1. Introduction: A breakthrough election
Congratulations on an extraordinary history making election!
We can think back with pride to decades of hard work toward our strategic goal of a big enough, broad enough and united enough labor and all-peoples movement that could overcome the ultra-right blockage to all progress. That all peoples movement has come to life, it is dynamic and it has the potential to keep growing.
The election of Barack Obama and a strengthened Congress creates new conditions in our country. There is now the possibility to shift gears and move forward. This new day requires us to further develop our tactics in order to continue to deepen and broaden labor and peoples unity.
There are thousands of experiences that we all have had in these momentous days, some large, some small, all of which express the enormity of change in thinking and readiness for involvement that is underway and that steels us for the battles ahead.
The tears of joy we all shared as crowds gathered to watch the election results here and throughout the world dramatize the new moment we are in.
145 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 55 years after Rosa Parks sat down in the front of the bus, sparking a movement that led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama, has been elected.
African American children, Latino, Asian American and Native American children all know now that one day they too can be president.
It will take some time to fully comprehend this event, and the depth of progressive thinking and change it opens up.
In this election, a sense of determination took hold to end the long nightmare of inhumane, corrupt, ultra-right, profit-driven government.
Obamas yes we can – si se puede message of hope and unity became a beacon for millions of voters of all races, backgrounds and ages, worried about their economic security and the future of their children and the planet.
The record numbers of new voters, the voter turnout, the mega- rallies and events, the huge internet social networking, e-mail and texting which will continue post-election, the 50 states campaign, the apparatus put in place to contest voter suppression, all reflect the activism and energy that Obama inspired..
All the Rove-style lies and smears employed by McCain-Palin, which are continuing post-election, could not stop the majority of people from voting for hope over fear. In this election, the politics of bigotry, hate and division did not prevail.
Working people woke up on November 5th with a sense of renewal, raised sights and new energy to become involved. As one union sister in Connecticut put it at a labor breakfast two days after the election, Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. There is legislation to be drafted, there is organizing to be done. Obama cant do it by himself.
We said this election battle against the ultra-right constitutes the center of the class struggle at this time. That it was in the electoral arena that workers, organized and unorganized, would have to fight for a sea change in their ability to win an improved standard of living and quality of life.
The military-industrial-energy complex, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries and Wall Street, the titans of US capitalism, seek to undermine this labor and peoples victory in order to control and manipulate the agenda of the new president. They certainly want to prevent passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and other major reforms. We can anticipate that they will find partners in their quest within conservative elements of Congress and the corporate media as the battle unfolds.
The labor movement and many progressive and democratic minded forces recognize their responsibility to continue organizing, to deepen unity at the grass roots of the broad peoples movement and build support for a change in priorities to meet the needs of the people for good jobs, union rights, sustainable environment and a new foreign policy based on diplomacy and respect.
The emphasis we have placed on building up the strength of labor and the core forces – African American, Latino, women and youth voters – within the all peoples movement continues to be very important moving forward. An examination of their participation in the election will provide a sound basis for developing our policy of struggle under an Obama administration.
2. Labor and Core Forces
The Labor Movement
The unprecedented unity of all unions endorsing one candidate and pulling out a quarter million rank and filers to lead the mobilization of the entire membership bodes very well for the future.
Not just in the numbers, but in the experience and training that 250,000 organized workers benefitted from.
Not just in the door knocking and phone banking, but in the substance of those conversations, becoming skilled at taking on racism and discussing Joe the Plumber.
Not just during the elections, but for the ongoing campaign to win the Employee Free Choice Act and other demands.
Not just in their own states, but thousands of volunteers traveling to the battlegrounds in a heroic effort which created a near-clean sweep of the Midwest with Missouri still too close to call.
The labor movement is developing a powerful multi-racial cadre of new leaders for our country that can become our future mayors, Senators and Presidents. This is the most powerful expression of political independence in the elections this year.
(SEE PDF ATTACHMENT FOR CHART)
The AFL-CIO summary of Labor 2008 bears repeating.
