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2008 US presidential election
The twin parties of big business offer no solutions for working-class people
ELECTIONS CAN pose important questions in the minds of workers and youth. With a growing anti-war mood in the US, further signs of a looming recession in the economy and support for Bush at an all-time low many of these questions are already on the table. The fundamental one is will any of the candidates for president provide the answers?
On 4 November 2008 the successor to George W Bush will be chosen. Campaigning has been running for many months now but in January 2008 the official "Race for the White House" begins.
In the New Year, states hold primaries (state-wide elections) or caucuses (in some states a local meeting system) which choose delegates from the respective parties who have pledged support for a particular candidate. At the party conventions a few months before the election the party candidate is chosen by the delegates.
Then in November it is the national presidential election where states vote for "electors" loyal to one of the candidates who through an electoral college confirm the new president. Altogether it is a long process for a choice between two sides – Republican and Democrat - of the same coin.
One of the big themes of the election so far has been that of a need for change. In a recent Gallup poll 72% said they were dissatisfied with the leadership of the US government. Will any of the candidates from the Republicans or Democrats provide a change in direction?
Rudy Giuliani is the leading Republican candidate who shot to international prominence as mayor of New York at the time of 9/11. While Giuliani may pose as a man of the people in a time of need his record as mayor was one of cuts and privatisations, ratcheting up healthcare costs in the city's clinics, reducing the city council's workforce by 35,000 and even during the 9/11 clean-up carrying out major cuts in the fire service. For all his posturing he is wedded totally to pro-capitalist politics.
Embarrassingly for Giuliani, on 9 November a close ally - former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, appointed by Giuliani when mayor - was formally indicted on charges of tax evasion and corruption.
During George Bush's time as president the Democrats have tried to position themselves as a genuine alternative to war and privatisation.
If we look at the record of Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democrat nomination we see this is totally opportunistic. Clinton supported the war in Iraq, although claiming in her campaign that "had she known what she knows now" she wouldn't have backed the invasion.
This hasn't stopped her from ardently supporting the occupation in Afghanistan and backing increases in military spending.
Clinton has reassured big business that if elected she won't rock the boat. And as a former board member of Walmart, one of the world's most anti-union corporations, she has proved her credentials as someone who will protect the interests of the wealthy. This has paid dividends, with America's capitalist class pouring millions of dollars into her war chest – so far $35 million.
Barack Obama, one of Clinton's closest challengers has been looked to by some workers and youth, particularly black people in America, as someone who is going to break with Bush's policies. But those hopes are dashed if you look at Obama's chequered record.
Yes he did oppose the Iraq invasion but supports the so-called "good war" in Afghanistan, backed the Israeli war on Lebanon and instead of calling for an end to military expansion, has demanded an increase in troop numbers by 92,000.
Healthcare is one of the issues likely to take prominence in the course of the campaign, particularly as Michael Moore's new film Sicko provides such a damning indictment of the current state of the health system in the US.
Democrats have recently celebrated their pledge for "universal healthcare". In reality the schemes they are proposing will not mean a reduction in health insurance costs in the US with the big insurance corporations able to retain control, and could in fact discourage employer-based health insurance.
So while the TV debates may appear sharp there is a consensus amongst the leading presidential hopefuls. Whoever makes the White House will not challenge the huge profits made by the US multinationals at home or abroad and workers will bear the brunt of cuts and rising food and fuel prices, particularly if the stagnation in US manufacturing industry continues.
So what alternative is there to the "Big Two" parties? Ralph Nader who stood in the last two elections on an anti-war, anti-corporate ticket has not ruled out standing in the 2008 election. Nader polled 2.74% in 2000 and 0.38% in 2004 (having been kept off the ballot paper in many states by Democrat legal action).
These figures may seem small but considering his campaign didn't receive the same levels of big business funding and was on the receiving end of a vicious slander campaign from the Democrats, they demonstrate there is a significant layer of overwhelmingly young people and workers prepared to support an alternative to the main parties.
Dennis Kucinich is running for the Democrat nomination on a programme of withdrawal of troops from Iraq, universal healthcare and free education and has attacked the hypocrisy of the Democrat party leadership. It is very unlikely Kucinich will win the presidential nomination but he will open a debate up amongst those who look to the Democrats as an alternative way forward.
Also the recent announcement that Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist who has broken with the Democrats, is to run against Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in the Congressional elections (also on 4 November 2008) is another significant development.
There will never be the perfect time to build a political alternative in the US no matter how much the Democrats plead they are 'the lesser evil' to the likes of Bush but to paraphrase the commentary of another key moment in US history, 'one small step' is a significant move forward for the American working class and youth.
Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Party's sister section in the US recently stood a candidate in Boston City council elections – Matt Geary - on a socialist programme of opposing cuts and privatisations, winning over 3,000 votes.
They will support a presidential candidate – if there is one - who is genuinely putting an alternative to the big business politics of the Republicans and Democrats.
A candidate is needed who links the struggle against war, for immigrant rights and for better pay and conditions, to the need to build a new mass organisation of workers and youth. Such a party would represent a massive step forward in the fight against the neo-liberal policies of Bush and Co.
In The Socialist 22 November 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party features
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis