Nearly a week has passed since the US Presidential election, and still there is no declared winner. What does all of this mean? How is it possible that the vote is split almost identically between the two major candidates? The simple answer is that the two candidates are virtually identical! As we have explained many times, both the Democrats and the Republicans are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both parties are firmly in the pockets of the capitalist class - no matter who wins, the ruling class has covered all its bases by contributing $540 million in campaign "contributions" to the coffers of both parties. Both parties defend the interests of private property and the market, so capitalist interests are guaranteed no matter who wins. As Marxists we are implacably opposed to the rule of private property and the anarchic, wasteful, market economy, so there is absolutely no question of supporting a "lesser evil". As filmmaker Michael Moore points out, the lesser of two evils is still evil!
While many people panic about a Bush victory, let's look at the facts of the matter. On issues of importance to working and poor people, what differences would there be between a Bush or a Gore presidency? Both want to increase the military budget. Both support the death penalty. Both oppose universal healthcare. Both support the "war on drugs" and the criminalization of millions, as well as supporting $1.3 billion in military "aid" to Columbia. Both oppose same-sex civil unions. Both support NAFTA, the WTO, and the crushing of the colonial world at the expense of workers everywhere. Both support continuing the embargo on Cuba. Both support the embargo and bombing of Iraq which costs over 5,000 lives a month. Both will do next to nothing to increase the minimum wage (they agree to raise it by just 50 cents!). With virtually carbon-copy candidates it is no surprise people could not tell the difference and were split nearly 50/50!
Many people are terrified of Bush appointing conservative judges to the Supreme Court, especially as concerns defending abortion rights and Roe v. Wade. This landmark decision, protecting the right of a woman to choose survived the ultra-conservative years of Reagan, Bush, and Newt Gingrich - but no thanks to Gore or the Democrats! In fact, Roe v. Wade was passed under a conservative-appointed judge, and more anti-women/abortion rights legislation was passed under the Clinton/Gore administration than under Reagan/Bush! Gore is clearly no great defender of women's rights - he has supported the appointment of very conservative and openly anti-abortion and anti-working class judges. The issue of abortion rights is a very important one, and is close to many people. But the fact is that an overwhelming majority of the country supports the right to choose. So the panic over Roe v. Wade is in reality a scare tactic designed to get people to vote for a "lesser evil" out of fear. Politicians do not operate in a vacuum - they do not simply do what they want. They are very sensitive to the mood of the population. Politicians of all shades will be hard-pressed to force their conservative agenda without a reaction. Despite what Bush says about abortion, what candidates say they will do and what they actually do in practice are totally different things - remember George Bush Sr.'s "read my lips: no new taxes"?
The events unfolding before us is raising serious doubts among millions of workers about the authority of the "leaders" of the so-called "free world". Everywhere one goes, it seems people are discussing politics. More people are interested in the aftermath of the election than the presidential campaign itself. This is a very healthy development. Americans have overnight been forced to face the glaring contradictions in their supposedly most democratic of all governments. Countries like Cuba and Zimbabwe have offered to send international observers to oversee the ballot recount! The US ruling class loves to parade around as the defender of "democracy", imposing its will on other countries (and if they can't succeed in getting their man in power electorally, they use "extra-legal" means like assassination and military coups). But now all of that stands exposed - they cannot even run a smooth election with the semblance of democracy themselves.
While the focus is currently on Florida, one can only imagine the extent of fraud and corruption on a national scale. There were reports all over the country of people (especially minorities) being turned away from the polls, of 3rd party candidates being removed from the ballot, the "invalidation" of thousands of votes, missing ballot boxes, etc. Not to mention the wholly undemocratic "debates", the use of technologically outdated voting machines and an often complex voter registration process. These are the issues we must focus our attacks on - the utter lack of democracy and the rampant fraud. For all the phraseology about "democratic" America, it is now clear to millions that all is not well in the land of the free and the brave.
Discussion has also been heated over the institution of the Electoral College. We do not have direct popular suffrage in this country (if we did, the election would already be decided in favor of Al Gore of the Republicrats). Instead we go through a process whereby we vote for "electors" who then elect the president. The reason for this is obvious - the founding fathers did not trust the masses to make the "right" choice. But even this undemocratic process will not decide the election this year - the next President will likely be decided by teams of lawyers and judges! The authority of the next commander in chief will be sorely limited both domestically and internationally - the colossus of US imperialism is showing the world that it indeed has feet of clay.
