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US Election More Than Just A Dem V GOP Race

US Election More Than Just A Dem V GOP Race

By Kristina Koveshnikova

The idea US citizens can only vote for either the Democratic or Republican parties is simply an illusion, says the Socialist Workers Party candidate for President.

Roger Calero, who visited AUT University on May 20, says while it is falsely but widely assumed the Republican Party represents the interests of the capitalists and the Democratic Party the working class and minority groups, in reality, both parties are “exactly the same”.

Image: Chauncey Robinson (left) toured New Zealand with Roger Calero, Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate.

Both parties develop policies serving the interests of the “big rich families” and ignore the youth and working class, says Calero.

“The only differences they have are tactical differences – how fast, how far to take things. They are both in general agreement with the course of the war, social security and healthcare,” says Calero.

Chauncey Robinson, 22, accompanying Calero in his global campaign and speaking on behalf of youth, shares his view.

“You are told that the Democratic Party is the people’s party, but it’s not true. I was told by one professor in college that the Democratic Party is the black people’s party, but it’s also not true,” says Robinson, an African-American.

“Barak Obama wouldn’t have been able to get as far as he has if he pulls any challenge to the capital views. The reason why he’s gone so far is because he pushed for the agenda that is very much in their favour,” she says.

“The fact that Barak Obama as an African-American and Hillary Clinton as a woman, are able to run for president is a reflection of the gains that were made with the civil rights movement and women’s liberation movement.

“People fought for it. But that’s as far as that goes in terms of what they represent,” says Robinson, who joined the Socialist Workers Party in 2005.

The Socialist Workers Party – a communist political party formed in 1938 – advocates for the youth and working class to have equal rights, and better living and working conditions. A great number of its members and followers are youths, industrial workers or trade union members.

The evidence of supporting the interests of the rich and ignoring the poor lies in many proposals presented by Senators McCain, Obama and Clinton, says Calero, a former meat-packer who joined the party in 1993.

“All three of them are making proposals that make healthcare more about individual responsibility and not a right that should be there for every single person.”

Calero, 38, says the rollout of the Medicare Prescription Drugs programme is a “disaster for workers and retirees” and a “boon for the drug and insurance companies”. He says the healthcare system should be government-guaranteed, equally serving everyone in America.

“Our campaign says: ‘No cuts to Medicaid or Medicare programs’.”

Calero is running for the office for the second time. In 2004 he received fewer than 4000 votes. In any case, he is not eligible to become US president under the United States Constitution, because he is an immigrant.

Calero was born in Nicaragua and moved to America in 1985. He holds a green card which allows residency but his name cannot appear on the ticket in some states. Fellow SWP candidate James Harris acts as Calero’s surrogate nominee in any state where Calero is not qualified.

“If we win the elections I think that we would have enough support to change the law, as we are not the only ones who advocate that foreign-born people should be able to not just vote, but to run for office. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger shares this view,” says Calero.

“There is a positive side to immigration. It has resulted in strengthening the working class.”

Calero, currently working as a writer for the socialist newsweekly The Militant and editor of its Spanish language section, has been campaigning on immigration for many years. He says the fight for the undocumented immigrants is the most important domestic issue.

“In the last year, especially in the last month, you will find consistent coverage about the struggles for legalisation of undocumented immigrants in the United States.”

In 2002 Calero was detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) at Houston Intercontinental airport, after returning from a Militant assignment covering an international conference on free trade in Cuba and Mexico.

“What happened to me, happened to thousands of people. They [immigration officers] didn’t know my name or who I was. They just looked at me and must have thought: ‘Here’s one more – we’ll chuck him out’,” says Calero.

Calero was put into jail charged with a 15-year-old conviction of selling cannabis to an undercover cop while he was a high school student.

“This is difficult,” says Calero, “You have an undercover cop inside the school, who you hanging out with, thinking it’s your friend, but he is a snitch.

“I go to court. I don’t have a lawyer, because as a working class youth you don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, so you get a public defendant. He comes up to me and says, ‘If you don’t want to spend time in court, just plea bargain and at the most, they will give you probation and a small fine’.”

Calero did not serve any jail time for the conviction, but he received two-year probation with the condition to finish high school, which he did a couple months later, and a $50 fine. Regardless, the INS began the deportation process against him. But Calero and his followers fought back: they received support from defenders of immigrant and workers rights, and with the backing of the Socialist Workers Party, his deportation was prevented.

Calero says the deportation threats were unjust and to ensure it does not happened to others, he would stop immigration deportation with an immediate and give legalisation for undocumented workers, with no conditions.

He feels campaigning globally and meeting the youth and working class people worldwide is important enough to take time out of his US presidential campaigning.

“It is a stepping stone in building the movement of working class people that ultimately will need to lead a fight for political power out of the hands of the rich. We have to fight to re-organise the society.”


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