The Columbia Spectator solicited, and we submitted, an editorial on what issue (or issues) we thought were most important in the presidential elections. It ran in today’s issue of the campus paper and we appreciate the Spectator’s offer to allow us a voice in their publication and hope to contribute again in the future. You may read it here. Despite the fact that our work ran as an opinion piece, the editors decided to edit or remove a couple of our statements, over our objection. There was one line in particular that the Spectator editors insisted on eliminating: “We…oppose the slew of racist slander directed at Obama.”
We were told that this would be removed for two reasons: it was patently partisan, (or “anti-Republican”) and “It comes out of nowhere” in our editorial. We rejected both of these rationales, but received only an ultimatum: either the line would be cut or the piece would not run at all.
Since when did being anti-racist become tantamount to a partisan endorsement? Our editorial makes it clear that we don’t believe that either candidate has a plan to remove all troops from Iraq or Afghanistan and that grassroots organizing is the most important factor in changing this. We are not endorsing McCain or Obama, but does that mean we can’t challenge racism when we see it? From the “terrorist fist jab” and “uppity” comments, to the Obama Waffle Mix, the New Yorker magazine cover and more, it’s clear that this election is sullied by bigotry. If Republicans happen to be the ones making racist comments, as Congresswoman Lynn Westmoreland did, it doesn’t surprise us. However, it was a Democrat, Hillary Clinton, who claimed only she could gain the support of “hard-working Americans, white Americans.” Likewise, the Democrats used to be the defenders of slavery and Jim Crow in the south, so clearly, opposition to racism is not an endorsement of either party.
Adding insult to injury, in the editorial printed right next to ours, Landon Tucker of the College Republicans made an unabashed endorsement of McCain and Palin. Clearly, he didn’t have to abide by the same “non-partisan” standards.
Lastly, we don’t agree with the idea that our talk of racism in the campaign “comes out of nowhere” in our editorial (even if it was the Spectator’s place to alter the content of our opinion!) The questions of the war and the economy, which we focus on in the piece, have been talked about in racist terms not simply in this election season, but for much longer. The demonizing of all Arabs and Muslims has been used to justify the continuation of war on Iraq and Afghanistan, and immigrant workers, or workers abroad, are blamed for “stealing” native-born workers’ jobs.
Hence, organizing to stop the war and demand economic relief are crucially linked to standing up against racism in all of its forms. Apparently, the Spectator thinks that its readers aren’t savvy enough to pick up on these connections, but we think more highly of you. Here is the original, unedited version:
Opinion Piece on the elections from the International Socialist Organization
By Akua Gyamerah and Matt Swagler
Polls indicate that a vast majority of Americans are now in favor of an end to the war on Iraq and a full 82 percent of people think the government needs to increase spending on social services and public works projects to create jobs – not more bailouts for Wall Street. As socialists, we see these two interconnected demands as central to the election.
Despite the deaths of over a million Iraqis, the displacement of over 4 million more, and despite the fact that a majority of US troops polled wanted to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006, neither presidential candidate is talking about a complete or immediate end to the occupation of Iraq. Certainly McCain is committed to continuing the war, but even Obama’s position for withdrawal is tenuous, would take many years, and will leave behind tens of thousands of troops and countless private mercenaries such as Blackwater. Both candidates are united on escalating the Afghanistan war, and we’ve already seen a rise in US bombing runs and Afghan civilian deaths, alongside a monthly casualty toll for US soldiers now surpassing that of Iraq.
This week, the Wall Street Journal declared that the economy is at the brink of the worst crisis since the great depression of the 1930s, and things will only get worse. Unfortunately, as the economy deteriorates, working class people are expected to pay for this disaster, something we see already with higher prices for commodities like food, education, housing, millions of foreclosures and evictions, growing poverty and unemployment, and cutbacks in social programs. Despite bailing out Corporate America with billions of our tax dollars, the federal government claims that it cannot afford to help homeowners with their debt, provide free healthcare for children, or restore cuts to public schools. The excuses are plenty, but the evidence to justify each is meager, especially as all of this past week’s disgraced CEO’s are getting exorbitant departure packages-Richard Syron, the former head of Freddie Mac, will likely get $14.1 million simply to walk out the door.
The most important issues for this election year are not what is discussed during the campaigning period, but what happens before and after a new president takes office. As history has shown, the US government does little for working class people without pressure from below. In light of the billions spent this past month to rescue for-profit financial institutions, it is essential and absolutely justified for working class people, including immigrants, to protest the priorities of this government and to pressure them by demanding forgiveness of mortgages, affordable housing, universal healthcare, and an increase in financial aid for education. An end to the failing wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which would free up $340 million a week, is central to these demands. While we follow the elections attentively and oppose the slew of racist slander directed at Obama, we feel that it is ultimately through grassroots, independent, and mass organizing that we can begin to see real change.