How democrats and progressives squandered a great opportunity

By James Thompson

As election results roll in and the Republican party notches up a great victory for reaction, many people will probably ask, How did this happen here? How could an electorate fired up for progressive change just two years ago fall flat on its face? What did the Democratic Party do to lose the overwhelming support it received in the last election cycle?

Many will say that it is because fantastic amounts of money were unleashed to support the hysterical theatrics of the ultra-right as embodied in the Tea Party movement. This is, of course, correct. The recent Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme court will change the way elections are held until this anti-working class ruling is overturned. The ruling makes it possible for corporations to pour vast amounts of money into the campaigns of candidates who support their interests and the source of these contributions do not have to be disclosed to the public. Corporations can easily outspend working class individuals and organizations with ease. We saw this in this election with hateful right wing ads attacking anything that dared stand in the way of the interests of the ultra wealthy. Without a doubt, the mainstream media coverage of the elections focused on the nuttiest of the right-wing fringe. Certainly, money is always a problem where democracy is concerned.

However, there were some other factors that made it easier for the right wing to do their dirty work. Since Obama took office, the working class has been extremely polarized. Racism has raised its ugly head fueled by money from the ultra-right. Progressives for the most part have failed to meet the challenge of fighting racism in the last two years. Anti-communism has been unleashed once again through the voice of hysterical pundits and this has served to confuse the working people of this country. Anyone who falls to the left of Karl Rove on the political spectrum has been branded a socialist and many people fall for this since they don’t have a clue about what socialism really means. Socialists have failed to meet this challenge and have made little effort to clarify what socialism actually means.

Class-collaborationism has also returned. Some progressive organizations and political parties have failed to sharply criticize the Democratic party and its politicians on their policies which favor the wealthy class. Indeed, some have insisted on marching in lockstep with Obama and some of the reactionary Democrats in the name of unity of the working class. When the Obama administration and former President Clinton worked against the labor backed candidate in Arkansas, you didn’t hear a peep from the left. When Rahm Emanuel declared “F— the UAW!”, the left was no where to be seen or heard. These anti-labor stances were confusing to organized labor and working people in general.

In Texas, which is one of the most reactionary states in the nation, the elections can only be characterized as being chaotic and confusing. A friend of mine, an African American woman, told me that she was faced with an awful dilemma. She lives in Tom Delay’s old district where Anglo male Republican Ted Olson faced an African American Democrat female Kesha Rogers. Rogers advocates the impeachment of President Obama. My friend was forced to vote for the Republican candidate because he was more moderate than the Democrat. In my district, a right wing Republican only faced a minor challenge by a Libertarian candidate. No Democrat opposed him. In Dallas, Eddie Bernice Johnson, a progressive Democrat, is fighting for her seat. She is opposed by a right wing Republican African American male Baptist minister who is calling for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government if the Republicans don’t win control of Congress. All of these shenanigans are very confusing to voters being bombarded by attack ads every night on TV.

A friend of mine recently reminded me that when there is no tension between opposing forces, there can be no progress. Frederick Douglass said, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress”. This is what is missing today in the class struggle. Working class unity is needed to overcome the powerful influence of the corporations, but this does not mean following the Democratic party program to the letter. Progressives should support Democrats who fight for the interests of the working class and should support policies which favor working class interests. However, we should oppose with all our might any politician and/or policy which favors the interests of the wealthy. If we do this, we can answer the question Which side are you on? with a great deal of pride.