Revolutionary reflections on bourgeois elections
By Kris Hamel
November 15, 2012
Under capitalism, especially here in the United States, so-called
“democracy” serves the wealthy. Whoever wins elections, the
Pentagon and weapons industry still get funding, imperialist wars and
occupations go on, the rich get tax breaks, while workers and the poor face
more layoffs, cutbacks and attacks.
Election campaigns cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The U.S. Supreme
Court intensified this aspect of U.S. democracy by allowing billionaires to
fund super PACs (political action committees) with unlimited millions and
letting corporations, deemed to be “persons,” make exorbitant
In the 2012 presidential election, incumbent Democratic President Barack
Obama outraised and outspent Republican Mitt Romney, but just barely. The
candidates, through affiliated super PACS and donors, raised a combined $1.82
billion. As of Oct. 17, Obama still had $134.7 million in cash on hand, while
Romney had $193.3 million. (New York Times, Nov. 12)
Romney benefited from the very richest donors. Obama also got Wall Street
backing, but received more small contributions and money from unions, women,
women’s and reproductive rights organizations, the
lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer community, environmental groups and
The staggering amounts needed to run effective campaigns virtually shut out
smaller parties. Candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans have little
chance to crash the corporate-owned media. It is difficult and costly just to
get on the ballot.
Nevertheless, to the extent that they provide information about political
and social trends, the elections are analyzed by revolutionaries. They reveal
the mood of the working class and help prepare for real battles to come. These
decisive battles will not be won in the ballot box, but in the streets by the
masses of workers and oppressed.
Right wing repudiated by voters
This election showed a repudiation of the politics and agenda of the most
reactionary, right-wing elements in the U.S., especially by women, African
Americans and Latinos/as, workers and the poor of many nationalities, and LGBTQ
Obama’s reelection and the Congressional vote leave the status quo
largely in place, but the deep rightward shift that Tea Party billionaires and
anti-woman reactionaries had bet on didn’t happen.
Exit polls revealed that Mitt Romney took 59 percent of votes by whites, 52
percent of men, and 78 percent of white evangelical Christians. Obama won 55
percent of women voters, 60 percent of those 30 years old and younger, 93
percent of African-American votes, and more than 70 percent of Latinos/as and
Asian peoples. (NYT, Nov. 12) While Republicans won more seats in the House of
Representatives, they actually lost the popular vote. Their gains came from
intensive gerrymandering of state districts.
Ballot proposals and initiatives — which usually represent a more
democratic, although still costly, measure of the electorate’s desires
— provided some progressive results, not the least of which was
legalizing same-sex marriage in four states; overturning some local and state
marijuana laws that have given cops a legal weapon to harass and arrest youth,
especially youth of color; and overturning Michigan’s racist (financial)
emergency manager law that allowed the state to try to take control of cities
How rapidly change can come
Just two short years ago, the reactionary tide was seemingly winning the
day. The ultra-right, racist Tea Party was riding high and helped the
ultra-conservative wing of the ruling class retake control of the House of
Representatives. It was a big defeat for the Obama administration and
Democratic Party supporters.
Some in the progressive movement felt they had to squelch their own
independent demands challenging Obama on such issues as war, the environment
and the economic crisis because of accusations that this would only help the
ultra-right. In the African-American and other oppressed communities, there was
serious, justified concern about increased racism in response to the first
African-American president in U.S. history.
But was there really a broad social base for the Tea Party, which quickly
gained media attention and was pumped up by millionaires’ money? This
vote shows that the predicted swing to the right among the masses hasn’t
Instead, the working class — the majority of the U.S. population,
whether they vote or not — has undergone a tremendous change over the
course of the last three decades. It is no longer dominated by higher-paid
white males, who have been more easily swayed by the ruling class’
divide-and-conquer use of racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ bigotry and oppression.
Continuing capitalist restructuring has been driving down wages and eliminating
skilled jobs at the same time that more women and people of color have entered
the work force, where they have helped revive militancy and solidarity in
unions and in general.
In February 2011, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies in the
state legislature rammed through anti-union laws that undermined public workers
and their right to collective bargaining, a general working-class uprising
began in that state. The State Capitol was occupied for weeks by workers and
their supporters, notably students, not just from Wisconsin but around the
U.S., with international support.
Some six months after that, the Occupy Wall Street movement began in
earnest, led by youth with no future other than low-paid jobs and never-ending
pay-back of massive student loans. That movement is still alive. OWS is
providing major relief aid to the masses in New York and New Jersey devastated
by the recent hurricane.
Neither capitalist party can provide the millions of jobs that are sorely
needed. Neither can provide a plan that puts the needs and interests of the
workers and oppressed first. Neither has an answer to the economic crisis still
engulfing the U.S. and the rest of the capitalist world.
Conditions are ripening for intensified working-class fightback, not just
against cuts and austerity but against the capitalist system itself and for a
socialist future — where planning for people’s needs, not profits
for the rich, is the guiding light of society. A revolutionary Marxist vanguard
party is an indispensable ingredient for that victorious struggle.