back to headlines back to homepage back to theory

Some Election Strategy Considerations

By Jim Lane

The iron necessity of defeating the dedicated right-wingers who now control the U.S. federal government and most of the states is hardly debatable, but the North Texas Friends of the People's Weekly World, at our monthly forum in June, attempted to refine our electoral tactics. All of us have opportunities to register voters and influence individuals and organizations to vote against the Bushies, but some opportunities, it was asserted, are better than others. In other words, some election tactics are more in keeping with our overall goal of educating and organizing the working class and its allies.

Some candidates are better

The easiest choice to make is to respond positively when progressive candidates telephone, as they do increasingly, for grunt workers. But our early experience this year and our unhappy experiences in the past two elections have shown us that many of those same candidates will go to great pains to avoid talking about the critical issues of peace and American democracy. Many of them tell us outright, "I'm not running against Bush!" Past experience in Texas shows us that trying to duck the issues is a recipe for failure. Is working for one of these candidates as fruitful for the working class, long term, as working for someone willing to call a spade a spade?

Building Organizations vs. Helping Candidates

Even better than working for any candidates, it was asserted, is working with progressive organizations on their electoral strategies. The Dallas NAACP, for example, has the most far-reaching and most successful voter registration program in recent history. The Peace Movement has a contingent that registers voters. Helping to build progressive organizations is icing on the cake for our electoral strategies!

Even more important than generally progressive organizations are the efforts of the unions. Most local union political programs deliberately prostrate themselves to the demands of Democratic Party candidates, but not all and not completely. The direction taken by the National AFL-CIO has led to an increasingly independent role for union electoral programs, and that can only lead to long-term benefits for the working class.

Tell the Truth

By the same reasoning, working directly on a communist-led electoral coalition has to be seen as a better choice than working for a union or other progressive organization. A genuinely far-sighted working class orientation allows us to present real truths and electoral options to voters. Our goal of educating and organizing workers is best served by such a coalition wherever it is possible.

Both of the major political parties and almost all of their candidates are staunchly capitalist in ideology. Fundamental issues of worker control and democracy are usually near the bottom of their priority lists. For example, both parties are major purchasers of commercial media advertising, and are very unlikely to warn their constituents of the growing menace of media monopolization. Neither party is likely to question the credibility of the November election process itself, even though many Americans are already concerned about whether or not the election results will be honestly obtained, and it is likely that credibility will fall further afterward. Many Americans already believe that the 2000 Florida elections were fraudulent, and the 2004 elections may have even more problems.

In the June issue of Fair, the media-watch magazine, reporter Karen Charman explains that new "paperless" voting machines are vulnerable to manipulation and outright cheating. She says on page 12, "As it is, nearly one-third of the American electorate will cast their vote on one of the more than 150,000 electronic voting machines whose integrity is in doubt."

The capitalist parties and their candidates will not raise this issue before November, yet candidates from both parties are certain to raise questions about the new voting machines after they lose close elections. If we don't raise the questions now, then aren't we taking the chance of leaving our working class in a morass of confusion in the days after the elections? The short-sighted and opportunistic capitalist candidates couldn't care less about voter confusion and dismay after the election, but we do!

Keep a Long View

We need to choose tactics that will be most effective in defeating America's right-wing electoral coalition and blunting the trend toward fascist rule, but we should keep our heads high enough to keep a long view of every tactical option. Some opportunities are better than others.