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WHAT WE THINK
Polls show falling support for pro-war, pro-business president
The potential to stop Bush

January 7, 2005 | Page 3

OPINION POLLS last month showed that George W. Bush had the lowest approval rating of any president entering his second term since 1948--just 48 percent, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll.

Hardly a sign of the "political capital" that Bush has been talking about since he was re-elected in November.

The poll also found that 56 percent of Americans believed the U.S. war on Iraq was not worth fighting. Add to this people's doubts and fears about the future of Social Security, and Bush's plan to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into the Constitution, and the administration is hardly about to win a popularity contest with large sections of the population.

Yet the Bush administration is nevertheless preparing for an inauguration celebration as if he were the most beloved politician in history.

The theme of the $40 million, four-day gala will be "Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service." The posh events will be full to brink with all kinds of military regalia to "honor" soldiers fighting in Iraq. Missing from the guest list, of course, are the very men and women being used as cannon fodder in Bush's war for oil and empire.

As Bush and the Republicans prepare to launch attack after attack based on their supposed "mandate," the Democrats are crying in their beers, trying to figure out how they could have lost the election. The party establishment has concluded that the lesson of November was that the Democrats were too far to the left--and had lost touch with "mainstream America."

The conservative Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is proposing that the party drop the positions that "alienate" it from more conservative voters--like support for abortion rights.

And the liberals are going right along. "All these issues that put us into the extreme and not the mainstream really hurt us with the heartland of the country," said Donna Brazile, a high-profile African American Democrat who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. "Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies."

Then there's "maverick" Howard Dean, who is vying to be the party's national chairman. "We ought not turn our back on pro-life people, even though the vast majority of people in this party are pro-choice," Dean said. "What I don't want to do is to have a national message that makes it impossible for you to be a conservative, or to be a progressive who can't win."

They call this an "opposition party?"

The Democrats are going further down the same disastrous road they traveled during the 2004 campaign, when they concluded that if John Kerry were going to defeat Bush, he would have to appeal to the "center"--that is, the right.

The real reason Kerry lost is simple: he never challenged Bush. By giving Bush a pass on important issues that working people care about--the war, health care, abortion, the minimum wage--Kerry and the Democrats let the most beatable incumbent in a generation off the hook, and left a gaping hole where the opposition to the Bush agenda should have been.

Kerry's right-wing campaign confirmed--once again--that the Democratic Party is more interested in proving itself to its corporate backers than standing up for the people it supposedly represents. And if that means jettisoning some of the policies that are considered Democratic Party principles--like abortion rights--they're prepared to do it.

After all, this has been the party's trajectory for decades. The DLC was founded to promote pro-business, conservative policies after Ronald Reagan's victory in 1984--and to distance Democrats from their former "party of the people" image. Bill Clinton's "New Democrat" program furthered this agenda by destroying "welfare as we know it" and promoting free-market policies like NAFTA.

If we want to combat the Bush agenda, it will be up to activists on the ground to make our voices heard--and build a political alternative independent of the Democrats.

Bush's inauguration party is an excellent place to start. Activists from many cities across the country are mobilizing for protests against on Inauguration Day. In several, solidarity actions are planned for the following weekend. These demonstrations will give expression to the brewing frustration and anger with Bush's policies, which exist just below the surface.

By turning out to protest--and organizing meetings, discussions and debates--activists can take up the issues that the Democrats won't, starting with rebuilding the movement against Bush's war on the world. Defending abortion rights must also be a top priority--as will organizing opposition to Bush's scheme to privatize Social Security.

In the history of this country, real progressive change has always come not as the result of the Democrats' policies, but from the power of social movements and protests from below. That will be truer than ever in George W. Bush's America.

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