Report to the National Committee, Communist Party USA, Nov. 17, 2012
The world breathed a sigh of relief and a shout of joy went up clear across the country when Ohio was called for President Barack Obama on election night, putting him over the 270 electoral college threshold to win four more years.
Yet in that shout of joy for a giant people’s victory was also the realization that we can’t miss a beat going forward in this ongoing battle to wrest the country from the grip of the reactionary, corporate right-wing extremists.
We and the country have been through a remarkable, challenging, grueling, exhausting and exhilarating year, really two years. We have given our all within a maturing, expanding broad electoral alliance and people’s movement.
In the process, a new respect and appreciation for the strategy and tactics, team work and vision of the Communist Party and YCL is emerging.
Congratulations are in order!
Our projection that the election was at the heart of the class struggle, that we were at the crossroads for democracy has been born out. Our policy of the need for and commitment to help build a broad united alliance against the extremists is being proven sound.
The election of tea party Republicans to Congress and Governorships and State Houses in 2010, reflecting a racist backlash from the election of the first African American president, brought with it a full blown campaign to undo every democratic achievement ever won by the people of this country. Finance capital was on overdrive to grab every public asset for the private profit of a few at the expense of the many.
The extremes between great hoarded wealth and growing poverty exposed the inequalities of capitalism and gave rise to giant struggles for livelihood and the right to be heard.
Workers in our country also saw the struggles of workers abroad being pushed down in the global economic crisis, and identified with their strikes, uprisings and hard fought elections.
Millions became engaged, many for the first time, from the massive fights for workers’ rights in Wisconsin and Ohio, to the dramatic protests of economic inequality by Occupy and at Bainport, to the inspiring actions for social justice by the Dreamers, to courageous stands in defense of women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality, to determined fightback against racist voter suppression most notably in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania, and then the realization, in the wake of Storm Sandy, that yes, we are all in this together.
All these challenges, experiences, and organizing drives laid the groundwork for a historic effort by labor, civil rights, women and youth along with environmental and LGBT organizations. The result is majority repudiation of the politics and policies of the 1%, exemplified by the glimpse into raw class warfare as Mitt Romney dismissed 47% of the people.
Romney’s outrageous statement blaming his loss on “Obama’s gifts” (like healthcare and student loans) to “certain groups” ramps up the class warfare and disrespect.
The media plays up the idea that the election shows a widening racial divide. In reality, what this election shows is a new level of coing together, of class and social solidarity, of rejecting racism.
It was growing class consciousness that made victory possible for so many progressive candidates and ballot measures which featured anti-corporate arguments in their campaigns.
The high finances and tactics of Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers and company to seize this election did not work. Gerrymandered redistricting, restrictive voting laws, anti-Communist baiting, racist ads, lies and trickery backfired.
These blatant attacks got people’s attention. They gave rise to a civil rights style movement in communities across the nation embracing the increasing diversity of our country.
Determination and resolve became the order of the day to overcome all obstacles and get out the largest vote ever. In Ohio the mobilization by African American churches and organizations, refusing to be disenfranchised, filled long lines at early voting stations for a month. On election day, in some precincts the wait was hours long (in Miami-Dade County till 1:30 am!), but people stood it out. In New Jersey and New York, despite the consequences of storm Sandy, voters cast their ballots.
President Obama carried all the tipping point swing states. His electoral college sweep and popular vote win is a tremendous accomplishment made possible by a powerful grass roots on-the-ground effort joining together labor and progressive democratic-minded forces. It set the framework for all the other races.
While the U. S. House of Representatives remains in Republican hands, it is a different House with new dynamics. Republicans won the majority of seats due to gerrymandering, but more votes were cast for Democrats nationwide.
Six tea party incumbents were defeated by progressive democrats. Additional progressives won open seats, although every race was not won. Tea party leaders Alan West, Joe Walsh, Brian Bilbray and Mary Bono Mack are out. Progressives Alan Grayson from Florida, Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster from New Hampshire, Dr. Raul Ruiz from Riverside California, and Mark Pocan, a leader in the Wisconsin walkout, are in.
The composition of the 200 member Democratic Caucus will make history. In the words of Nancy Pelosi, “for the first time in Congressional history — the majority will be women and minorities. We expect to have 61 women, 43 African Americans, 27 Hispanics, 10 Asian Americans and 6 LGBT Americans in our Caucus.”