* Union members and Working America members voted for Obama 67% to 30%, and in the top-tier battleground states it was four points higher
In Mid-western states with high union density, Obama won with big margins by 13 points in Wisconsin, 16 points in Michigan, 10 points in Minnesota and 11 points in Pennsylvania.
* While McCain won among voters ages 65 and up, union members over 65 voted for Obama by a 46-point margin.
* While McCain won among veterans, union veterans voted for Obama by a 25-point margin.
* 21 percent of voters were in a union or union household.
(SEE PDF ATTACHMENT FOR CHART)
The level of unity that it took to create this victory is the biggest lesson of the campaign because it will continue to carry the movement for a more equal and just society forward.
The labor movements leadership in taking on the fight against racism and talking directly with all union members about their self-interest in voting for a candidate with a near perfect labor voting record who is African American versus a candidate with a near zero labor voting record who is white is a lasting and living contribution to the whole working class.
Taking on racism and bigotry, the cornerstone of the ultra-right, resulted in a qualitatively changed political balance of forces in our country. Obamas speech on race set the tone. Didnt convince everyone yet, but the bar has moved significantly.
Then there is the other cornerstone of the ultra-right, anti-communism and red-baiting. McCain-Palin claimed Obamas spread the wealth program was socialism, would raise taxes on middle income families and was bad for working people, as if the consolidation of wealth into a few corporate hands was a positive.
This message was rejected. It actually raised interest and curiosity about what is socialism among many working people, presenting an opportunity for deeper discussion about how to achieve full democracy and equality.
Voters responded to Obamas proposal to cut taxes on the 95 percent of the population earning under $250,000 a year, while eliminating the massive cuts that were bestowed at the top by the Bush administration. A post-election survey by Democracy Corps found that Obama had a 9-point advantage (51 eprcent to 42 percent) on who would do a better job on taxes.
John Sweeney and others found many creative ways to counter the spread the wealth distortion. Taxing incomes over $250,000 at a higher rate and lowering taxes for everyone else is reclaiming workers hard earned wages in a country with the greatest wealth gap in history.
The contributions of the labor movement to raising the consciousness of union workers and their families, which will hopefully continue, contributed to the overall rejection, although not unanimous, of the vicious race baiting and red baiting.
African American Vote
The African American vote has long been a bedrock of progressivism, a very advanced and sophisticated vote. Some pundits brushed off the 95% Obama vote as just voting by race. Of course the significance of breaking the color barrier for the presidency was a factor, not just for African American voters but for many voters across the board, and especially racially and nationally oppressed voters. But the African American vote was not limited to that. The community was deeply involved in discussion and debate on the need for jobs and healthcare, the subprime mortgage crisis which hit the African American and Latino communities hardest; and ending the war in Iraq. There was strong support for change that could offer hope and opportunity to young people instead of despair and incarceration. This vote was a complete rejection of the Bush agenda. African America trade unionists played a special leadership role. The percentage of voters who were African American was 13 percent, up from 11 percent in 2004.
The womens vote was hotly contested. Would Clinton supporters go to Obama? Would Palin peel the womens vote away from the Democrats? With the exception of the religious right, Palin angered and alienated women voters. NOW made a presidential endorsement for only the second time in its history, backing Obama. In New Haven, Connecticut Congresswoman, Rosa DeLauro, got a standing ovation at a packed state-wide rally when she said, how demeaning to women, how disrespectful to women, to think that we would support someone who opposes our right to choice, who opposes funding health care for our children…. 56% of all women voted for Obama. Womens Voices Womens Votes reports that in Ohio Obama did better than the past two Democratic presidential candidates winning 46% of white voters, and just under 50% of white women, ten points higher for single women, constituting a big shift from 2004 when Bush won their vote with a comfortable majority. .
