Nov 11, 2002
With the elections giving control of the Senate back to the Republicans, Bush, smirking as usual, claimed a victory. And not only a victory – but a mandate for his policies.
Mandate? Ha! Less than 40% of the voting age citizens voted in this election, with each party getting only about half the votes. The remaining 60% – that is, the big majority – voted with their feet, staying away from the polls, voting, de facto, for "none of the above." And with very good reason, since neither Democrat nor Republican stood for policies that served the working people of this country.
This did not prevent Bush from claiming that the "American people had spoken,"demanding that Bush implement his policies.
Bush, in fact, had already been busy implementing his policies – and with the ready support of the Democrats on all the things that really mattered. They gave him the votes he needed to pass the massive tax cut; over 40% of this multi-billion dollar tax cut went to the wealthiest one% of the population. The rest of the taxpayers were lucky if they got $300. The Democrats gave him the votes he needed to carry out war whenever he wanted against Iraq. The Senate, which they controlled, gave him a 77 to 23 majority for war. Almost unanimously, the Democrats voted for every piece of reactionary legislation he offered to the Congress under the guise of fighting terrorism.
No one should believe that the Democrats, had they retained control of the Senate, would have presented a barrier to what Bush is going to propose.
Of course, Bush will pretend to base the next two years on the results of these elections. Just as he used September 11 to justify a war against Afghanistan last year, he will now try to use these elections to justify a wider war on Iraq. Bush used September 11 to justify reactionary legislation and demands for sacrifice from working people; he will now claim that the elections give him the population's stamp of approval to require greater sacrifices from working people and to give greater benefits to the wealthy.
This does not mean that the working people – the vast majority of whom did not vote for Bush – need to accept this nonsense. These elections may mean that the Democratic Party will lose some committee chairs and the right to give out positions, but they do not change anything for the population. Just as before, the issue is not what Bush proposes and what the Congress passes, it's what the working people are ready to accept. Bush has been able to push through a reactionary program simply because the working class has made very few fights for too many years now. Republicans and Democrats alike have come to believe that they can pass whatever they like, and there will be no response.
Working people were not represented in these elections. There was no party that spoke for us – only politicians who wanted our vote. We have no reason to accept what Bush does in the name of these elections.
The working class has the capacity to throw back any new reactionary policies and to overturn those already pushed by Bush and by Clinton before him. A few big strikes, with workers really mobilizing their numbers to make a fight, would wipe that smirk off Bush's face. More and larger demonstrations against the war would call his bluff.