By Jeff Mackler, originally published on Socialist Action
“Our opponent,” said Kayla Moore, wife of the now defeated Republican Party U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, “who is an ultra-liberal, who was an Obama delegate, who is for full-term abortions, who is for more gun restrictions, who is for transgender bathrooms, who is for transgender [people] in the military—is against everything we in Alabama believe and stand for.”
“Opponent” Doug Jones, who on Dec. 12 became the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in 25 years, replied, “If you look at the positions I’ve got on health care, if you look at the positions I got on jobs, you should look at the support I have from the business community, I think I’m pretty mainstream. I want to reach across the aisle…”
Jones often explained his reference to the “aisle” with a story about two Civil War generals, one from Maine, the other from the slave state of Alabama. They faced off at the historic Battle of Gettsyburg. Then we were on different sides, he explains. Today we must work together, “across the aisle.” This was Jones’s way of appealing to at least some of the Southern racist bigots needed for his victory.
The not so perfect and clean newcomer Jones favors increased spending on the military. He also is quite frank on the abortion issue, stating, “I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family, that’s her choice” (emphasis added).
For many Alabama voters, the “mainstream” Jones served as the “lesser evil” next to the evangelical racist-sexist Judge Roy Moore, who was backed by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Moore was accused by multiple women of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Some of them accused Moore of sexual abuse.
In 2003 Moore was removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for refusing a federal court order to remove a marble monument of the Ten Commandments he had installed in the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. He often presented his view that the Sept. 11, 2001, New York City Twin Towers terror bombing was the Lord’s divine punishment for America’s “blasphemous” toleration of homosexuality and women’s right to choose abortion. I can only wonder if Moore’s 9/11 wrath was directed at New Yorkers because they live in the North as opposed to his beloved racist South.
One would think that Moore’s outrageous views would serve as a major handicap, even in today’s Deep South. The Alabama Senate race came to national attention when the Democrats saw a wide-open opportunity to pick up a Senate seat from the very vulnerable Republican sexist bigot. Yet, Moore almost won, receiving 72 percent of the white male vote and 63 percent of the white female vote. It was only the massive Black vote, well over 90 percent, combined with disgruntled Republicans whose usually stuffed campaign coffers did not fully materialize, that defeated him.
Doug Jones, a 1997 Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham, had previously been the lead prosecutor in a 1992 case against two of the four Ku Klux Klan members responsible for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four African-American girls. Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry were found guilty of those murders in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Each was sentenced to four life terms.
“Justice” was done in Alabama, almost three decades after the murders! Never having held elected office, Doug Jones was slated as the man of the hour.
Few, if any, corporate mainstream reporters were inclined to review the South’s political history prior to this election contest—25 Republican years since the last Democrat was elected was history enough. The fact that it was only in 1968, when Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon’s infamous “Southern strategy” was deployed, that the South turned decisively to the Republicans was not mentioned. Nixon campaigned in the South for “states’ rights,” the code words of Southern Democratic Party segregationists who desired a return to the good ol’ days of overt racist white rule and “legal” segregation.
Nixon’s focus in the South was against Democratic Party President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 civil rights legislation that formally, but not until decades later in fact, ended, or better, limited legal segregation. Under Nixon and his Republican successors, the virulent racist “solid South” bloc of racist Democratic Party Senators and Congresspersons became the virulent racist “solid South,” and today “red state,” terrain of the Republican Party.
Few today care to note that the Democrats originally arose as the party of post-Civil War plantation owners and Southern capitalists who smashed the post Civil War Reconstruction-era gains won by Blacks by utilizing their created organizations like the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils.
All of the racist re-segregation legislation with regard to the obliteration of civil and democratic rights won following the Civil War were the product of the former racist slaveholders’ new political vehicle, the Democratic Party coming to power with the consent of the former Northern Republican slave state “liberators.”
Indeed, an infamous deal was cut wherein Northern occupying troops would be withdrawn in return for the former Southern slaveholders’ agreeing to vote Republican in a future election.
The Lyndon Johnson-era civil rights legislation was qualitatively more a product and of the massive civil rights mobilizations led by Southern Blacks than it was the largess of Johnson, who was a Texas segregationist in his own right—a property owner with codicils included in his property deeds to ensure that his land could not be sold to Blacks.
Johnson had come to the presidency as John F. Kennedy’s vice president after the Kennedy assassination. In those days the Democrats’ “strategy” was to win the presidency with a combination of a “liberal” Northerner for president and a racist Southern Democrat in the V.P. slot.
