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It’s after 4 am EST on Wednesday morning, and we still don’t know who the next president is going to be. The election appears to be closer than expected. However, Donald Trump prematurely claimed victory around 2.30am and said that he was going to ask the Supreme Court to “stop the voting.” In other words, Trump wants the Supreme Court to stop counting the votes and hand him the election.
This would be a major assault on basic democratic rights. Millions of votes are still waiting to be counted across the country, and if the counting is aborted, then those voters will be robbed. The election is incredibly close, with millions of mail-in ballots yet to be counted. Key swing states like Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have not yet counted all the votes, and mail in ballots are under-represented. Now, Trump wants to stop the vote count and make the right-wing Supreme Court decide the election. This a cynical political move designed to secure an election that, very clearly, Trump isn’t confident he won. He claims that this election is being “stolen.” And the truth is that it is: it’s being stolen from the millions of people whose voices won’t be heard because of the inherently undemocratic system of American “democracy.”
Trump’s attempted heist was made easier by the fact that there was no “blue wave” or mass rejection of Donald Trump despite millions of reasons for the electorate to do so. In fact, voter turn-out surpassed 2016 by far. Trump has picked up Florida and Ohio — two states where Biden was hoping to pull off a victory. At the time of writing, Trump holds a lead in several “must win” states for Biden, but those states also haven’t counted votes in key areas. Even so, there are some progressive measures that were passed. For example, Oregon decriminalized possession of small amounts of all drugs, including meth, cocaine, and opioids. Portland passed free preschool-for-all, New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona legalized marjuanna, and California restored the right to vote for formerly incarcerated people.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After all, Five Thirty Eight said Trump only had a 1/10 chance of winning these elections. In fact, even if the polls were off by as much as the 2016 election, Biden would still win. And that may still be the case. But many expected this to be a blow-out, a total rejection of Trumpism and the right-wing politics that landed us in the present crisis. This theory was perpetuated by the idea that more voters means more Democratic Party voters. This election cycle demonstrated that that’s not necessarily true. There was a massive turnout, but it doesn’t seem to have meant a landslide victory for Biden. In fact, it seems that Trump gained ground in key sectors, particularly among Latinx people not only in Miami, but around the country.
On the other hand, it seems that “the Rust Belt” of the upper Midwest —the so-called former Blue Wall of unionized factory workers — that flipped for Trump in 2016 is giving him a run for his money this time around. Similarly, elections in Texas ended up much closer than in the past, with Arizona flipping for Biden and Georgia too close to call — highlighting that demographic changes make solid red states increasingly precarious for the Republican Party, portending difficulties for the party in the future. The same is true of Georgia and North Carolina, where demographic changes and a strengthening of the urban and suburban areas are giving Biden a fighting chance in both states. In addition, the results are showing an increased polarization within the electorate as the divide between urban and rural areas deepens.
After all, over 220,000 people have died as a result of the pandemic, due to the completely murderous policies of a President who literally told people to inject themselves with bleach; who is so out of touch with reality that he says we’re “rounding the corner” on COVID in the midst of a third wave. And yet, this is a close race.
After the biggest left movement in recent U.S. history, the Black Lives Matter movement, it is a close race, with vehement white supremacist and xenophobic Donald Trump claiming victory in the election after explicitly running against the Black Lives Matter movement.
And even given the massive support sectors of capital have given Biden, in the most expensive election in U.S. history, it’s a really close race.
It’s a nail-biter, and it looks to be stretching on much longer.
It was a given coming into the election that Trump would lose the popular vote even if he were to win the electoral college. If Trump comes out on top in these swing states, it will be the third time in the last six presidential elections the person who got the most votes did not win the election. This is what a stolen election looks like, but it isn’t just Trump and the Republicans. The Democrats have been active participants in upholding the anti-democratic institutions of the U.S. state.
In this “democracy,” only a few states — and in fact, only a few counties — decide the entire election. It means that a few thousand votes in the Rust Belt count more than votes in California or New York City. It’s a system built on the legacy of slavery that continues to disenfranchise the vote of people of color.
But the electoral college is far from the only reason why the outcome of this election will have very little to do with the will of the people. Undocumented immigrants, those who haven’t been nationalized, and people under the age of 18 are all barred from voting. In many states, formerly incarcerated people can’t vote. It is worth mentioning here the extremely undemocratic mechanisms keeping 1.2 million formerly incarcerated people from voting in Florida; after a ballot measure enfranchised them, state courts claimed that formerly incarcerated people could not vote unless they paid fines and fees — which were difficult to find, and costly and time consuming to pay. These 1.2 million people could have swung the election. And they, along with currently incarcerated people, deserve a vote.
In addition, systematic voter disenfranchisement has created significant barriers to voting access. All of this adds up to a system that cannot, in good faith, be called democratic, and it’s one that both parties have supported. And yet, this election cycle had quite high turnout, despite these attempts to suppress the vote.
