USA: The civil war continues
At the time of writing, the final results of the presidential election are still in doubt. Millions of working family voters went to the polls determined to elect a President and Congress that would move our country in a progressive direction. The stakes are very high. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore is the clear winner of the popular vote over Republican George W Bush in the November 7 election. But Gore has not been declared the winner because the final arbiter of who wins the presidency is the antiquated, undemocratic Electoral College. But the electoral college could nevertheless make Bush President against the expressed will of the people. The electoral college consists of 539 electors, apportioned among the states based on their number of Representatives and Senators in Congress. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Republican George W Bush announced victory, albeit cautiously, on the basis of his claim of Florida's crucial 25 electoral votes. But fewer than 2,000 votes, out of 5.6 million, separate Gore and Bush in the Sunshine State, a tally so close that a recount is under way. Officials warn the recount and possible challenges could take at least 10 days to complete. Meanwhile, charges of ballot irregularities are swirling and demands are rising for a full investigation. A broad anti-right-wing electoral coalition spearheaded by the labour movement, African Americans, Latinos, women and environmental, senior, youth and student organisations, gay and lesbian groups and other allies was active in nearly every state and did a remarkable job mobilising millions of voters. A record turnout of Black and Hispanic voters was organised by the NAACP and Latino voter groups. It helped Gore carry several battleground states including Michigan and Pennsylvania. Lisa Canada, political action director of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, said that "According to exit polls, 46 per cent of the voters identified themselves as members of union households ... We focused exclusively on getting out our own members." One major factor was that the United Auto Workers negotiated election day as a paid holiday. "In UAW Region 1, we had 2,000 UAW volunteers on election day", Canada said. "If the UAW had not negotiated that paid holiday, our list of election day volunteers would have been a lot shorter. We had a huge turnout of UAW members." A similar heroic effort by organised labour was under way all across the country. This election also changed the Congress for the better. Even though it remains under the dominance of the old right-wing Republican leadership, the Senate Democrats registered a net gain of two seats. Several right-wing heavy hitters, like House impeachment leader James Rogan, were also defeated. The number of women in the next Senate will reach double digits for the first time. Still incomplete returns show that the Republican margin in the House will also narrow. This means that both the Senate and the House will likely be more responsive to pressure from the people than before November 7. Some positives in the election results were the defeat of school voucher referenda in Michigan and California and Alabama voters ended the state's ban on inter-racial marriages. A setback was Arizona's approval of a ballot initiative to ban bilingual education. Whatever the final outcome, the challenge for progressive forces in the post-election period is to help build a coalition that will fight around the vital issues debated during the campaign such as: * saving Social Security from privatisation; * a federal prescription drug plan; * a law against racial profiling and hate crimes; * living wage measures; * campaign finance reform; * to stop "Star Wars"; * death penalty moratorium; and * budget "surplus" to the people, not the rich. The Republicans, from Bush on down, ran deceitful campaigns and that is how they would try to run the country. If Gore wins, the struggle continues also. This election shows the growing independence of labour, civil rights and other progressive forces and that independent forces on the left need a higher level of unity. The stage is set for struggle. The road ahead will be rocky. There are great dangers, but with unity and action the people can win.
* * *The above article is drawn from reports by Jarvis Tyner, Executive Vice Chair of the CPUSA, and Tim Wheeler, Editor of the Communist Party USA's weekly People's Weekly World.