passed in seven other states (CO, ID, SC, SD, TN, VA, WI), but with less support than in 2004. In South Dakota the initiative passed by only two percent.
The defeat of Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, known for obsessive and extreme views on gay people was regarded as a major victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, who also greeted the election of Democratic governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Oregon.
TERRORISM / IRAQ WAR
The Republican National Campaign Committee used “terrorism” attack ads to call into question the patriotism of any Democratic opponent who opposed the war. Attack ads were also used to imply that a Democratic candidate who opposed wiretapping was befriending the terrorists. They may have worked in some close races, but overall, the attack ads turned people off and fell flat.
The idea that the Bush administration and the war has made us less safe, which Sam Webb repeatedly stressed, did resonate in this election. It kept opposition to the war as a top issue.
Massive demonstrations and majority public opposition to the war extending into all parts of the country – urban and rural – and leading to the emergence and growth of the Out of Iraq Caucus in Congress, set the tone for this election. Numerous peace candidates ran in the primaries, and while all did not win, every one got impressive support.
In Connecticut, Ned Lamont’s challenge to Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate captured the moment and drew national and international attention as a “fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.”
Ned Lamont said the war has made us less safe when he challenged Joe Lieberman and amazingly won the Democratic Primary after a campaign that just began a few months earlier. His program was bring the troops home and invest the $250 million a day into public schools, health care and good jobs. His win inspired Democrats around the country to speak out against the war in their campaigns, and moved the people.
Joe Lieberman claimed the primary voters were just “left fringe” and utilized an election law glitch which allowed him to run in the general election as a petitioning candidate on the “Connecticut for Lieberman” line. He won because he became the defacto Republican candidate with endorsement by Bush and Cheney, winning 70% of the Republican vote. At the same time he kept saying “nobody wants an end of the war more than I do,” confusing some Democrats to vote for him. Loyalties built up over years of public service also got Lieberman some of the 30% of Democratic votes he received.
Labor and progressives in Connecticut are now committed to raise the level of pressure on Lieberman, which is extremely important as he positions himself as the swing vote in the Senate.
A number of candidates who campaigned against the war were elected to the House. In Kentucky’s 3rd CD John Yarmuth turned over a Republican seat with a program against the war, for single payer and against Bush. He won 52-47. In two other Kentucky CDs, the Democrats were for the war and lost.
In California’s 11th CD, Richard Pombo was defeated by wind energy consultant Jerry McNierny (D) who campaigned against the war. After former Congressman McCLosky lost a Republican primary challenge to Pombo, he formed Republicans for McNierny which played a visible role.
Referenda against the war were passed in 135 towns in Massachusetts and in counties across the state of Illinois, as well as in other states.
There is tremendous people’s pro-peace momentum coming out of the election. The big challenge now is how to build the movement and work with the new Congress to achieve a withdrawal from Iraq. A whole range of exit strategies are being put forward, some stronger than others.
Sen. Carl Levin who will chair the Senate Armed Services Committee said “the first order of business is to change the Iraq policy” projecting a phased withdrawal within four to six months. Bush has said no. This will be the first big challenge of the 101st Congress.
Ike Skelton who will chair the House Armed Services Committee said he will resurrect the oversight and investigations subcommittee eliminated by the Republicans.
Henry Waxman who will chair the Government Reform Committee, is planning to investigate the Bush administration contracting in Iraq, war profiteering and the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Sen Harry Reid said he will restore the power of the Office for Iraq Reconstruction to investigate waste and corruption in Iraq.
On Tuesday, Senator Russ Feingold introduced legislation to redeploy by July 1, 2007. He argues for a target date to be set.
Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus provided a forum for George McGovern to present his proposal for withdrawal from Iraq.
Chris Dodd, who will be the second ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee, introduced legislation Thursday to overhaul the Military Tribunal Bill and “undo what was done.”
Also this week, the Catholic Bishops issued a call for Iraq withdrawal. “Because the war was such an election issue and became very partisan, our hope is, now that the elections are over, that all of the national leaders will come together and try and work together for a reasoned solution and transition out of Iraq without abandoning the people of that country,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.
United for Peace and Justice announced a march on Washington DC to be held Saturday January 27 and a lobby day on Monday, January 29 calling for immediate action to end the war. These mobilizations should give a boost to, and hopefully strengthen, current legislative proposals.
This election is a beginning in the great task of changing direction in our country, and looking toward the 2008 presidential elections. We will have to think through the key issues and tactics that can strengthen the all peoples front to move forward in the new conditions, and how we can make our contribution to that effort.
We know that the Bush agenda is not changed, although he will also have to adjust to the new situation. The permanent war policy, privatization of social security, punitive anti-immigrant measures, union busting, repression of civil rights and civil liberties are still all on the table.
So, there will be pulls on the Democrats toward the right in the name of bi-partisanship. It will take a struggle to change the direction of the country and fulfill the meaning of this election.
We want the new leadership to be partisan on behalf of working people. The organizing that went into this election victory now has to be turned to organizing grass roots pressure for a people’s needs program.
The spotlight is on Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker of the House. She says, we’ve made history, now let’s make progress. How will that be accomplished? What will it take?
The first 100 hours program projected by Pelosi is a modest start in undoing some of the most egregious actions of the last Congress: raising the minimum wage from 5.l5 to 7.25 an hour, lowering student debt, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, ending giveaways to the energy industry.
The newly elected members of Congress include the full spectrum ideologically. Some are with the socially conservative Blue Dogs, some are centrist New Democrats, and some will join the Progressive Caucus which expects to reach at least 71 members. Yet, they all were elected in this year’s upsurge, an upsurge clearly against the war and concerned about economic security and fairness. They all can be held accountable on that basis
Working issue by issue will give the needed flexibility to get maximum support from different members of Congress no matter their caucus. But the Progressive Caucus, along with the Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific caucus, provide a link between the Congress and the grass roots
It is so inspiring to have the new committee chairs coming into place that we talked about all year. John Conyers for Judiciary, Louise Slaughter for Rules, George Miller for Education and the Workforce.
In Arizona, a “send-off” party is being organized by labor, peace and all those who worked in the campaign to say to the newly elected: these are the issues you are going to Washington to represent us on. The defeat of two Republicans on the border raises the stature of progressive Rep. Raul Grijalva, a former community organizer who maintains his ties and is a leader for pro-immigrant and other people’s legislation. The newly elected in Arizona are looking to Grijalva for guidance.
In Ohio, a conference next month will bring together all organizations who worked for the election of Sherrod Brown to US Senate to develop a unity program for healthcare and other issues. Similar ideas are being pursued in other states to keep up grass roots pressure on the issues, and relate with the new members of Congress.
We should participate with labor and other organizations of the all peoples front as demands are shaped to challenge the obscene transfer of wealth that has taken place under the Bush / Republican controlled Congress.
Following the election, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said “the hard work isn’t over—now we must keep the heat on Congress to make sure our voices continue to be heard. But after seeing the change working families of our country accomplished in this election, I have no doubt we will succeed.”
Certainly one of the first fights will be for enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act to restore workers’ rights to organize into unions. This legislation is strategic to changing the balance of forces in our country.
Plant closings and loss of jobs have been taking a big toll on working class communities and families. The economic issues, including raising the minimum wage and health care are high priority. A labor led coalition is being formed to organize mass support for HR 676 introduced by Rep. John Conyers to provide universal health coverage.
There will be many new opportunities to move working class issues forward. For example, Rep Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who will lead the energy and commerce’s subcommittee on Health is a supporter of single payer health care. The people’s movement is called upon to build grass roots support and at the same time work together with the progressives in Congress.
We should think through how our contributions can help the movement think bigger and build broader.
The Working Families Party in New York is expanding into other states and in New York state is growing neighborhood by neighborhood.
In Vermont, the Progressive Party is gaining more representation in the Legislature as a result of years of gras roots organizing.
We should study these two Parties more in depth. There is need for a political party not beholden to corporate capital, one that is beholden to working people. Most likely, a number of similar formations will come into being around the country before a new people’s party is born that is free of ties to corporate money.
We should also study the Green Party. In Connecticut’s 4th CD, the Green Party candidate pulled out for fear their votes could tip the election to the Republican. That kind of strategic thinking is new. The experience in a number of other states was different. In Michigan, where Democrats won the State House but not the Senate, Greens tipped some races to the Republican Party injuring the all people’s front. Nationally and within each state the Green Party varies depending on the people involved.
The votes the Green Party gets are noteworthy, and confirm that many people are looking for independent political expressions.
Next year in the municipal elections we should emphasize the importance of running our own for public office, with a flexible coalition approach.
PARTY AND YCL
A note from the Maryland Party says: “A recently returned comrade noted that since election day, every time she hears anyone talking about the results, a smile automatically comes to her. The Republican right was defeated on so many fronts that it is still to be savored. Nonetheless, as John Conyers and many others have been saying, “Now the work begins!”
