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Trump has lost but the battle is just beginning


November 7, 2020



Why did so many Americans vote for Donald Trump? As the vote count continues it looks like Trump has lost his bid to be reelected President. But he came very close to winning. And the anticipated blue wave for the Democrats didn’t materialize. The left needs to understand why millions of working class Americans put their faith in Trump – and what must be done to shift this terrain.



The Biden campaign squeaked out a victory after voters in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit and Atlanta gave the Democrats the win.



There is real relief that the racist Trump is on the way out. We cannot dismiss the importance of voting out a man who was overtly encouraging a fascist movement. He will, of course use the next months to sow havoc and try to use his racist base to undermine the election result. But far-right groups in the US and around the world will not have a megaphone in the White House, and this is important.
 
But the months ahead promise to be phenomenally unstable. With the Senate tied at 48 for each party, and two run-off Senate elections in Georgia in early January, both parties will be in a battle with each other, and likely with their own base. If they stay true to type, the corporate Democrats will push to suppress demands to tackle unemployment, COVID support, climate, police racism, detention centres, to put forward a status quo platform. The Republicans will vacillate between whipping up racism and reaction and trying to pull votes away from the Democrats in tightly fought campaigns. This situation provides opportunities for both the left and right.



The Democratic party used networks created by the mass mobilizations led by Black Lives Matter as a base for their campaigns, which is why many of the cities that held huge BLM protests voted Democrat.  



The Democrats will not, however, provide a real alternative to the Republicans on most issues. Biden’s history of racism – from writing the Clinton-era crime bill that resulted in mass incarceration, to his support for the war in Iraq – shows he will not ultimately stop the push to the right.



The fact that Biden – a pro-Wall Street candidate his entire career – was chosen by the Democrats showed an utter disdain for the mass movements that erupted since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in June. Indeed, in a situation where they should have won by a landslide, the fact that the race is this close shows how out of touch they were with the mass of voters. 



If there had been a credible pro-working class option, there could have been a very different outcome. In These Times reports that the largest socialist organization in the US, the 80,000 strong Democratic Socialists of America endorsed 29 candidates and 11 ballot inititives across the US. 20 of those candidates and 8 of the ballot initiatives won. As well, there are DSA caucuses in 15 statehouses. Many Americans will vote for socialists, if they are given a chance. 



We also saw this trend in a number of other ballot initiatives and in exit polls. Florida voted for Trump – but also for a minimum wage increase to $15. Exit polls showed most Americans were concerned for their jobs, but majorities also wanted universal heathcare and millions (70%) held pro-immigrant views. This shows that the electorate is more progressive than the electoral options on offer.



As in 2016, the Democratic party’s campaign focus of getting back to the status quo was not compelling. Restoring America’s democracy is meaningless to working people for whom that “democracy” has always lead to a win for corporate America. In the last month of the campaign, corporate money began flowing to Biden as he is seen as a stable set of hands to continue the US imperial project. Trump has become too reckless for corporate America; Biden will keep the profits flowing with less disruption. This is not good news for working people.



The COVID crisis means that people are concerned about their ability to feed and house themselves. Confusion over COVID measures means people are susceptible to Trump’s calls to open up the economy. This will not slow under Biden who is unlikely to do anything that would challenge the profits of the 1 percent, such as widespread lockdowns and meaningful subsidies to support working people who lose their jobs. As is the case around the world, the ruling class is more than willing to sacrifice workers to keep profits flowing.



There is a similarity between this US election and the Canadian election of 2015. At that time, people were happy to see Stephen Harper and the overtly racist Conservatives booted from office (remember the “barbaric cultural practices” hotline?). But the Liberals provided no relief. Trudeau began by buying pipelines, attempting to gut pensions and attacking Indigenous land defenders – objectively encouraging the far right. Lesser evilism is a bitter pill.



Voting under bourgeois democracy is the lowest form of politics. Real progress only comes from the mass movements that can reshape people’s ideas rapidly and win concrete material gains. The real political fights will happen outside this electoral process. The ongoing mass movements against racism, the union fights for jobs, and the climate strike movement will be key. This is a country that has had 1,100 wildcat strikes since COVID started. That is where the hope lies.

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What next for the left after the US elections.
 

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