What do socialists say?
US vote-should we choose Gore?
By Charlie Kimber
THE MAIN parties in the US are gearing up for the presidential election in November. The Democrats start their convention (to crown their candidates) next week. The Republicans held their convention last week-and it will have sickened any decent person.
The party leaders kept their more outrageous right wingers-such as Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan-caged out the back in order to project a more "caring" image. None of this should obscure the reality.
The Republicans are proud to be a bosses' party. General Motors gave the party 400 cars for its conference. The military held an arms exhibition round the corner from the convention. There were more black people in the gospel choir than there were black delegates.
Presidential hopeful George Bush Jr and his running mate, Dick Cheney, are known as the "Big Oil Ticket". Bush became a millionaire through oil company stock option dealing. Cheney made a fortune as chief executive of Haliburton Oil, which just happened to do business with the Arab countries that sided with the US in the Gulf War. The Republicans were born as the party of bosses in the North of the United States. It has always been about governing in the interest of profit and boosting US power.
Bush's record in Texas shows his priorities. Texas is first among US states for the number of executions (135 under Bush alone), first in the number of people without health insurance, first in the size of its prison system and first in the number of children suffering from malnutrition. Given this record, the Democrats could hardly fail to look a bit more left wing. For most of their history the Democrats were the party of the most reactionary section of the US ruling class-the Southern slaveholders and the racist "Dixiecrats" who ran the South after the civil war.
The Democrats' image as the "Party of the People" only took shape in the 1930s when the Democratic administration of President Franklin Roosevelt passed measures like Social Security for pensioners and supported the right of workers to join unions.
In office the Democrats have proved to be no friend of organised workers and gave only the most limited reforms in response to the civil rights movement. Nevertheless the Democrats stitched together a coalition of supporters including the AFL-CIO union federation and liberal organisations. Around 85 percent of black people who vote vote for the Democrats. But their hopes are always dashed.
Clinton promised a bright future. But his promises of healthcare reform came to nothing and instead he pushed through "ending welfare as we know it". In Clinton's US 36 million people do not have access to adequate food. Abroad Clinton launched cruise missile strikes on Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, intensified the sanctions which are murdering Iraqi children, and was the main player in the bombing of Yugoslavia.
Gore is the millionaire son of a tobacco dynasty. He headed Clinton's "reinventing government" campaign, an excuse to slash over 200,000 jobs. He claims to be "environmentally friendly" but his family fortune includes $1 million of shares in Occidental Oil.
The Democrats get money from the unions. But unlike even New Labour, there is no direct link between organised labour and the party. The US bosses have fashioned a political set-up that serves them very well. There is the appearance of choice but in reality two totally pro-capitalist parties slug it out.
Over $250 million has already been raised for political campaigns during the last 18 months. Bush and Gore will amass around $150 million each for their push on the White House. The great majority of this comes from companies. The Republicans do better than the Democrats, but many corporations give to both parties.
There is nothing significant to choose between the Republican Tweedledum and the Democrat Tweedledee. That is why around half of the US's registered voters did not vote at the last presidential election. Choosing the Democrats over the Republicans is backing a force which will carry out essentially the same terrible policies.
Backing what is presented as the "lesser evil" instead of taking an independent stand makes it much easier for right wing forces to triumph. The bright spot in this year's election is Ralph Nader's candidature. Backed by the Green Party, Nader has torn into corporate control of politics. He denounces the huge gap between rich and poor and the system which always favours the wealthy.
At last week's Republican convention Nader burst onto the conference floor and shouted, "This is the most spectacular display of cash register politics in the history of our country." It is that spirit and that campaign which offer a real alternative to both the Democrats and the Republicans.