Photo: Getty Images
Reactionary reality TV star and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defeated former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a victory that left most observers stunned. Trump, who ran a divisive, racist and sexist campaign, won on a right-populist program that was long on promises and long on blame. Trump heaped abuse on immigrants, women, minorities and Washington “insiders,” blaming them for the stagnant economy and the country’s decline. However, the promises he made, like bringing industry back and renegotiating trade deals, will be dead on arrival. Despite his rhetoric, Trump’s allegiance is to the rich. Workers, women and oppressed nationalities are bracing themselves for even more attacks on our democratic rights and economic gains won by past generations.
Clinton lost, despite the fact that she had the support of Wall Street and key Republicans repulsed by Trump. Trump is a crude and unpredictable figure who will be difficult to control. The ruling class did not want Trump because, above all, they want stability. The liberal explanation for the Trump win is that racism and sexism alone are to blame–Trump voters are just dirty-minded, stupid white workers, etc. This is a dangerous method of thinking. It is true that Trump tapped into a deep well of chauvinism against immigrants and people of color. His rallies were carnivals of racism, with people, including some white workers, screaming racial epithets. In the last weeks of the campaign, Trump attacked “international bankers” and “globalists” which are code words for Jews. Endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and police unions, Trump rode to election day on a wave of reaction.
However, racism isn’t the only explanation for Trump’s success.
Many white people, ruined by the economic crisis and what they see as effects of globalization, have turned to the right-populist Trump. Trump’s better-than-expected performance in areas where industry has been decimated demonstrates part of his appeal. At a rally in September, Trump said, “It used to be cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now cars are made in Mexico, and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”
Many voted for Trump because they wanted a change. Many will likely turn against Trump when his inability to fix the economy and other social problems becomes apparent.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the social-democratic sheepdog, tapped into the same deep well of disgust for the status quo, but from the “left”–with a warmed-over version of the New Deal. The fact that he was booed at some Clinton events in the last days of the campaign shows that some of the DP base understand the Party’s inability to address this mass dissatisfaction. What Sanders and Trump both represent is a repudiation of the “establishment” in their respective parties. By supporting Clinton, Sanders sold out his followers to the forces of business as usual. The Democratic party had no intention of letting Sanders win the nomination. The DNC conspired behind the scenes to rob the Vermont Senator of the party’s nod.
Democrats and liberals are going to try to blame Clinton’s defeat on third party candidates like the Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian Gary Johnson. But the Democrats themselves deserve the blame for this defeat, having been the party of cuts and war just as much as the Republicans. Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate with huge negative numbers from the beginning. This election is the sign of deep popular revulsion with business as usual and a deepening crisis of the two capitalist parties.
The Democrats will likely read this defeat as a sign that they must move (further) to the right, as they did after Reagan was election in 1980. In the mid-80s, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) fought for a rightward reorientation by the Democrats. The presidency of Bill Clinton was the DLC’s first success story. As president, Clinton pushed through NAFTA and dealt a death blow to the welfare state, however limited it always was in comparison to European countries. He pushed through a Crime Bill that restricted the right to appeal in death penalty cases and laid the basis for mass incarceration. Under Clinton, one million Iraqis, including a half million children, have died under the genocidal sanctions regime.
Working in the Democratic Party is a dead-end for workers, the oppressed and the left. Attempts to reform or realign this capitalist party have failed. It’s time to move on. When faced with defeat, the Democrats move closer to the policies of the openly racist, anti-labor Republicans.
Defeat the “alt-right” and white nationalism
This movement has gained some wind in its sails from the Trump campaign and Trump’s victory will only embolden them. We take our lessons from past attempts by the racist far right to gain mass acceptance- mass counter-mobilization against the right and self-defense organizations based in the organizations of the oppressed and working people are key. We cannot depend on cops, courts or capitalist politicians to defend us.
We will fight back
Capitalism’s victims will revolt and fight back. This mass discontent will be harnessed by either the far right or the left. It’s the task of the left to make sure this resistance is based on a left and working-class program.
The independent socialist left need to hit the ground running–building mass organizations aimed at fighting back against the Trump program of attacks against the oppressed and the working class. United front mass actions should be at the center of our considerations. Mobilizations on Inauguration Day should be organized in every town and city to say with one voice that we will fight back.
Now is not the time to build the Green Party. All the flaws and weaknesses of the petty bourgeois Greens are exposed for those who choose to see them. Stein and her running mate both pandered to 9-11 “truther” conspiracy theories. While claiming to be anti-capitalist, the Green program is aimed at taking the sharp edges off of the system, not at abolishing it. The Greens want to break up the big banks, not nationalize them under workers’ control. Keynesian reforms wrapped in a Green package will not solve the problems of this system.
We need to be fighting for an independent socialist and working-class alternative. The entire left should be engaged in a discussion of how to move forward–both in the streets and at the ballot box. Would slates of independent socialist congressional and senate candidates on a common program be possible? How do we channel the energy of Occupy, Black Lives Matter, No DAPL, and leftward-moving Sanders supporters into the beginning of a new movement? The US left must necessarily break out of its isolation and sectarianism.
The fight for democratic and economic demands
A fighting program would be uncompromising in defense of social security and for a national healthcare system that guarantees health care as a right. It would defend the right to organize and strike. Such a program would fight for a livable minimum wage and the right to a job. The program would defend the rights of the oppressed and call for jailing killer cops and an end to mass incarceration. It would defend a woman’s right to choose and defend the lives of children and the right to an education. A fighting socialist program must go beyond reforms and pose the question of what working-class power would look like–ie., transitional demands like the nationalization of banks and the Fortune 500 under workers´ control, or dismantling the imperialist war machine and the withdrawal of the US military from overseas. Of course, a complete program will be more extensive than space allows for here.
This means uniting all those who can be united in defense of our class and the oppressed.
Trump and his acolytes want to turn the clock back on democratic rights, the rights of minority groups, women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQI rights. They want to enact reactionary anti-worker measures like a national right-to-work law and the privatization of social security.
The urgent tasks ahead of us can only be accomplished through struggle and hard work. Let the resistance to Trumpism begin now.