CPUSA: Change Congress 2006!—Report to the National Committee


Karl Rove, top Bush advisor now facing possible indictment, arrogantly declared the Republicans will use fear of terrorism once again to win the elections in 2006. It will be about the Republicans’ “post-9/11 worldview” versus the Democrats’ “pre-9/11 worldview” he said at the Republican National Committee.

The question is, can the fear factor smokescreen associated with the war on terrorism create a thick enough cover to maintain the corrupt Republican majority in the U.S. House and Senate?

The answer came in the battle cry for justice issued by Rev. Joseph Lowery at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, while George Bush squirmed in the background.

“We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there,” he said. “But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions are without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor.”

The lying and spying and breaking of international law by the Bush administration have created a Constitutional crisis, which is expanding every day. The shocking proof that the president was told in advance the levees could not withstand hurricane Katrina, but did nothing, and then lied while lives were lost, with the predictable outcome of undermining the African American vote in the South, is a moral crisis as well.

In deliberate step after step, this administration, with Congress, has carried out measures to dismantle the very structures of civil rights, labor rights and democratic rights won by organizing the unorganized into unions, won by the great civil rights movement, won by the struggles for civil liberties.

The results are devastating. Nearly 2,500 families have lost a loved one in the illegal war, and many thousands more maimed and disabled. The number without health care has soared to 46 million, as good jobs with benefits are shut down for corporate greed. As many as a quarter of all Americans earn less than it takes to make ends meet. [Lies, Damn Lies and Poverty Statistics, Christopher Moraff, In These Times 2/27/06]. While the Bush administration continues its robin hood in reverse massive funding of war and giant tax breaks to the rich.

By two votes Congress has left countless seniors on Medicare unable to afford their prescription drugs. By two votes Congress destroyed the dream of countless youth for higher education and a better future with the biggest cut in student aid in the nation’s history.

By Congressional inaction, African American families who were left to flee hurricane Katrina or die in the ninth ward of New Orleans, are still waiting for any kind of substantive support, or even to stay in their temporary housing.

The Republicans hold the White House, the Supreme Court and a majority in the Congress. But that majority is not representing the interests of the majority of people in the country. This sharp contradiction is giving way to an enormous democratic fight-back for the life of the nation.

Some centrist Democrats like Al Gore have been moved to speak out, responding in part to pressure from the left, and in part to the depth of the crisis. “We have a duty as Americans…to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the president’s apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.”

In this atmosphere, Republicans seeking re-election have had to separate themselves from Bush even on issues of security.

The 2006 elections are the people’s exit strategy from the far-right Republican disaster. The results of this election will either strengthen or weaken the ability of the Bush administration to hold sway over Congress. If the Republican grip on Congress is broken, it will be much harder for the White House to stay in Iraq and carry out a permanent war program. If the Republican grip on Congress is broken, there will be no barriers left to bring forward the articles of impeachment on Bush and Cheney.

Leadership to defeat the ultra-right is being sought out. How to create such broad involvement, such deep understanding, such a massive upsurge, that no smoke screen can cloud the possibility of a people’s victory? How to build a solid All People’s Front, strong enough to reject attacks on immigrant workers and other divisive attempts?

Our Party has much to offer in this great battle. Our leadership and vision is greeted in the crusade to change the course of our country.

Last weekend we had an extraordinary experience in Connecticut with Communist Party Executive Vice-Chair Jarvis Tyner. He gave the message eloquently and it made waves, including from the pulpit of an activist African American church, in the media, with union workers, with peace and immigrant rights activists. He issued a compelling call to action for a new civil rights revolution, a new workers revolution in this country to break the Republican grip on Congress in November.

The pastor of the church where he spoke ended the service with a prayer for Jarvis “as he travels from state to state and county to county with this important message.” Imagine the possibilities that the same experience should happen in union halls and community centers everywhere!

There is a shift taking place in our country. There is a great searching, and it is our responsibility to walk through the newly opening doors and expand the Communist Party in the midst of and as part of helping to build the broad all-people’s movement for a mass upsurge to win the elections in November and change Congress.

Upsurge Can Break the Republican Grip

The shift in the country is reflected in the polls. This week Bush’s approval rating hit an all-time low of 34%. [CBS News poll, 2/28] On the issues, 65% disapprove of the handling of Iraq, 60% disapprove of the handling of the economy; 60% disapprove of the handling of energy; and 50% disapprove of the handling of terrorism.

