Report: Left Party Election Balance-sheet

John Paramo albatrosrojo2000 at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 8 01:35:35 MST 2002


I just came from a semi-public, excellently attended
meeting of the Left Party where a balance-sheet and
analysis of the national and local elections was
discussed. Everyone attending got a copy at the
beginning of the meeting of a written report
containing good data.

This is a syntheses from my notes of an 45-minute long
presentation and some of the interventions in the
2-hour discussion period.

1. The turnout in the country was an average 39-40%
(possibly a little higher after counting provisional
and absentee voters and recounting in certain races)
of the registered voters.  Around 75% of all eligible
voters are registered. About 50% of all voters chose
GOP candidates, 46% chose Democratic candidates and 4%
others, mainly Green Party candidates.  But since the
Greens and others only contested a limited number of
states and races, in the states this happened, the
Green vote alone ranged from 1% (NYC) to 6%
(California), with some state and federal offices
getting up to 22% and in some local races up to 50% of
the vote ( School Board, San Francisco).  This is the
interesting feature: wherever the voters perceived a
confrontational campaign between Demos and Republicans
and in every race where left wing and Green Party
candidates were an important feature of the race, the
turnout went up 5-10 % or even more.  This was not the
lowest turnout mid-term election.  In fact the turnout
was higher than in 1998 and I believe they said 1994
(but I'm not sure).

2. The Green Party elected about around 70 people to
public office in California, probably double that
number in the rest of the country.  These included
some state legislators.  The editor of Frontlines,
running as an open socialist candidate of the Left
Party got 32,000 votes or 29% in San Francisco. This
is the largest vote ever for a Socialist in the city
and one of the largest vote for a socialist in a local
election in the US in the last four decades. More
significantly, the Mission District, the working class
and predominantly Latino District that is one of the
Left Party strongholds, but which usually has lower
than average turnout, this time around had one of the
highest in town.  So much so that about every precinct
in that District ran out of ballots by 4 PM, four
hours before the closing time.  The Left Party got
more than 50% of the vote there. The Green Party
candidates also received an extraordinary good vote in
that area.

3. It was a good presentation of why Marxists
participate in elections (to reach tens of thousands
of people, give a political roundup and analysis of
the present situation and a socialist alternative by
using every day events and proposing transitional
demands, educate about the undemocratic system, ,
critically support others in the left when we are
running and highlight the need to organize and
mobilize) Attempt to move as many people as possible
to the left by aproximation to ideas and movements
they can relate with.

4. An analysis of the election cannot be made in a
vacuum.  It must flow from the international and
national political situation.  Since 9/11 it is a
reactionary conjuncture in the US and the launching of
a worldwide political/military offensive of US
imperialism. This offensive has caused the complete
unity of the ruling parties for months and the support
if not the majority, at least of the most powerful
sectors of the US ruling class (oil, finance capital,
construction, automakers, war industries, high tech,
etc). At first, and because the justified - and
manipulated - reaction of Americans against the
terrorist attacks, this ruling class offensive counted
on the overwhelming support of the population.  This
support was re-inforced and extended over time by the
unconditional support of the Democratic Party, the
labor tops and the media.

5. Around April, however, the first signs of recovery
of some opposition started.  This was essentially
triggered by the determined opposition internationally
(Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe) of a growing
mass movement, the polarization that the US offensive
created (movements that are opposing the US and
threatening local governments) thus pushing these
governments into a more cautious approach in terms of
supporting the US.  This international resistance HAD
an effect in delaying American actions and affecting
the consciousness of Americans- or a layer of them -
by extending the time for a debate to start and
showing that the US government was somewhat isolated
and could be stopped, at least temporarily.

6. The Democratic Party remained stauchingly
supporting the war on terrorism, the Patriot Act and
the "Commander in Chief." The most neo-liberal wing,
the "new Democrats" and Clintonites by conviction, the
most liberals in the superstructure of the party not
to undermine the bipartisan big donors.  Pundits said
that was the "popularity" of Bush which turned the
election in GOP favors.  But that "popularity" was the
result of the Democratic Party support that "forgot"
that Bush stole the elections and by voting in favor
of every reactionary piece of legislation and only
raising minor tactical differences in the prosecution
and rythm of the war drive.

