A Statement from Political Research Associates

It was demoralizing to watch the election returns on Tuesday, November 5. Republicans now firmly control Congress and the majority of state governorships. George W. Bush and his bandwagon of business conservatives, militarists, the Christian Right, libertarians, and right-wing populists have consolidated their control of economic, social, and foreign policy.

Unfortunately, while the Republicans claim victory for the entire country, the effects of right-wing political consolidation will fall disproportionately on already disadvantaged people both within the United States and globally. The rights of people of color, poor and working people, women, LGBT communities, immigrants, political radicals on the left, and a myriad of other groups are in jeopardy.

Consider the fact that returning Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has a history of accommodating an organization that overtly promotes racism, White supremacy, and homophobia. In 1998 Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) exposed ties between several prominent Republicans and the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a so-called "Southern traditionalist" organization. FAIR described CCC as "the successor to the notorious White Citizens' Councils—referred to during the civil rights era as the 'uptown Klan.'" Lott had a friendly relationship with CCC from 1989 to 1998. Lott at first denied this, until media attention prompted by FAIR and other groups forced Lott to finally repudiate the CCC.

As a country, we have seen right-wing Republican control of Congress before: in 1994, when Congressman Newt Gingrich led the Republicans in gaining a majority in both the House and the Senate under the banner of [what progressives prefer to call] the “Contract on America.” Ecstatic over gaining control of Congress, they overreached, zealously attempting to implement their conservative agenda. Congressional Democrats and the Clinton Administration blocked some of their more extreme policy initiatives, and, in the next election, the public reined them in.

The current right-wing Republican leadership is far more politically sophisticated than the Gingrich-led crew, and we must anticipate that the political Right has learned from its mistakes. This time, right-wing leaders will attempt to exert control far more subtly.  Unrelentingly claiming a mandate to advance their programs, they will pursue their right-wing agenda, all the while declaring their support of moderation and inclusion. For instance, an overwhelmingly White male leadership will continue to place people of color and women conservatives in token positions while aggressively eliminating civil rights and civil liberties protections.

As always, progressives need to be alert for ambiguities, weaknesses, missteps, and other vulnerabilities that we can exploit. We will be facing the prospect of more pressure, more losses, and more struggles on a number of fronts. The future direction of the Supreme Court remains at stake. There will be renewed attacks on abortion and other reproductive rights. Back on the table are issues such as the death penalty and challenges to immigrant rights, affirmative action, labor rights, environmental protections, and welfare. Political repression and aggressive policing are likely to expand. In foreign policy Bush will continue to use U.S. superpower status and the threat of war and invasion to bully the United Nations and countries around the world that refuse to bow to  U.S. imperialism.

 Business conservatives and libertarians will continue the strategy of "Starving the Beast" in domestic economic policy – shrinking the income of government so that budget battles mask the diversion of funds from social programs to the military and to federal agencies that dispense corporate welfare. On the state level, conservative advocacy groups will be active. For example, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the umbrella organization for state-level rightist legislators, is already urging governors to “cut, cut, cut” state budgets.

Being depressed about the election is human. But now we must return to the tasks that confront us. We need to remember that we are part of a global movement for basic human rights and social and economic justice. Together, we must find creative ways to defend and extend democracy and equality, through basic reform of the electoral system and other progressive changes. When Republican and Democratic politicians both represent narrow wealthy interests, it is time for us to begin exploring new avenues, such as a restructured party system and proportional representation that allows for genuine political options.

Here at PRA we will continue to study the trends, ferret out useful facts, and develop information that activists can use to craft creative strategies. Stay in touch. Keep visiting our website at http://www.publiceye.org for updates and send us information about struggles in your community. Your support and involvement with PRA and other progressive groups – physical, financial, and moral – is always appreciated, and now even more crucial.

Whatever form our activism takes, we must not fall into despair and quiescence. The struggle for justice is an old and noble one. That struggle has fallen on hard times now, as it has in the past and will in the future. No matter the challenges and the temptation to become cynical and inactive, we need to respond in solidarity with those most harmed by the Right’s policies. And we must build on the legacy of resistance of progressives who lived—and worked—in other conservative times. With a sense of history and a sense of humor, we will continue our struggles against unjust power and unfair privilege.

Political Research Associates
November 12, 2002

Political Research Associates is an independent, nonprofit research center that studies antidemocratic, authoritarian, and other oppressive movements, institutions, and trends. PRA is based on progressive values, and is committed to advancing an open, democratic, and pluralistic society.  PRA provides accurate, reliable research and analysis to activists, journalists, educators, policy makers, and the public at large.

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