by our Americas correspondent
BARACK Obama has won the race to the White House, scoring a clear victory over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney after a closely fought race, in which billions were spent by the rival Democrat and Republican camps to get the voters out. The Democrats also increased their hold on the Senate winning three extra seats. That now gives them a majority of three in the 100-strong upper house while the Republicans are set to retain their dominance of the House of Representatives.
Blue lights lit up the top of the Empire State Building in New York to mark Obama’s re-election, the beginning of the Democrat victory parties and the start of the blame-game in the Republican camp.
Little in essence divided these two top representatives of America’s ruling circles.
They are both warmongers who have a long history of service to US imperialism. But the Republicans have a long-standing alignment with the most reactionary sections of the US ruling class who believe more should be spent on American aggression abroad and nothing on welfare or subsidies during the slump.
The Republican leaders believe that the “market” should take its course regardless of bankruptcies and job losses. And this was readily exploited by the Obama camp to mobilise working class and ethnic minority support for the Democrat platform.
In a campaign that revolved around the economy, Obama attacked Romney for seeking to give tax cuts to the rich while slashing social programmes aimed at the middle and lower classes. The President reminded voters of his health care reform and the Affordable Care Act, which Romney had vowed to work to overturn on his first day in office.
Meanwhile Obama campaigned on the broadly popular aspects of the 2010 law, including a provision forbidding insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Back in 2008 Barack Obama won the presidency by building a “rainbow coalition” of trade unionists, women and young voters, Afro- Americans, Hispanics and other minority groups.
They all believed his promises on medicare and talk about a better future for the millions of exploited workers in the United States. But these hopes remained a dream as Obama bailed out the motor industry and the banks but did next to nothing to help working people in the grip of the worst slump since the Second World War.
Four years on and that coalition has held but only just. Some 118 million votes were cast for the presidency this week — ten per cent down from the 131 million who voted in 2008. And that turn-out was achieved through campaign spending that totalled over $6 billion — or roughly $19 for every man, woman and child living in the United States.
Most of the unions backed the Democrats and some left groups backed the Green Party challenge. But the American communist movement was divided. The Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), only a shadow of what it was 40 years ago, as usual endorsed the Democrats.
CPUSA leader Sam Webb said: “Obama has made some bad policy moves, but he does not see eye-to-eye with the Republican policy, and most of the one per cent wants the first African American president defeated in the worst way.
This battle is bigger than Obama the candidate. The issues involved are critical to the fight for democracy and advancing the class struggle.”
The Workers World Party, which in the past has endorsed protest presidential candidates, made no recommendation this time round. A recent editorial in their paper said:
“It was the hope and desire for unity that propelled Obama into the White House. The Democratic Party leaders aroused this hope and then dashed it as they carried out the dictates of the big banks and corporations. But the progressive sentiment among the masses is not dead. Occupy Wall Street is a reflection of that. It can be reinvigorated with a real fight-back struggle outside the electoral arena.
“No matter who gets elected, it will be workers building alliances with their communities — the way the unions did in Wisconsin and more recently the teachers in Chicago — and shutting down business as usual that will move our struggles forward. To get there, we must break with the capitalist rulers and their political parties and strive to build independent organs of people’s power.”