Trump, Clinton, Stein and Beyond November 8, 2016
I watched the three presidential debates. Trump’s contempt for women, his anti-choice, anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim immigrant stance, his stereotyping of Black and Latinxs, his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations are disgusting. His toxic machismo and not so coded racism and white nationalism were on full display. Clinton, although not as bad, never mentioned poor people and called for—and bragged about—continued U.S. militarism. She could have responded to Trump’s racist claims about electoral rigging and fraud in Black communities, and his comments on Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago, but didn’t. Hillary Clinton could have responded especially in light of the actual past and present racist voter suppression efforts by Republicans and historically by many Democrats) in limiting voting by those with felonies, requiring multiple ID’s, making registration and voting difficult—particularly in low income communities. All three debates were limited by both the failure to address one of the central issues of the day, climate change, and the exclusions of the Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson.
Trump and the Southern Strategy!
The popular support for Trump, even if it is nowhere near a majority of all voters, has been revealed by most studies to be overwhelmingly white and much more male than other genders. Though Trump’s support would be even less then against Clinton if he was running against Bernie Sanders, it is significant and therefore important to understand why it exists. One thing to know is that it is not disproportionately white working class; rather his support comes from whites of all classes. That many wealthy white people support Trump is understandable. After all he is anti-union, anti-corporate regulation and supports tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy by 50 percent or more. This predominate support by whites and Trump’s ease in winning the Republican nomination for President needs to be understood.
Although not as overt, much of what Trump promotes has increasingly dominated the Republican Party. Just look at their platforms and presidential candidates from Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the present. Their Southern Strategy, beginning in Nixon’s campaign in 1968, has been aimed at getting white working class and middle class people to support “law and order” and fostering authoritarianism including unconditional support for the police and military, cracking down on “welfare cheats” and free-loaders, and locking up drug-users and dealers. Sound familiar? This is nothing less than coded racism and so is the increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposed policies against Mexicans, Central Americans and Muslims, e.g. building the wall. The Republican Party is increasingly narrow-minded and white as they appeal to fears of declines in white status and whites being a shrinking proportion of the entire population. Trump is merely the logical conclusion of this hate-filled politics.
The lesser of two evils
The other major party, the Democratic Party, has become a neoliberal party that has, especially since Bill Clinton, been heavily financed by major corporations. It endorses limited social programs such as Bill Clinton’s ending of welfare in 1996 and the privatization of public services such as schools. Neoliberals, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, support and fight for so-called Free Trade agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA) and institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). Perhaps even more important, they have been successful in advocating for corporations, both manufacturing and financial, to have unrestricted access to maximize profits all around the world no matter what the cost to communities, workers and the environment in a race to the bottom in wages, regulation and taxes. This capitalist globalization has contributed to the growing inequality of income and wealth in the United States where more and more of the income goes to the top 10 percent—and especially the top 1 percent—and less and less go to the bottom 60 percent of the population.
Many working class whites justifiably fear for the future of their families and communities. A narrative that blames “the other”—foreigners, immigrants, Blacks people, and especially youth—the appeal of a psychotic demagogue like Trump is not surprising. Adding in the complicity of the mass media and also the racist history of this country, helps us understand why this racist fear-based narrative has so much sway.
The lesser of the two evils, the Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also support war, drone assassinations, a militarized border, and higher corporate profits, and borders open for capital. In addition, the Democrats are often contemptuous of working class and poor people, which workers feel and understand.
This toxic combination of declining economic security and a bleak future together with deep-seated racism causes many to blame those with less power, to look down upon them as the cause of all their problems. This is often easier to accept than to address the fact that many problems they face are caused by the powerful one percent and its neoliberal capitalist system built upon the long history of colonialism, slavery, racism and patriarchy.
What is to be done?
Trump is almost certainly going to lose election but the misplaced anger of his supporters is not going away. There is the danger of a growing fascism from below, which shouldn’t be viewed lightly and must be challenged. Nor should we be complacent with the growing surveillance of civilians and the increasingly militarized police, i.e., the growth of a police state. The Democrats will provide little protection and are likely to continue these trends unless we strongly resist. For the most part, they have supported the growth of mass incarceration, especially of Blacks, Native-Americans and Latinxs. And it is not unusual for most of the police shootings of Blacks and others to have occurred in cities with Democratic Party mayors who have been part of the problem, not part of the solution. These issues in addition to the unresolved economic and environmental crises which will continue if we sit back and are passive with Hillary Clinton in the White House.
Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Movement of 2011 called for uniting the 99% against the 1% and pointed to capitalism as the source of unemployment, poverty, alienation, the declining quality of life and the obscene income and wealth going to a few at the expense of the many. Although short-lived, partially because of government repression, it increased awareness that the cause of our economic problems are not the poor or people of color or immigrants but rather those who have actual economic and political power—the one percent and Wall Street. The popular support of Bernie Sanders is directly connected to Occupy Wall Street. The Sanders campaign energized many and together with the Black Lives Matter, the climate justice movement and the inspiring Native American-led movement in North Dakota, a surge in activism is connecting issues and struggles, and increasingly going beyond reformism and capitalism in seeking alternative values to the dominant ones. Based on my analysis of white working class support for Trump and of these important and inspiring and growing social movements, our challenge is to develop campaigns and programs that challenge corporations and neoliberalism in advocating for economic justice with an equally central anti-racist and pro-immigrant and racial justice politics. This means a principled unity, uniting our struggles and people, not by simply downplaying militarism or racism or homophobia or misogyny, but connecting the movements and the central economic and social and environmental problems of today. It means having empathy for white working people and using popular education methods to build a program that puts the needs of the most oppressed in the front but also in words and actions strives for a principled unity that goes beyond a common enemy, not a least common denominator unity. It means, for example, talking about the virtues of immigration, which gives us the opportunity to learn about and experience diverse cultures and people which is worthwhile and meaningful.
With respect to this presidential election, the Green Party comes closest to putting forward a platform that connects the issues I have been examining. The Greens promote these interconnected forms of justice in a thoughtful program. I support Jill Stein and the Green Party and I suggest you vote for her. Even if Hillary is the lesser of two evils, there is no reason to vote for her as she will easily win Washington State and it is important that there is a significant vote that is to the left of her pro-corporate centrism.
But changing this society will require much more than voting for the Greens or deciding not to vote in the presidential election or even voting for Hillary Clinton. It means learning—not necessarily in school—and sharing what we learn with our friends, family, community, coworkers about the kind of society we want and how to get there. It means getting involved in activism and movements that challenge white supremacy, white nationalism and fascism. We need to continue to organize and pressure Hillary Clinton to keep fossil fuels in the ground and oppose the TPP, to end U.S. warfare and to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Reforms such as giving a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants and reducing police violence are as important as defending hard fought gains such as women’s right to choose and Social Security. They must be combined if we, and the planet, are to survive with non-reformist reforms such as a basic guaranteed income for all, free quality education and quality day care, reducing the prison population and the military budget by 90% or more and opening our borders. These non-reformist reforms are necessary but not sufficient alone and should be part of a strategy and program for liberation that is national and global, of a society where work is meaningful and not alienating, where poverty and hunger and houselessness are ended, where racism and sexism are challenged at their root and overcome. This means ending capitalism and creating a participatory-democratic society based on meeting people’s needs (one not based on profit), a multi-cultural, feminist, sustainable participatory socialist alternative.
It is possible and necessary! Think big and act boldly!
¡Sí, se puede!
Peter Bohmer has been active since 1967 in movements in solidarity with revolutionary struggles around the world and in anti-racist and economic justice movements in the United States. Since 1987, he has taught economics and political economy at
the Evergreen State College.