In the Senate, the Democratic majority has been enlarged to 54. Notorious tea party Republican challengers Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock went down to defeat. Newly elected progressive women bring the total of women Senators from 17 to 20. Mazie Hirono the first Asian American woman, Tammy Baldwin the first openly gay woman, and Elizabeth Warren who said “the system is rigged against you.” Heidi Heitkamp won in North Dakota, Chris Murphy defeated billionaire wrestling mogul Linda McMahon. Sherrod Brown, who was a top target of the right-wing, won re-election in Ohio as did Bernie Sanders in Vermont. Tim Kaine won in Virginia.
A progressive shift was also apparent in several ballot questions including the passage of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington, and initiatives in California and Oregon to increase taxes on the wealthy and close a corporate loophole to fund public education and services. Spending on education with job creation passed in New Jersey. The Dream Act passed in Maryland. The proposition to limit labor’s participation in elections was defeated in California. Emergency Manager was defeated in Michigan. Ballot questions to amend the constitution to abolish Citizens United passed in Montana and 100 cities. San Jose voted to increase the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour. And in towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut non-binding ballot questions to cut military spending and increase spending for job creation and human needs passed overwhelmingly.
Missouri, Washington and New Hampshire elected new Democratic Governors in open seats after difficult races. While the struggle to overturn tea party advances in 2010 is still underway, in Minnesota the 2010 takeover of the State Legislature by the religious right was reversed in this election.
In Tucson, a peoples coalition captured the majority on the School Board defeating incumbents who had capitulated to the racist edict banning Chicano studies.
The attempts to minimize the vote for President Obama and the progressive shift in the overall election is a continuation of the vicious racism since 2008. The 2012 victory was definitive despite every possible tactic used by and on behalf of the Romney/Ryan campaign.
The vote was not spontaneous. It was hard fought and unprecedented. It was the result of millions of conversations at doors, at work, on the phone and on social media.
In the last four days alone, AFL-CIO members from 56 unions made 10.7 million door knocks and phone calls. SEIU members knocked on 5 million doors including 3.7 million in battleground states on those final days.
70% of union households voted for Obama in Ohio, and 65% nationwide. The contribution of the labor movement with its multi-racial, male-female, young-old, gay-straight, immigrant-native born membership to this election cannot be over stated. This includes release time given to staff, mobilization of members, and especially in framing the debate around class issues and exposing Romney/Ryan for undermining jobs, not creating them and threatening the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In battleground states, where Workers Voice, the AFL-CIO super PAC was utilized, union members were freed up to speak with all voters and not just other union members. Nearly 400,000 Workers Voice volunteers made 80 million phone calls and knocked on 14 million doors.
Hearing their message helped shift the thinking of white workers who had been for Romney. In these battleground states, white working-class voters rejected racist appeals and supported Obama at a much higher rate than elsewhere. In Ohio, 65% of white union members voted for Obama.
Working America households, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, voted 66% for Obama. In battleground areas where there was extra focus, Working America households voted 74% for Obama.
I’m sure many of us found that a “labor walk” got a much different response than a general door knock. The labor mobilization was important to this election and for the labor movement itself. We need a much larger labor movement in our country, and this campaign has opened the door to go back and organize among the unorganized voters.
Lumping together “white voters” as opposing Obama is misleading and fails to show the growing anti-racism trend exhibited in this election. “White voters” as a category is distorted because it includes the 1% and other well off people who identify with the 1%.
Where a class approach to the election was presented and argued for, the majority of white voters chose Obama. Visiting the homes of union members on ‘labor walks” in largely white communities from New Hampshire to Iowa identified many enthusiastic Obama supporters. These lessons are important going forward in the continuing struggle against racism and for class unity.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka gave the lead when he said, if you care about your jobs and health care and social security and the right to vote and sending your kids to college, get rid of your racism and vote for the candidate whose program speaks to your needs, Barack Obama.
The labor movement’s unique role in representing the interests of the entire working class came through in this election. It underscores the importance of building up labor’s political action structures that can mobilize on the basis of workers’ issues year round, pull out the vote in elections, and become strong enough to elect many more union members and working people to public office.
