In the context of massive budget cuts, attacks on union rights, and inspiring uprisings across the globe, Socialist Alternative hosted a speaking tour this spring with antiwar mom Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan rose to national prominence in 2006 when she camped out on Bush’s lawn demanding answers about the death of her son Casey, a soldier in Iraq. This helped to re-ignite the antiwar movement at the time.
Frustrated with the Democrats’ failure to follow through on their promise to end the war after their resounding victory in 2006, Sheehan broke with that party once and for all. She tells engaging personal observations of the sellout of pre-election promises by Democrats to end the war in Iraq if elected to Congress in 2006. In 2008, Sheehan ran as an independent candidate against then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Northern California, getting a respectable 18% of the vote running on a working-class program and defeating the Republican House candidate.
In today’s political climate, more and more people are becoming frustrated with politicians of both parties. A recent Rasmussen poll shows that only 9% of the country thinks that Congress is doing a good job.
The anger was evident as Cindy Sheehan traveled across the country on a speaking tour titled “Dawn of a New Revolt: Challenging Corporate Control of Politics,” sponsored by Socialist Alternative. Sheehan spoke in six cities at seven events, and over 700 people across the U.S. showed up to hear her speak. The main point she emphasized from the podium was the need to learn from the sellouts of the Democratic Party, to break from the two-party system and build a socialist movement.
Sheehan spoke of Obama and the Democrats’ extension of the Bush-era tax breaks to the rich and the widening income gap between rich and poor while ordinary people are losing their homes and their jobs. She lambasted the current administration for continued billions spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while exposing the falsehood of “humanitarian” destruction in Libya.
The crowds were very receptive to the call for a break from the two-party system and for the formation of a new political party that is not funded by Wall Street and big business. We need a new political party that would demand a jobs program, an end to the wars, and a halt and reversal of tax breaks for corporations.
Some steps, albeit tentative ones, are being made in this direction. The International Association of Fire Fighters is suspending all funding to federal political campaigns. Also, the San Francisco Labor Council is calling on the AFL-CIO and Change to Win to organize massive demonstrations in major cities across the country demanding jobs programs, higher taxes on Wall Street and the rich, and cutting the pentagon budget to end the budget cuts.
The call by the fire fighters union is a step forward, but it is not enough. We need the unions and community organizations to end all funding of the Democratic Party and its candidates and to call for the formation of a new political party of working people. This should be linked to organizing mass demonstrations against budget cuts and opposing the corporate domination of politics and society. It is time to build an independent movement that gives workers and ordinary people a true voice.