The Latino voter registration and naturalization drives and voter turnout achieved a larger percentage of the total vote and shifted the vote further toward Democrats. A survey by the National Association of Elected Officials shows that 72% of Latinos who voted chose Obama. The vote of Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and naturalized citizens was significantly higher. At least nine percent of all voters were Latino up from 8 percent in 2004. The biggest increases were in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and the biggest political shift was in Florida.. Latinos in California played a decisive role in these out of state battlegrounds. Battlegrounds in 2010 and 2012 will include Texas and Arizona as an estimated 50-60,000 Latinos are newly eligible to vote every month. In addition to economic issues and the war, comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship and an end to the raids was a top issue. The mega marches combined with the growing number of Latino union members contributed to the shift. Messages by some Catholic and Pentecostal church leaders placing abortion above economic issues and the environment were not successful. The mobilization, turnout and vote results represent a qualitative change in the role Latinos, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in particular, play in national politics and in contributing to the unity of the working class.
Two-thirds of voters under age 30 voted for Obama, up from four years ago. Obama won 54 percent of white voters under age 30, up 10 points from Kerry. Obamas campaign attracted a large participation from youth. His use of new technology and culture and his outreach on campuses helped catalyze a huge voter registration drive and turnout. His theme of change attracted a large number of young volunteers. Young people made up 18% of the electorate, outnumbering those over 65 for the first time.
3. Political Realignment is underway
The massive loss of jobs and homes and pensions, accumulating losses from the war in Iraq, lack of access to health care and education, brutal immigration raids and incarceration of African American and Latino youth, all came together in a unity of purpose to change direction.
The shocking result of deregulation of the finance industry was the last straw, bringing sections of Republicans, business and military leaders to the Obama camp despite philosophical disagreements.
However, the bedrock of the victory lies with the on-the-ground role of labor and the core forces, essentially in a fight for survival, including Asian voters who chose Obama by 62%, American Indian voters whose went solidly for Obama, Jewish voters went for Obama by 78%, the peace vote and environment vote.
While some commentators dismiss the election results as a perfect storm that does not represent a shift in thinking, a post election survey by Campaign for Americas Future draws the opposite conclusion.
Noting that self-identified moderates and liberals agree with Obamas program, Robert Borosage concludes that this election marks the consolidation of a new majority coalition, and the mandate provided for progressive reform….in what is, increasingly, a center-left nation.
The beginnings of a qualitative shift took place in the 2006 Congressional elections. The broader movement that emerged this year around Obama represents the biggest progressive ideological shift since the 1930’s. The rejection of red baiting, racism, and tax baiting against Obama by the voters shows a new majority in opposition to basic Republican right wing ideology.
The challenge before us now is to develop the strategy and tactics that will organize and mobilize at this new level to achieve bold legislation and action on behalf of working peoples needs and further shift the balance of forces. To draw the proper conclusions, we should examine and understand the overall results of this election. CAMPAIGN NUMBERS
1. President: Electoral College The electoral college vote was overwhelming for Obama.
Electoral Vote (Needed to win: 270) Barack Obama 365 (53%) John McCain 173 (46%)
For Comparison: GW Bush 2000 271 GW Bush 2004 286
The states that flipped to Democrat, including Virginia, the capitol of the Confederacy, shatter the decades-old Republican Southern Strategy targeting white voters. Latino voters helped flip Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida. The Reagan Democrats in the industrial mid-west broke away and helped carry those states for Obama.
States that flipped to Democrat in 2008: Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada
2. President: Popular Vote Obama won by 6.7 percent in the popular vote with over 66 million votes. Adjusting for votes lost due to voter suppression and barriers, the true vote margin would probably surpass ten points. This is the first time since 1964, when Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected, that a Democratic presidential candidate received more than half of the vote. Obama is only the third Democratic presidential candidate to win more than half the vote since WWII.
Popular Vote Obama 66,882,230 McCain 58,343,671
For Comparison: Popular Vote Margins: Gore 2000 +0.5% Bush 2004 +2.4% Obama 2008 +6.7%
Vote Shift (SEE PDF ATTACHMENT FOR MAP)
Voters shifted Democrat in a rejection of the ultra-right throughout the country, in urban, suburban and rural areas, including in states and counties that McCain carried. In nearly every county of the country the percentage of Democratic votes for president increased and the Republican percentage decreased, not limited to blue states or states that shifted red to blue. The only exception is a section of the South including Tennessee, Arkansas and parts of Alabama and Louisiana where victims of Hurricane Katrina have been disenfranchised. This requires more study to reach conclusions for organizing.
