George W. Bush must have expected clear sailing for his right-wing agenda of war abroad and giveaways to the rich when the Republicans regained majority control of the U.S. Senate and added to their majority in the House in the Nov. 5 elections.
Despite the GOP’s attempt to spin the election as a landslide, a shift of fewer than 40,000 votes gave the GOP majority control of the Senate. The vote was split down the middle with only 40 percent of the electorate casting ballots. Bush did not win a mandate for his right-wing corporate agenda.
So it should not be surprising that the administration faced mounting grassroots opposition and suffered a series of setbacks in the waning days of 2002. It ranged from protests against the worsening economy to the unexpectedly fierce opposition to his threat of unilateral, preemptive war on Iraq. There is a growing sense that despite the bluster, the Bush administration is in disarray as evidenced by the firings and resignations of his top economic advisers.
Nothing highlighted Bush’s predicament more clearly than “Lott-gate” – the angry upsurge that forced Sen. Trent Lott to resign his post of Majority Leader.
Lott’s resignation is unlikely to quell the firestorm created by his racist remark at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that it would have been better if Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948 when he ran on a “segregation now, segregation forever,” platform. It has expanded to include charges that Bush and his minions pay lip service to racial equality while enforcing policies that trap African Americans, Latinos and other people of color in segregated communities through red-lining, racial profiling and massive job discrimination, today.
Peter Montgomery, a spokesperson at People for the American Way (PFAW) told the World, days before Lott’s resignation, “Its clear there are people in his own party who are looking for a way to get rid of him. This will have an affect on discussion of issues like civil rights enforcement. More questions will be asked about where judicial nominees stand on the issue of segregation and the protection of people’s civil rights.”
The Lott crisis, he said, has strengthened the position of those battling Bush’s plan to pack the judiciary with ultra-right ideologues like the crony Judge Charles Pickering.
Scott Lynch, a spokesperson for Peace Action, said the surging anti-war movement has slowed Bush’s drive toward war on Iraq. He cited a Los Angeles Times poll showing that a significant majority of the people do not believe Bush has made a case for going to war.
The Bush-Cheney policy of preemptive war “is the dying gasp of the old national security paradigm,” Lynch said. “They want to enforce their vision of the world using weapons we spent trillions of dollars to purchase. Support for the U.S. government is drying up around the world. We are no longer viewed as a beacon of democracy but as a danger to be contained. We have so much potential to do good in the world if we abandon war as an instrument of foreign policy.” The peace movement is mobilizing for anti-war demonstrations around Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and in New York City Feb. 15.
Jeff Chapman, a researcher for the Economic Policy Institute, told the World that in a year when the economy plunged deeper into recessions with millions unemployed or pushed into poverty, “the one bright spot was the living wage movement.” In an article for Movingideas.org, Chapman points out that 10 cities, five counties, a port, a university, a school board, a road commission and a library system all passed living wage regulations, in 2002, “signaling that the recession, the state and local fiscal crisis, the war on terrorism and conservative control of government have failed to thwart the movement.”
Although it benefits a relatively small percentage of the workforce, he said, “it sends a message that public dollars should not subsidize poverty wages.” Chapman called the living wage movement “a model of successful coalition building between community, labor and religious groups” and predicted it will keep rolling ahead in 2003.
Congress adjourned without voting to extend jobless benefits for 800,000 unemployed workers who were set to lose benefits Dec. 28. Although Bush may attempt to distract attention from this human crisis with his war on Iraq, the AFL-CIO plans to confront the lawmakers with the hardships their negligence has caused for millions of unemployed when Congress reconvenes.
The determined resistance of the grassroots labor and people’s coalitions has blunted and slowed the Bush-Cheney right-wing offensive. Nevertheless, it is a dangerous juggernaut that is resorting to tactics of repression and mass intimidation at home while continuing to mobilize for war on Iraq.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service launched a dragnet roundup of hundreds of Middle Eastern and Muslim boys and men, Dec. 18. The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the sweep. “Given the evidence, there is no alarmism in saying this is a round-up,” said Lucas Guttenberg, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project. “Attorney General Ashcroft is using the immigrant registration program to lock up people. … By Jan. 13, immigrants from an additional 13 countries must submit to registration, a move that could push the detentions into the tens of thousands.”
The author is the editor of the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org