Democracy comes out on top on Nov. 6


After a long and bitterly contested battle, the forces of inclusive democracy came out on top yesterday. The better angels of the American people spread their wings, as they went to the polls.

An African-American president was re-elected to the office of the Presidency, the Democrats unexpectedly strengthened their hand in the Senate and House, and victories, including big ones for marriage equality, were registered at the state level.

Moreover, the balance of forces - that is, the ground on which people fight going forward - has shifted in a progressive direction. And thanks in large measure goes to what might be the most notable development in this election - the emergence of a multi-racial, male-female, working-class-based electoral coalition that has the potential to transform America in the years and decades ahead.

The Communist Party said a year ago that the 2012 elections would be the main front of the class and democratic struggle, and subsequent events have confirmed that fact.

Indeed, we argued (and not everyone on the left agreed and probably still don't) that defeating right wing extremism was the key to moving the whole chain of democratic struggle forward in the coming period.

Conversely, we said that a victory by right-wing extremism would set into motion a far-reaching assault on the people's living standards, rights, and organizational capacities, the likes that we've never seen.

Had Romney won the Presidency and the Republicans the Congress, it would have accelerated to warp drive a capitalist class counterrevolution - a reversal of seventy years of social progress. In a matter of three months time, the entire body of social legislation dating back to the New Deal could have been expunged.

But that won't happen due to the fact that voters - new as well as old - in their majority rejected Romney, a host of right-wing extremist candidates, their ideology, and their model of governance.

While many things went into last night's victory, what was notable was the ability of the democratic movement to turn back Republican efforts to suppress the vote; what was history-making was the determination of the people's movement (with labor in the lead) to reach, educate, and turn out tens of millions of American voters on election day; what was not surprising was the continuing, strategic, and sometimes underappreciated role of the African-American people (93 percent voted for the president) in the front ranks (at the head in many instances) of struggle for progress and democracy.

What was heartening was the readiness of millions of white workers and trade unionists to stand with the President even in a weak economy and in the face of unrelenting and savage racist appeals, especially in the battleground states; what was of fundamental importance was the full-throttled entry of the Latino people onto the national political stage; what was extraordinary was the turnout of the Asian and Pacific Islander people; what was encouraging was the enthusiasm with which young people again supported the president; what was no surprise was the skill with which the president contrasted his views and values from those of Romney; what was critical was the capacity of the American people to sift through the myriad of lies and deceptions that came from the Republican side.

Above all, what was decisive was the unmistakable election imprint of a rainbow working-class based electoral coalition, which has the potential to effect a process of long-term political renewal and realignment the likes of which we haven't seen since the New Deal coalition of the 1930s.

The Republicans say that no sweeping mandate emerges out of this election, but if we think about it more deeply, we arrive at quite a different conclusion: the vote, and here I include more than a sliver of Romney supporters, is an insistent call for governmental action on the most pressing problems facing the working class and people.

This was not a vote for savaging social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; or rolling back domestic spending; or resolving the budget crisis on the people's backs.

It was instead a vote for jobs, housing relief, withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan, an end to U.S.-led wars in the Middle East, the preservation of the package of benefits and rights that the American people now enjoy, equal pay for women, health, and reproductive rights, infrastructure renewal - an issue that took on greater forces in the wake of Sandy - marriage equality, a larger commitment to public education, a tax system in which the wealthiest families and corporations pay a much larger share, reform of our punitive and anti-democratic immigration laws, a reduction in the unconscionable inequality that sets us apart from other advanced capitalist countries, and, not least, an America that stands for fairness, tolerance, and decency.

As I mentioned, the Republicans are not on board with this assessment. Too many act as if nothing has changed.

But in some ways, the bigger problem at this moment is that politicians on both sides of the aisle, major opinion makers, and the corporate elite are saying that a "Grand Bargain," is the order of the day, beginning with spending cuts for people's needs, a weakening of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, along with some extra revenue collected in the form of a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. Otherwise the country, the "grand bargainers" claim, will fall off a "fiscal cliff" threatening the economic recovery, global markets, and the long term viability of existing social programs.

But the conventional wisdom in this case is problematic. Many mainstream economists correctly say that the real crisis is not a fiscal one, but a jobs and growth crisis.

Once people get back to work and once economic activity picks up, they go on to argue, the nation can turn its attention to reeling in deficits without endangering economic recovery, but along very different lines than proposed by too many politicians on both sides of the aisle. On the table must be cutting military spending, ending corporate subsidies, and increasing corporate taxes.

Without catching its breath, the AFL-CIO and its allies are organizing actions against a bipartisan resolution that falls on working people. But organized labor can't do it alone.

The coalition that mined the country for votes over the past several months and the rainbow electorate that elected the president and defended democracy yesterday must spring back into action. Tens of millions must be mobilized. Diverse forms of struggle must be employed. Not everyone has to be an Obama voter. The fight to get the anti-austerity message heard above the din of the major media is a real challenge. But it can be done.