The political structures built up during this election are a potential pathway for independent progressive politics to continue developing and exerting its force.
Side by side and intertwined with the labor movement was the new and growing role of the rising American electorate, which made up nearly half of all voters. African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American voters, women voters, youth voters all were highly mobilized.
Their determination and activism was propelled in part as a response to being targeted and threatened with loss of voting rights. These expanding sections of the electorate have a large working class composition and add to the foundation of the broad electoral alliance.
The NAACP registered 42,000 new voters and engaged 1.2 million people. African Americans voted 93% for Obama, maintaining their historic progressive leadership and refusing to fall for the tactics of division emanating from the Romney/Ryan camp.
The National Council of La Raza registered 97,000 new voters, knocked on 113,016 doors, made 233,897 calls, and sent 257,000 emails and 90,780 text messages reminding voters to cast their ballots early where possible. Latinos voted 71% for Obama up from 67% in 2008. Latino voters made up 10% of the electorate (9% in 2008), and made the difference for Obama in key battlegrounds Nevada and Colorado. Latino voters have emerged as a powerful, progressive force. The number of Latino voters is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Planned Parenthood mobilized 10,000 “Women are Watching” volunteers. Members of NOW and others came out in full force horrified by the meaning of the “war on women” for themselves, their daughters and their mothers. Single women voted 67% for Obama and made up 23% of the electorate.
Youth were written off by the media as being disaffected, but youth organizations registered tens of thousands of new voters on campuses and in communities and made up a large section of campaign volunteers. Youth voted 60% for Obama and were 19% of all voters (an increase of 1% over 2008). Youth turnout was highest in the battleground states, and made a difference in the outcome.
Asian American Pacific Islanders for Obama played a prominent role in the Democratic National Convention. The preparations for grass roots organizing were impressive. Asian Americans voted 73% for Obama, a dramatic shift from the 30% who voted Democrat for Clinton in 1992.
The National Congress of American Indians reached out nationwide to 3 million voters calling turnout “a civic emergency” and made the difference for Senate in Montana and North Dakota, in New Mexico, Arizona and in other local races.
Jewish voters went 70% for Obama, despite a highly funded effort by right-winger Sheldon Adelson to separate Jewish voters out on the basis of supporting Israel. Two thirds of Jewish voters said they approve of Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Arab conflict and 90% said their main concern is domestic issues.
MoveOn involved its 7 million members on-line through social media and joined with Workers Voice for phone calls to battle ground states. The Sierra Club mobilized 12,000 volunteers across the country. The Alliance for Retired Americans organized 250,000 calls to retirees.
The Obama for America campaign mobilized on a giant scale. The campaign created neighborhood groups and on-line interest groups and utilized social networking, texting and new technology. Over 30,000 volunteers registered 2 million new voters in battleground states, and made 145 million phone calls and door knocks. This has been called the largest grassroots effort ever seen.
Direct voter contact was so important because it allowed the chance for discussion, and the opportunity to break through the lies and rhetoric filling the airwaves. Voters wanted to know what each candidate’s program would mean for their lives.
The most powerful contrast was the fact that Romney and Ryan represent the 1% while Obama and Biden were oriented to the problems of middle and low income families. Romney and Ryan wrote off 47% of the country and said “you’re on your own.” Obama and Biden said government has a responsibility because “we’re in it together.”
Jobs in the auto industry, health coverage for young adults, increased student loans, aid for the victims of Sandy were concrete manifestations that influenced opinions.
Concepts such as “class struggle” and “tax the rich,” — ideas we have long supported — emerged in this election and made common sense to millions of people, taking precedence over the Republican cry of “socialist,” used as if it were a bad word. The framework of the debate was changed from “deficit reduction” to “jobs not cuts.”
In a post-election survey of voters by Democracy Corps, two-thirds say the priority should not be deficit reduction, but “a plan to invest in new industries and rebuild the country and create jobs over the next five years.”
Over 60 percent oppose cuts in Medicare and Social Security as part of deficit reduction.
Over 75 percent, including a majority of Republicans, favor both a new higher tax rate over a million dollars, and a tax on overseas profits.
Nearly three-fourths, including 60 percent of conservatives, favor cutting military spending by ending the war in Afghanistan.