The war will be a central issue in these elections, with a growing majority in opposition and growing recognition that Iraq is pivotal to the economy and all other issues the country faces. A poll this week showed that an overwhelming majority of 72% of US troops in Iraq think they should leave within the next year, with one in four favoring immediate withdrawal. [LaMoyne College/Zogby International] Labor, civil rights, environment and women’s organizations whose agenda is not primarily peace, are now stepping forward and taking leadership to end the war and occupation of Iraq. Their lead role for the April 29 mobilization in New York City is a significant development that can show strength, raise confidence and help turn the peace majority into a peace vote that contributes to the upsurge.

After Katrina a dramatic multilingual poll showed that eradication of poverty had become the most important issue for those questioned, even over terrorism, showing working class unity across racial and ethnic lines. The statement: “ The government should finance the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and hurricane relief efforts by getting our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.” was supported by 77% of African Americans, 69% of Latinos, 60% of Asians, and 46% of non Hispanic white respondents. [Lessons of Katrina conducted for New California Media by Bendixen & Associates, October 2005].

The multi-racial movement for a just rebuilding of New Orleans and the broader movement growing to end poverty, including labor organizing, can contribute to bringing out the vote and building a groundswell/upsurge to change Congress.

Healthcare will be a major issue in this election, because so many people are suffering without funds to see a doctor or get their meds. Healthcare has been the main issue in union contract negotiations for several years, and is the main issue at Delphi and in the current strike of 3500 workers at Sikorsky Aircraft. It has also been a huge issue for seniors and retirees for some time, now reaching the boiling point.

Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is viewed negatively by an 18-point margin in Congressional swing districts including a majority of Independents, underscoring the significance of turning senior and especially union retiree anger into a huge vote that can contribute toward the upsurge to change Congress. [Democracy Corps, February 2006]

In a CBS/New York Times poll last month, 62% said that it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee health care for all. In a more extensive study by Americans for Health Care/Center for American Progress there was 86% support for reforming our current health care system to provide affordable health care for all Americans, including 80% of those in every demographic group and region. Among Republicans, 76% agreed. [Americans for Health Care/Center for American Progress, February 2006]

The message is that voters are looking for candidates with a strong program to meet the crisis. In this context, the growing momentum for action is significant, as is the growing support for HR 676 United States National Health Insurance Act as a comprehensive and realistic solution. Candidates who address the need for universal health care in general in the election can be won to support HR 676 and other progressive legislation in a new Democratic majority Congress.

Early February polling on the 2006 Congressional elections showed a significant shift among Independents who voted Republican in the last election moving to vote Democrat. 51% favor Democrats with 32% favoring Republicans this year, compared with the last mid term election in early 2002 when 42% of independents favored Republicans and 39% favored Democrats. [The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Feb 1-5, 2006].

Political analysts contend that based on individual races, it is a long shot to expect that the Democrats can win 15 more seats in the House and 6 more seats in the Senate for a majority in Congress. However, the shifts in the country show the potential for an upsurge. The question for us is how to help bring that upsurge into life?

We have a great advantage in our strategic understanding.

The challenge to create the momentum and unity for an upsurge, calls for mass tactics that will bring all the separate majorities together with the core constituencies of the All People’s Front—labor, African American, Latino, women and youth, for a higher level of unity strong enough to deliver a vote so large that it cannot be split or stolen, and so broad that it will deliver the independent vote, especially in swing Congressional Districts.

Obstacles–Fear and Division


The use of fear of terrorism by the Republican Far Right is being pumped up to undercut the peace majority and justify illegal spying and attacks on new immigrants.

In recent elections the “God, guns and gays” divisive wedge issues were used to split churches and communities in swing vote areas. In this election, the list of wedge issues has been expanded to include attacks on immigrants.

Anti-immigrant forces have whipped up hysteria through actions at the border and hate meetings across the country, promoting the false idea that immigrants are terrorists, and blaming immigrants for lack of jobs and social services. Legislation being debated in Congress would divide families and communities by making the undocumented and any co-worker, teacher, priest or neighbor who relates to the undocumented into a felon.

Unlike 2004 when the Catholic Church influenced the vote for Bush in swing districts by warning against candidates who supported gay marriage or abortion rights for women, in this election the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other church organizations have launched a national Justice for Immigrants campaign, which is playing a unifying role.

In Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, influenced by the immigrant rights movement, issued a call on Ash Wednesday to the diocese of 5 million to fast, pray and press for humane immigration reform, saying, “The war on terror isn’t going to be won through immigration restrictions.” He made the national news when he said that if the punitive measures become law, the church will not abide by them.

The Klan-type anti-immigrant forces have a special goal to divide African American and Latino communities over the issue of immigrants and jobs. The bitter lesson from 2004 has not been forgotten when the Republican far-right won some African American and Latino votes on the issue of gay marriage and abortion by going into churches that received faith-based funding. At the grass roots, African American ministers are vowing never to let that happen again.

A conscious approach toward building unity, can help bring together the immigrant rights movement with the broader All People’s Front, and magnify the possibilities of achieving the goals of legalization and a path to citizenship, family reunification, labor rights and civic participation.

The immigrant rights movement, embraced by labor, civil liberties and civil rights organizations provides a vehicle for broad based grass roots education, rejecting racist, anti-democratic measures and in fact contributing toward the voter upsurge to change Congress.

The War on Iraq

Use of fear of terrorism by the Republican far right is especially aimed at undercutting a unified vote by the peace majority. Centrist Democrats and the Democratic leadership have lagged behind the peace majority, fearful of being painted as unpatriotic or soft on terrorism by the far right. This has cost support from grass roots voters who oppose the war and support decisive action.

One of the proposals under discussion in Democratic leadership circles, formulated by a former Reagan staffer, is to redeploy the troops in 2007 from Iraq throughout the Mid East and Africa. This plays into Bush administration policy to dominate the region. It should be challenged on the basis that U.S. troops must come home and let the United Nations serve its peacekeeping role. Candidates who take a strong and principled stand are more likely to excite grass roots support.

Dominant centrist policies at the top are under challenge from new groupings within the Democratic Party that emerged during the 2004 presidential elections. These organizations are pushing the Democratic Party to take stronger stands against Bush administration policy and for labor rights, civil rights, human rights and peace.

• Progressive Democrats of America emerged from the Kucinich for President campaign.

• Democracy for America emerged from the Dean for President campaign,

• League of Pissed off Voters was a special effort to register and get out the 18-30 year old vote in battleground states.

• TrueMajority and MoveOn are getting involved in primaries, with the goal of supporting stronger anti-war and pro-democracy candidates.

These new forms are playing a positive role in shifting the debate, along with the Out of Iraq Caucus and long-standing forces like the Progressive, Black, and Hispanic Congressional Caucuses.

Our strategic goal is to change the balance of forces in Congress. A Democratic majority can hold the Bush administration accountable. It will strengthen the peace movement. The best path to end the war and bring the troops home, the best path to impeach Bush and Cheney, is to elect a Democratic majority and keep up the mass pressure. There is also a need to search out and elect more advanced fighters for peace and human needs at every level including Congress.

Peace candidates for Congress have come forward across the country. Some are part of the “Fighting Dems” group of war veterans; some are challengers in primaries against incumbents that have not been responsive to the anti-war sentiment, some are running in the general election; some are on third party lines. The dynamics in every congressional district are unique. Tactical flexibility is required to insure that the seat is not lost to a Republican.

Difficult tactical challenges have arisen regarding Democrats who are not strong for withdrawal, or who voted for CAFTA. The bottom line is that 15 more Democratic seats are needed in the House and 6 more Democratic seats are needed in the Senate to break the right-wing Republican grip on Congress.

In Ohio Iraq veteran Paul Hackett, who nearly won a Republican Congressional seat in a June special election, decided to run for U.S. Senate against vulnerable Republican Mike DeWine. Congressman Sherrod Brown, one of the more progressive in the House who opposes the war and has a stronger labor program, also declared as a candidate. Eventually, Hackett was persuaded to withdraw. This was a positive, but it was not a popular decision for those who were not thinking strategically, and only narrowly thought in terms of electing Iraq war vets.

The Working Families Party, which primarily cross-endorses candidates on the basis of issues, has emerged as an important factor in New York politics. A WFP presence in swing Congressional races will connect local issues to the national level. The Working Families Party is actively expanding into other states. It helps voters think bigger, and helps prepare for a more advanced stage when the extreme right wing has been defeated.