7. Under those circumstances, the Democrats lost the
softer periphery of the party: many African Americans,
layers of the Latino voters, many workers and women
... they could not be activated and energized by this
more than loyal opposition. This was best exemplified
by some periphery of the Democrats and important
public figures (like Sarandon, Jesse Jackson and
others) joining the antiwar movement. Al Sharpton and
others are also examples that the Democratic chain
started to break in the weakest links. Bush was able,
however and because the complicity of the Democratic
Party mainstream representatives to frame the election
under the terms he chose: homeland security, no
taxation and the war on terrorism even though the
surveys showed that the economy, jobs and education
were high concerns of many voters.

8. The rank and file of the softer layer of the
Democrats joined the apathetic layer of those who
prefer a beer and a TV game to any minimum execution
of a political act. And like most of the left, they
sat the election out. This showed clearly the
limitations of the GOP victory.  Energized by the
"popularity" of is president, self-confident and
confronting a confused and capitulating Democratic
Party, the GOP only could muster 50% of those who
bothered to vote and affected little the turnout, with
the exceptions of Mass. and Florida.

9.  The Greens in many states, and the left in very
few places was able to fill only very partially the
vacuum left to its left by the Democrats.  In spite
the fact that the most important political rallies in
the immediate two weeks before Election Day were the
antiwar rallies, the leaders of those mobilizations
had no political proposal for Election Day.  In fact,
the WWP, ISO, SA and most other left organizations not
only sat the election out, but boycoted and attacked
those who tried to offer an alternative, including the
Greens and the LP and others.  The couple thousand
good activists of the socialist left in the US could
have had a vigorous impact in the election if they
only understood that the antiwar movement had to use
the elections to give the fight also at every
political level.  Even the Green Party understood this
late in the game, only launching into a vigorous
campaign against the war few weeks before election
day.

10. Some left wing organizations are wrong in
characterizing that these elections had no impact in
the development of the movement.  While that is true
in terms of the core of it, they certainly
underestimate the ideological tool they helped handing
to the Bush administration and the lost opportunity to
make a dent in the Democratic Party domination of the
progressive movements. All denials of the left,
covered with ultraleftist rethoric against elections
and participating in them only added to the cynical
American culture that "nothing could be done."

11. The victory of the GOP in this election is,
however, very limited. In the superstructure will be
determined for what happens in the Democratic Party.
The election of Pelosi or her opponent to replace
Gephardt (who quit to avoid the embarrasment of a
defeat for the leadership in Congress and in
preparation for his Presidential bid in 2004) would
not change anything.  Pelosi is not a left wing
liberal, but an incompetent conciliator and center
right as people and activists in the Bay Area would
testify. But it is not impossible that the periphery
of the party would pull a segment of its more liberal
core a little to the left and that actually some
people like Jackson, Sharpton and others would become
a more or less permanent feature of the antiwar and
oppositionist movement in the next period.  This
should be welcomed with both arms, but not at the
expense of letting them grab the purse and run with
it. On the other hand, the Greens and others must be
convinced to combine their electoral gains and
inclinations with a vigorous intervention in the
antiwar movement to help broaden and develop it
further. They now have to be asked to take part in the
responsability of building it every day. Secondly, the
Greens must be pressured to abandon their timid and
progressive line of breaking with local and
"progressive" Democrats. It is not a question of
judging the personal values of a local Democrat as
much as it is a question of disuading working class,
African American and Latino Democrats to break with
the Junior partner of the ruling class coalition in
the "unending war on terrorism" both abroad and
domestically.

12.  In any cases, unless Bush achieve some bloodless
victory in Iraq: a coup or a commando strike (both
highly improbable at this point), he would find
himself in a lose-lose situation.  In spite the PR
campaign on TV and newspapers, Bush is probably aware
of the limits of his win this Nov. 5, of the degree of
opposition worldwide to his plans and of the most
likely scenario of a cloody confrontation in Iraq
(unless, of course, Saddam Hussein decides to wait for
the invasion sitting in the desert instead of the
cities.)  A massive bombing of Bagdad would create a
catasthrophic situation for the US government in many
parts of the world.  This probably explains his more
cautionary tone at the first press conference after
the elections.  On the other hand, if Bush does not
obtain an easy, bloodless victory and does not invade,
many would feel, with a reasonable degree of accuracy,
that he was defeated.  Such a defeat would create the
basis for his sliding down in public opinion and the
more domestic issues such as the economy, jobs and
others would be catching up to him.

13. While the reactionary conjuncture continues in the
US, confidence exist for it to be overcome by a
combination of international and national events in
the next few months. The rest were tactical
considerations of what to do in relationship with the
antiwar movement, the labor unions, the community work
and in the electoral front and how to strenghten the
collaborative work with Greens and others.

JP


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