In contrast, the big corporate profiteers who control the economic levers are determined to impose an anti-people austerity program. They are chomping at the bit to get their hands on the Social Security Trust Fund under the guise of a “fiscal cliff.”
Many sections of Wall St that backed Obama in 2008, backed Romney in 2012.
But the election results, and the loss of Grover Norquist’s anti-tax majority, make it harder for extremist Republicans to hold everything hostage to tax breaks for the super rich. Vulnerable Republicans may be pushed to a more moderate position.
The wide agreement on the need for organizing and street heat post-election is a good indication of new possibilities under more favorable conditions.
President Obama himself is asking for grass roots pressure as he prepares for a second term. He urged 30,000 OFA volunteers to stay involved through a new website, theaction.org. “The election is over. Don’t rest. Join THE ACTION. :: End the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2%.”
The day after election Richard Trumka issued a call to action. Rallies were held in 200 cities that week demanding an end to tax breaks for the top 2% and no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, the issues of the election.
Clergy speaking out to tax the rich are helping expand the broad electoral alliance while building street heat. This combination of protests like Bainport and door knocking and social media messaging was important to win the election. It will be important to win on every issue going forward.
The coalition that the AFL CIO is part of, Strengthening Americas Values and Economy for All, has produced fliers, talking points, power points and other materials available on-line for local meetings with members of congress and going door to door.
If this immediate battle against the Grand Bargain is won, it can be a factor in breaking the logjam for other legislation for jobs and peoples needs. The necessary extension of unemployment benefits is also at stake, as are cuts to human needs programs versus cuts to the military budget.
In the course of standing up to the tactics of the extreme right-wing many people are thinking more deeply. The votes on ballot questions are an indication. So are the rising number of strikes around the country.
Many are wondering how to transform the economy and change priorities for good jobs and a secure, peaceful and sustainable future – the American Dream.
The issues facing people, jobs in the first place, comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, universal voting rights and campaign finance reform will shape the battles in the new Congress along with taxing wealth and protecting vital programs. Addressing voter suppression is fundamental to expanding democracy.
Unions are already gearing up their members who were in the thick of the election battle to hold those they helped elect accountable. Many new, young leaders are emerging. They are ready and looking to join forces with groups in the community.
Inside Congress, the Progressive Caucus will be enlarged, and can play a stronger role. But to get a majority vote in the House will need some Republicans.
The most reactionary, racist elements have been delivered a setback in this election, but like Rep Allan West who refused to concede for three weeks and those who are calling for secession, they will do everything they can to continue to distract and obstruct.
The battles to realize the election mandate will not be easy. The amazing organizing that won this election has to be kept up around the immediate needs for jobs with a living wage, education, health care, the needs of youth, cutting military spending and ending the war in Afghanistan. A longterm program is needed to convert to a peacetime, green, sustainable economy and rebuild the infrastructure. The alliances have to keep growing on the ground. In this volatile world, enlarging the struggle for peace will help determine the success of the next four years.
As Sam points out, “the struggle to put the people’s needs and nature before corporate profits and war spending will be a long one…The main thing is that the still-emerging multi-racial, working-class based coalition never lose sight of the necessity of deepening and extending its reach, unity, and multi-racial, class based character.”
A feature of this election was increased rejection of both racism and anti-communist baiting. The tea party pursued an unsuccessful attempt to isolate President Obama and many progressive candidates for Congress by utilizing anti-communist red baiting. This tactic was carried out around the country in specific instances in an attempt to poison the atmosphere. It did not take hold, which is worthy of note. At the same time we realize that such provocations are bound to continue.
In one example in Riverside, California newly elected Democratic candidate for Congress Dr. Raul Ruiz was attacked with a barrage of radio and television ads for speaking at a rally to free Leonard Peltier and Mumia when he was a student. This red baiting and Mecha baiting by Republican Mary Bono Mack backfired. Hundreds of volunteers for Ruiz were even more fired up. Significantly, the tribes, which are very important in the district, dropped their longtime support for Bono Mack and strongly supported Ruiz, who they knew had put himself on the line for justice for Native Americans.
Communist Party and YCL
We, the Communist Party and YCL, are an important part of the rising electorate. We bring our working class tactics and participation along with our vision for equality and a path to socialism. Building a larger Communist Party and YCL is a unique contribution toward further weakening the extreme right-wing and strengthening working class ideology and action.