3. U.S. Senate The Democrats increased their numbers in the Senate by seven (with two races still undecided at this time), making it much more difficult for Republicans to obstruct.
U.S. Senate Seats (out of 100) Democrats 58 (+7) Republicans 40 (-7)
Still to call as of this writing: Minnesota is undergoing a recount Georgia will hold a runoff on Dec 2. Jim Martin v. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Open Seats Flipped to Democrats: Colorado Mark Udall New Mexico Tom Udall Virginia Mark Warner
Republican Incumbents Defeated: New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen defeated John Sununu North Carolina Kay Hagan defeated Elizabeth Dole Oregon Jeff Merkley defeated Gordon Smith Alaska Mark Begich defeated Ted Stevens
4. U.S. House of Representatives There is an increase of 20 Democrats in the House (three races still to be called), making this a back-to-back wave election carrying on from 2006. Republicans lost 24 races. Democrats lost 4 incumbent seats (FL-16 Mahoney, KS-2 Boyda, and in LA-6 Cazayoux and TX-22 Lampson where victims of Hurricane Katrina were disenfranchised)
Of special note is PA-11 where Lou Bartletta, the infamous anti-immigrant mayor of Hazelton lost his bid for Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives Seats (out of 435) Democrats 256 (+20) Republicans 175 (-20)
Still to be called as of this writing: California -4 Brown v. McClintock Ohio-15 Kilroy v. Stivers Virginia-5 Periello v. Good
Ten of the 20 Democratic pickups CT-4 Jim Himes – defeated Chris Shays last Republican in the House in New England IL-11 Debbie Halvorsen (open) MD-1 Frank Kratovil (open) MI-7 Mark Shauer – Republican District over 100 years MI-9 Gary Peters – Republican District over 100 years NJ-3 John Adler (open ) – Republican District over 100 years NY-13 Michael McMahon NY-29 Eric Massa – a vet and author of Responsible Plan for Withdrawal NM-1 Martin Heirich (open)- Part of the successful 5 for 5 campaign of AFL-CIO OH-16 John Boccieri (open)
5. States There were 11 Governor contests. Democrats now hold a 28-22 edge in Governors nationwide. One state changed the Party of their Governor. Missouris open seat flipped to Democrat.
Governors: Democrats 28 Republicans 22
Democrats made significant gains in seven state legislatures, including flipping the House to Democrat in three states (Delaware, Ohio, Wisconsin). Republicans gained control of one State Senate (Tennessee).
State Legislatures – Democrats Made Gains in Seven States: Connecticut – Senate increased Democratic margins to become veto proof Delaware – House flipped to Democrat Illinois – House increased Democratic margin Nevada – Senate increased Democratic margin New York – Assembly and Senate both Democratic for the first time in 40years. Both houses and Governor Democratic for the first time since the New Deal. Ohio – House flipped to Democrat Wisconsin – House flipped to Democrat
Local Races of Special Note: St. Louis, Missouri – Robin Wright Jones, chair of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, won her State Senate seat 18,000 to 400, after winning her primary by 96 votes with the support of the Youth Voter Collective. State Assembly District 65, California Union leader Carl Wood received 47% of the vote (55,467) against Republican Paul Cook in a district considered impossible for Democrats to be competitive.
2nd District, Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, California .Mark Ridley Thomas, chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, won for Board of Supervisors with a strong labor led coalition in his majority Latino and African American District, population 2 million.
6. Ballot Questions: The results of ballot questions were mixed. Affirmative action was upheld in Colorado, however it was voted down in Nebraska. The influence of divisive pro-life and anti-gay bigotry found expression in ballot measures in several states, as well as in the McCain-Palin campaign. Obama carried many of the states targeted.. His acceptance speech gives an excellent lead for standing up for equal rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender or race in order to successfully turn the country around. A national movement has emerged to stop implementation of the California initiative which takes away marriage rights from gay couples. In counter point, the first gay marriage since legalization in Connecticut took place a week after election day.
