Trump's electoral defeat
The US takes another step towards chaos
The parties following the defeat of Trump are still going on. The sighs of relief can be heard from all corners of the globe. But after the party comes the hangover. As the author Chris Hedges said before the election, US imperialism is on the slide and the election of Joe Biden will do little to reverse it.
The first signs of hangover came in the election itself. The Democrats managed to win the presidency and lose the rest of the election. The Republican's shameless enabling of Trump had no cost. They held the Senate and made gains in the House of Representatives and are well placed at state level for a new round of gerrymandering when a redistricting process begins in a few years. The argument around Trump in the Republican party was that supporting him would alienate moderate voters. That argument proved false. An already right wing Republican base has moved decisively to the far edges of racism and authoritarianism and the Republican party and almost half of US society has gone with them.
The Democrat's failure is easily explained. Trumpism followed on from the lack of progress for the working class and black people under Obama. As the workers disengaged a populist and racist current was energised and headed by Trumpism. In the years of chaos that followed the Democrats criticism was mostly about tone rather than substance. The blue wave of 2018 led to only one parliamentary pushback - impeachment - and that was restricted to the narrowest of grounds - patriotic outrage at Russian involvement in the 2016 election, something that Trump and his supporters accepted happily.
Political analysis of the 2018 "blue wave" election showed that the Democrats had gained despite themselves. They had tried to avoid criticism of Trump and focus on healthcare with the aim of winning over moderate republicans. The results showed that the opposite had happened. More Trump voters came out but they were outnumbered by the mobilization of anti-Trumpists.
The presidential election showed the same pattern. The savage attacks on Trump and the Republican leadership came from small conservative breakaway groups rather than the Democrats. Trump mobilised an enormous vote of 70 million in the face of personal responsibility for at least an extra 100,000 dead through his inaction and incompetence. He was only pushed back by an even bigger anti-Trump vote. Biden's only platform was to declare that he wasn't Trump. He won despite himself.
This isn't stupidity by the Democrats. The truth is that both parties are wings of one big party of capital, with the money stream fed directly by Wall Street. They have to appeal for unity on the grounds that this will shore up popular support for capitalism.
The cry is unity, the curse is said to be division, but the current political division in the USA isn't a difference of opinion. What it is is a reactionary revolt based on racism and bigotry and involving a rejection of reality. Biden's strategy is to conciliate that reaction.
Where the Democrats showed real skill was in dealing with their own base. The collapse of the Democratic primaries with the aid of the black establishment in North Carolina saw Biden suddenly emerge as the victorious candidate. It also saw universal health care and overwhelming student debt disappear as issues.
The Democrats won because they were able to retain young and black activists mobilised on one set of issues around police brutality, kept on board around a right wing programme by people such as Bernie Sanders and James Clyburn. Those groups are now demanding payback, but that call for payback goes all the way back to before Martin Luther King. (He said; "you owe us the promised emancipation". The media distorted it to; "I have a dream"). The history of the Democratic party is of recruiting workers, people of colour and women and burying the causes that they represent in a political graveyard.
The election was fought around Trump exceptionalism. He was completely different from previous administrations and was about to stage a fascist coup. Neither assertion is true. Trump is exceptionally psychopathic and criminal, but the main element of his rule has been a cartoonish exercise of power, doing and saying openly what previous presidents did quietly. Since the election we have seen a reality TV coup. The defence ministry is decapitated, but mainly ruled by incompetent shills seeking to bury evidence and try out plans for using the military to add to the general chaos. There are lots of insane court appeals, demonstrations and leading Republicans agreeing that an imaginary vote was stolen, but in the real world it is mostly the middle aged and insane Trumpists who are on the streets. The share price of gun and ammo firms has fallen as the claims of a Trump rising have come to nothing.
Trump has spelt out the mechanism of his coup. Mobilise the government, the state apparatus and the Republican party in his defence, maximise chaos and confusion, run court cases up to the supreme court, force some Republican administrations at state level to cast aside the popular vote and send Trump supporters to the electoral college. The hope is that the decision will be made in Congress on a one vote per state basis and give Trump a majority.
The plan is unlikely to work. The Biden majority is too large and in January he will become President. However the crisis will continue. Biden will be scrambling to overcome chaos especially around the abandonment of a federal coronavirus response, will be tied up in trying to restore the status quo ante and has ruled out any fundamental reform that would improve the lives of the working class and dodged the issue of the impunity of a militarised police. The Democratic right have already launched an attack around the ludicrous claim the party was too socialist. The left will mount a counterattack, but the task of socialists is to convince the left base to defend democracy on the streets rather than being buried in a capitalist party.
In 2021 Trumpism will be a power in the land. At the moment there is a battle between Rupert Murdock leading Fox News and Trump. It will either end in unity sponsoring Trump or in a new Trump TV network. In any case there will be millions living in the world of Qanon conspiracy and a Republican party in step with them. It is often said that Trump and Fox news have mesmerised their supporters. That's not true. It's clear from many interviews that the base actively selects the messages that they want to hear, disliking Fox newsroom but devouring the propaganda output. The middle aged white demonstrators provide an environment in which white nationalist and fascist groups flourish. The vigilantes are not willing to fall on the sword for Trump, but they do plan military action in the future.
Trump is unlikely to succeed in his attempted coup, but in fact this is the long term strategy of the Republican party. There is no way their racism and unlimited support for capitalism can lead to a majority of the vote. What they have is a Senate based on equality of states, small and large, that negates democracy, the Supreme Court and much of the court system, the gerrymander and vote suppression and finally a heavily militarised police and state security systems with long histories of violence racism and disregard for law.
The level of crisis in the US is exemplified by Trump's attempted coup. All the major elements of the state have been decapitated and are being run by mobsters. The political representatives look on in silence. This is a price that has to be paid if they are to retain control.
Republicans have a clear eyed idea of where they will go. Subversion of democracy and authoritarianism will suppress a population whose needs they can't possibly meet.
The Democrats promise that things will get better, but the detail is missing. Clinton was too obviously a creature of big business and of imperialist domination, Biden is an elderly male clone. The US is massively in debt and the cost of the military, of Wall St and of the health industry makes major public investment a pipedream.
In the meantime about one third of the workers live in extreme poverty. The education service has been gutted, many are excluded from health care and others live at the side of the road.
Hope lies with black resistance, with youth, working class women and class activists. The socialist movement should have a vital role to play in mapping out a programme of action and providing class analysis. That's the weakness of the "vote Biden" position. If the cries of Fascism now are remotely realistic then the last thing we should be doing is holding up a milk and water opposition who will continue to conciliate, a common pattern when capitalist crisis edges towards fascism.
The chaos in the US is extreme, but it is not unique. In many areas across the globe the capitalists are trying to resolve crises by authoritarian rule. That doesn't lead to resolution, so the administrations become more chaotic and unstable. Capitalist decline and economic recession make the working class weaker so they hold on to representative organisations that have rotted along with the system. We should not mistake this for working class defeat. It may be that the future holds a Trumpist US and copycat regimes across the world. What we can say is that this will not happen without a global convulsion with capitalists toe to toe with the workers. In full scale battles.
In the run up to the election the fascists came to Portland. They left with their tail between their legs. They will come to our area. Our task is to force them back.