North Texans Study Democracy and Election Strategy

On November 6, the North Texas club discussed the previous days' elections. As we do, we approached it from the general to the specific. The following includes my opening remarks and corrections and additions from our excellent discussion.

Democracy and elections matter

Idealists would like to ignore elections and abstain from voting. Nothing is pure enough for them. But our guideline is not purity nor our subjective feelings. Our guideline is the working class. The working class has a stake political struggles, including elections, and communists have no interests outside those of the working class.

American Democracy is a work in process

Everything is constantly changing, including democracy in America. Nothing is perfect, but is always changing. We might say that we live under a changing form of "capitalist democracy" where the people influence many decisions, but not the critical ones such as wars and the economy.

America began as a democracy for male white property owners. It favored slave owners. Through centuries of struggle, democracy in America improved. Texas ended white primaries in 1948, for example. Dallas got single member city council districts in the 1980s. The City of Irving moved that way only this year.

Recently, democracy has come under attack

But we are now witnessing mighty efforts to reverse the forward progress of Democracy in America.

Fightback is under way

At the same time, the working class forces are not standing idle. The AFL-CIO has stated a clear purpose of establishing a broad and independent political movement based on all working people (not just unions). The following quote was published as the November 5 election results came in:

"Elections matter. They can be a road to the future we want and need. At the ballot box, we can help build an economy that works for working people. This year has been important, but the elections in 2014 and 2016 will be more so. We will keep building an independent labor movement that builds power for working people in the workplace and in the political life. We'll start at the local level, and we'll build to the national level. Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It's to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our economy as well as our country, and that's exactly what we're going to do." -- AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka

It should be noted that the Texas AFL-CIO and its central labor councils, particularly in Houston and Dallas, are responding enthusiastically to the sweeping changes advocated by the national labor movement.

Some results of the 11/5/13 elections

AFL-CIO NOW 11/06/2013 by Jackie Tortora:
"Working families saw major wins in the elections held in New York, Virginia, Boston, Ohio and New Jersey. The impact of grassroots power was especially evident in the groundbreaking minimum wage increase in New Jersey. 

'In Boston, voters elected union member Marty Walsh (D) for mayor. In Virginia, a bellwether state, Terry McAuliffe (D) won the governorship. 'In Ohio, Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly--78% to 2%--defeated a city charter amendment that would have eliminated the defined benefit pension plan for newly hired city employees. And in New York City, voters elected Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in more than two decades."

From the Texas AFL-CIO:
"Houston Mayor Annise Parker rode the Harris County AFL-CIO endorsement to victory in an eight-person field. Parker also received an election eve endorsement from President Obama. She was reelected to a third and final term under the city's term limits ordinance. In the one legislative contest in Texas, labor-backed candidate Celia Israel, a Democrat, finished a strong second in a four-candidate field and will face Republican Mike VanDeWalle in a runoff election." 

Some negative news comes from a comrade in Houston:
"The Houston Chronicle states that 'Pasadena voter narrowly approve a proposition that changes how City Council members are elected, making it one of the first governing bodies from the South to test a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that weakened the Voting Rights Act (switches two of the city's eight council seats from district to citywide elections).' This change was opposed by MALDF and TOP."

Dallas had a very interesting school board race

The major issue in Dallas Independent School District is the new superintendent's "reforms." Of course, "reform" has of late come to have a bitter meaning for working people. Superintendent Miles wants to further the national process of turning our schools into factories serving corporations rather than help centers for children and families. His most significant proposal is to change the pay structure for teachers so that they can be forced into the mold of standardized testing. His former aide, Miguel Solis, ran for a spot that came open when a trustee switched to the city council.

Kristi LaraOpposing the former aide was a community activist named Kristi Lara. In an unusual turn of events reflecting changes in the labor movement, the American Federation of Teachers chapter endorsed Lara even though she did not have widespread name recognition nor financial backing. The AFL-CIO followed suit. The mighty Teamsters Local 745, not part of the AFL-CIO, added its own endorsement later.

The Chamber of Commerce indicated the direction or the ruling class by endorsing Solis early. The Dallas Morning News, public spokespersons for the shadow-government Dallas Citizens Alliance, weighed in with a strong endorsement of Solis and wretched coverage of Lara. Our discussion group estimated that Solis raised around $100,000 to win an unpaid volunteer position lasting only 7 months until the May elections! The teachers, labor, and progressive elements knowledgeable about school board issues united behind Lara, and, with a herculean personal effort and only a few weeks to work, she was able to wrest more than a third of the votes from the establishment machine.

It is anticipated that the issues in the school district will be even sharper, and that working peoples' forces will be much better organized by the May elections.

--Jim Lane