Mac the Knife: Cut the Needy to Feed the Greedy


7-24-08, 4:20 pm

An unprecedented discussion is sweeping the country about how to change direction for the common good. Tens of thousands of union members are knocking on the doors of millions of co-workers and their families to talk about the issues. Women’s, youth and Latino and African American organizations are among those in the forefront of what will probably be the biggest election mobilization in our history.

The issues are pretty clear. The Bush years and the last three decades of ultra-right corporate rule have been devastating. Ordinary people can’t survive in the present economic climate. Gas and food prices, foreclosures, layoffs, school closings and out-of-reach health care are all coming down hard on working-class families, with no letup in sight.

A large section of the country has come to understand that their well being is not served by the obscene spending on the Iraq war or the overall policies of the Bush administration.

This is the framework for Bush’s lowest approval ratings in history, and the fact that majorities in Republican congressional districts say they will vote Democratic this year.

This is the framework for the outpouring of voters in the Democratic primaries, and the historic emergence of Barack Obama as the presidential nominee, who together with Hillary Clinton broke down barriers of race and gender.

This election could deliver a landslide victory on November 4th against the ultra-right. A huge turnout of whole communities will give leverage to the mandate for a new set of policies, and create the conditions for continued organizing around a labor and people’s agenda post-election.

Fundamental Differences

Bush’s man, John McCain, represents the old, corporate-driven politics of division and fear. Born into an elite military family and married into an elite corporate family, McCain is a vehicle to uphold the racist Southern strategy and policies of world domination.

Obama offers a new politics of unity and inclusion. He draws upon his diverse family background and community-organizer experience. His nomination is a blow against institutional racism. Obama’s 50-state campaign can end decades of Republican control in state after state.

McCain is the candidate of the military industrial complex. Although Obama does not reject the basic tenets of US foreign policy, he does embrace diplomacy while McCain supports the Bush first-strike policy. Obama favors bringing the troops home from Iraq on a short timeline and providing for their needs. McCain is ready to stay in Iraq for 100 years and voted against GI benefits.

The masses of people who oppose the war see this difference and are responding to Obama. African American voters and young voters are playing a special role in this election. Perhaps most important is the wave of people in motion across the length and breadth of our country.

McCain, like all congressional Republicans, tries to distance himself from Bush. He even tries to hijack the mantle of “change” from Obama.

Claiming to represent the “right change going forward,” McCain charges Obama with representing the “wrong change going backward.”

McCain portrays his program of privatization, individual solutions, corporate handouts and never-ending war as going forward. He depicts Obama’s program, to uphold the role of government and New Deal programs, and guarantee the health and well-being of the people, as going backward.

The media has helped McCain hide his far-right wing identity and ties. It is up to union members to alert their sisters and brothers that he opposes workers’ right to organize and would not sign the Employee Free Choice Act into law. It is up to women’s rights advocates to let their neighbors know that McCain has a zero-percent rating on issues of women’s health and would urge the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

McCain’s pledge to stay with the Bush economic policies, including even more tax breaks for the super rich and cuts in services for everyone else, is opposite to the crisis needs of the moment.

His support for privatization of Social Security and his opposition to universal health care are harmful to women, seniors, the disabled, children and the one-out-of-three people who have inadequate or no health coverage. His support of opening off-shore oil drilling puts oil company profits above the environment and global warming. His support of secret spying undermines basic constitutional rights.

As much as McCain tries to distance himself from Bush, the fact remains that he has the same extremist program and advisors.

Karl Rove, under subpoena for the Justice Department firing of US Attorneys, mapped out McCain’s April biography tour and is producing the electoral maps to guide campaign strategy.

Rove is also guiding Freedom’s Watch, a group led by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, which is raising tens of millions of dollars to elect right-wing Republicans to the House. They are producing ads against the Employee Free Choice Act, as are the “Coalition for a Democratic Workplace” and the “Workforce Freedom Initiative,” both connected with the US Chamber of Commerce. These multi-million-dollar campaigns are targeting eight states with competitive Senate races.

In addition to routing the ultra-right from the White House, a larger Democratic and larger pro-labor majority in the Senate and House is critical to turning our country around

McCain’s biggest support comes from the military industrial complex and the oil industry, the most dangerous wings of the capitalist class. 'McCain leads all other senators, and all others who ran for president, in contributions from the oil and gas industry,' reports the Wall Street Journal. The total is over $1 million, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. This is just one piece of McCain’s huge corporate fundraising pie.