The All People’s Front

The heart of our strategy to change Congress and defeat the extreme right-wing lies with the leadership of the core groups of the All People’s Front: Labor in the first place, African American and Latino voters, women and youth. These forces are key to a possible upsurge. They have the ability to deliver the vote.

Labor vote. Union households accounted for one of four voters in the 2004 elections, totaling 27 million voters. Union households provided a 5.8 million-vote advantage for the Democratic candidate for president in 2004. This was accomplished by a massive collective effort across union lines, sharing lists and collaborating on phone banking and door knocking.

As a result of the split off from the AFL-CIO and formation of new federations, special approaches will have to be developed to promote labor unity. A wonderful example is the campaign that defeated all of Schwarzenegger’s anti-labor, anti social spending propositions in California. The labor councils established neighborhood storefront organizing centers to mobilize in the largely African American, Mexican American and Latino communities. The California Education Association joined in with the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. A huge vote was delivered, which had been thought impossible. The collaborative working relationship announced by the NEA and AFL-CIO further develops this unity in a way that can reach into rural and swing districts across the country.

The AFL-CIO is now putting its $40 million Labor 2006 mobilization into gear. The focus is on union family turnout. Targeted campaigns are 15 Senate races, 40 House races, and the governor races in California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The status of the labor movement varies across the country. In some areas there is little communication, and in others close working relations continue, between the different federations and unions. Specific forms of united labor political action will have to be developed in each Congressional District or state. Building around key issues and moving labor into support of candidates on those issues is one idea. Around the issue of health care the different sections of the labor movement should be able to coalesce, perhaps developing a small common program and bringing out voters around that.

Grass roots campaigns around broad social movements like Wal-Mart or fair share health care, raising the minimum wage, Hotel Workers Rising or Labor Against the War, which cross union and federation lines, can also be points of unity to get out the vote.

The African American vote. In the 2004 election, one-in-ten voters were African American, and 88% of African American voters went Democrat. The African American vote has long been the strongest progressive vote in the country. Black civic participation organizations are gearing up for huge voter registration and get out the vote drives this year. The goal of achieving a Democratic majority is connected to stopping the dismantling and restoring civil rights protections as well as labor rights and ending the war on Iraq.

The Latino vote. Latino voters went Democratic in 2004 by a 65.4-33 margin. [William C. Velasquez Institute] Polling shows Democrats have a 61-21 lead over Republicans among Hispanic registered voters in 2006. National voter projects are gearing up. The all-out attack on immigrant worker rights, the impact of health and education budget cuts, and disproportionate Latino deaths in Iraq are stirring mass movements that can contribute to an upsurge to change Congress.

The Women’s vote. In 2004, women voted more Democratic than men, although fewer women voted for Kerry than had voted for Gore. Only 31 percent of women approve Bush’s job performance. Organizations like Emily’s list, dedicated to electing progressive women, and NOW which mobilized to defeat Alito, are preparing to get out the vote. NOW is campaigning with peace, labor and civil rights against the war in Iraq, which can galvanize the upsurge and change Congress.

The Youth vote. In 2004, youth organizations registered 4.6 million new young people to vote. The 18-30 voter turnout was the highest since 1972 and majority Democrat. More than half the turnout was African American and Latino youth. Young people are enraged by the $12 billion in cuts to student loans and the Iraq war. Their work can help create the upsurge to change Congress.

Special mention must be made of the senior/retiree vote. The Bush administration attack on Social Security, plus the Medicaid bill that has made it nearly impossible for millions of seniors to get their prescriptions properly, places seniors at the center of defeating the Republican majority in Congress. Also the retirees robbed of their pensions by corporate greed are in this category.

Remarkable organizing in the last session of Congress forced privatization of Social Security off the table. The entire Democratic Caucus agreed to stick with the principle of no privatization, no cuts in benefits, and no rise in the age for eligibility.

Everyone stuck together under the Americans United to Protect Social Security coalition. Demonstrations, letters, phone calls, visits were carried out. Youth were won to oppose privatization. Everywhere Bush traveled, support for his plan went down. Republicans in Congress began to get nervous. They knew they would not be re-elected if they voted for privatization of Social Security.

In the State of the Union address Bush was embarrassed by cheers from the Democrats when he scoldingly complained that Social Security privatization had not gone through. However, in the budget issued days later he included funds for privatization.

