Demands for Basic Needs and the Electoral Process
Editors’ Note: The following is an abridged version of the March 2019 Political Report on the Midterm Elections, from the Central Committee of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America. This report was written before over 25 candidates entered the Democratic Party primaries as candidates for President; before the fascists rescinded Florida’s Amendment 4; and before the courageous “Squad” challenged fascist attacks from Republicans and from within their own Democratic Party.
The 2018 midterm election results indicate that the United States has moved from economic polarization to social and political polarization. Polarization takes place from inside of a thing. The election results showed the growing polarization within both the Democratic and the Republican Parties. Polarization is not marked simply by one neat split between a progressive and conservative pole in society. As development proceeds, there is further splitting. The progressive pole splits into progressive and revolutionary poles; the conservative pole splits into conservative and fascist poles.
All social motion takes place within the advancing technological revolution. Electronics-initiated polarization creates a new class that is separated from capitalist relations. As this new class advances its program, they reveal themselves as a social force demanding that the government intervene on behalf of their goals, not those of the corporations. In a period like this, which we have described as a break in continuity, the changes we describe accelerate. Our class is emerging from a Rip-Van-Winkle-like slumber. That which has been roiling beneath the surface for more than 20 years is about to erupt.
Wave of Resistance and Social Response
The 2018 election was a referendum on the state of the country. Tens of millions of people took part to send a message that they wanted change. Many were involved for the first time in political campaigning. They sent the message in the form of voting for candidates, most of whom were affiliated with the Democratic Party. Still, the election’s result was not a blue wave: It was a wave of resistance to the status quo, in which people used the only means available to most of them (voting for Democrats) to send that message. While most attention has been paid to the candidates, some significant races highlighted ballot referenda on issues such as housing, healthcare, public education, ballot access, voting rights, “right to work,” and water privatization.
In every area of the country, the new class is trying to fight for its basic needs of housing, healthcare, education, and even for the most elemental levels of democracy. As they find their rulers turning a deaf ear to their demands, the new class seeks every avenue it can to redress its grievances, including the electoral battlefield. Even now, with an historic high in voter participation in midterm elections, the U.S. consistently provides evidence that more than half of the electorate believes that their votes make no difference and/or that it cannot find relief through elections.
The midterm elections saw new class members successfully run state ballot measures to expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. Florida passed Amendment 4 to reinstate voting rights for people with felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole and probation. This impacted 1.5 million of new class dispossessed forces and can be viewed as a step in the practical advancement of the program of the new class. We can see in these measures the stirring of a kind of political awareness that is beginning to mark a break in continuity.
One aspect of the “wave of resistance” was the number of women elected to political office. In the House of Representatives, the number of women elected exceeded 100 for the first time, including historic firsts for Native Americans, African Americans and Muslims. What carried some of these candidates to victory, and often going beyond resistance, was advancing the programmatic demands of the class as expressed locally. In Michigan, statewide offices were swept by women Democrats although the state legislature remained firmly in control of Republicans. Insurgents ran as Democrats, but also as Independents and sometimes as Socialists.
When candidates ran not as “red” candidates or “blue” candidates, but rather as candidates dedicated to fighting to secure one or another basic need, they often won. When they didn’t win at the top of the ticket, often in down ballot primaries, total novices replaced long-standing incumbents and then won down ballot races (e.g. Texas and Georgia). First time Muslim, Palestinian, and Native American women candidates won their elections, because new class forces were galvanized. Youth, women, and people of color, voted in significant numbers, all of this resulting in the largest voter turnout in a midterm election in 50 years. While 49% of eligible voters did not vote, a section of the new class used the electoral arena to pursue their class interests. That of course was when the election wasn’t being stolen.
