Post-Traumatic Election Shock
Defeat Trump … And the Democrats
Internationalist Group protests Trump and the Democrats, Los Angeles, November 9.
NOVEMBER 10 – The effect of Tuesday’s election was a thunderbolt in the night sky. After all the media happy talk, even into the early evening, that Democrat Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in – the first woman president following the first black president – suddenly it was clear that Republican Donald Trump was elected. The racist, sexist, immigrant-bashing, woman-molesting Trump would be the next CEO of the United States and commander-in-chief of U.S. imperialism. By the next morning tens of millions were asking, in deep shock and disbelief, how could this happen? And in Muslim, Latino, African American and immigrant families there was raw fear.
So what is to be done? The big business media are all praising the “orderly peaceful transfer of power.” President Barack Obama says of Trump, “We are all now rooting for his success.” In her concession speech, Clinton said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” That tells the billionaire bully he can walk all over opposition. We say hell no! Those who are targets of the victorious race-haters and labor-haters must fight them down the line, or else we will pay “big league.” The Democrats hand over the reins of power “graciously” because they and the Republicans all represent the same capitalist class against us, the workers and oppressed.
For many the election result was like a horror film, a scene out of The Night of the Living Dead. The message: Be afraid, be very afraid. In school Wednesday, Latino students fearfully asked their teachers: what will happen to me, will my parents be deported? Immigrants rights activists reported a torrent of phoned death threats. Groups of racists yelled “time to get out of this country” at random Middle Easterners. Muslim women feared to wear the hijab, the Islamic head scarf. A prominent African American spokesman, former Obama advisor Van Jones proclaimed it was the #Whitelash, recalling the racist backlash against the civil rights movement.
Soon protests began: thousands of young people across the country have been marching. The most common slogan was “Not My President,” along with “Dump Trump” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump go away.” But Trump is the victor in the bourgeois elections – always rigged to ensure the selection of a defender of capital – and he isn’t going away because thousands or tens of thousands chant it. The slogans showed a yearning for Clinton (sometimes explicit, like numerous signs in New York, “Still Stronger Together”). And they expressed patriotic liberal democratic illusions – the idea that this is “our country” when in fact it belongs to the capitalists.
So the issue is posed: it is urgently necessary to fight back, but how? With right-wing Republicans in control of all three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) – from the White House to both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and most state houses – even staid Democratic politicians and pundits are talking about electoral “disaster,” “apocalypse” and “resistance.” But here there is a fundamental class difference: for working people and the oppressed it is necessary to oppose all parties of capital, to dump both the Democrats and The Donald. So in order to resist, we must first understand what happened, and why.
Ask yourself: would there be this traumatic shock, would there be these mass protests if the Democrat had been elected? Of course not, because for many of those marching, even if they didn’t vote for her, Hillary Clinton was in some way a “lesser evil” than the consummately evil Donald Trump. Not so. As the Internationalist Group said on our website, it was “the ‘choice’ between the candidate most likely to set off a racist pogrom (Donald Trump for the Republicans) and the candidate most likely to start World War III (the Russia-phobic Democrat Hillary Clinton).”
So why was Trump elected? Liberal commentators portray it as simply the victory of rampant racism, particularly of white workers. No one could miss Trump’s blatantly racist appeals, and the 50% of voters who voted for him at the very least went along with that. The Ku Klux Klan and various Nazi outfits enthusiastically backed him. But the hard-core racist vote is much smaller – maybe a quarter of the electorate – and has been violently attacking Obama since 2008. Trump also won the votes of better-off middle class sectors (the average Trump voter had a family income of $72,000), as the Republicans generally do.
But what put Trump over the top were the others, residents of rural towns whose youth are leaving because they have no future there, and workers who have seen their industries decimated and their cities devastated. The rage against Washington comes from victims of the 2008 crash and continuing economic depression thrown into permanent unemployment or reduced to part-time jobs at Walmart wages. This revolt by small town America and Rust Belt workers is against “free-trade” policies of both Democrats and Republicans. They are not all racists: in fact, millions of them, 12% of all Trump voters, also voted for Barack Obama. They are victims of capitalism.
