As Congress enters its summer recess, millions of Americans who were expecting a real change after the Democrats’ November 2006 victory are justifiably discontented. For all their promises and rhetorical bluster, what have these big-business politicians really accomplished? Has anything fundamental changed for working people? Bush’s approval rating is at an all-time low of just 29 percent – a sharp drop from his 90 percent approval rating after the September 11 attacks. How quickly things change! Only Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter had lower approval ratings. But after nearly 7 years of Bush’s disastrous domestic and foreign policy, his overwhelming unpopularity is understandable.
However, Bush is not alone. In fact, Congress is even more unpopular at just 14 percent – the lowest rating since Gallup began its congressional popularity poll in 1973. This is down from the already low 43 percent rating in January 2007. This is a reflection of the deep distrust that most Americans harbor toward the political representatives of the ruling class, toward those who write the laws that chain us to lives of low wages and debt while ensuring maximum profits for the corporations and banks.
The key issue on voter’s minds during last year’s mid-term elections was the war and occupation of Iraq. This was the one issue the electorate felt must be addressed decisively. More than seven in ten Americans are now in favor of withdrawing all U.S. troops by April. Bush’s “surge” has accomplished nothing, as detailed in an interim report on the plans’ progress, released six months after the buildup of troops began. In fact, things on the ground are even worse now, with rampant violence and crippling shortages of water, electricity and gasoline.
The Democrats’ utter impotence in forcing a change in course has meant a rapid end to their post-electoral “honey moon”, as their true colors have been exposed for all to see. According to Thomas Mann, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution: “I think the decline in support [for Congress] since the Democrats took over reflects in part the unhappiness of the base in the inability of Democrats to immediately stop the war in Iraq.” Frank Cvitkrovic, a construction worker from Bisbee, Arizona summed up many workers’ views in these words, as reported by the Associated Press: “It’s bunk, more spin. They want to keep this going as long as possible. It’s all about weapons sales and high energy prices. Bush is just the enabler for the billionaires.”
On the ground in Iraq, it is no longer a matter of if but when the U.S. military is forced to withdraw its troops. In order to accelerate this process, maximum unity in the anti-war movement is necessary. The cracks in the armor of imperialism are widening. A broad, united anti-war movement that reaches out to all anti-war forces, particularly to the growing number of anti-war soldiers, could bring the war to a grinding halt, dealing a debilitating blow to U.S. militarism. The movement must insist that all U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq. The vast majority of even the most fervently “anti-war” politicians are opposed only to the continued presence of U.S. combat troops. They remain in favor of leaving thousands of U.S. “advisers” and private contractors (mercenaries) in the country to continue defending their strategic interests in the region. They oppose the war only because of the political pressure building at home.
Despite accomplishing nothing of any substance in the few months since the last elections, these “enablers of the billionaires” already have their sights on the 2008 presidential elections. At this stage, the electoral field is not yet fully defined, as politicians such as Newt Gingrich, Al Gore and Fred Thompson may well enter the race. But among Democrats already in the field, Hillary Clinton currently leads Barack Obama, with John Edwards following. On the Republican side, the fracturing of what many once considered their “invincible” bloc is evident by the fact that “none of the above” is the majority of Republicans’ candidate of choice. This is precisely the situation all working people find themselves in when confronted with the current field of candidates. No matter who the major parties decide to run, there will be no real alternative for working people.
Some are excited that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering running as an “independent”. But this former Democrat / turned-Republican / turned-”unaffiliated” is no alternative either. Bloomberg is a billionaire former CEO, whose main asset when it comes to running for office is his net worth of $5 billion. He has nothing to offer working people, nothing substantially different from the candidates of the two major parties. We can therefore predict the results of the 2008 race well in advance: a big business politician will win and working people will lose. Until we have our own mass party, that is, a party of, by, and for the working class, this tragic farce will continue to perpetuate itself. The economy is also a point of concern for most Americans. Although the speculation on the stock market continues to rocket to new and unsustainable levels, the situation facing millions of U.S. workers is very different. For us, what is skyrocketing is the cost of living, as reflected in rising gasoline and food prices. The housing bubble and the Adjustable Rate Mortgage crisis has yet to bottom out, with millions in danger of losing their homes.
On the positive side of things, Michael Moore’s SiCKO has opened a national discussion on the need for socialized health care in the U.S. Access to quality health care should be a universal right. But as Moore skillfully shows, there are powerful interests that will move might and main to maintain their power and profits. His arguments are simple. If we can collectively benefit from socialized schools, highways, postal service, parks and firefighters, why not health care? The only real argument opponents have is the “sacred” right of private property. But what is more important? The quality of life of hundreds of millions of people or the mega-profits of a handful?
And if health care were to be nationalized in the interests of the majority, why not oil, energy, the telecoms, airlines, transportation, shipping, etc.? Why not the banks, the pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and the food production and distribution industry? Why not all the key economic levers of society? And who better to administer this complex economy than the workers themselves, who already do all the work, and who could democratically plan the economy in the interests of all?
At the moment, most people might think these proposals are far-fetched, but in the coming period, these ideas will begin to gain a mass echo. Join us in the struggle for a better world!