McCain has to appeal well beyond his right-wing base, which is splintered, and has been losing ground as the crimes and misdemeanors of the past seven years come to the light of day.

He is counting on those who do not know his record, and view him as an independent. He is counting on supporters tied to Wall Street who are concerned more about maintaining their own wealth than the good of the country.

McCain is openly courting Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries, especially Latino, white women and Jewish voters. But these efforts may backfire.

McCain is losing his moderate image in the Latino community. He abandoned his comprehensive immigration reform approach during the Republican primaries in favor of border enforcement and exploitative guest worker programs. Combined with his anti-labor and anti-civil rights record, McCain is becoming known as extreme. A report by the New Democratic Network concludes, “The emergence of a new, highly energized and pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate could have an enormous impact on the 2008 election.”

Seventy-eight percent of Latinos who voted in the primaries voted Democrat. The vote for Clinton was not an anti-Obama vote. The Obama campaign hopes to win up to one million more Latino voters and potentially flip New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

Women voters who chose Clinton in the primaries were also not primarily anti-Obama. June polls showed women supporting Obama over McCain in double digits, although still unaware of McCain’s voting record. Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List and women elected officials are among those leading a massive public education campaign to make it known that McCain wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and also voted against raising the minimum wage and extending children’s healthcare.

“The depth of Sen. McCain’s deceit when it comes to issues important to women can’t be overstated,” says Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

Jewish voters are being wooed because the situation in the Middle East is an election issue. Prominent support by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) for the McCain campaign is geared to getting Jewish votes.

The McCain tactic is to support Israel, label Obama “naive” for his approach on diplomacy with Iran, and benefit from the anti-Muslim hate stirred up by right-wing groups against Obama.

Older Jewish voters are not likely to support McCain when they learn he supports privatization of Social Security. As a significant voting bloc in Florida, they could help flip that state from red to blue.

Politics of Racism, Division and Fear

A sharp rise in white supremacist hate groups has been reported since Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee. Along with the bourgeois media, these groups are spewing forth all kinds of lies and distortions against Barack and Michelle Obama.

It is expected that Republican-inspired “527' groups will launch provocative ads to stir up racism against Obama similar to the “swift boat” ads that used fear of terrorism against presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

The beneficiary of this racist hate is John McCain.

The lie that white people and white workers will not vote for Obama is meant to divide the movement and depress the vote. This ignores Iowa, Wisconsin and many other states with predominantly white populations that Obama carried, the historic rally of 75,000 in Oregon, and the large number of votes Obama received from voters of all backgrounds in states which Clinton carried.

The media is playing up the idea of a racial and class divide in the vote between Obama and Clinton. The purpose is to scare people away. Recent elections show, however, that voters are more concerned about jobs and healthcare and the war than about divisive wedge issues.

The labor movement will be decisive for building unity. As one Ohio labor leader said, “Now is the time to unite.... If your members have a problem with racial bias, tell them to get over it for all time, but especially now for this election. We must put Barack Obama in the White House and, if we don’t, we are in deep trouble.”

Building the Landslide

This monumental election battle has the potential to overturn three decades of assaults on working people. It could shape the future of the country for decades. A landslide vote is needed to deliver a strong enough blow to the ultra-right, with a strong enough mandate for change.. It could open up the possibility for a strengthened labor and people’s movement to win a far-reaching program to change priorities.

The Communist Party offers some good ideas in its program to repair, renew and rebuild our country, to be carried out with funds now spent on the Iraq war, the military budget, and tax breaks for the super rich. The program includes immediate relief to those in crisis, a peacetime green jobs economic program for all, including massive public works job creation, passage of HR 676 (the US National Health Insurance Act for universal single-payer healthcare), passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, restoration and expansion of civil rights enforcement, a new foreign and military policy based on diplomacy and respect for all nations, and prosecution of Bush administration violations of the Constitution.

Everyone has a role to play in this historic election campaign. The grass roots organizing approach of the Obama campaign, and the efforts of labor and people’s organizations to put many thousands of people on the streets talking to their neighbors, family, friends and co-workers, are all geared to realizing the landslide for the White House and Congress.

A landslide vote will show that we, the American people, are making this change and we’re going to move our country in a new direction.

--Joelle Fishman chairs the Political Action Commission of the Communist Party USA.