[Marxism] Why workers voted "against their interests", and a comment on gay marriage

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Nov 3 11:54:13 MST 2004

"The problem is, the ruling class doesn't appoint the president. Why was
elected for a second term by people who have diametrically opposed
to his?"

This has to be my least favorite sentence of the 2004 election campaign.
I have seen it quite often, and I think it indicates how deep the idea
has become rooted on the left that the Democrats have something to do
with the basic material interests of the workers, and the workers really
SHOULD support them.  A more correct formulation would be: "Why did many
working people vote for Bush, who has interests diametrically opposed to
theirs, in a race with Kerry, who has interests diametrically opposed to
theirs.  How has a two-party system that has interests diametrically
opposed to theirs maintained itself since World War II. It is becoming
impossible for workers to miss the fact that even the pretence of
representing the interests of workers is vanishing from the Democratic
Party. Given the lack of a working-class mass movement and the shift of
the Democrats, the shift of a broad layer to the 
Republicans on the basis of conservatism on social issues and so forth
is pretty natural.  It will take radicalization, which we cannot suck
out of our thumbs or wish into existence on a broader scale than
presently exists, to break out of this framework. 

But the anger and disgust and disappointment  with workers who voted
Republican RATHER THAN DEMOCRATIC in this election is out of place and
shows how deeply WE are still coming from the wrong place politically.

Secondly, I want to say something on the gay marriage question, which
definitely helped the Republicans a lot in this campaign, especially
since there was no way for the oppressed and exploited to vote for their
interests within the system -- none at all, unless you count Nader and
the socialists who were completely unrealistic in the given two-part
structure for most people.

Thirty years ago laws against homosexual acts existed in every state in
the union.  Forty years ago gay bars were being raided on a regular
basis on the basis of these laws.  A popular movement has swept these

Ten years ago the idea of gay marriage had never occurred to me. (I
admit I am always considerably behind the curve on sexual matters.) And
probably millions of people in this country never heard of it till the
last year or so.  It is strange to them, it is new, it seems like a
weird idea relative to everything they are used to, it is disapproved of
by just about every religion on earth.  Yet in these elections, the
right of gays to marry was a big issue, and hundreds of thousands of
people voted against measures to forbid something that many of them
always assumed before was impossible and not to be done.    Despite the
setbacks, this reminds me more of the way social advances begin than of
the way they are defeated and rolled back. We are not at the beginning
of a new Dark Ages on this issue.

There is loads of antigay prejudice, and a considerable amount of
antigay violence and discrimination.  But on balance this is a struggle
that has been moving forward, not back and I don't think that it has
been thrown back all that much in this election.  Of course, if the
working class stays dead politically, and the other struggles for
justice don't revive and begin to march again (the national struggles
and especially the women's movement) gay rights will run into heavy
sledding. But I think in many ways, the fight for gay rights became more
established and nationally recognized and deeper in this fight, despite
the immediate victories for reaction in the votes.
Fred Feldman

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