Affirmative action: Upheld in Colorado – 51 to 49 Opposed in Nebraska – 58 to 42
Womens reproductive rights upheld Colorado – legal rights to fertilized eggs defeated 73 to23 South Dakota abortion ban defeated with 55% of vote California mandate parental notification defeated 52 to 48
Stem cell research was approved in Michigan – 53%
Constitutional Convention questions promoted by anti-abortion and anti-gay rights groups were defeated in Connecticut, Hawaii and Illinois.
However, bans of same-sex marriage passed in three states Arizona – 56% California – 52% Florida – .62% Prohibition of unmarried couples both same-sex and opposite-sex – from adopting or becoming foster parents passed in Arkansas – 57%.
Reviewing the results of the electoral college vote, the popular vote, the wave election in Congress and down ticket races overall confirms that this election was a landslide vote with a clear mandate to change the direction of the country.
4. Build the Party
When Richard Trumka came forward at the Steelworkers convention addressing himself to white union members on the harmfulness of racism, our comrades in the labor movement immediately began circulating that speech at meetings and on the internet until it became viral. That speech took on a life of its own well beyond the labor movement. The ideas were repeated in many ways by other union leaders, raising the level of class consciousness and unity. Our understanding and internationalism, first projected by Karl Marx, that it takes the unity of the entire multi-racial, multi-national working class to win, enabled us to make that contribution, and countless others like it.
From the battleground states and congressional districts to the deep blue districts, Communist Party and YCL clubs plunged into the campaigns and won a lot of respect and new friends, and in some cases some new members and readers of the Peoples Weekly World Nuestro Mundo. But we have not yet succeeded at the kind and size of grass roots recruitment required for a mass Party and YCL.
There is a profound discussion taking place in our country today inspired by Obama and necessitated by the economic crisis. What kind of country do we want to live in? What is the role of government? What is our place in the world? Even public ownership and socialism are being pondered..
We have a lot to contribute to that discussion. The Emergency Program to Repair, Renew, Rebuild we projected during the election is an effective beginning, to be expanded and elaborated especially in response to the financial and economic crisis.
Many of the demands like immediate relief and green infrastructure jobs, union rights and universal, single payer health care and a new foreign policy based on peace and diplomacy draw on what is already in motion in the broader movement. It would be financed by bringing the troops home, cutting the military budget, and ending the tax breaks to the rich.
This common sense democratic program can help build support for the projections by Obama while going beyond.
A stronger Communist Party and YCL with neighborhood clubs and clubs in workplaces that have Peoples Weekly World readers and family and friends around them can make a qualitative contribution toward further shifting the balance of forces in favor of bold, far-reaching solutions.
Enlarging our Party is our most significant contribution toward strengthening the labor and peoples movement. It is part of making the election a success by building strong grass roots collective voices arm in arm with labor and community, and laying the groundwork for electing workers, including Communists, to public office at the local level.
When I look at the new members in Connecticut, I see people who like the Communist Party because they want to be part of a group that helps them stand up for their needs and stand up against any injustice that they see. They want a bigger vision. They want to be part of the movement of today in a way that lays the basis for achieving the socialist vision on the horizon. A lot of our members have said, I was always a Communist, I just didnt know it.
2009 is a big year. On January 20 Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States before a gathering of millions. At the same time, Washington DC will be launching its celebration of the 200th year of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
2009 is also the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. What a tremendous occasion to recognize the outstanding comrades who have come before us, heroes and heroines to end jim crow segregation and lynchings, win the right to vote and organize unions and serve in elective office. It is on their shoulders that we stand today and their stories can inspire people to become a part of us and create new history.