The Democrats’ answer to Nixon’s “Southern strategy” was to switch to running a Democrat of Southern racist heritage for the top spot and a Northern liberal for V.P. Hence, the more recent Democratic Party candidacies of Jimmy Carter (Georgia), Al Gore (Tennessee), and Bill Clinton (Arkansas)—all slick-sounding refurbished Southerners with deep roots in the racist South. The then segregationist Carter, for example, was among those pro-Nixon Democrats.
In the 1960s, the “lesser-evilist” Democrats and “progressives” of that era winced at the inclusion of openly Klan racists on their tickets but insisted that the Republicans, like Barry Goldwater, were far worse.
Today, the lesser-evil swindle is being played out big time, with the Democrats gearing up for an image change in preparation for 2018 and then 2020, when they promise to challenge Trump’s increasingly discredited racist, sexist, populist, proto-fascist tirades. Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax rip off, opposition hype aside, was a bipartisan affair.
This time out, to be sure, the rhetoric will be modified, but the content of all twin party ruling-class politics will differ little, if at all, from the reactionary achievements of the Trump administration. Indeed, the chief Democratic Party media booster, The New York Times, recently challenged Trump’s boasts to be top gun with regard to “border security” and war spending. In a Dec. 19 “Fact Check” article entitled, “He’s Not the ‘First,’ And It’s Not a ‘Record,’” The Times countered Trump’s braggadocio with their own facts.
“President Barack Obama,” they stated, “signed a defense authorization bill of $725 billion for the 2011 fiscal year, more than $150 billion of which funded continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In contrast, said The Times, Trump’s war budget expenditures were only $626 billion, of which only $66 billion were earmarked for foreign wars. “Adjusted for inflation,” The Times added with delight, “the gap” between Obama’s spending and Trump’s “would be greater still.”
The Times article continued with refutations of Trump’s claims to be breaking new paths with regard to “border security,” quoting a range of sources to prove that Obama was world class in this category as well. Need we mention that Obama, the “great deporter,” had deported more people than the combined totals of all previous modern-era presidents? Doug Jones’s objection to Trump’s $20 billion anti-immigrant border wall proposal was only that it was “too expensive.”
Today’s Democratic Party purveyors of lesser-evil politics, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other warmongering capitalist liberals in the wings, are hailed by virtually every major corporate newspaper in the country. Doug Jones’s victory was touted as a harbinger of the hopeful glorious return of the Democrats to power, staring in 2018.
Once again we are heading for a deadly dose of lesser evilism, this time around in the context of a deeply crisis-ridden casino capitalism, with no way out for the ruling rich other than through unprecedented financial speculation (the Dow Jones reached an historic high at 25,000!) and an ever-deepening across the board rip-off of working people and the oppressed.
The virulent racism and sexism that has been stunningly exposed only through the courage, activism, and mobilization of its victims, is not an accidental feature of U.S. society today. It is inherent in the very foundations of the capitalist order. The recently exposed sexist horrors perpetuated against women by rich and powerful figures are the norm, not the exception in every capitalist society.
The recent December 2017 full-page “Time’s Up” New York Times and La Opinion ads denouncing society’s monstrous sexual atrocities against women were signed by 300 women prominent in the entertainment industry. Most important, however, was that the signers went to great lengths to express the solidarity with 700,000 female farmworkers whose representatives had published a November open letter in solidarity with sexually abused women in the entertainment industry. To be sure, these farmworkers are representative of the millions of women who daily suffer the almost always ignored or tolerated sexist and violent outrages committed against them by a repressive society in which institutionalized racism and sexism are required to maintain and perpetuate oppression and exploitation.
The increasingly privatized for-profit racist prison-industrial complex is a prime example. The majority Black, Latino, and Native American prison population is increasingly sold to private corporations at “wages” averaging 50 cents per hour. Why hire an immigrant when a near-slave Black prisoner can be had for less than a tenth of the cost?
If there ever was a time for the country’s working masses to break with capitalist politics in all its manifestations, now is that time. The need to return to the streets in unprecedented numbers in massive mobilizations independent of and against the twin parties’ war and repression has never been greater, The time for the construction of a massive independent and fighting labor party, organized and financed by working people and in alliance with all the oppressed, is now. The ruling-class one percent has two parties. Working people need one of their own, a party that fights 24-7 for their cause in the political arena, in the streets, and at the points of production.
Jeff Mackler is the Editor of Socialist Action Newsletter and on the Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition.