Although it may not seem like it, the tide is beginning to turn.
Forty percent of the electorate considers itself independent, making independents the largest group of voters. Thirty percent of the electorate wants a third party to compete with the Republicans and Democrats. In effect, people want a change from the corporate-dominated two-party system.
The corporate power structure doesn't fully trust President Clinton. Clinton's electoral coalition has too much labor, African American, Latino and senior votes at its base.
Clinton is not overwhelmingly popular but he's more popular than Newt Gingrich and the other Contract on America candidates. With mass opposition growing against the Contact and with that motley crew of Republican right-wingers running for president, a defeat for the right is possible in 1996.
The thing that scares the corporate power brokers most is the long-term potential of the tremedous rise in independent attitudes of the electorate. And they are doing everything to prevent the unity and organization of the progressive-indepedent forces.
Perot's announcement of a new "independent" Party was a prime example of creating a diversion from real independence. According to Perot, his party would field its own candidates for the White House and Congress in 1996.
This so-called independent party is being established without any democratic procedure. It's a party established by an individual. This self-proclaimed fighter against the government didn't allow the membership of his organization to meet and decide. He did it on his own on national TV. Whatever it is Perot will own and control this party - lock, stock, and barrel. This is the demagogy of Ross Perot - his big money talks and his people are expected to do the work.
Politically, Perot's party cannot be called a real independent movement. In the first place, independence means independence from big business and Ross Perot is about as pro-big business as you can get.
Communist Party Chair Gus Hall defined the contemporary meaning of the idea of independence when he said, "You can't have a real independent third party without taking on the Republican Contract" - and this is exactly what Perot is not going to do.
The same goes for Colin Powell. Right now he is number one in the presidential polls. He's ahead of Clinton, Dole and all the rest. He does have a soft reasonable manner, but make no mistake, he is no progressive. He's better than the other Republicans (which doesn't say much) but his liberal attitudes are partial at best while his pro-corporate and pro-military positions are rock solid.
Powell says he is socially liberal but "when it comes to fiscal matters, I am about as Republican as you can get." So he's "socially liberal and economically conservative."
Does that mean that he is for full employment but against putting up the money for a jobs bill? Is Powell somehow left-wing in his heart but ultra-right in his pocket book? Is that possible?
The one thing Powell is clear about is his love for capitalism. On that he is up front and enthusiastic. When the inevitible conflict arises between his "social fairness" and capitalist profits, guess what side Powell will be on? On unions and other basic working class issues Powell is with the corporations, not with the people.
If Powell runs as an independent or on the Republican ticket he could win. Certainly he could have a decisive impact. Things will likely change, but at this point, if Powell takes 30 percent of the African American vote, as some are predicting he would if he ran as an independent, he could swing the 1996 presidential elections to the Republicans. Others say he would defeat the Republicans if he were to run as an independent.
If he ran as a Republican, I think he would channel a lot of African American and other more Iiberal voters into the GOP. He could split the alliance of voters that elected Clinton in 1992.
I think the Communist Party's Jobs and Equality Campaign is a great way to advance political independence. Our efforts to meet the economic and civil rights rights emergency in this country - by fighting to pass the Martinez Bill which would provide $250 billion over five years to put people to work repairing our infrastructure, pushing for stronger civil rights legislation and against racism, demanding the government tax the rich and cut the military budget - is setting the stage for defeaflng the right and scoring big victories in the elections and beyond.
We need to popularize the idea, "You can't be a real independent without fighting the Contract." Let one's stand on the Contract be the litmus test for whether you are on the side of the people, for whether you are a real political independent.
In this regard, Powell fails the test. Perot fails the test. In fact, of the 20 or more candidates running for president right now all but the undeclared Jesse Jackson fail the test. And that includes Bill Clinton, although he must act against the Contract if he wants to build a winning electoral coalition in l996. Without this struggle Clinton will lose.
The growing popular upsurge against the Contract is key to moving ahead in this period. A just released CNN-USA Today-Gallup Poll shows that public support for Republican policies is eroding. In March 53 percent said the Republican policies would move the country in the right direction. Now it's down to 41 percent.
The poll found that while 81 percent said Medicare has major problems, 64 percent said the Republicans were moving too fast to change it and 53 percent said the elderly would be worse off under GOP reforms. Even though they want a balanced budget, lower taxes, an end to waste, etc. when the people find out the real meaning of the Republican proposals they reject them.
