- Created: Wednesday, 07 December 2016 12:23
- Written by Steve Palmer
The election is over, the dust has cleared. Just as the Brexit referendum result shocked liberal commentators, so has the outcome of the US election. Polls, we were told, predicted a close but definite win for Hillary Clinton. There were even detailed analyses of the failings of the few ‘rogue polls’ which did predict a Trump win. Yet Trump defied the polls, and the immediate hopes of the US ruling class, to win the US Presidential general election. And so the ‘world’s greatest democracy’ is saddled with President Trump. Democrats are shell-shocked, seeming not to realise what has happened and why. Trump supporters are euphoric. Steve Palmer reports.
Immediately prior to Donald Trump’s victory the largely liberal media, the US ruling class and the markets were somewhat nervously expecting a Clinton victory. Clinton was their favoured candidate because she was bought and paid for by Wall Street, and, despite her verbal claims to the contrary, represented business-as-usual. She had a superior ‘ground game’ – the get-out-the-vote machine on the ground – or so they thought. Under a President Hillary, at least the rules would have been clear, and her election would have represented relative stability and predictability. By contrast, Donald Trump had made extravagant promises to his supporters, railing against free trade, the Washington political machine (‘We’re going to drain the swamp’), Wall Street and oppressed sections of US society. Exactly what policies he would actually pursue once sworn-in in January, was a complete unknown. Combined with his animation of dissident right-wing sections of the US working class, his brittle ego and his mercurial temperament, this unpredictability frightened finance capital in the short term. This was reflected in the immediate reaction of global financial markets, which briefly cratered in shock. In Mexico, with 80% of its exports going to the US and one of the three partners in NAFTA (North American Free Trade Area), its currency – the Peso – has collapsed; the longer-term consequences will be increased political and social instability in a country already torn by the violence of the drug cartels and corruption of the Mexican ruling class.
In post-election analysis, much was made of the supposed anger and resentment of non-college-educated ‘white working class’ voters, whose standard of living had been static, or even fallen, over decades due to globalisation. The exit polls, taken immediately after the election, tell a subtly different story. A clear majority of those who earned less than $50,000 voted for Clinton (52% versus 41%), while a slight majority of those who earned more voted for Trump (49% versus 47%). In other words, the poorest section of the working class voted against Trump, while better off people voted for him. Indeed, a county-level analysis shows that it was where unemployment decreased that Trump got his strongest support. Further, while a majority of all those with a college education voted against Trump, a substantial majority of white college-educated men voted for Trump versus Clinton (54% versus 39%). Clearly a simple equation of Trump support with deteriorating economic circumstances does not hold up. However, the racial divide was absolutely clear: 58% of whites voted for Trump, while 74% of non-whites voted for Clinton.
What this adds up to is that, as the privileges of the white labour aristocracy in the US crumble, it is driven to clutch at racist solutions as it scrambles to hold onto those privileges – which are not exclusively economic. They include social power – the ability to discriminate against black people, immigrants, women and minorities now perceived to have ‘unfairly’ been granted access to the social and economic rights previously reserved exclusively for whites, and therefore cast as scapegoats for the loss of those rights. Such discrimination also involves a measure of political power to enforce it. Trump clearly legitimised discrimination: against immigrants and against Muslims, as well as the sexual harassment and oppression of women (who have benefited from civil rights legislation more than black people) and promised political change to support that. All this tinder required was the right kind of spark to incinerate the control of the ruling class establishment. Trump was that spark, a man of boundless personal ambition and a political arsonist who was quite prepared to burn the house down to satisfy his personal ambitions. This was not an impoverished working class voting for Trump despite his racism and misogyny, but the better-off sections of the working class voting for him because of it. Just as with Brexit, since the election there has been a wave of attacks on black people, Latinos and the LGBT community, alongside a surge of overt racism, Islamophobia and misogyny.
Given this ugly reality, it is particularly disgusting to watch those liberals who denounced Trump so vigorously before the election turn on a dime and start to sing a completely different song, extolling his supposed new-found ‘moderation’, his ‘willingness to reach across the divide’, his ‘extending an olive branch to his critics’ etc etc ad nauseam. When Clinton was the darling of the ruling class, Trump was ‘unfit to govern’, a racist, a misogynist, lacking the qualities of a national leader. Suddenly, literally overnight, the tune changed. Clinton called on those who voted for her to give Trump ‘a chance to lead’ and Obama announced that ‘the people have spoken’ and called on his supporters – the very people who will be the object of discrimination – to ‘reconcile themselves’ to a Trump Presidency.
