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US election—an American horror story

This article is over 3 years, 5 months old
As people brace themselves for the latest election night episode of the American horror story, we all hope for Trump’s exorcism from the White House. But, argues Sophie Squire, the real alternative lies with the mass movements, not Joe Biden, the Democrats and the neoliberal centre
Issue 2728
As Trump battles for re-election, he continues to inspire the far right and racists in the US and globally
As Trump battles for re-election, he continues to inspire the far right and racists in the US and globally (Pic: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

After four years of horror, Donald Trump is facing a huge crisis ahead of the US presidential election next week.

The toll from the pandemic, growing queues outside unemployment offices and food banks and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) revolt against police racism and violence have spelled trouble for Trump.

His disastrous handling of ­coronavirus has caused the deaths of more than 220,000 people across the US—and made worse deep-seated inequalities in US society. It’s the poor and black people who are bearing the brunt, with black Americans dying at three times the rate of white people.

At the same time unemployment is soaring.

As Trump battles for re-election, he continues to inspire the far right and racists in the US and globally.

Most recently, he told a Nazi gang known as the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” ahead of voting. And they are far from the only fascist group he’s boosted.

In a recent TV interview, he also gave tacit support to the QAnon conspiracy theory, a favourite mobilising tool of antisemites and racists.

When a fascist murdered protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in 2017, Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides.

Right wingers feed off Trump’s regime of deportations, internment camps and the constant racist ­scapegoating of migrants.

A recent report by the ACLU civil rights group revealed lawyers are still struggling to find the parents of 545 migrant children affected by the forced separation policy.

U.S. Democrats will not bring real change
U.S. Democrats will not bring real change
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Trump has repeatedly refused to say he will accept the result of the election if he loses.

He has brushed aside plots by far right groups to kidnap and even kill two sitting governors in Michigan and Virginia.

Some people present Trump as an “aberration” or even an “existential threat” to the US. In reality, Trump is just the latest episode in the American horror story. His election win in 2016 was a symptom of a US society in deep crisis.

The “American Dream” of ­capitalism bringing “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was always an illusion and a lie for tens of millions of working class, poor and black people. But that dream had progressively turned into a nightmare in recent decades.

When Trump entered the White House, for instance, average real hourly wages were no higher than they had been in 1972.

In the despair and disillusionment with the failed neoliberal centre, billionaire Trump successfully posed as “anti-establishment” and an “outsider” who would shake up elites in Washington.

The right deflected many people’s anger onto migrants and minorities, and cynically used “culture war” issues such as abortion rights and LGBT+ rights to cut across class.

That was hardly a difficult task when he faced Democrat Hillary Clinton, a lackey of Wall Street and big business and a leading warmonger. This time the Democratic party machine has, once again, made sure to pick one of their own to challenge Trump. For Michael Brown, co-founder of the BLM branch in Long Beach, California, there’s “very little talk about broad policies that will help working class people.”

“Most talk revolves around Biden being a ‘return to civility’ and ‘having a grown up in the White House’,” he told Socialist Worker.

Joe Biden has a certain sheen compared to Clinton because he was Barack Obama’s vice president.

But Biden is the candidate of big business, the Pentagon, the CIA and the other murderers at the heart of the US state. And, despite representing hope for millions of ordinary people, Obama’s neoliberal administration continued imperialist murder abroad and deportations at home.

Biden’s campaign has raked in almost $200 million dollars from donors that gave at least $100,000. This is twice as much as Trump raised—and comes from the rich and corporations.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, he refuses to back universal health care and takes donations from the private health and pharmaceuticals industries.

Biden has had to make a nod to the BLM movement by picking Kamala Harris as his running mate.

But law and order rhetoric has always been a hallmark of his politics. In 1994 he wrote the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which put 100,000 cops onto the streets and channelled money into the prisons complex.


And when BLM erupted this year, he recommended cops be trained to shoot people in the legs.

Millions of working class people will vote Democrat despite them being a bosses’ party. But they will do so with little enthusiasm for the candidate.

A recent poll showed that a ­majority of Biden voters—56 percent—support him because he’s “not Trump”.

There is a huge danger the ­movements and workers’ resistance that sprung up under Trump will be corralled behind Biden. The slogan “settle for Biden”, for example, is a massively popular one on social media and has now become a campaign.

