The electoral circus without end

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If there were no conjunctural factors pressuring the bourgeoisie to abandon the left in power strategy, neither was there any necessity to resort to an alternation in power to revitalize the democratic mystification. The left has been in power for only eight years, and the Republicans have controlled congress and a majority of state governorships, so there was no monopolizing of political powerolizing of political power for an overly long period of time to put in question the democratic mystification. After all, the right had held power for 12 years under Reagan/Bush, and was removed from office not to revitalize democracy, but rather because of imperialist preoccupations, following Bush’s indecisiveness to intervene in the Balkans and consequent squandering of American imperialist capital built up by the Gulf War in 1991..

Consequently, a Gore victory seemed most sensible for the bourgeoisie. As we noted in Internationalism 114, at the same time, to protect themselves against an "accident" the bourgeoisie installed the younger Bush as the candidate of the Republicans on the right. Despite all the campaign rhetoric, and despite their different party affiliations, both Gore and and Bush adhere to the same, identical faction of the bourgeoisie, with no significant divergences on imperialist policy, and essentially identical positions on all significant domestic policy questions. Whoever won, the bourgeoisie was assured that basically the same orientation on domestic and international policy would be pursued.

The campaign was manipulated to generate interest and enthusiasm in the election, to present it as "close" in order to bolsterlose" in order to bolster participation by largely apathetic electorate, to rejuvenate the electoral mystification. The propaganda stressed over and over that the campaign was too close to call, that every vote would count, etc. etc. The polls portrayed Gore as trailing even until the very eve of the election, prodding working class and liberal voters to come out to the poll to prevent the triumph of the right.

So, what happened?

In large measure the strategy prevailed. Despite being portrayed as trailing in all but one of the national polls by three to five points, Gore won the popular vote, achieving 49% of the vote, a greater percentage than the vastly more popular Clinton received in 1992 or 1996. In fac, Gore received more actual votes than Reagan did in his landslide victories over Carter and Mondale, respectively in 1980 and 1984. The political accident that threw the electoral circus into turmoil was due to two factors 1) the loose cannon actions of the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, and 2) the fact that for the first time since 1888, indeed for the first time in epoch of capitalist decadence, the results in the popular vote were contradicted by the results in the anachronistic Electoral College, which appeared to give the election victory to the candidate who came in second place.

The Nader Factor

Unlike the Perot campaigns of ’92 and ’96, which were designed to siphon off votes from the Republicans, and facilitate the victory of the left in those elections, the Nader candidacy was not designed to impact the current election. The script called for the Green Party to develop a political presence so that it might 1) prepare play a crucial role in the future as a means to control radicalized workers and petty bourgeois elements, as the crisis deepens and work class discontent becomes more pronounced, In this sense the Nader campaign was designed as a electoral reference point for the Seattle-type anti-globalism movement, as well as traditional environmentalists and "progressives." The immediate goal was to post 5% in the popular vote, which would qualify the Greens for federal campaign funds in the future. However, Nader made a deal with the established environmental groups and the Democratic Party that he would not seek to impact the result of the election, and promised not campaign in states where it might effect the outcome. For whatever reason – some of his critics in the left of the Democratic party and the environmental movement charge egomanial movement charge egomania – Nader reneged on this agreement and concentrated his campaign in key battleground states that were crucial to a Gore victory but were also most receptive to Nader’s "progressive message" attacking big business, . Realizing that Nader was poised to threaten the Gore victory, about two weeks before the election the environmentalists and the left of the Democratic party began an all-out campaign against Nader for reneging on the deal, urging him to withdraw from the election, and calling upon his supporters not to "waste" their votes and help elect Bush. The New York Times joined this campaign, denouncing Nader for "electoral mischief," and tv journalists joined the chorus as well. This campaign was in sharp contrast to the situation with Perot, who never received such criticism and was never asked to withdraw in ’92 and ’96 – precisely because his campaign was designed to effect the election results in the Clinton races..

Even though the bourgeoisie was successful in scaring off more than fifty percent of the people who were supposedly intending to vote for Nader, and achieved a Gore victory in the popular vote, the Green party candidate managed to screw up the electoral college vote on the state level in at least three states: New Hn at least three states: New Hampshire, Oregon and the all important Florida, with its 25 electoral votes. For example, in Florida, where Bush had a 1700 vote popular vote margin on election day (before the first recount which brought him down to 330), Nader got 96,000 votes. While undoubtedly a good number of the voters who cast ballots for Nader were people who were so alienated from the mainstream parties that probably wouldn’t have participated in the election had Nader not been a candidate, if only 3 percent of the 96,000 had voted for Gore, Bush would have been easily defeated on election day.

The anachronistic electoral college

The unforeseen accident that produced a situation in which the electoral vote did not match the popular vote was caused by Nader’s reneging on the deal, and aggravated by the electoral college, an anachronistic, anti-democratic -- even by bourgeois standards – historical relic created in 1787 as a check against "popular passions." In today’s conditions this institution is weighted disproportionately in favor of rural, small population states, and it was these states that Bush won heavily.

The bourgeoisie’s strategy provided protection against arovided protection against an accidental defeat at the polls, but not for a contradictory and indecisive result at the polls. For the American bourgeoisie, no matter how much they pay homage to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and the constitution they created over 200 years ago, an election in which the guy who lost the election is declared the winner is a tremendous political embarrassment and liability. All the rhetoric about the "will of the people" and "the people decide" rings empty. Despite the fact that the dominant faction of the bourgeoisie could certainly live with either Gore or Bush as president with no problem, each of the candidates, and their entourages, genuinely want to be president, and this has led to never ending political soap opera since election day. All the bickering, posturing and rancor by the two candidates camps is in complete contrast to the normal unifying, mutual support and coming together that normally marks the conclusion an American electoral circuses.

The goal of the current recount, and the legal challenges by the Gore staff is designed not simply to satisfy Gore’s personal ambitions, which are real, but also to produce an election result in Florida so that the final Electoral College results will coincide with the popular vote, though the final outcom vote, though the final outcome is still in doubt. The ruling class is trying to put the best "spin" possible on the current situation, stressing how this election proves that every vote counts, and that the melodrama we are witnessing is a simply a stupendous civics lesson for the American public. But in reality both sides expose the pettiness and corruption of the highly touted American electoral political system, in which each side is shamelessly trying to cheat and manipulate the vote counts in their won favor. Senior "statesmen" in both parties, including former presidents Carter and Ford, are already pushing for a resolution that will somehow salvage the authority and legitimacy of the presidency and American democracy following the settlement of the current stalemate. And indeed the current squabbling in no way threatens the stability of American society – whatever jitters there are on Wall Street have been there for over a year and are not caused by the inconclusive election, the working class is not engaged in open struggle, and the imperialist strategy of American imperialism is not in question. In this sense the so-called "sharp political division" in the American electorate couldn’t come at a better time for the bourgeoisie, even if it is unplanned. While not having the left in power might create certain prob power might create certain problems for the ruling class in terms of justifying overseas military interventions or in potentially provoking oppositional actions by the unions and the Jesse Jackson/Ted Kennedy wing of the Democrats, the situation will not be insurmountable. Once the election is decided the bourgeoisie will try to foster a reconciliation, and a strongly divided Congress and White House will somehow find the statesmanlike wherewithal to rise above partisan divisiveness to continue to attack the standard of living of the working class, and begin to repair the tarnished image of the democratic mystification. --

JG11/18/00

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