Socialist Worker

Anger at Iraq war causes US election blow for Bush

Issue No. 2026

The consequences of the occupation of Iraq came home to US president George Bush this week as his Republican Party suffered major defeats across the US in Congress elections. Until very late in the campaign, Bush was seen as a pariah for his own party’s candidates.

While the war and the Republican's domestic policy have cost them dearly, when Bush questioned exactly what the Democrats would do differently, he had a point. Large numbers of people voted against Bush and his wars, but the party they voted for is also pro war.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton, considered to be the frontrunner to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, declared in her victory speech that US politics had to return to the “vital centre”, and pledged her commitment to work with the Republicans in prosecuting the “war on terror.”

One of the weaknesses of the US anti-war movement has been its failure to maintain an independent stance. This would mean that it would be focused on getting the troops withdrawn from Iraq rather than repeatedly building support for the Democrats.

To have a real impact, the movements against the war and for Latino rights must spark an independent radical force, which can end the situation where working people have to choose between two parties linked to war and big business.

On the back of opposition to the Iraq war Democrats are threatening to take control of both chambers of the US Congress for the first time in 12 years. Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats gained about 30 seats in the House of Representatives in Tuesday's elections. They picked up four of the six Senate seats they need for a majority and are ahead in the race for the other two - in Montana and Virginia.

A recount and possible legal challenges in Virginia could delay the final result, dredging up memories of the 2000 presidential election recount that lasted five weeks.

The tide started to turn against Bush over his administration’s callous and incompetent handling of the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. But the scale of the mess in Iraq has massively increased opposition.

The narrow majorities in Congress, especially the Senate, could end Bush’s ability to pass legislation in his final two years in the White House.

The Democrats' victory gives them control of legislative committees that could potentially investigate the Bush administration's decisions on foreign, military and energy policy.

The shift in votes was not all simply to the left. In Connecticut Joseph Lieberman, running as an independent, beat Democratic anti-war challenger Ned Lamont, who had defeated the former vice presidential nominee in the Democratic primary. In California, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger won easy re-election. In ballot initiatives on social issues, voters in seven states rejected same sex-marriage.

More promisingly, in South Dakota voters decisively rejected an abortion ban, repealing a law that subjected doctors to five years in prison if they terminated a pregnancy for any reason except to prevent the woman's death.

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Sat 11 Nov 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2026
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