The question of Nader is a very important one. Many people feel that he cost Gore the election. But nothing could be further from the truth! If Gore loses the election, it is entirely his own fault. He had everything going for him - a booming economy, incumbency, and far greater experience. But by presenting an almost identical agenda as his opponent, he himself failed to address issues of importance to those who ultimately backed Nader. As Nader points out, Gore is responsible for Gore - he should not have assumed he would get certain votes, but should have earned them. If anything, Gore's scare tactics cost Nader the 5% he needed for major party status and matching federal election funds. Nader's campaign energized millions of people, and in spite of the countless thousands who abandoned Nader at the last minute and fell for the "lesser evil" argument by voting for Gore, over 2.6 million people voted for him. Only in one state was Nader truly a decisive factor - Florida. But had Gore simply won his own state of Tennessee, and Clinton's Arkansas or traditional Democratic stronghold West Virginia, then the close vote in Florida would be an irrelevancy. It is only because of Gore's failings in other states, which should have been "in the bag", that Florida became an issue. In fact, we should thank Mr. Nader for helping bring about a situation in which millions of people aren't simply dozing off again for another four years, but are actively participating in politics between elections, and questioning the status quo. These people will be keeping a vigilant eye on the next president, and the steady move towards the right in US politics will be forced to a halt.
So how is it that the candidate of an incumbent party at the helm of a booming economy is threatened with losing? It is quite simple really - the economy is not booming for millions of working Americans! As has been explained many times, the fact is that American workers have far less buying power than they did 30 years ago, and we work far longer than any other advanced industrial country. The boom has not brought us better jobs and job security, benefits, earlier retirement, universal healthcare, quality education, etc. It has brought a reduction of real wages, record layoffs, attacks on unions and new unionization drives, 44 million people without health care, nearly 2 million people in jail, and a booming temp work industry with few benefits or job security. This largely explains the reaction against the incumbent Democratic Party. Due to the two party monopoly, half the population looked for a solution in a familiar alternative - the "other" party (the Republicans in this case). It also explains why roughly half the population didn't bother voting for any candidate whatsoever. The real winner of the election was the "none of the above" party!
What is the solution to this situation? How can we break the stranglehold of the Republicrats? Many people feel that they should support the Democrats as a way of fighting off the supposedly more "evil" Republicans. But we have already explained that from a Marxist perspective there is fundamentally no difference between these two capitalist parties. Nader's campaign marked an awakening of millions of youth and workers, and began to harness the energy of the nascent anti-capitalist movement. But it is clear that the extremely heterogeneous movement behind Nader cannot challenge the Republicrat monopoly alone. We must build on these forces and unite with the only organizations based firmly in the working class, and with the resources and infrastructure to mount a serious challenge - the trade unions.
The working class is the largest class in this country, and yet we are perpetually faced with choosing between two candidates of the capitalist class. The millions of workers who trusted Gore to stop Bush and the Republicans have now seen that the Democrats could not even decisively achieve that. The Democrats cannot fight the "right" wing of US politics for the simple reason that they have become part of it! The trade union leadership criminally supported the Democrats, and created illusions among the rank and file that with labor's support, Bush could be stopped. But the resulting mess only proves that these leaders do not really have the interests of the workers in mind, but simply do the bidding of the Democratic Party. The only solution is for the workers to trust their own forces and strength to defend their interests. The trade unions must break with the Democrats! What is needed is a mass party of labor with socialist policies based on the trade unions. This may not seem to be an easy or "practical" solution at the present time. But as Marxists we are not obliged to settle for "practical" solutions. We want genuine social change which will improve the lives of billions of people - change which can only come through democratic and international socialism. This cannot occur overnight, and will take a lot of painstaking work. But the ongoing electoral fiasco makes it clear that the capitalist system cannot solve even the most basic problems of bourgeois "democracy", let alone expand that democracy to the economic and social arena. We must work patiently and resolutely to build the forces of Marxism and explain the ideas of socialism as the only solution to the problems facing workers and youth the world over.
The result of the election is still in limbo. Whatever the result, we will have a capitalist candidate in power. But the current state of affairs has made it obvious to millions that things are not running as smoothly as the capitalists had hoped. Combine this political situation with the volatile international situation and an increasingly shaky economy, and we can be sure of one thing - the next four years will be a period of extreme instability, and will provide very fertile ground for the ideas of revolutionary Marxism and socialist internationalism. Over the next period we must concentrate our efforts towards building a mass party of labor and the forces of genuine Marxism in the US and internationally.