No Votes for the Pro-War Parties
The 2010 mid-term elections are being presented as a “choice” between the Democrats and Republicans, the pro-war parties of the rich. Every effort is being made to create an atmosphere of fear and distrust, so as to block any political discussion on the problems facing voters. These include escalating aggressive wars and threats, unemployment, poverty and destruction of the environment. These are serious matters that require a calm atmosphere for thinking about solutions. Instead, not only are negative attack ads worse than usual and accounting for more than 50 percent of all ads, but efforts to promote fear and chauvinism are also widespread. Racist attacks ads against immigrants are common, as are those claiming China is going to “steal” the elections. We have a situation where almost $4 billion is being spent, the vast majority by the military and financial monopolies that rule the country, yet we are supposed to be afraid of China! These ads whipping up fear of China and Iran have far more to do with U.S. war preparations and plans targeting both countries. Instead of the elections serving as an opportunity to discuss building fraternal relations with the peoples of the world and to stand together against war, they are used for U.S. war-mongering by Republicans and Democrats alike.
These same efforts to create an atmosphere of fear and distrust is also being fomented in relation to conditions at home. President Barack Obama has been campaigning across the country. He is emphasizing that voting for Republicans will bring disaster and attempting to generate a “sky is falling” atmosphere. People are to be panicked into voting for Democrats in a situation where the large majority, consistent with their experience, has negative views about both parties. The effort is to generate such fear and disgust that people are blinded to the alternative of building up the people’s opposition to the war parties and strengthening efforts to empower the people to govern and decide.
The language being used by Obama is significant. For example, in speaking about immigration reform on Univision October 25, to an audience mainly of Latinos, Obama said, “And so the problem that we have is, is that until I can get some cooperation from the other side, then people who are anti-immigration reform can continue to block it. And that’s why this election coming up is so important because we essentially have to say that those who are politicizing the issue, who are supportive of the Arizona law, who talk only about border security but aren’t willing to talk about the other aspects of this, who don’t support the Dream Act, who are out there engaging in rhetoric that is divisive and damaging that — those aren’t the kinds of folks who represent our core American values.” He added, “If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, we’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends,… then I think it’s gonna be harder and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2.”
Obama, as President and Commander-in-Chief, is again promoting the concept that he can determine who does and does not “represent our core American values.” That is, he is deciding who is and is not American or “un-American” as his administration has been putting it. And he takes this further, labeling those that he determines do not “represent our core American values,” as “enemies” to be punished. It is easy to dismiss the language as merely campaign rhetoric, but put in the context of what the government has been doing, it must be recognized as statements of where Obama stands on these issues.
The government organized anti-Muslim hysteria generated around September 11 and now again being fomented with reports about “terrorists” from Yemen; the recent raids in Minnesota and Chicago by Joint Terrorism Task Forces, including the FBI; mass round-ups and terrorizing of immigrant communities — all are part of these efforts to impose the dictate of the President as to who is and is not American, while also emphasizing that those deemed “un-American” are “enemies” to be punished. The campaign statements are consistent with these government actions, which all serve the war drive of the imperialists and their efforts to impose fascist measures at home.
The U.S. rulers are seeking a quite homefront, with a divided and docile workforce and a silenced and pacified movement. Increased executive power and government impunity to commit any crime — whether directed against Muslims or immigrants and other workers, or organizers opposing war and attacks on rights — is being unleashed with greater force so as to paralyze resistance and force the peoples to submit. And if Obama can brand fellow Republicans as “enemies” to be punished, then all others can be as well. And further, Obama’s comments indicate that contradictions within the ruling circles are at such a height that the various factions may not be able to prevent outbreaks of violence within their ranks.
The choice facing voters is not one of rallying behind Obama or facing certain disaster. It is a problem of being blocked from power and facing yet more violence and repression by the rulers and their pro-war parties. A reactive response, limited to the choice given by the rulers, will solve nothing — as long experience has already shown. An anti-war vote for third parties and independent candidates standing against war will demonstrate the stand of the majority against war. It also demonstrates a rejection of the false choice of supporting one or the other war party. Breaking out of these confines and taking a stand for anti-war candidates and more generally an anti-war government contributes to the fight for empowerment. And it does so by putting this necessity for empowerment and for breaking with the war parties of the rich in the forefront. We need an alternative to the backward and pro-war democracy the rich have imposed. We need a modern democracy of our own making, one that empowers the people and their anti-war, pro-social agenda. Elections are one arena for organizing for decision-making, as are all the many fronts of struggle to defend rights. Political empowerment is the necessity.
