Friday, June 09, 2006


The Red Menace [Archival Material 2004]
By Thomas Riggins

Many liberals think that a new "Red Menace" is facing America – not that there ever was an old one. Waking up Wednesday morning (Nov. 3) and seeing the map of the red versus the blue states was pretty depressing. If there were any election the Democrats should have swept to victory in it was the 2004 election.

The war, the deficit, health care, civil rights and liberties, jobs, the environment, education – you name it – any issue effecting the lives and well being of the American people has been, in the last four years, ground down and ignored by the Bushoids who favored an agenda to help the big corporations and the ultra wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

How could the Republicans have won this election? Nicholas Kristof, writing in The New York Times (Nov. 3) in an article entitled "Living Poor, Voting Rich" speaks of the "millions of farmers, factory workers, and waitresses who ended up voting – utterly against their own interests – for Republican candidates."

This is a big problem. How to infuse class consciousness into a large segment of workers who consider themselves "middle class" and identify with the values not of their own class but of the bourgeoisie? Kristof recommends everyone read what he calls "the best political book of the year," namely, What’s the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank.

Yes, that is a good book to read – but the politically savvy will also subscribe to the People’s Weekly World and Political Affairs.

Kristof quotes the Democratic governor of Oregon (Ted Kulongoski) who says the Republicans have succeeded in misdirecting masses of people away from considering their economic conditions and to vote on social issues concocted by the right wingers instead. "What we once thought," Kulongoski says, "that people would vote in their economic self-interest – is not true...."

That has to be looked at a little closer. I think if, a big if, people know what their economic interests are they will vote in accordance with them. Our job, as progressives, is to make sure that the minority of the working class and its allies that don’t vote in accordance with their interests begin to do so.

The statistics published by the Times on Nov. 7 ("How Americans Voted’), show that most workers and poor people (as well as the rich) do vote in accordance with their interests. The majority of people making under $30,000 voted solidly against the Republicans – 63% of people living on $15,000 or less; 57% of those between 15 and $30,000 (23% of the electorate – basically the bottom fourth).

Unfortunately the 55% of the electorate living on $50,000 or more per year went for Bush by 56% – and the percentage increases with the amount earned – topping at 63% for Bush with those making $200,000 and more. So there is a correlation.

Minority groups are also aware of their interests by and large. African-Americans were against Bush by 88%, Hispanics by 56% and Asians by 58%. The white vote, however, 79% of the electorate – went for Bush by 58%. Amongst some working class whites there is no doubt that an element of racism was at work and this prevented them from seeing what their real interests are.

Amongst the age sets – only the youth, ages 18-29, went for the Democrats – 54% to 45% for Bush. The majority of the other age groups (39-44, 45-59, 60+) voted for Bush.

Finally, the gender gap: 55% of men went for Bush and 51% of women (down from 54% for Gore in 2000) went for Kerry.

What can we conclude from all these figures? First, my conclusion will be provisional as the figures are the result of a poll – i.e., interviews with 13,600 voters carried out for the big news networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) and I didn’t see a margin of error given. The Times considers this an accurate poll, evidently, but it leaves out of account 40% of the potential electorate – those who didn’t vote at all and we must reach these people as well.

Having said that, I think these figures show that most people – even if, in some cases, only a bare majority – are voting on what they perceive to be their economic interests. But not enough are. People making from 30 to $49,000 – which is not a lot of money considering what the corporate class rakes in – are split evenly between the Bushoids and the Democrats. They represent 22% of the electorate and getting them to make a major shift towards the center-left or left would be a significant achievement.

We should spend the next two years in an intense propaganda war on the right wingers and Bushoids to see what victories can be gained in the 2006 Congressional elections – besides the House, a third of the Senate will be up for grabs. We should also engage in independent political activity to keep the Democrats, as much as possible, from shifting more and more to the right.

--Thomas Riggins is book review editor of Political Affairs and can ne reached at

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