To the high-flying “neo-liberal” elite, these are “forgotten people,” the residents of “fly-over” country between Wall Street and Hollywood whose money men finance Clinton and Obama Democrats. The arrogant policy wonks of Bill Clinton Inc. see those who voted for Trump as the “losers” in the globalization of “modern” capitalism, while the “winners” are the Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Having lost their jobs, their homes repossessed by the banks, makes them easy prey for demagogues selling the fool’s gold of anti-immigrant racism. The fact is that the Democrats pushed millions of workers into the arms of Trump.
The Democratic politicians won’t and can’t admit this, writing off white blue-collar workers as racist, because it is their policies that are responsible. Liberal pundits like Thomas Friedman who pushed these policies are thrown into despair: “I am in anguish, frightened for my country and for our unity. And for the first time, I feel homeless in America” (New York Times, 9 November). Pseudo-radical leftists who spout theories of “white skin privilege” likewise seek to make white workers responsible for black oppression, when it is this racist capitalist system that profits from dividing white against black workers.
While the “neo-liberal” liberals are in despair, various reformists and liberal “progressives” are arguing that the problem is that Hillary Clinton was the wrong Democratic candidate. They say it should have been Democratic Party “socialist” Bernie Sanders, who posed as a “friend of labor” and in early opinion polls did far better against Trump than friend of Wall Street Clinton. But Sanders (who fulsomely supported Clinton) didn’t have a very different economic program because “neo-liberalism” is not a policy it is the current phase of decaying capitalism, in which driving down wages is dictated by the same falling rate of profit that set off the 2008 crash.
Various reformist left groups pushed Green Party candidate Jill Stein, whose eco-capitalist program offered nothing to workers, spelling calamity for steel and coal workers in the name of supposedly fighting climate change. Others put forward their own candidates with a laundry list of illusory demands on the capitalist state (see “Left Green Dream of People-Friendly Capitalism,” The Internationalist No. 45, September-October 2016). The Internationalist Group uniquely fought in the unions to break with the Democrats, Republicans and all capitalist parties and build a class-struggle workers party.
This program, supported by the Painters union in Portland, Oregon is what could offer a real answer to Trump demagogy. It should be fought for in the labor movement throughout the country. But now we are going to face the attacks of the triumphant Trump forces, which pose an ominous threat to oppressed sectors in particular. To fight the impending attacks, it is necessary to put forward a program to mobilize the power of the workers movement. If the new regime seeks to reinstitute raids in the urban centers, there should be workers mobilizations to prevent deportations, including blocking them by flooding the area with defenders of immigrant rights.
Education workers should prepare to stop any attempt to seize undocumented students and their families. If a school should shut down, and be backed by others, in response to the seizure of an immigrant family, it would send shock waves across the country. And Marxists not only defend the right of free speech and assembly, we stand for the right of black self-defense against racist attacks, in opposition to liberal gun control advocates. In the present atmosphere, African Americans and others would be well-advised to prepare to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
All of these practical steps for resistance against racist reaction on the march can only be a partial answer and point to the ultimate solution: workers revolution. Whether a Donald Trump or a Hillary Clinton (or Barack Obama) is in the Oval Office, the capitalist system will inevitably continue to generate racism, poverty and war. We denounced Clinton’s policies in Syria and Ukraine for threatening military confrontation and even full-scale war with Russia. Trump is making nice with Putin, but at the same time threatening trade war and worse against China. As Trotskyists, we emphatically defend the Chinese deformed workers state against imperialist attack.
The upset election of Donald Trump has shocked many opponents of racism, sexism and anti-immigrant chauvinism to the core. It has dealt a body blow to the Clintonite Democratic Party. It has not only thrown the capitalist political establishment into disarray, it has led many to question the whole political structure (including the Electoral College, a bastion of the slavocracy up to the Civil War, due to which Trump can lose the popular vote but still end up president). But what this shock to the body politic poses is not a phony “political revolution” like Bernie Sanders and his acolytes preached, but full-blown international socialist revolution.
That is the answer to Trump … and to Clinton, the Democrats and all the bosses’ parties and politicians!■