Lessons of the election
In what could turn out to be the most expensive midterm election ever, preliminary results as of this writing show that the Democratic Party has gained 26 seats in the House of Representatives, giving it a 229 to 206 majority there.
At the same time, the Republican Party gained two Senate seats to boost its control over this millionaires’ club to 51 versus the Democrats’ 45. (Four additional Senate seats are still undecided.
What we need to ask is this: What effect will this election, within the framework of the two-party capitalist system, have on the struggles of workers — particularly women, people of color, im/migrants and the LGBTQ community?
Women played a major role in this election, both as candidates and as volunteers who for months canvassed and reached out to voters. Of the 26 House seats gained by the Democrats, it appears that a full 16 will be occupied by women.
Some of the hardest fought races, especially in the South, involved African-American candidates. One is Democrat Stacey Abrams, running for governor of Georgia, who reportedly trailed her Republican opponent by less than 1 percent of the vote. She announced early Wednesday morning that she was not conceding and that her campaign would make sure every vote was counted. A long history of voter suppression in Georgia has aimed at minimizing the Black vote.
Democrat Jered Polis won in Colorado — the first time an openly gay person has been elected governor of a state. Also for the first time, a transgender candidate was nominated by a major party. Christine Hallquist ran for governor of Vermont as a Democrat and got 40 percent of the vote — not enough to win, but a real breakthrough.
All this points to rejection of racism, sexism and homophobia by a significant section of the population after two years of the virulently reactionary politics of the Trump administration.
In exit polls, voters said health care was the most important issue, ahead of the economy. Some 39 percent also said they went to the polls to express their opposition to Trump.
Trump’s election two years ago encouraged the rise of far right, openly racist and even fascist groups. This in turn has been countered by a growing progressive movement in the streets that has far outnumbered the bigots. Low-wage workers and teachers have held walkouts demanding higher pay and better conditions. Women have marched in the millions against misogyny and sexual abuse.
There’s no question that the energy of these mass struggles has now been reflected to some degree in the capitalist electoral arena. But this arena can also be a trap that limits, rather than enhances, these progressive movements.
Nancy Pelosi will become Speaker of the House now that the Democratic Party has a majority there. She has already announced, “We will have accountability and strive for bipartisanship with fairness on all sides.”
That is more than just an olive branch to the Republicans. It is a declaration that the Democratic Party leadership does not want a war with the racist, reactionary Trump administration and will seek to compromise with it. But this administration is already at war with all the progressive forces in this country.
Now is not the time to celebrate an illusory victory. It is the time to build the movement independent of both capitalist parties, taking nourishment from the progressive sentiments expressed by so many millions in this election.