Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

John Ota and Anne Adams

Mondale campaign tries to get off the ground

Jackson supports Mondale, grass-roots forces take initiative

First Published: Unity, Vol. 7, No. 13, September 21-October 11, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Mondale-Ferraro campaign is in serious trouble, plagued by disorganization, and a strategy and theme which are attempts to out-Reagan Reagan. Opinion polls show Ronald Reagan with a commanding 12-27% lead over Mondale. In the shambles of Walter Mondale’s campaign, the specter of a likely Reagan victory this fall appears to be rising.

After endorsing Mondale on August 28 and meeting with Southern Democratic Party state chairs on August 31, Jesse Jackson has focused on the South. In communications with Southern state chairs of the Rainbow Coalition, Jackson urged that while supporting the Mondale campaign, the Rainbow Coalition should maintain its own independence and integrity.

Jackson himself then embarked on a vigorous schedule focusing on the South, but with forays elsewhere to help voter registration, and to urge people to vote against Reagan and for Mondale.

Many progressive and left forces have swung into motion against Reagan, but there is some disarray over what to do to ensure Reagan’s defeat this November. A few activists have joined the Mondale campaign. Others are working on voter registration, get out the vote efforts, and for local, state and congressional candidates. Still others are focusing on critical issues, from ending U.S. intervention in Latin America to the nuclear freeze. While most forces on the left have strongly condemned Reagan, there is no coherent strategy for the left to pursue between now and the fall to oppose Reagan and the entire move to the right.

Mondale/Ferraro campaign

Shocked and dismayed Democratic Party leaders, campaign professionals, and prominent liberals have let loose a chorus of criticisms. What happened to the vaunted efficiency of the Mondale staff? Why are Mondale’s appearances marred by sloppy advance work which had the candidate speaking to small crowds and appearing late at shift changes? And why has Mondale been unable to mount a clear challenge to Reagan?

The press paints a picture of a campaign in trouble due to incompetent staff and a sharp opponent. But the truth lies deeper. Mondale cannot articulate a clear alternative to Reagan because he himself shares the opinion of the majority of the bourgeoisie on the need to move to the right.

Thus Mondale is unprepared and unwilling to fight Reagan by trying to be a champion of the poor, and for justice and equality. Mondale prefers to fight more from Reagan’s right. It is based on his own convictions, as well as an opportunistic reading of what he perceives the electorate wants.

On September 17, Mondale threatened Nicaragua with a “quarantine” and asserted he, too, would have used military force in Grenada. The Democrats have also stressed the differences with the Republicans in their positions on the Middle East, which they claim are even more pro-Israel than Reagan’s, if that is possible.

Where Mondale and the liberals disagree with Reagan, such as on issues of religion, the ERA and women’s rights, Mondale and the liberals have lacked the courage to attack sharply the semi-fascistic rantings from many of Reagan’s supporters.

This is the classic problem with liberals. In the fight against the extreme right, liberals should be united with. But in fighting the right, especially as it takes on semi-fascistic trappings, an independent left, rooted in the working class and the most advanced social forces, is critical in stiffening the opposition to the right.

Signs of capitulation to the right from within the liberal camp can be seen from coast to coast. Some timid Democratic candidates are afraid to be seen with Mondale for fear of alienating Reagan supporters. Liberal reporters are afraid of appearing “partisan” for reporting too harshly on Reagan supporters’ intimidation of Mondale supporters at Reagan rallies.

Reagan’s far right campaign

Reagan’s “happy talk” campaign of ignoring the issues and fanning up chauvinism and racism is finding a receptive ear among the wealthy, the upper stratum of white workers, and a whole host of reactionary social forces such as John Birchers, fundamentalist fanatics of the Moral Majority and the right wing of the Catholic Church.

This, combined with a campaign machine reminiscent of the Nazis in efficiency, ruthlessness and dishonesty, has resulted in intimidating Reagan opponents. Mondale has been unable to keep Reagan supporters from drowning out his speeches with heckling, and Geraldine Ferraro cannot stop anti-abortionists’ disruptions of her appearances. But Reagan, with the help of the Secret Service, local police and right-wing thugs, has managed to keep out Mondale supporters from his rallies.

