US election woes

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Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton

Nothing is working out the way the US ruling class hoped for the 2016 Presidential elections. Early last year it expected that Hillary Clinton would already be the Democratic candidate, while Governor Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio would be well on the way to receiving the nomination of the Republican Party. Today, that plan lies tattered and all hell has broken loose, with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump receiving massive popular endorsements and scaring the daylights out of the ruling class.

The trouble began a year ago. On 26 May 2015 Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination; on 16 June Trump announced he was standing for the Republican nomination. They were initially dismissed by the ruling class and its lackeys with contempt. But then people began voting for them – in large numbers. Contempt turned to concern, then consternation, then condemnation, then fear. Trump is feared because he has whipped up a racist mob and threatens to sweep away the cosy political games the ruling class plays. Sanders is feared because he has a social democratic programme of civil rights, free education and healthcare, which US imperialism can’t afford without threatening its profits.

As Sanders and Trump won state elections, Party leaders began to plot their demise. Democrats turned to their system of ‘superdelegates’ – party hacks – devised specifically to prevent the nomination of radical candidates. Clinton has most of these, so that if she loses the primary elections, she will still win the nomination. Republicans don’t have such a system, and scrambled to trip up Trump. They turned to universally loathed Senator Ted Cruz as their best alternative, but even he wasn’t fascist enough to lure voters away from Trump. Nothing now stands between Trump and the Republican nomination.

Suddenly, most of the Republicans who were crying ‘No Trump’ have begun to climb aboard his bandwagon. Liberal darling, war criminal Senator John McCain was viciously dismissed by Trump last July. Now he tells us that it would be ‘foolish to ignore’ the mob’s choice. ‘I think he could be a capable leader’ Last December, after Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering America, House Speaker Paul Ryan said such a ban ‘is not what this Party stands for…it is not what this country stands for’. Then in May, Ryan had a meeting with Trump and announced that he is ‘a warm and genuine person with a very good personality…He is bringing in votes we haven’t had for decades’. Stinking racist votes!

It is a mistake to take Trump’s policies at face value. What is important is not what Trump says, but the job which sections of the ruling class want Trump to do. Marx wrote The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte to ‘demonstrate how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.’ Following the defeat of a challenge from the French working class, the French bourgeoisie relinquished its own parliamentary rule in favour of being ruled by a ‘mediocrity’ who stood at the head of the lumpen-proletariat – the refuse from all classes who had lost their class instincts – a vicious anti-working class mob. A section of the US ruling class, faced with a stagnant economy, has decided that the time has come for a similar mediocrity to rule.

A split has opened up within the ruling class with the big monopolies, whose tentacles stretch round the world, wanting ‘business as usual’, while another section thinks the time has come for extreme measures to divide, impoverish and attack the working class. Trump’s programme – economic isolationism, an end to trade deals, expulsion of cheap immigrant labour – threatens the interests of a major section of the ruling class. After all, the US working class is currently thoroughly divided: there has been no massive confrontation between capitalists and workers nationally. However, large numbers of capitalists are unable to extract any more profits from the domestic working class, and are too small to sit with the big corporations at the imperialist table, requiring further attacks on the US working class to increase profitability.

The worldwide profits of the monopoly corporations are threatened by Trumpism. They don’t want Sanders as President because his reformist programme, whatever his intentions, if implemented, threatens not just profits but the system of private property. This leaves them with Clinton as the last hope for maintaining their domination of the US political system and safeguarding US imperialism. But Clinton is no answer for the working class and its allies against Trumpism. She has a vicious pro-imperialist record, advocating the bombing of Libya; she is racist, describing black youth as ‘super-predators’; she supported the vicious attacks on welfare under her husband’s Presidency; she has endorsed numerous imperialist trade deals. Faced with the threat of Sanders, she has recently ‘regretted’ some of these positions, but she has lost the voters who care. Clinton has a proven track record in the service of US imperialism; Trump does not and threatens to disrupt business as usual.

Polls are showing that Sanders would have a larger margin over Trump than Clinton. There is a section of the electorate known as ‘Reagan Democrats’, after the predominantly white working class Democratic voters, who defected to vote for right-wing Republican, Ronald Reagan, in the 1980s, who are likely to vote for Sanders but could switch to Trump if Clinton is nominated. Another obstacle to Clinton is the fact that the President is elected indirectly, by the ‘Electoral College’. Whichever candidate wins a particular state wins the entire slate of what are known as ‘electors’ – intermediaries who are pledged to vote for that candidate. This makes a number of states, with relatively even party support, into ‘Swing States’, whose votes could tip the Presidential election. If Trump prevails in such states, he could be elected President, even with a minority of the popular vote.

For anti-racists, anti-imperialists and progressives, there is no choice between Clinton and Trump – they simply represent different wings of the same imperialist ruling class. We must not get trapped in a phoney campaign for a ‘lesser evil’: the consequences of the election of either candidate will be further attacks on the US working class and more wars and repression. There is only one strategy that sidesteps all these electoral shenanigans: a popular struggle against every manifestation of racism and imperialism and for the replacement of US capitalism by socialism.

Steve Palmer

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 251 June/July 2016

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