If you were in the Bay Area on November 3rd, you certainly felt the collective despair. In an astonishing display of wishful thinking, many of us actually believed that the country, lead by millions of ethnic minorities, youth and working class voters, would swing Kerry’s way. It didn’t happen, and whether or not the election was rigged—something we may never find out, and that is the truly scary outcome of November 2nd—we will still have Bush in the White House and a Congress ruled with an iron fist by the most extremist right wing faction of the GOP.
How will this overwhelming right-wing power-grab play out over the next four years?
Here are a few hints:
- Expect less, much less: As Republicans are fond of saying, it’s all about reducing the size of government. Of course, this is a very disingenuous statement. It is not about reducing the size of government, but about reducing those aspects of government that somehow get in the way of higher profits, while increasing the government areas that foster or protect the welfare of the rich. That means less money for health care, education and housing and more bucks for police and the military.
- Compassionate conservatism at work: Poverty will be further defined as a matter of personal responsibility—that is the conservative aspect—and it can only be solved through a strong religious-based moral overhauling of poor people—that is the “compassionate” part.
- Winner takes all: Many pundits are making calls for “bipartisanship,” whatever that means. The naiveté of such calls is appalling. Despite the fact that Republicans won in every single electoral front (White House, Congress, governorships, and state legislatures) does not reflect the fact that the electorate is still pretty evenly divided between the two major parties. The GOP will not reduce its hardball political play until it has effectively destroyed any possibility of meaningful electoral change. Bipartisanship or adoption of centrist views will be embraced only as long as they serve the long-term agenda of eliminating dissent.
In the homelessness field, that means less money for public and affordable housing, as we have already seen in the 1.8 billion dollar cuts to federal housing programs currently working its way through Congress. The consequences of these cuts are not likely to be felt until the middle of next year, but we saw a preview this summer, when cuts to section 8 programs resulted in the loss of housing for thousands in the Bay Area alone.
Together with the cuts in benefits and subsidies, we will see an increase in the faith-based approach to deal with the effects—but not the causes—of poverty. As much as we respect the power of faith-based organizing for social justice, this certainly is not the approach to be favored by the Bush administration. As poverty increases, we will see soup-kitchens and shelters touted as compassionate initiatives, and the moralizing of poor people will become the “solution.” Marriage (heterosexuals only, please), prayer and acceptance of one’s fate will be pushed as the only means to leave poverty behind.
For those among us who believe other options are necessary, these are certainly going to be tough times. Despairing will not help. Moving to Canada is not an option, there are too many of us and it is too cold anyway.
Besides building resistance wherever our rights are threatened, we will need to begin thinking in more strategic ways of achieving our goals and dig in the trenches, because we are in for a long, long period of darkness.
Perhaps the most positive lesson to be learned from the Republican juggernaut is that grassroots organizing truly works if you can clearly state your values and what you stand for. For too long the so-called American Left has been overwhelmed by an insane need to make itself look, talk and act like the right. You can’t win elections, or even a high school debate for that matter, if you keep saying that your opponent is right.
It is time to go back to the basics. Organize, dissent and resist. Rolling over and hoping the Republicans will be nice is no longer an option.