Let’s salute the full mobilization of the Party in this election, and the tremendous contributions that were made. There is much that can be built on from our experiences. We did a great job on the ideological, strategic and tactical levels.
In many cases we were tapped for leadership positions in the historic Labor 2006 efforts or other aspects of the election mobilizations. We were in the thick of the door knocking and phone banks in many areas helping build up the volunteers and making new friends in the process. We took special initiatives where there were ideological challenges within the campaigns. We showed leadership outreaching to the Latino and African American communities in a number of the races where this was not taking place.
We presented the arguments for all peoples front and helped activate the peace and justice community where there were problems. We participated with and helped mobilize the youth vote in some of the campaigns. We used the Peoples Weekly World and the election brochure as tools to develop deeper understanding of the tactics of this election and how it fits into the longer term goals for changing the whole society.
Our approach of a national target list composed of the races that the districts prioritized worked well. It helped us break new ground in new areas of our states. It placed us in position to have strong participation in races from New York to California that were considered long shots and were actually won. We have to think through how to continue to build on the new relations and new friends we have made.
We made a difference in the campaign to Change Congress. Now we should think through building the Party in a bigger way on the basis of our acceptance and the understanding of our strategy.
At the National Board discussion there was a comment that the door to door work was so successful we should continue it all the time. Working America may do some of that. But the People’s Weekly World is a wonderful reason to knock on the doors each week. Delivering the paper gives “permission” to come by regularly and get acquainted at the same time. It is long term growing and building.
The biggest challenge we have is building vibrant, thriving clubs that make a difference. In several states, new clubs were formed during this election. In other states, new People’s Weekly World routes were initiated in important electoral precincts.
Let’s use this election experience to build Communist Party clubs in precincts that become part of the life of the neighborhood using the Peoples Weekly World, become a force in winning local struggles, develop voting blocs and eventually run candidates of our own.
With right-wing dominance, the people’s movement has been on the defensive. Our Party is the offensive weapon. Any initiative we take should have a Party building component, to help the all peoples front move onto the offensive and win new gains.
A note from the YCL describes their fine work in this election:
“YCL clubs in Tucson, Phoenix and Sierra Vista worked to defeat Republican Senator Kyl (re-elected though he was), and they contributed to the Democratic sweep of the House with two new representatives (Mitchell and Giffords). Their elections work was mainly with the Party District and through local labor organizations.
“Our clubs in St. Louis and in Columbia, MO worked to elect Claire McCaskill primarily through Missouri Pro-Vote. They worked to pass an increase in the minimum wage through St. Louis Jobs with Justice. YCLers in Pennsylvania worked to get rid of Santorum as well as contributing four seat changeovers, working with the League of Pissed Off Voters in Pittsburgh and Working America in Philadelphia.
“New York comrades participated in multiple races, and helped change the seats in three races (Arcuri, Gillibrand, Hall) – working with the Party District to mobilize for weekend labor walks upstate and in Long Island.
“The Milwaukee YCL also mobilized the club for labor walks and also participated with a coalition to defeat the anti-gay marriage initiative. Florida YCLers worked in Orlando and Jacksonville with ACORN. YCLers in Hartford and New Haven worked with the Party District for Ned Lamont. The Chicago Club worked with the Party District on a series of labor walks, including for Tammy Duckworth.
“Our new Arkansas Study Group was a leading voice in the University of Arkansas campus coalition to get out the student vote. They worked with the local Democrats and ACORN. New Jersey YCLers worked mainly with the Party District to re-elect Menendez. Last, DC YCLers going to school in Maryland worked through campus-based peace coalitions to elect a Democratic governor.”
This is the biggest opportunity in years for our Party and for all of the movements. There are so many openings because of the high level of work that was done throughout the Party in this election. All of the notes that were sent in from districts speak of the appreciation for our work.
We should examine what was accomplished and what we could have done better, in building and participating in the coalitions as well as building the numbers and strength of the Party, YCL and our publications, and ideas for how to convert our best work into a bigger organization and base for our paper.
We can generalize from this experience when we address the report by Sam on the role and tasks of the Party.
This was a challenging year for all of us. I would like to especially recognize the members of the Political Action Commission. Like the Party as a whole, the Commission has grown and matured in this election campaign. We lived with it, we enjoyed it, we learned a lot, and like everyone else we did our share of hard work. In the course of the year we have gained new members, but we are still incomplete and need strengthening in our composition.
This National Commission meeting is very timely. But, only a week and a half after election day, this report should be considered an initial assessment. Together, we will flesh it out and deepen it as we develop our program and go forward.
Juntos, si se puede! Together, we will win.