The fact that “Democracy at the Crossroads” by Rick Nagin was appreciated so widely in Ohio and elsewhere, especially among union activists, underscores this point. A highlight for me was handing out 400 copies to union member delegates from around the country in Charlotte, knowing they would share them at home. A revised edition, reflecting post-election conditions, will be issued in the beginning of the new year.
Coverage and circulation of the elections in the People’s World was an important feature of our work. The editorials, the commentaries by Sam Webb, Jarvis Tyner and others, the news and analysis from the battlegrounds and all over, served to keep us informed, alerted and united and hopefully reached a wide audience.
The People’s World averages 3000 readers a day. After labor day, readership went up which Terrie Albano says “reflects our class struggle election coverage.” The People’s World was the first to cover the struggle of the Sensata workers against Bain Capital and Romney’s outsourcing. That plus the Walmart Warehouse workers struggle has led to People’s World stories and photos being linked on left news sites like Democracy Now and Truthout in addition to the labor sites that have linked to People’s World stories for some time.
Joe Sims indicates, “One of the most important developments in the election period was the creation of a team of 400 circulators of the People’s World on Facebook and the growth on Facebook to 22,000 likes.”
The paper is an organizing tool off-line as well. The print edition was used starting a year ago in a key election district in Connecticut. The new readers helped get out the vote that defeated the worst anti-labor, anti-communist member of the state senate.
The Political Action Commission has produced an e-newsletter, UNITY, for the past six months. Each edition addresses a key question with news briefs, links to People’s World articles and actions. Hopefully it will be useful in the upcoming legislative battles and will be circulated to a broad array of allies and friends as well as our members. Appreciation to the entire political action commission for a lot of intensive work this whole year. The commission added new members reflecting some of the battlegrounds and we are still working on rounding out our composition.
Around the country there are a growing number of progressive elected officials who work closely with the grass roots movements. We should find ways to develop infrastructure required to increase the number of candidates for public office at the local level.
Around the country, there has been a high level of member involvement with the electoral alliance in extensive voter registration, door knocking, phone banking and GOTV. There has been a lot of travel and phone calls into all the key battleground states.
Some special initiatives include. Mommas for Obama in Oakland, the national YCL Trayvon Martin Voter Registration project, the People before Profits team in Connecticut and the spectacular Welcome Angela Davis to Detroit rally of 2,000 organized by the People’s World and elected officials, unions and .clergy in Michigan.
Several states reported a good response to Democracy at the Crossroads among campaign volunteers. Several used literature available for download including the Why Vote brochure, the Beware Romney/Ryan White Skin Strategy flier, and the Save Our Nation! Tax Corporations! Tax The Rich! brochure which has an excellent 8-point program that fits the post-election period and should be quickly updated and re-issued.
The New Members Committee contributed to the effort by organizing its outreach to those who joined on-line around the battleground states with visits, phone meetings, suggestions for how to connect with the mobilization, and phone banks to new members.
The progressive shift in this election and in people’s thinking creates new conditions for struggle. Our Party and YCL were part of the tremendous experience. We too are changed, and should build on that.
This is a time to think fresh, think bold, and act strategically.
Without delay, we should systematically reach out to the people we met while door knocking, traveling to swing states, phone banking or who joined on-line during the elections. We should get to know each other and invite them to a club meeting and get involved in the local actions, struggles or strikes we are engaged in. There are already some major events and schools planned post election.
The six-week battle to stop the “Grand Bargain” in Congress is a priority. Where there is a campaign in the area of a club or individual member we should get involved. Where there is not, we should urge our members to sign up with one of the sites on-line and get the ball rolling.
The common sense of the people, the solidarity that the vote expresses, and the high level of organization all produced this election victory. Against all odds the broad rainbow alliance stuck together and won. A powerful movement is being born in our nation.
Just a week and a half out, there is still much to examine and draw conclusions about.
Like in the 1930s when the economy was in crisis and people did not know where their next meal was coming from, there was an upsurge. The Communist Party was in the fore. Social Security was one product of the mass marches, rallies and organizing.
Today, we see and are part of the beginnings of a people’s upsurge to protect that which was won and to move forward.
We face some fierce battles ahead, but we are fired up and ready to go!