The fight is not over. But an important battle was won. Our Party was in the mix. The People’s Weekly World played an important part in educating the public. Our work and efforts made a difference and they were appreciated.

That coalition gave way to The Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities to oppose the horrible budget cuts. Grass roots opposition was so strong that on the day of the Senate vote Cheney had to return to town to cast the tie-breaking vote. When the bill went back to the House, the coalition targeted 10 moderate Republicans who are vulnerable. Protests, visits, phone calls, letters were all delivered from the ground.

In the end, the budget passed by two votes. However, some of the Republicans who voted against the bill did so cynically because they were taking so much heat. So, the Republican leadership gave 11 Republicans in tight races “permission” to vote against the bill, knowing it would still pass. This kind of trickery is sure to escalate, and must be exposed.

The Emergency Campaign is continuing to oppose the 2007 budget. Here again the People’s Weekly World played a wonderful role with its coverage. We must get closer to these battles against cuts in Congress, because their impact is devastating to every working class community.

The Republicans maintain total control of what is debated. Bills are written secretively and handed out hours before the vote so they can’t be analyzed or mobilized for—remember the Patriot Act! Bills to withdraw from Iraq and bring the troops home, to stop funding the war cannot get a hearing in present conditions. With the Supreme Court stacked in favor of the Right Wing, control of Congress is even more crucial. It will depend on the pressure from constituents to stop the worst.

With a Democratic majority in Congress, John Conyers would chair the Judiciary Committee. He would bring forward his bills for impeachment, and reauthorization and expansion of the Voting Rights Act. Sheila Jackson-Lee would chair the Immigration Subcommittee. She is author of the best immigration bill. Charles Rangel would chair the Ways and Means Committee. Medicare for All and Katrina relief would be considered. George Miller would chair the Education and the Workforce Committee. The Employee Free Choice Act could come to vote, and the Congressional attack on public education could be shelved.

Six new seats in the Senate and 15 new seats in the House must be won to break the Republican grip.

We will develop a national campaign, working with labor and community forces, in target races in each state. To date, there are ten targeted Senate races, twenty-six targeted House races and ten Governor races.

The national list of priority races is fluid. It will be amended as events unfold.

There are also some very important local and state struggles. The excitement and confidence gained from small victories can go a long way toward bringing new members into our clubs.

We should work to develop more local candidates next year when more municipal elections are held. Communist candidates are an important component of our work. We need many, many more.

We are projecting one overall piece of literature with a crusading message for massive distribution.

The suggestion is that each Communist Party Club or District hold a public meeting on the issues of the election. A PowerPoint presentation will be available for use with allies. Plans should be made to distribute the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo newspaper, and also Political Affairs magazine.

Election work is tailor made to club building. Getting votes is all about speaking with people, developing relationships, getting involved in action and turning out. What a wonderful opportunity to showcase our paper, to raise the level of understanding in a target area, to develop new working class leaders, and add to the long term strength of the movement for democracy.

People are attracted to us because of our ideological grounding from which we develop our strategy and tactics. The unity concepts we bring have a tremendous impact, and can make the difference in winning an election struggle.

There is no choice in such a time of great danger, but to rollup our sleeves and participate with the labor and people’s organizations in the 2006 elections.

Our Communist Party National Party and Press Building Conference is four months away—half way to election day. Hopefully we will have many experiences and challenges and even conclusions to bring there.

I’d like to close with some words from a state elected official whose campaign was part of the Communist Party/Young Communist League’s Midwest Project in 2004:

“I want to express my gratitude to you and your leadership for your commitment to electing working-class people…When enough people care and contribute time and resources, pro labor, pro-choice, pro-environment candidates win….”

In conclusion, this criminal administration has caused such great damage, so much loss of life, so much destruction of the environment, not just for us but also all over the world. A powerful movement for peace, for civil rights, for social justice is unfolding, with a first task to Change Congress in 2006. We can be so proud that we, and our vision of revolutionary change, are a part of this crusade. As a nation we can no longer tolerate “for war billions more, but no more for the poor.”

Every week counts in the next 35 weeks until Election Day, Tuesday November 7. The number of new voters we register, the number of doors we knock, the number of copies of People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo we bring, the number of calls in phone banks, the unions and organizations we coalesce with, the number of new Clubs that we build and new members that join the Communist Party—all will go a long way to determining our future and the future of democracy in our land. CPUSA Online