Extremely high unemployment and increasing poverty, the economic trends that have characterized the last four years, would normally doom an incumbent president. Barack Obama was reelected to a second term, however, primarily because a majority of the population feared and rejected the program of Romney, Ryan and the extreme right. President Obama was the beneficiary of a continuing progressive shift in popular attitudes in the United States and the changing composition of the U.S. electorate.
Ninety-three percent of African American voters, 75 percent of Latinos, and 74 percent of Asian Americans supported Obama. Romney won a considerable majority of white voters—more than McCain did in 2008 and similar to Bush’s rate in 2004 over Kerry—but tens of millions of white people of all social classes also voted for Obama. Fifty-five percent of women, 60 percent of young people 18-29 years of age, and 77 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people voted for his reelection.
In a highly significant exit poll, 66 percent of the voters stated that they favored a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented people. The majority of the electorate supported abortion rights. For the first time, a majority opinion throughout the country supported marriage equality for LGBT people, not just civil unions. Maine, Maryland and Washington state voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voters rejected a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the first times that statewide popular votes on marriage equality have won.
President Obama was the beneficiary of an enormous effort by organized labor, which mobilized workers around the country to knock on doors and make phone calls in support of the president. Union members voted for him by a more than 2-1 margin.
Democratic Party: in contradiction with its base
Both the Republicans and Democrats are capitalist ruling-class parties. The president, in this case President Obama, is the CEO of the capitalist state. This state exists to serve the interests of the capitalist class and pursue their interests globally. Both parties in office serve the interests of the biggest banks, oil companies, and the military-industrial complex. They are equally imperialist. Both the Democratic and Republican parties support endless wars, occupations, drone attacks, economic sanctions and all of the other tactics in the imperialist arsenal against the oppressed peoples and nations of the world.
The vast majority of people who voted for President Obama and the Democratic Party yesterday did not do so because they favor the rule of Wall Street. They did not do so because they support drone strikes in Pakistan or Yemen, the bombing of Libya or the occupation of Afghanistan. The victory of President Obama did not come about because of a mass embrace of the reactionary policies of his administration.
Why, then, did so many to vote for the Democrats on November 6?
It resulted from the fear and loathing by a huge part of the population for the program of the Romney camp, which is emblematic of white supremacy, racist immigrant bashing, and hostility to women’s rights, LGBT rights and unions.
That is why we can say that we are witnessing a progressive shift in the attitudes of the population and in the composition of the country. This is so even though the Democratic Party remains completely imperialist and determined to carry out Wall Street’s right-wing program that will lead to the further decline in living conditions. Despite the momentary popular celebrations for the Democratic victory, this contradiction between the aspirations of the people and the program of the Democratic Party must and will break out into the open.
What is likely to come next?
Having won reelection, President Obama and the Democratic Party will seek in the coming months to come to an agreement with the Republicans and extreme right to carry out the basic agenda of the banks and corporations, which is to slash vital social programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and transfer the economic burden of the current crisis onto the backs of the working class and the poor.
Despite labor’s central role in the reelection effort, many state governments, including some headed by Democratic Party governors, are planning to restrict union rights while carrying out mass layoffs of public sector workers.
The imperialist establishment was waiting until the election was over before intensifying its war for “regime change” in Syria. President Obama, knowing that the country is “war weary” and opposes new intervention, went out of his way to avoid the issue prior to the election, as did Romney. But in a carefully coordinated plan with British imperialism – announced the morning after Election Day – the NATO powers are now taking steps to escalate their own direct intervention to overthrow the Syrian government.
Major struggles are on the horizon: Opposing stepped up intervention in Syria and threats of war against other countries; fighting the widespread and lethal budget cuts that are coming on the federal, state and local levels; resisting the epidemic of racist police brutality and mass incarceration, issues never mentioned by either Romney or Obama in the campaign; defending women’s rights, which are still under attack nationwide; continuing the struggle for full rights for immigrants and full equality for LGBT people who are still face widespread bigotry and violence. And much more.
The key element in real progress is not the ballot box, but the mass movements of the people – in the streets, workplaces, communities and campuses. The Party for Socialism and Liberation is dedicated to building that movement.
'A profound and deeply felt thank you to everyone who made this campaign their own'
Open letter from PSL Presidential Candidate Peta Lindsay
"I'm flying home right now, on the plane to Los Angeles, the campaign has ended. Since I'm sitting still for what feels like the first time in months, I'd like to take this time to reflect and to offer deep thanks to every single person out there who has supported our campaign and the program of the PSL in the election this past year. We knew we were up against momentous odds."