Furthermore, after the election, Trump wants the election to be decided in the Supreme Court, the undemocratic institution with nine unelected elites meant to interpret the slave-owners’ document known as the Constitution. It’s a court where Trump recently placed ultra-right wing Amy Coney Barrett on the bench. He wants a 2000-like scenario where the courts decide to stop the counting of the votes and hand over the election to the Republican nominee, with the consent of the Democrats. Indeed, three of the current Supreme Court justices worked as lawyers on Bush’s case in Bush v. Gore. There is precedent for a Supreme Court intervention, and it may be the result in these elections.
The Democrats are also to Blame
But this tight race isn’t just about the electoral college. And it’s not just about Trump stealing the election.
Even if he does still win the election, Biden is struggling more than many expected. And this time, the Democrats can’t blame third parties. Third parties seem to have made less of an impact than they did in 2016. In fact, almost the entire socialist left swallowed their principles and got out the vote for Biden. And yet, it is still a close race.
Biden is struggling because he is an entirely uninspiring candidate who attempted to make the election a referendum on Trump. “Settle for Biden” just isn’t a good rallying cry. But it turns out that you need to give people more than someone to vote against. You have to give people something to vote for because in fact, in every election you are voting for someone. We hate Donald Trump, but he gave his base something to vote for. He ran as more than “Not the other guy.” Donald Trump promised to keep the economy open, which may have attracted some people to his side for fear of struggles in a lockdown. He promised to protect American jobs — being tough on China and tough on immigration. He promised to put “America First” in the upcoming economic crisis.
Joe Biden ran as a return to the status quo. As “back to normal” and “bring the country together.” He ran as respectable and polite, but on policy, he was sparse on details. Sure, he’ll wear a mask, but he gave few details on a different approach to the pandemic. Joe Biden ran as the stinking corpse of progressive neoliberalism — neoliberalism with a diverse veneer. During the historic Black Lives Matter movement, Biden doubled down on his support for “law and order.” But progressivism already died in the 2016 election. This isn’t just a Biden problem; it’s a Democratic Party problem. They, as a party, are nothing more than a collection of neoliberal shills, spouting slogans but offering no solutions. Turns out, this wasn’t enough for the “blue wave” that so many were betting on tonight.
The Democrats struggled to make headway on their quest to retake the Senate, though many of the races still haven’t been called. At the time of writing, they are behind in Montana, North Carolina, and Maine — all of which were key to their path for control. While the morning and the coming weeks could tell a different story, as of right now it doesn’t appear that this election was a repudiation of the Republican Senate. This is also reflective of the failure of the milquetoast nature of the Democratic Party’s messaging. They didn’t put forward a real alternative program on the issues that matter most to people (per the CNN exit poll): the economy, racial justice, and the coronavirus. On all of those issues, the Democratic Party had attacks for the Republicans but nothing to actually offer the voters.
There are policies that are immensely popular, like Medicare for All. However, Biden refused to differentiate himself from Trump with even this minimal reform. Instead, Biden chose to argue that he was more “decent” than Trump, while not proposing any real changes to people’s lives. In fact, they did everything in their power to defeat the left wing of their party, promising nothing more than the status quo. And like in 2016, this was entirely uninspiring for mass swaths of the population. In addition, in the face of a major uprising against racist state violence, Biden and the Democrats positioned themselves as being the explicit allies of the police and the state. Sure they wore kente cloth and tweeted that Black lives matter, but they also gave speeches and made videos about how most cops are good and that the looters were just as bad as the killer cops.
Unlike in 2016, there is a more active, radicalized right ready to mobilize for a Trump victory. This radicalized right won’t be defeated at the polls with centrist Democrats offering absolutely nothing to voters.
Elections won’t defeat the right. We do that in the streets.
What is certain is that this is the scenario that shows the worst of the American regime and its institutions. It is the scenario that shines a bright light on the undemocratic mechanisms in the U.S. republic. It is a scenario that will highlight the undemocratic nature of the electoral college, of the Supreme Court, and of the Presidency itself. The next few days are likely to be a whirlwind scenario, with Biden attempting to fight this out in the court of law, retaining the legitimacy of U.S. institutions. But there is no guarantee that this will work. Just look at the Amy Coney Barret confirmation hearings. And just look at the Democrats in 2000, when the Democrats discouraged people from protesting against the Supreme Court decision to steal the elections. In a memoir about Bush v. Gore, labor organizer Jane McAlevey writes, “People were willing to leave their daily grind and step into history to defend their democracy, on a scale that could be called massive without exaggeration.” In other words, masses of people would have defended the right to have all of the votes counted. However, the Democrats and the unions “smothered the movement moment in Florida, snuffed it right out.”
We can play a role in forcing the state to count the votes, as well as in defeating the far right and in securing the needed aid for working class families. This means putting up a fight against the Democrats and Republicans. Some sectors of workers have spoken about striking against election rigging, and it in fact does come to this. We need to take the streets and organize in our workplaces; we need to shut it down. We must defend our democratic rights against all attacks against them. The Democrats won’t do this, but we can.