Religious fanaticism as a cover for the right

Right-wing Christian fundamentalists such as Jerry Falwell have made no secret of their fervent support for Reagan. Cloaking their reactionary social views on women, social equality and justice in rhetoric about God, morality and the sanctity of the family, these modern day quasi-fascists have joined hands with right-wing Catholic bishops to push their right-wing views on the rest of the country.

Reagan demagogically attempts to wrap his right-wing political views in the mantel of God. Reagan, Jerry Falwell and others of their ilk, unable to openly peddle their racist and backward social views, are now appealing to metaphysics. Such practice is common in imperialist societies in crisis. Unable to rule in the old way by conceding piecemeal reforms to the working class, the ruling class has to shift the blame elsewhere – from the Arabs to the poor themselves – and invoke religious explanations.

During the rise of capitalism, the capitalists attempted to restrict religion so that science and capital could grow unrestrained. Today, the capitalists’ use of religion to help maintain their irrational rule is a sign of the decline of capitalism.

Hitler rose in a period of deep economic crisis, invoking metaphysical concepts of nation, God and his own peculiar brand of morality. He painted his opponents as anti-nation, anti-God, immoral and anti-family. Destroying the tolerance of a bourgeois pluralistic society was a precondition to the establishment of German fascism.

One can see certain similarities between Reagan and Hitler. Hitler, although himself not a “family man,” was well known during his rise to power as a man who loved children, dogs, forests and nature. Reagan has capitalized on his Madison Avenue-created image and, with his allies from the Christian Right, is attempting to smear Mondale and Ferraro as baby killers, anti-religion and anti-family.

While Reagan himself may not be the direct equivalent of Hitler, we can be sure that those who will follow him in the new Republican Party will be. Among Reagan’s supporters are Moral Majority leader Rev. Bailey Smith who said God “does not hear the prayers of a Jew,” and Dean Wycoff of California, who advocated government execution of all homosexuals.

These are no longer extremist fringe elements, but people courted by the White House and the Republican Party. Reagan himself made the racist assertion that Mondale is incapable of singing country western, and can only sing the blues.

Reagan represents the tip of a right-wing iceberg which threatens any semblance of constitutional bourgeois democracy. The Reagan campaign is a dangerous right-wing movement rooted in racism, anti-Semitism, reactionary social views, repression and militarism, victory for this movement would be a disastrous setback. Mondale is also an imperialist. Advocating a vote for Mondale does not in any way mean that we think he is for peace and non-intervention. But voting for Mondale is the only way to defeat Reagan and this is why we must vote for him November 6.

Mondale’s issues

While Mondale and the Democrats are a part of bourgeoisie’s shift to the right, they have a different electoral base. No matter what Mondale may think, he can only be elected through votes cast by Black people, Latinos, workers and the poor. Mondale will not br able to erode Reagan’s base of support.

Mondale’s only chance is to hit harder at Reagan. Mondale’s budget plan is positive in placing a higher share of the tax burden on the rich and restoring some budget cuts for social programs. Clearly it still allows for billions in military spending increases and fails include a major jobs program, but under Mondale’s budget, the masses will probably fare a little better.

He has tried to paint Reagan as trigger happy. This too, is positive. But the Mondale campaign is in trouble. Mondale’s attempt to be a tougher warrior than Reagan is a sure way to lose. To defeat Reagan will difficult, and to rely completely on Mondale to do so would be foolish. It would also be foolish not to plan different contingencies if Reagan is re-elected. Whoever wins, the need for a strong people’s movement and a resurgent left is critical.

Jesse Jackson

In the post-Convention period, Jackson has focused on the South as a critical region for Black empowerment and for turning back the move to the right Jackson has urged voter turnout against Reagan, and in favor of progressive local candidates and issues, and Walter Mondale.

Jackson and other Black leaders, after meeting in Minnesota August 28 with Mondale for a total of five hours, cited their support for Mondale as a position of principle. Jackson said, “We have a moral duty to defeat Ronald Reagan.”