The media’s developing narrative about Trump’s new-found moderation is particularly absurd and outrageous when we examine his core appointments.
- Vice President Mike Pence believes that creationism (‘evolution is just a theory’) should be taught in public schools (a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state). He is also a climate change denier (‘Global warming is just a myth’), an anti-abortionist, believes in abstinence rather than safe-sex education and the use of condoms to fight HIV/AIDS, advocates ‘conversion therapy’ for gay people, has asserted that ‘despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill’, and supports the privatisation of Social Security (the US equivalent of the British State Pension).
- Trump’s chief strategist is Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network. Breitbart has published racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic and anti-semitic material, and is a major source for the so called ‘alt-Right’, the ‘alternative Right’, which out-conservatives mainstream conservatives.
- Trump’s National Security Adviser is Mike Flynn, who believes that Islam is a political ideology and a ‘cancer’, that it is one of the root causes of Islamic terrorism, and has tweeted that ‘fear of Muslims is RATIONAL’. Although he was a Democrat, he delivered a rousing reactionary speech at the Republican National Convention which nominated Trump.
- The new Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, is an abortion opponent, including in cases of rape and incest. He is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, the rabid pro-gun ownership lobbying group. He believes that the science on global warming is inconclusive and opposes restrictions on greenhouse gases. He is a strong supporter of the National Security Agency’s bulk surveillance programmes and, has demanded, ‘after due process’, the execution of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. He opposes closing the Guantanamo Bay internment camp, and, after a visit in 2013, commented on hunger strikers that ‘It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight’. He also opposed the decision to end the CIA’s secret prisons and the requirement that all interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws.
- Jeff Sessions, the proposed Attorney General – the highest legal official in the United States – is anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, pro-war, a climate change sceptic and homophobic.
These are the core of Trump’s team: thoroughgoing case-hardened imperialists and reactionaries. There’s nothing ‘moderate’ about these people: they are all thoroughly fascistic.
While it is not clear exactly what Trump’s actual policies will be, the fact is that Trump is a paper billionaire, and is fundamentally pro-business and pro-capitalist. This has dawned on finance capital, which has also turned on a dime, pushing the stock market higher. One of the cornerstones of Trump’s economic policy is a massive trillion dollar programme to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Unlike Clinton’s infrastructure programme (a mere $250bn effort), Trump’s will be financed by private business. Private capital will benefit first from guaranteed profits on juicy contracts and secondly from the return on the financing, which will be structured so that all risk and costs will be born by taxpayers while all gains go to the capitalists.
The Republican establishment has also realised that Trump’s policies and their policies converge in several major respects, particularly business tax reform, the reduction of business regulation, the abolition of Obamacare and the appointment of a reactionary judge to cement right-wing control of the US Supreme Court. Far from undermining capitalism, Trump will work to strengthen it, but he can’t get around the fact that US imperialism is stagnating and even Donald Trump can’t beat the law of value: What US imperialism needs now is to force the standard of living of its working class even lower. What will happen when it eventually dawns on his supporters that he has betrayed them and hasn’t delivered on his promises is the real unknown.
Internationally, despite all his talk, Trump will still have to promote the interests of US imperialism, so we can expect business-as-usual (wars and oppression) here too, though it is quite possible that the stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will wither and die, along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a similar treaty with certain Asian countries designed to contain China. The ‘Special Relationship’ between US and British imperialism will certainly remain intact, as Theresa May has already affirmed.
The Americans have a saying ‘You can put lipstick on a pig – but it’s still a pig’. Despite the best efforts of Obama, Clinton and the media to give Trump a makeover, a racist pig is still a filthy, stinking, racist pig, wallowing in sewage. The most advanced sections of the US working class and middle-class realise this and have mounted huge demonstrations against the Trump Presidency, even before inauguration. The fightback against the racism, fascism and imperialism of President Trump has already begun.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 254 December 2016/January 2017