Whatever the outcome of this immediate battle, the struggle to put the people's needs and nature before corporate profits and war spending will be a long one. This still- emerging multi-racial, working-class based coalition will experience victories, like we did on Election Day. But it will also encounter defeats. The main thing is that it never lose sight of the necessity of deepening and extending its reach, unity, and multi-racial, class-based character.

The task isn't to replicate the movements of the 1930s and 1960s, but today's activists would do well to draw the lessons from those movements and adapt them to current conditions.

Both have much to teach, but given the concentrated corporate economic and political power that the American people are up against, today's movement has to eclipse them in terms of scope, depth, and class and anti-racist understanding and unity. We are at the dawn of a new era.

Photo: Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, during an election night rally at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Michael Dwyer/AP

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  • Well, the US was established as a Republic, not a democracy, but why quibble over words? I am looking hard for the "workers paradise" and I can't find it here. Will you please direct me to it's location.

    Posted by Farleyagain, 11/13/2012 9:45pm (3 years ago)

  • Are you kidding? This is utter nonsense. You are entitled to your opinion as it IS a democracy, for now. It is you and your kind that are the threat to it, not the right. By now you are dismissing me as one of those extreme right wing capitalists. If so, you are wrong. Extremism on either side of the spectrum must be fought. You are clearly an extremist on the left. Your opposition to austerity perplexes me. You need only look around the world at the overwhelming evidence of what happens when governments spend more than they have for years. The U.S. is heading in that direction. Both sides of the fence are to blame. It is not capitalism that is to blame but all American, self serving politicians. Capitalism is not perfect but it is the only system that can bring the most prosperity to the most people. You say, correctly that jobs and economic growth are more important than the fiscal crisis. You are putting the cart before the horse. Governments cannot spend their way to prosperity. Look at Spain. They operated in the manner you advocate and their unemployment is now 25%. Canada is a good example. It's fiscal crisis came in the 90's, the deficit was addressed for the most part and it's economy had the strength to survive the global crisis. Deficit's must be controlled before sustainable growth can occur.

    Posted by Ray McMullen, 11/13/2012 1:42pm (3 years ago)

  • Nov 6 was also the date that CIA Director David H. Petraeus hit bottom.

    Posted by kenneth clay, 11/12/2012 10:25pm (3 years ago)

  • Great article Sam. I agree with your assessment. I was very happy to see President Obama would not go down in history as former president (Carter). More can be said of the similarities in the driving forces behind former President Clinton's second term and one which helped President Obama's reelection. However, I would like to make note of the Latino vote which is a growing presence in electoral politics. It was good to see the majority of Latinos voted for President Obama's reelection. This of course was led by the majority of Latinos in union organizations and civil rights organizations seeking to preserve or increase there role in our society. Let us not forget the working class base of the Latino Majority. I say that because for the main the Democratic Party for its part has been the party normally fighting for Latino rights. Now we must keep in mind that some people within the Republican Party are beginning to tout the need for Latino faces and this even includes a Bush relative that is of Latino origin. Included with this are other latinos in several other states being talked about. However, my thoughts are that we Latinos will not be fooled or being given token representation like the Republican Party is suggesting. For the moment we celebrate with unity in the Democratic Party because Obama's victory was a Latino Victory as well. Thanks for your great insight as always.

    Posted by Richard Castro Jr, 11/09/2012 10:05am (3 years ago)

  • The visceral part of this excellent analysis is that the sturdy, strong, dependable, African American people, (although savaged by the nearly dysfunctional economy), almost purely working class, Sam writes,"sometimes under-appreciated", (this is certainly true) led white workers, unionists, women, Latinos, all ethnicities (and their organizations), and LBGTs(and their organizations) in casting votes for Barack Hussein Obama, who, to borrow from, congressperson senior, William L. Clay, of the First Congressional District in Missouri, "a fighting chance" to flourish for themselves and their posterity.
    We can continue to understand why M L K focused on the well-being of the working poor of the African American people in unity with the whole rainbow of the international working class, of different creeds, colors, and national origins.
    We can continue to understand the "Soul Force" from the Mahatma, a product of the anti-imperialist East Indian working class, nurtured in the philosophy of M L K, the novels of W. E. B. Du Bois, and the biographies of Eric Michael Dyson, today.
    In the new era that Sam writes of, that the genius of Du Bois saw over one hundred years ago, the working class will continue in unity, to understand why M L K, said of our Du Bois in 1968, "..tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths." This was capped with the astoundingly true statement by M L K that:
    "His (Du Bois's-eewc) singular greatness lay in his quest for thruth about his own people(the African American people-eewc)."
    Days later, M L K's head and face were blown off.
    "We are at the dawn of a new era."
    Let us love, unify and understand in peace.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 11/08/2012 10:08am (3 years ago)

  • The sentiments are right, although I don't feel quite as gushy about it as this article. The working class passed an important test on Nov 6th, but not by a great margin and certainly not decisively.

    The threat of austerity measures hangs over us like another SuperStorm, and we can be grateful that American labor is responding quickly and with force.

    --jim lane in Dallas

    Posted by jim lane, 11/07/2012 6:44pm (3 years ago)

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