A Requiem for Kerry Supporters
By Max Rameau
November 10, 2004
More than a month after the elections, to those in the Black community and elsewhere, deflated by the return of GW Bush to office after a rancorous, at time brutal, high stakes campaign, I say: get over it, we have work to do.
Lamenting over the prospects of the next four years is inhibiting our ability to process the implications of some very real lessons: first, most whites in the US are largely unsympathetic to the plight of Blacks and other dark peoples in the world; second, the Democrats are not willing or able to address our needs; and finally, the solution to our problems don’t lie in further empowering the Democratic party, but, rather, in empowering ourselves.
The 2004 US elections should serve as a wake-up call, reaffirming the lack of sway we hold with most whites in America.
The difference between a close contest and a Bush blowout was not an evenly split white electorate, because whites were pretty clear about who they preferred. Over 60% of whites- a substantial sum in electoral numbers- voted for Bush. The difference was an overwhelmingly one-sided vote by Blacks, Latinos, gays/lesbians and progressive pockets of whites.
90% of Blacks voted for Kerry, padding his paltry showing among whites and proving that 40 years after the passage of the voting rights act, the results of elections do not hinge on the changed attitudes of whites, but on of the inclusion of the Black vote (when its counted).
The fact that whites in America- the wealthiest and most advantaged racial ethnic group in world history- don’t sympathize with the poor and dark skinned people begging for an end to the Bush error- um, era- is not surprising. More surprising is that whites seemingly voted against their own material self-interests, against the pocket book issues.
Under Bush, mega corporations outsourced jobs from white families; the economy slumped; the federal deficit is astronomical; tax breaks over benefited the super rich; internationally, US prestige plummets as an unpopular, unjust and immoral war limps along, kept alive by waving flags and bald faced lies; People, any people, normally vote against this, so do most whites support it?
Like in days of yore when deep South campaigns were grounded in calls for racial purity instead of issues, in 2004, the majority of whites appeared willing to sacrifice material benefits and pocket book issues for the sense of cultural dominance Bush, the cowboy-in-chief, represents.
Like the race baiting of 1950s deep South politics, the cultural draw in the notion of the white country taming the uncivilized dark world- empire building- plays directly into Bush’s perceived strengths and the white supremacist sensibilities of the electorate. White support for the war on Iraq is clearly not based on national security issues tied either to September 11th, the ‘war on terror’ or the existence of weapons of mass destruction under the control of non white people. Rather, the support grows from white supremacist chest beating, an irrational- and racist- urge to punish any and all Arabs for the crimes of 9/11. And GWB is just indiscriminate enough to tap into and bomb away unapologetically in deference to those urges.
Domestically, many whites support the traditional white Christian cultural stand-bys: no to affirmative action, abortion and gay rights, limited role for women, government and so on. Just as with the White Citizens Councils of the civil rights era, religion is used to legitimize neo-conservative ideology.
The revival of overt white cultural dominance plenty compensates for the bad economy, international chaos and the lying cheating government. These cultural nationalists are not moved by any 5 point plan, but by pandering to certain white assumptions and sensibilities. This point is so fundamental, so true, that even the Democrats adopting its premise.
2004 gave us a chance to get Bush out and replace him with a lesser evil, and we were correct in engaging to remove him. However, in the rush to get rid of Bush, employing the strategy of electoral politics via the tactic of voting for Kerry, effectively obscured, for many, another obvious point: neither Kerry nor the Democrats can solve the global problems faced by Black people.
Far from representing our interests, the Democrats increasingly take Black, Latino and female votes for granted to chase the stray sheep whites who are voting Republican in greater numbers.
The result is two parties advancing virtually identical platforms, separated only by quantities and degrees. Check it, Kerry supports: the war on Iraq, but with more allies; the Bush tax cut, except for the wealthiest 2% part; globalization, minus the outsourcing tax cuts; the Patriot Act, but not the Patriot Act II; the list goes on.
The reality is that both candidates’ agendas were remarkably similar, Kerry only softens Bush’s most outrageous positions and demeanor, but fails to fundamentally challenge any significant aspect of the framework for the American Empire. It is clear, then, that had Kerry won, instead of celebrating, our obligation would be to immediately engage in struggle against his agenda.
As such, we put ourselves in an untenable situation. We supported Kerry because he might/could beat Bush, without making any demands on him. Kerry could have come out in favor of the war on Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and continued privatization of health care for the poor, and we still would have supported him. In fact, he did and we did.
By supporting Kerry without demand, he was free to pander to fickle white voters with promises against affirmative action and a deafening silence on police brutality, racism and economic justice.
Whatever the outcome of the elections themselves, this is clear: Blacks, Latinos, gays/lesbians and progressive communities mobilized fiercely against Bush. However, in the context and limitations of the two party political system, the net result was that we built no power for ourselves, instead delivering it all to the same Democratic party so fervoriently distancing itself from our interests in their mad pursuit undecided whites.
To be sure, our hand was not only forced by our need to get rid of Bush, but our options limited by the absence of viable alternatives to the jackass and the elephant. With whites breaking more conservative, today, more than ever, there is no discernable benefit to putting so many of our political eggs into the Democratic party basket.
Because we turned out for a lack luster candidate, who promised us nothing in exchange for our vote, not only is Bush still in office, but “our” candidate, not surprisingly, failed to fight for any of our issues, offering no challenge to the rightward march. Even if the specter of 90% of our vote did nothing more than force debate on some real issues, we could claim some level of victory. However, Kerry conceded that debate long before he conceded the election, because he did not need to engage it in order to win our votes.
We can no longer afford to use our time, energy and resources to build power for an unresponsive and fading Democratic party. If we fail to deal with this predicament now, we will be condemned to repeating history every four years. We must stop building Democratic party power and start building real Black power.
Our charge, then, is clear: build a real Black political party, representing the needs and interests of the Black community, domestically and globally, which serves as a vehicle for strategic engagement in the arena of electoral politics. The timing has never been more historically appropriate.
Clearly, an all-African peoples’ political party would have limited success at the polls, to say the least. However, configuring such a party to work in coalition with other oppressed nationalities, groups and poor whites with similar perspectives, can influence both the terms of the debate and the outcome of elections.
Let the discussion and power building begin.