The Consolidation of Fascism
The 2018 elections were also a battleground for the advance of fascism. Leading up to November 6, Donald Trump and Mike Pence crossed the country sowing their message of division and hatred. Trump took every opportunity to attack the migrants fleeing Central America in search of asylum. Proclaiming himself a nationalist, he used that platform to re-define the press as the enemy of the people. And he embraced candidates who did not hesitate to campaign on supporting voter suppression and outright lynching (e.g. Mississippi). In fact, the under-reported story of the midterms was voter suppression.
The 2018 midterm elections have seen a marked progression in the reorganization of the state apparatus (i.e. corporate dictatorship/fascism). In this era of the digital revolution, the recently dispossessed section of the new class is compelled to fight for their basic needs – compelled even to secure their bare basic democratic rights, as they become aware that only the cooperative control of the socially necessary means of production guarantees their well-being.
As we go forward, it is especially important to mention the deadly role of the Democratic Party establishment, as relates to reorganization of the state to ensure private property relations in the “blue” states. Contrary to the rulers’ narrative, having California, Illinois, Maryland, etc. more firmly in the grip of the Democratic Party institutions, with all its diversity, will not mean less poverty or less homelessness; we won’t be safer, more secure, or have less hateful or violent times. A clear example of this is the solid “blue” area around Washington, D.C. and Maryland, where the solid grip of the Democratic Party vetoed a D.C. referendum to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The wave of resistance often took on the form of an anti-Trump vote, and mostly it was the Democratic Party that benefitted from the anti-Trump feeling. Corporate Democrats as a whole in this election played defense across the country, preferring to lambast Trump as a person and leaving the issues general. In 2016, the Democratic Party ran on “maintaining the middle class.” Those corporate Democrats still wail about the decline of the middle-class jobs in the Midwest rust belt, but this time around, some rising new voices began to demand a different kind of party.
Regional Differences and Expressions
While the demands and aspirations of the new class may be more visible in platforms and initiatives rising in urban-centric areas, including Florida and Georgia, they are keenly felt by poor and dispossessed in all areas of the country – including, and perhaps especially, in “Trump country.” These rural counties, towns, and small cities are areas where dispossession in the transformed and depressed economy combines with ruling class manipulation of racial fears and resentments, Christian fundamentalist political grip, and deeply embedded anti-communism and fear of socialism to render people particularly vulnerable to “Trump, Inc.”
Counted in these areas are the 200 U.S. counties that voted for Obama and then flipped to Trump in the next election. They also include those like the West Virginians who supported Bernie Sanders in primaries but, left with no such candidate in the final elections, turned to the available ruling class candidates, mostly Republicans, who spoke to their fears and resentments. What is most salient for us, is the probable reason for the appeal of Obama’s and Sanders’ messages among these folks. They spoke to hope for change that they, or their children, would have at least some basic needs met within the political structure they know and trust as “patriotic Americans.”
These elections were marked by polarization, energy and debate that indicate that the new proletarian class and the capitalist class are engaging politically. Specific contradictions are developing to the point that breaks in continuity are beginning to have a direct effect on politics. The electoral process itself represents such a break. It is not surprising then, that at the very same time as the Democratic Party moves to consolidate its grip, for example in Illinois and California, fissures are developing within the party structure that represents the polarity emanating from the class that must fight for its survival.
In 2016, the Democratic Party presidential candidate won only about 1/3 of the counties in the country, mostly heavily urban counties along the East and West Coasts and some in the old Rust Belt around the Great Lakes. These counties produce about 2/3 of the country’s GDP. Trump, on the other hand, won 2/3 of the counties, predominantly rural, which produce about 1/3 of the GDP. These counties tend to reflect the industrial era “traditional” economies of agriculture, energy production, and manufacturing of tangible products, whereas the coastal counties are bastions of the new digital economy.
Elections are an arena for class battle. Under the assault of beginning independent class programmatic activity, the Democratic Party (even where it is solidly in control), is not monolithic anymore. Like the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is in the process of disintegrating. RC
September/October 2019 Vol29.Ed5
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