Clinton's coming up with $264 million for Los Angeles hospitals is in response to labor and the people's pressure and shows how vulnerable he is and the powerful impact of struggle in an election climate. The Contract on America can be defeated in the course of this election struggle.
The ultra-right dominance of the Congress can be defeated in 1996. As the Republican program is more and more exposed, the anger of the people will become greater and greater.
Recent successes show that our political action proposal, our Jobs and Equality Campaign and our new labor program are very much on time. They fit this political moment.
Right now the labor movement has initiated an important political action project for 1996. We should help this project in any way we can. It is aimed at defeating the Contract by defeating the rightwing majority in Congress.
They are calling for a nation-wide concentration effort to defeat 30 reactionary members of Congress. These 30 are particularly vulnerable because they won in Democratic districts and only by a few percentage points.
The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists has issued a list of congressional districts for concentration. CBTU organizers are going all over the country organizing training sessions to develop an organized effort in this campaign and to win labor delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
It would be good if senior ativists, who will be affected by the Medicare cuts, would wear those "Shame" T-shirts in front of the family and neighbors of a Congressperson who supports the cuts. Or welfare families would hold a silent vigil in front of the church of a Congressperson who is for the elimination of welfare. And what about a demonstration at the headquarters of a corporation that is a recipient of "wealthfare?" The holiday period is a great time for vigils and militant actions against the Contract.
It would be a monumental failure if we do not run Communist candidates under these conditions of rising protest agamst the right and growing support for political independence. The Communist Party must be out there presenting its views and fighting for support. No force is more independent then the Communist Party. No force fights for the people's interest as consistently and militantly as the Communist Party. That's what brings people into our party.
We must leave the option open and discuss running a presidential slate. Ballot access and our resources are the main hurdIes. However, every district should run at least one local candidate for public office - on the Communist Party line or as independents. We should run Young Communist League members, too. Youth candidates are ideal when it comes to capturing the new independent spirit of the electorate.
The key thing for our candidates is to join the ideological fight and bring our program forward and expose and defeat the right, the anti-labor forces, the racists and the phony independents. If we are out there presenting a program, masses will have a real basis to judge other candidates and programs. Our presence along is a left pressure.
In 1992 Clinton took office because he tapped into the need change and Perot split the conservative vote. But he didn't deliver change. It was "the economy, stupid!." And he gave us a jobless recovery NAFTA, GATT and later, low-paying jobs without benefits. Labor and civil rights were still under assault.
Clinton defaulted on his promises and so in 1994 the voters stayed home. The ultra-right regrouped and took advantage and won by default. They said "change" too and with 22 percent of the electorate they took the House and Senate. The change they gave was a change for the worst. The change they gave us was the Contract on America.
Now 14 months from now we will do it again. The entire House is up, one-third of the Senate and the presidecy. The danger is that the ultra-right will take the White House and therefore, control all three branches of government.
Will that happen or will 1996 be a new beginning, a reversal of the damage of the Contract? With the new changes in the labor movement the spirit of Warren, Ohio and Detroit - and the new spirit of militancy and independence among the people, substantial progress could be made as we head toward the year 2000.
Labor Party Advocates is holding its founding convention in 1996. This is positive. All kinds of wonderfull independent formations exist around the country. Most of the independent groups can't wait for change. We can't wait, either. However, while the situation is fluid, I don't think a viable people's party candidate will be born in 1996.
By 2000 it may be possible to launch a united, viable national people's party which could produce a strong third party candidate for president. That's certainly what we must work for.
As much as we'd like to, we can't will away the "lesser-of-two-evils" problem. When the right wing is stronger the lesser-of-two-evils problem grows as well.
The American electorate has almost no experiece with political independence. This is why the phonies can make headway. Alienation and non-voting is not a high enough level of protest for today yet it's the only one folks can see. Also, if a people's party is not yet in place, it's understandable why so many opt for the lesser evil for now.
What wIll defeat it is not just talk. It will be the intense heat of the class struggle that will melt away the facade of lesser of two evils.
One thing is clear - Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Whether he can win depends on whether he passes the main test: is he fighting the Contract?
If he isn't, his chances for reelection are not good. So far, he is showing some inclination to change from the compromising veteran of the Democratic Leadership Council that he has been over the last three years. Clinton has to go to the people with a promise: "I will save Medicare, create good jobs and stop the heartless cuts in vital services." He has to offer a real alternative to the Contract.
We don't live in a perfect world. Things are not settled as yet and we have to be patient and wait for more things to fall into place. Most important of all is that the people are starting to move and that can change everything.
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