“Democratic” Party Obstructs Democratic Process

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If Joe Parnarauskis prevails against the Democratic Party’s
attempt to remove his name from the ballot, students and
workers will have a socialist, anti-war candidate to vote for
in the November election.
Parnarauskis, a registered nurse and lifelong resident of
East Central Illinois, is standing for State Senate in Illinois’
52nd District. This past spring and summer, his supporters
gathered nearly 5,000 signatures from workers and students
in order put the Socialist Equality Party on the ballot. This
was far more than the arbitrarily high signature requirement
of 2,985 created by the Democratic and Republican parties
in order to defend their political monopoly.
Even so, Democratic Party functionaries organized
from the offices of powerful machine politicians—speaker
of the house Mike Madigan and senate president Emil
Jones—have launched a bad-faith effort to disqualify the
signatures of thousands of legally-registered voters, and
thereby remove Parnarauskis from the ballot.
Simultaneously, the Democratic Party is attempting to
remove the entire slate of the statewide Green Party. The
efforts to bar socialists and Greens from the election is in
keeping with the policy of the national Democratic Party,
which fought a ruthless campaign against Ralph Nader’s
presidential bid in 2004, and that same year attempted—
and failed—to remove Socialist Equality Party candidate
Tom Mackaman from the ballot for state representative in
Champaign and Urbana.
While the Democratic Party grovels before Bush and
the right wing, they spare no means, no matter how base,
against those who would challenge the two-party system
from the left.
In their attempt to disqualify legitimate voters from
Parnarauskis’ nominating petitions, highly-paid Democratic
attorneys have demanded that names be disqualified that
have been printed rather than signed. They have demanded
that addresses that include typos—for example, writing
“street” rather than “avenue”—be disqualified. They routinely
object to “foreign-sounding” names and the names of
women voters who sign petitions using their maiden rather
than married name. Most obnoxious, given that this is a
college community, the Democratic Party has demanded
and won the disqualification of hundreds upon hundreds
of legally-registered students, simply because students have
frequently changed local address in between the time they
registered and the time they signed nominating petitions.
First, the Democrats hope to inflict enormous legal and
organizational costs on third party candidates. The Illinois
Democratic Party is flush with corporate money;
even a few million dollars spent to quash challenges from
the left is considered a pittance. The same tactic will
serve, the Democrats hope, to intimidate and silence
potential opponents.
More importantly, however, the Democrats’ effort to
close ranks with Republicans and shut the gates to third
party challenges is symptomatic of an ossified political
system that can brook no challenge from the left. The
Democrats fear that the enormous opposition to the war in
Iraq and the erosion of living standards in this country,
once it finds political expression, will prove impossible to
contain within the framework of the two-party system.
With well over half of Americans and an enormous-majority
of rank-and-file Democrats now opposed to the war —
in spite of overwhelming bipartisan and media support—
this fear is very real.
This tension became visible in the recent primary election
defeat of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman—the most
pro-war and pro-Bush Democrat—by multi-millionaire
Ned Lamont. Even though Lamont’s differences with
Lieberman were of a purely tactical character—how better
to execute the interests of the ruling elite in Iraq and the
Middle East rather than whether or not to do so—his antiwar
rhetoric provided a lightning rod for the enormous
and growing national sentiment against the war.
Though Lamont has rushed to reassure the corporate
elite since his victory, authoring a column in the Wall
Street Journal in which he promised to champion
rightwing fiscal policies, both major political parties and
the talking heads of the news media have been stunned by
Lieberman’s defeat. Despite their best efforts to conceal it,
the enormous hatred against the imperialist designs of the
Bush administration has grown to such an extent that it
cannot be reliably contained.
Over the past century, the Democratic Party has been
the time-proven means by which the ruling elite has harnessed
mass opposition from the bottom up and diverted
it along lines harmless to American capitalism. The struggle
raging in and around the Democratic Party now is over
this fundamental question: will the Democratic Party be
utilized, once again, as a trap for anti-war opposition; or
will it remain uncritically aligned with the policies of the
Bush administration? Lamont’s rush to reassure the Wall
Street Journal suggests that no faction of the Democratic
Party will be willing or able to house opposition to the war
for long.
This brings us to the third reason why the Democratic
Party attempts to outlaw third party challenges from the
left. In essence the practice represents an attack on the
right to vote, and is part and parcel of the on-going attack
on basic democratic rights. The policies—foreign and
domestic—being put into place by the Bush administration
with Democratic complicity are inimical to the interests
of, and have become odious to, the great majority of
the nation’s population. Despite minor and transitory differences,
the Democratic and Republican parties faithfully
enact the agenda of the American ruling elite, a thin layer
of billionaires and multimillionaires who have prospered
enormously at the same time wages and living standards
for the broad masses have stagnated and declined.
Under these conditions, basic democratic rights can no
longer be tolerated, including the right to vote for a candidate
of one’s choosing—a right without which democracy
has no meaning. In essence, the Democratic Party is
attempting to thwart the democratic process for the same
reason that the Bush administration is assuming quasi-dictatorial
powers: open political opposition cannot be tolerated
for fear it may catch fire and spread.
Working people, students, and those who would fight
for peace must chart their own, independent course. They
must throw off, once and for all, the dead weight of American
liberalism, and build a political movement of the
international working class that seeks to create a social
system which places human need above the relentless
drive for profit of the big corporations.

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