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WHAT WE THINK
Democrats sweating over outcome of midterm elections
Why won't they stand up to Bush?

November 1, 2002 | Page 3

A DETERIORATING economy that has thrown millions out of work. A government preparing for a war that most people have grave doubts about. A corporate crime spree that implicates the highest officials of the U.S. government, including the president and vice president.

In a political environment like this, the Republican Party ought to be worrying about losing any election in a landslide. But with the national midterm vote only days away as Socialist Worker went to press, it was the Democrats who were worried.

All of the seats in the House and one-third of Senate seats are at stake, and the battle for control of Congress between Democrats and Republicans is very tight. A few races going one direction or the other could produce either Republican control of all three branches of government, a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, or the status quo of a divided Congress.

How can the Republicans be hoping to win in spite of all the factors working against them? One reason is their strategy of using George W. Bush's inflated war popularity by sending him across the country to endorse Republican candidates and raise money at a record-smashing pace.

But the more important reason for the Republicans' prospects is the spinelessness of Democrats. The recent "debate" in Congress over Bush's war drive against Iraq is a good example.

It's no secret that Bush wants war with Iraq--and that his constant threats have helped to push unfavorable news off the front pages. But ordinary Americans don't share Bush's enthusiasm. Just one in five people support what Bush really wants--a "go-it-alone" U.S. invasion.

Yet the Democrats--as they have so many times in the past two years--rolled over when Bush demanded a congressional resolution authorizing a war. The Democrats' conventional wisdom was that they should vote for the resolution so they could "get back to" talking about the economy. But this cynical calculation--made at the cost of thousands of Iraqi lives--ignored two factors.

First, it ignored the real possibility that challenging Bush on the war would win more support than it would lose. Those who say that Bush's Iraq policy is their prime voting concern oppose the war by a two-to-one margin, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

Second, avoiding a debate about Iraq assumed that the Democrats have something to say about other issues. But the Democrats haven't even offered an alternative. They went right along with Bush's Pentagon spending binge. And they don't have the guts to call for the repeal of Bush's 2001 tax giveway to the rich.

No wonder the Democrats are sweating. They could still end up retaking control of Congress if enough anger at the recession and Republicans has built up "underground," undetected by the polls. But if they do win, it will be in spite of themselves.

Millions of ordinary Americans are outraged at the state of affairs in Washington--but feel that no one pays attention to their most important concerns. They're right. That's why we need to build a socialist alternative to the Tweedledee-Tweedledum parties of Corporate America.

Is there an alternative?

IS THERE anything worth voting for in this election? There are referendums across the country that readers of Socialist Worker will want to take a stand on. And in a handful of races, independent third-party candidates are offering an alternative to the Republocrats.

For example, left-wing author Stanley Aronowitz is running for governor of New York on the Green Party ticket, and antiwar activist Rahul Mahajan is on the ballot for governor of Texas. Both have taken a hard stand against Bush's war drive--and hammered away at the corporate criminals and their accomplices in the two mainstream parties.

On the other hand, others among the more than 500 Green candidates in this election are campaigning on narrow local environmental issues--disconnected from wider struggles. And in a few close races in Oregon and New Mexico, the Greens decided not to field a candidate rather than upset the chances of liberal Democrats--accepting the very logic of Democrats who attacked Ralph Nader as a "spoiler" in the 2000 election.

In reality, Nader's response--that "you can't spoil a spoiled system"--has never been more true. All this is a reflection of the political unevenness of the Greens. Nationally, there is little that ties activist-oriented chapters to those focused exclusively on local electioneering.

If anyone could have bridged this gap and galvanized the massive potential for a third-party alternative, it's Nader. His 2000 presidential campaign was a lightning rod for anger at a corrupt political system. But Nader has been barely visible over the last two years, and shamefully, he was all but silent about the "war on terrorism."

The key to creating a real political alternative to the Democrats and Republicans will depend not on individuals like Nader, but on building the fight for justice and democracy from below.

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