Reporting from Washington — Democrats and Republicans pounding each other on the airwaves in the run-up to the November 2 midterm elections have found one common enemy: foreigners.
In political commercials around the country, candidates are castigating their opponents as supporters of foreign corporations, undocumented immigrants and workers abroad.
“Is Baron Hill running for Congress in Indiana — or China?” asks a television ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee that features revolutionary-style images of a Chinese flag and clenched fists punching the air.
A spot by MoveOn.org aims to tar Republican candidates for having the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — part of a broader Democratic broadside against the organization for the funding it gets from outside the U.S.
“Where has the chamber been getting some of their money lately? From foreign corporations in countries like China, Russia and India,” warns the narrator as ominous music plays over a map of the Eastern nations. “Exactly who is Mark Kirk working for? Because it sure isn’t Illinois.”
In Louisiana, an ad for Sen. David Vitter a Republican, features what appear to be Mexican immigrants sneaking through a hole in a chain-link fence — only to be greeted by a group of people with balloons and a banner reading “Charlie Melancon welcomes you to the USA,” a reference to his Democratic opponent.The negative tenor has been amplified by this year’s swelling number of political ads. Total spending on television commercials in local, state and federal races is expected to reach a record $3 billion, up from $2.7 billion in 2008 and $2.4 billion in 2006, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of Kantar Media that tracks political advertising.
In just the last few weeks a large uptick in negative ads has pushed this year from one that was no more negative than 2008 to the most negative campaign in recent history by both sides. In an analysis of year-to-date (through October 20) and traditional general election advertising (9/1-10/20) of House and Senate races, the Wesleyan Media Project is now finding a marked increase in negativity as the general election season has heated up and drawn close to Election Day.
"Citizens are seeing many more ads this year, but it is no longer simply the number of ads on the air that are making this campaign feel more negative. More than half of all ads are pure attack ads, and if we include contrast spots, roughly 2 out of every 3 ads on the air are negative.” said Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.
Negative ads mention only the candidate being attacked, while contrast ads mention both a favored candidate and his or her opponent.
Using Wisconsin Advertising Project analysis of CMAG (Campaign Media Analysis Group) data from 2000-2008 as points of comparison, attack ads have steadily increased since the 2004 election, and the 2010 House and Senate advertising is the most negative in the past decade (Table 1).
Looking at just the most recent weeks since September 1, the project finds that Republicans are attacking more than Democrats. Fifty-six percent of Republican-sponsored ads (including party, candidate and interest group ads) mention an opponent, compared to 49.9 percent of ads sponsored by Democrats and their allies. Both parties have increased their rate of attacks over 2008 levels. In the comparable 7-week time period in 2008, 49.3 percent of Republican ads attacked, and 42.5 percent of Democratic ads attacked.
“Republicans have been more likely to attack in the waning days of this campaign than Democrats, though Democrats cannot claim the moral high ground, as half of their own ads have contained attacks,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and associate professor of political science at Washington State University.
Moreover, it remains true, in line with our report last week, that Democrats are attacking more personally with 18.4 percent of attack ads containing a personal reference compared to only 5.6 percent for Republicans.
“Democrats are three times as likely to include personal attacks in their negative spots compared to Republicans,” said Michael Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.
Taking into consideration the entire year’s worth of political advertising, the project finds that, as a proportion of total ads, Democrats and pro-Democratic sponsors are just as likely to attack as Republican and pro-Republican sponsors in U.S. House and Senate races. Democratic sponsors attacked in 40.6 percent of their ads; the comparable figure for Republicans was 40.9 percent. However, while Republican sponsors are attacking at almost the same rate as in 2008 (in which they attacked in 41 percent of all ads), Democratic sponsors have increased their negativity, rising from 36.3 percent in 2008.