The argument that there is such a thing as a "white vote" is a reactionary one. It reinforces ruling-class efforts to cajole working people who are not members of oppressed nationalities into thinking of themselves as "white" and to persuade them they have interests and concerns different from, and even hostile to, those of Blacks and other working people. It also fits in with the employers’ efforts to draw workers and farmers into identifying themselves as "Americans" with something in common with U.S. bosses.
Since the 2000 elections, the Senate has been divided almost evenly between the two main capitalist parties. In the recent elections, the Republican Party of President George Bush gained a slight majority in the Senate: 51 seats, up from 49. The Democrats won 48 seats. The "independent" senator, James Jeffords, who last year quit the Republican Party, remains a Democratic ally on many issues.
In the House the Republicans increased their majority by five seats to 228, against 204 for the Democrats.
The Senate balance remains so tight that in the recent controversy over remarks by Sen. Trent Lott, the Mississippi politician’s vague threat of resigning--not only as majority leader but from the Senate itself--posed the possibility that the Republican Party would again lose its majority, given that his replacement would be appointed by Mississippi’s Democratic governor.
Some 40 percent of the electorate--two out of five eligible voters--turned out to vote, about average for a midterm election.
The Democratic Party did somewhat better in the state elections, picking up at least three more governorships than previously.
"Analyzing" these results, right-wing commentators have devoted their share of ink to "explanations" of the alleged impact of the "white voter."
It was the liberal New York Times, however that was among the first to announce the "story," in a November 9 piece entitled, "Democratic Analysts Blame Some Losses on the Failure to Win Moderate Whites."
In the middle of their article, Times reporters James Yardley and Dana Canedy admitted to an "absence of demographic information" backing up Democratic Party officials’ assertions. They blamed "the decision by Voter News Service not to poll voters leaving the booth."
Nevertheless, they wrote, Democratic officials have used "independent surveys of voters at the polls and an examination of turnout in crucial counties."
These politicians assert that although "minority voters turned out in respectable numbers and voted Democratic...the party apparently lost thousands of moderate white voters who supported Bill Clinton and helped elect Southern Democratic governors in 1998 and 2000."
Democrat Gayle Andrews told the Times, "I don’t think we paid attention to white voters." Andrews is a party consultant in Florida, where the party’s candidate, William McBride, lost by a wide margin to Republican Governor John Ellis Bush. "He was thought to be the sort of white moderate who could attract swing voters," wrote Yardley and Canedy.
Other commentators echoed these views. USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham argued that the elections were shaped by divergent "mind-sets of black and white voters." Sean Wilentz of the liberal online magazine Salon.com maintained in dramatic language that "the Republicans’ historic victories" were due to "a surge in white voter turnout in the rural South."
Speaking even more forcefully, columnist Steven Sailer claimed that the "star turn" in the elections "was taken by...the Invisible Giant of American politics: the white electorate."
Sailer’s commentaries were carried by the right-wing magazine National Review Online, which headlined the article, "The Color of Election 2002."
"Republicans triumphed not by broadening their tent to include more minority voters," wrote Sailer. "Rather, they motivated more whites to turn out and vote GOP."
The pundit warned Republicans that continuing immigration is eroding "their white base’s share of the population." He suggested one possible solution: to further restrict the influx of working people from abroad, or, in his words, "to alter the immigration system so that it admits fewer potential Democrats."
Ideological purpose of the myth of race
The assumptions behind statements that "white voters" form a distinct social identity have no scientific value. The concept of race itself is a social construct of capitalist social relations, not a fact of biology.
These concepts, however, do serve an ideological purpose for the ruling class. The myth that there is a "white" nationality is promoted to divide working people and undermine solidarity with the struggles of oppressed nationalities against discrimination.
By contrast with this myth, the Black nationality is a fact; Black consciousness is a historic, progressive conquest. The Black nationality in the United States was forged by the course of development that capitalism took in this country following the defeat of Radical Reconstruction in the late 1870s, with the brutal, systemic oppression that was imposed on the Black population--and by the massive struggles led by Blacks against this oppression over much more than a century.
The November elections marked an episodic high point for the Republican Party. As the economic depression continues to deepen, and as the unpredictable consequences of Washington’s war drive unfold, the Democratic Party will rise in its turn--parallel to the pattern seen in other parts of the world with the electoral victories of social democratic and other bourgeois reformist currents.
In the United States, the rulers will seek to channel working-class moods of resistance into voting for the Democrats as a "lesser evil." That is the way the two-party system functions.
For now, forces in the U.S. workers movement that pinned their hopes on electoral gains for the Democrats are dispirited and in disarray.
In the 2000 elections, some of these forces sought to explain away the defeat of Albert Gore--who had already served for eight years as vice president of the world’s most brutal imperialist government--by claiming a Republican "coup." Unable to use such an argument in the 2002 elections, they are susceptible to blaming workers for the Republican election gains, while they themselves fall more and more into the "American" and patriotic framework of bourgeois politics today.
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