Michael Brown described how in Los Angeles unions are focusing their efforts on getting out the Democratic party at a time when a working class fightback is vital. “The LA County Federation of Labor, every four years, sidelines nearly all labour activity to canvassing and phone-banking for Democrats,” he said.

“As a result, there’s not much room for labour activity outside of narrow electoral politics.”

We’ve been here before. In the 1960s US revolutionary socialist Hal Draper asked, “Who’s going to be the lesser-evil in 1968?”.

He was writing in the aftermath of the last US presidential election, which saw racist Republican Barry Goldwater stand against Democrat Lyndon B Johnson.

Black Lives Matter protests in US demand justice
Black Lives Matter protests in US demand justice
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Johnson, who had taken over as president after John F Kennedy’s assassination, continued his policy of qualified support for the Civil Rights movement.

The Democrats wanted to bring black people into the party’s voting coalition, but contain the movement’s radicalism.

Segregationist Goldwater ran on a platform opposing Civil Rights

Johnson had continued another Kennedy policy—pouring troops into Vietnam to crush a national liberation movement. Sections of the left and the anti-war movement argued that a vote for Johnson was the right choice over Goldwater. As soon as Johnson became president, he sent thousands of troops to Vietnam.

Afterwards, Draper asked, “So who was really the Lesser Evil in 1964?”.

The argument against lining up behind a lesser evil isn’t that there aren’t any differences between the Democrats and Republicans. Draper explained, “What the classic case teaches is not that the Lesser Evil is the same as the Greater Evil.

“This is just as nonsensical as the liberals argue it to be.”


Rather the lesson is that “you can’t fight the victory of the rightmost forces by sacrificing your own independent strength” to those who support the present system.

Scott, a contributor to the Green and Red podcast and part of the Occupy movement, experienced that process in the late 2000s.

“There was a big movement against Bush and his drive to war in 2009 and really Obama demobilised that and then sold us out to Wall Street,” he told Socialist Worker. With the left and social movements corralled behind the Democratic party, it actually strengthens the right.

“With the liberal labour votes in a pocket,” Draper continued, “politics in this country had to move steadily right-right-right-until even a Lyndon Johnson could look like a Lesser Evil.

“This is essentially why—even when there really is a Lesser Evil—making the Lesser Evil choice ­undercuts any possibility of really fighting the right.

“In setups where the choice is between one capitalist politician and another, the defeat comes in ­accepting the limitation to this choice.”

Biden offers no solution to the rot that produced Trump. Hope lies in struggles outside the Democrats, breaking from the two parties that represent the rotten system and fighting for genuine change.

Michael added, “Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are our friends.

“Socialists ought to be playing a role in helping to further the existing social movements in the streets.

“We should continue implanting ourselves within the unions, and raising class politics, including the need for workers to have our own independent party.”

Build on the movements and the resistance—whoever wins

Protests have been a constant feature in Donald’s Trump’s US from day one.

His presidency began with the three to five million people who took part in the Women’s Marches and those who protested and struck against the ban on Muslims entering the country.

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Then came a wave of teachers’ strike over the next few years.

In 2018 West Virginia striker, Virginia, told Socialist Worker how it felt they had “started a revolution”.

“Now Oklahoma has followed suit, as have parts of New Jersey,” she said as the workers’ action spread.

This year has also seen thousands of strikes. Many of these have been wildcat actions in response to unsafe workplaces due to Covid-19. Some 1,100 wildcat strikes have occurred since March according to Payday Report—which tracks workers’ struggle in the US.

And efforts were made to link workers’ struggle to the BLM movement with the strike for black lives in June.

From even the smallest towns, people were taking part in some kind of action to say that black lives matter.

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This revolt will have only opened up conversations about the system.

Albert Lee a member of the Socialists of Colour group in Portland told Socialist Worker how the mood had changed.

“When I and other socialists talked about police abolition or prison abolition, we were treated like those ideas were too radical,” he said in August.

“But now that isn’t the case, these ideas are seen as common sense.”

It’s these struggles, not Biden and the Democrats, that are crucial. Robert of the Green and Red environmental podcast told Socialist Worker, “Trump has to go no matter what.

“But I don’t think people who are part of the struggle will relent.

“They aren’t going to suddenly get behind Biden, they are just going to keep going.

“Some of those on the left are calling for a vote for Biden, a vote for The Green Party or for people to not vote at all. It can get really nasty.

“But really at the root of this, there is this obsession with elections rather than movements.”

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