In the meeting, Mondale agreed to several things Jackson supporter Maynard Jackson was appointed a senior policy adviser to Mondale, Coleman Young was given a role in the voter registration drive, and C. Delores Tucker, Shirley Chisholm and others were given positions in the campaign. Mondale agreed to do campaign appearances with Jesse Jackson and to address Black concerns such as civil rights, jobs and southern Africa in two speeches. However, Mondale refused to commit himself to a major new jobs program.

Since this meeting and the August 31 meeting with Democratic Party chairs from the South, Jackson has campaigned extensively in that region. Citing the importance of unity on “broad social and economic issues which touch upon all people – Black, white and Hispanic . . . our Party must stand for justice, tolerance and progress,” Jackson has brought his campaign into the South. In addition to developing a new Southern Agenda, Jackson stressed that the Rainbow Coalition demands integrated slates, reciprocal campaigning and voting from the Southern Democratic Party leadership and electorate. Agreement was apparently reached on these points at the August 31 meeting.

Besides campaigning for Mondale, Jackson has supported local candidates. In South Carolina, due to Jackson’s demand for “reciprocal voting” (white support for Black candidates in return for Black support for white candidates), Kenneth Moseley, the only Black congressional candidate in the state, received some support from white party leaders.

With a number of Black candidates running for office in the South, tying the anti-Reagan effort to such contests has much potential for generating enthusiasm in the election. This is key, given Mondale’s limited success in firing up the anti-Reagan forces.

Future of the Rainbow

On August 30-31, 50-60 state chairs and others in the Rainbow Coalition met in Chicago and agreed on five recommendations. They recommended that the local Rainbow Coalitions: 1) convene immediately; 2) escalate voter registration; 3) develop a procedure for endorsing local candidates and issues; 4) prepare a get out the vote campaign; and 5) plan fund raising to retire a $500,000 campaign debt.

Although uneven, state and local Rainbow Coalitions appear to be getting off the ground. In some states, Rainbow and Mondale forces are coordinating efforts, and some Jackson campaign workers have been hired by the Mondale campaign.

While Jackson has urged support for Mondale, he has also been attempting to fashion the Rainbow into a distinct network. In instructions to Southern State Chairs of the Rainbow, Jackson outlined the relationship of the Rainbow Coalition to the Mondale campaign. Jackson urged that no Southern state leaders of the Rainbow Coalition join the Mondale campaign as paid staff. Other members of the Rainbow Coalition in the South can and should join the Mondale campaign as paid consultants who would remain accountable to the Rainbow.

Jackson wants it made clear that he and other leaders of the Rainbow Coalition cannot be bought off or even appear to be bought off. Also, the reason Rainbow members working for the Mondale campaign should be accountable to the Rainbow is to maintain and uphold the independence of the Rainbow, to build up a distinct Rainbow network in the South.

The future of the Rainbow will be determined in the post-November period. It would have been better if a national conference on the Rainbow had taken place immediately after the Democratic Convention in which a democratic and mass process could have been developed to determine the future direction of the Rainbow. It is important now that state Rainbow Conference’s take place where there can be an open and democratic process of debate and decision-making. The Rainbow should be a formation where people can be heard on an equal basis.

A National Task Force on the future of the Rainbow has been formed to develop a plan for the future. A National Conference of the Rainbow is planned for sometime after the November elections.

Role of the left

While there remains considerable justified criticism of Mondale, many forces like local Rainbow Coalitions, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Southwest Voter Registration Project, and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign have taken the initiative to organize independent voter registration and mobilization efforts or join the Mondale campaign because they recognize the urgency of defeating Reagan. Different left forces are also participating vigorously in these efforts.

But the left must do more than register voters or support local candidates and initiatives. It must see united all that can be united to resolutely and fiercely oppose Reagan and the entire move to the right. We must not tail the liberals or even Jesse Jackson. We must have our own independent critique and our own sense of urgency.

The left must unite, and while defeating Reagan is the focus, we must redouble our efforts to explain and popularize a distinct socialist point of view, the weaknesses of liberalism as a counter to the right, and the necessity to build an independent people’s movement around local issues and empowerment – for justice at home and peace abroad. By combining anti-Reagan work, voter registration, local empowerment issues, anti-intervention work, and socialist education, we lay a basis for work beyond November, no matter who wins the election.