I like the slogan, This is our time. If the election tells us anything it is that many people are more open minded more ready for new ideas and ready for action. Our literature, especially the Election Program and the vote comparison of Obama and McCain were greeted and reproduced by others. The Peoples Weekly World Nuestro Mundo has been a wonderful tool all during this election year. Using our paper as a key tool to build clubs in neighborhoods ready to join with others in the big national movement for change can open the floodgates for a large influx of new members and activists. 5. Continuing to build the all peoples front at the grass roots
There is a lot of anticipation in the air and there are high expectations for a Barack Obama administration. Thousands of people are sending in their suggestions, ideas, hopes and dreams to the special website www.change.gov similar to the input solicited for the Democratic Party Platform hearings and steelworker Bruce Bosticks televised testimony.
President-elect Obama, drawing on his community organizer grounding that helped win the election, has already begun to address the people directly with weekly YouTube and radio messages.
Can you imagine thousands of people writing in to Bush or even Clinton before they were inaugurated?
With so many people hurting economically, the new president has to take immediate action that will provide relief as quickly as possible. The announced priorities to expand SCHIP and unemployment compensation and aid to states and cities for green infrastructure job creation are welcome, as are preparations to repeal many of George W Bushs repressive executive orders.
At the same time we, and many in the labor and peoples broad movement, believe that massive, bold initiatives on behalf of people needs and to create jobs will be essential to meet the crisis in the country and deliver progressive change.
Labors leaders are sitting down now to discuss the big mobilization for the Employee Free Choice Act and other key issues in order to develop tactics that are helpful to the new administration, and that create the necessary push from below. The Employee Free Choice Act is a strategic battle. It will swell the ranks of the organized, and help the economy by raising wages and benefits for millions of workers.
United for Peace and Justice has initiated a similar strategy discussion among peace and justice organizations. How to build the movement to bring all the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, reverse Bushs never-ending-war policies of domination, and redirect funds from the military budget to human needs.
The organizers of the Heartland Presidential Forum are bringing 2,000 low-income grass roots activists to DC on December 4 to meet with the Obama team. At that forum in Iowa last January, Obama had pledged that even before the inauguration….. were going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so you can have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America.
A similar video of Obama discussing workers right to form unions has been prepared by SEIU to inspire the collection of the final 200,000 signatures to reach one million for the Employee Free Choice Act before January 20..
The immigrant rights movement is discussing its tactics and has issued a letter to the new administration for an end to the raids and for passage of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The issue of guest worker programs will be a point of contention. A rally and lobby is planned for the day after inauguration in Washington DC.
The womens movement and others are organizing demonstrations and petitions around the country demanding that Proposition 8 in California not be enforced to protect the marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples
We should be in the number on January 20 for the peoples inauguration in Washington, DC and house parties for those who cant get off work or travel, to celebrate and join forces for the hard work in the days ahead.
Sam emphasizes this transition period is a time when reforms can and must be won in the wake of a deep and prolonged economic crisis.
The tactical challenge is to push from the bottom in a constructive way to support immediate reforms, while also raising up basic demands for a far-reaching change in priorities.
Speaking during the Democratic convention about his bill HR 676 for universal, single payer healthcare, Rep. John Conyers emphasized it has the support of the people, it is just a matter of time. As we continue to push for HR 676, support for SCHIP is crucial.
People are angry, hopeful and ready to go. Our program to rebuild America should be strong and decisive. There is no other way to meet the emergency needs of this moment as the economic crisis spirals through every sector. We should call for taking the profits out of health care and energy which are basic human rights, and explore public ownership including of the finance and automotive industries .
This was a transformative election for many reasons. The vote for Barack Obama and the conversation on race which he opened up at Independence Hall. The rejection of 30 years of ultra-right horror. The emergence of new grass roots involvement and participation and a shift in thinking. The leading role of the multi-racial labor movement. A renewed respect for our Party and some growth. All point to the process of a rising consciousness and struggle for democracy and equality. All are part of moving forward the progressive arc of history.
As Obama said in his acceptance speech, ‘This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change.’
And so the hard work begins. Obama is going to include many people in his cabinet and advisors that we would not pick, but protesting that will not build a movement. Our energy and focus should be invested in building the labor and peoples broad movement at the grass roots. That is how we can give a constructive push in a united way.