|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Hubris, overweening confidence before a fall
Reckoning deferred not averted
THE WORLD AND almost half the Americans who voted on 2 November are reeling at the re-election of George W Bush. A majority, according to numerous polls, are opposed to his policy on Iraq and his handling of the economy. Recent months have seen some of the biggest ever demonstrations in New York and Washington DC, against the war and in defence of abortion rights. Yet this time Bush, front man for the most rapacious section of big business, was able to win a narrow popular majority, 51% to Kerry’s 48% (leaving aside, for a moment, the issue of ballot rigging). How could it happen?
Spending millions of dollars, and supported by right-wing mass media, Bush mobilised the massive, hard-core support of the religious right, who pulled others along with them. Exploiting the deep fears aroused by the 11 September attacks, Bush linked ‘security’ with the defence of ‘moral values’. Among a decisive section of voters, he was able to override profound discontent on economic and social issues. He persuaded millions who ‘live poor’ to ‘vote rich’.
Bush and the Republicans were aided and abetted by their pathetic rivals, Kerry and the Democrats – substitute big-business representatives who offered no real alternative on Iraq, the economy, or anything else. Most people who voted Democrat were voting against Bush – not for Kerry, but in spite of Kerry.
Shamefully, the leaders of the labor unions once again hitched organised workers onto the rear end of the Democratic Party. They spent millions of their members’ dollars supporting Kerry and attacking Ralph Nader, who ran a radical anti-war, anti-corporate, pro-worker campaign. In this issue of Socialism Today, the US election and Nader’s campaign are analysed in two articles from page ten.
"I have political capital", proclaimed Bush after victory. "I intend to spend it". The threat is clear. Continued pursuit of an aggressive strategy in Iraq and internationally. Even greater wealth and power for big business at home. Fewer rights for workers, and a rolling back of many of the progressive reforms of the last 40 years.
A narrow electoral majority in a highly polarised country, however, does not amount to very substantial ‘capital’. It will not buy a painless exit from Iraq, or consolidate a new Pax Americana. Nor will it wipe out the mountains of debt propping up the shaky US economy, or stimulate a boom in the global economy. Bush’s ‘capital’ will not accumulate, but will be exposed to be as fraudulent as the fictitious capital of the dot.com bubble.
Events, driven by the contradictions in US and world capitalism, will decide the course of Bush’s second term, not the calculations of his electoral strategist, Karl Rove. Bush should reflect on the fate of president Nixon. Re-elected for a second term on a landslide in 1972, Nixon was forced out of office only two years later under threat of impeachment.
Some on the left, on both sides of the Atlantic, are now plunged into despair. But the US is not facing a whole new era of right-wing, religious conservatism. Events, the harsh realities of capitalist crisis, will tear to shreds the cloak of religion and ‘morality’ used by Bush and the Republicans to obscure the real issues: security and prosperity for the majority, as opposed to protecting the power and prestige of the ruling class. Jobs and incomes, democratic rights, and social justice. Bush successfully diverted many voters from these issues at the moment they came to vote. But they are still burning issues, and will once again become the decisive political factors for a majority of people.
Many of those who recently ‘voted rich’ will turn against the corrupt representatives of ruthless and greedy big-business interests. Their eyes will be opened by events to the hypocrisy and deceptions of the ‘moral issues’ squad. The fury of those who ‘live poor’ will be boundless. Bush’s ‘capital’ will turn to dross. The volatility of a crisis-torn economy will be matched by equally volatile political swings.
Millions of workers who currently vote Democrat for want of an alternative will seek their own independent representatives and a mass organisation which will champion the interest of working people. Ideas of radical transformation and the need for a completely new, socialist order of society – currently advanced by a small but growing minority – will be taken up by working-class forces with the potential power to change society.
On the international repercussions of Bush’s re-election, see Peter Taaffe, More War Years?
With Yasser Arafat in a critical condition, Jenny Brooks analyses the explosive situation in Israel-Palestine.
In US economy running out of steam, Lynn Walsh analyses the crisis of the US economy and the coming breakdown of the US-Asia economic axis.