By Richard MellorAfscme Local 444, retired
The US election and defeat of Donald Trump brought a collective sigh of relief to millions of people throughout the US and undoubtedly the world. It is not so much that President-elect Joe Biden, a corporate shill who has his roots firmly planted in the Washington establishment, is so highly regarded; it is the relief that the crude, degenerate, misogynist hero of White Nationalism is gone.
But the elections have confirmed what myself had others have asserted on this platform, that we are living in volatile and unpredictable times. There was no Blue Wave (in the US Blue is the color for Democrats, Red for Republicans) as predicted by most pundits and an underestimation of the national support for Donald Trump who received some 8 million more votes than he did in 2016.
As of November 17, Republicans have gained nine seats in the House of Representatives winning 12 Democratic-held districts losing just three of their own so the Democrats will still have the majority in the House but a slimmer one. In Pennsylvania, Republicans kept control of the state legislature. Election officials in Georgia report that the result of a weeklong hand count of ballots will be released by noon today. There are two important Senate races still ongoing there with Republican accusations of socialism, radial leftism, and police defunding being used to discredit their Democratic opponents. Trump and many of his supporters still claim fraud but his lawsuits aren’t going anywhere and there are cracks opening up in the Republican Party over this issue and the firing of his top Homeland Security official, Chris Krebs, for challenging Trump’s claims of election fraud.
Trump’s “firewall”, of white males stuck with him although he received an increase in votes from African Americans and Latinos. For Biden, women and minorities helped him win this election there’s no questioning that. The Black Lives Matter movement and its organizers played a significant role in getting out the vote for Biden in Georgia and Michigan.
The collective relief is justified given that some of the most odious characters in Trump’s Cabinet will be gone. Extreme right-wing characters like Betsy De Vos, the Secretary of Education and Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency for example. Wheeler is a lawyer who has represented the Coal Industry in its opposition to Obama’s regulatory rules.
“Working Class Joe.”
It is somewhat comical that Biden is sold to the US working class voter as “working class Joe” as “working class” is not even used as the collective term for workers. The Pope at Vatican Inc would use the term “working class” more frequently than the heads of organized labor in the US. There are no workers here apparently and I was quite insulted being addresses as a middle class person. I never had such aspirations. I learned as soon as I set foot on US soil that I was middle class and my race, which at the time I thought was English, was “white”. Not only is Joe Biden not working class, he has been for almost half a century, an influential figure in one of the world’s most powerful capitalist parties.
US Capitalism’s Two Parties
US workers have never had a political party of our own at the national level. The trade union leaders support the Democratic Party as many of the union rank and file have become so disgusted with the two-party system that they have abandoned politics altogether. Due to this role played by the trade union officialdom---refusing to offer any alternative to workers in the form of an independent political voice---- US workers have drawn the conclusion that “all” politics is bad in general and all politicians inherently corrupt by default. For millions of people, they do not consider that political parties have class content, that they represent different class interests in society.
And it is important to note that workers are not in the main active in any Democratic Party politics; when they describe themselves as Democrats or Republicans it just means the party they vote for at the ballot box. The Democratic Party is also home to disenfranchised sectors of society, immigrants, the poor, people of color, the disabled, LGBTQ, activists environmental activists and so on.
Both these parties are in crisis and at the end of their historic shelf lives. But while Trump’s odious personality, his open racism, misogyny and brutal character, does offend like no other, when Biden says he will represent “all” Americans equally, he is lying and workers know it, they just associate it with a failing of human character and morals. “They’re politicians, they’re all dirty” so many workers will say.
So while I understand why some people voted for Biden due their understandable hostility to Trump; they are in for a surprise if they think there will be major changes.
Aside from different Cabinet positions and appointees, Biden has promised some changes like rejoining the Paris agreement on Climate Change and the World Health Organization which costs little. But the Democratic Party strategists know that if the Republicans control the Senate Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% (Obama’s was 35%) or his tax on foreign income to 21% from 10.5% will have little chance of passing. This could be a “dream scenario for business” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
The main thing of course is that both Democrat and Republican parties represent the same class interests. They have differences, energy may be more Republican, tech more Democratic, although in general, these forces donate to both parties. They differ in degree and in many ways play the same role the good cop bad cop does; one beats you up, the other gives you a cigarette but they both have the same goals. That’s why when you confront a worker that supports Trump (not the fascist or ideological racist types) they won’t so much as defend him but shift to “whataboutism”. What about Obama? or “Pelosi” owns this or is worth this much and so on.
The truth is, both parties have all the same characters behind them. Biden named “at least 40 current and former registered lobbyists to his transition team.”
One of them is Steve Ricchetti who owned a lobbying firm with his brother. “Lobbying” is the technical term for bribery in US politics. There’s a very good scene in Eddie Murphy’s movie Distinguished Gentlemen that lays this bare.
Another member of his transition team is Mark Gitenstein a
senior counsel at a lobbying firm that has “….lobbied
for the Chamber of Commerce for at least two decades.” The US Chamber of
Commerce even opposed OSHA as toothless as it is.
We don’t have to look very hard to see how intertwined both parties and their candidates are with the corporate world. Eric Rosen, a former aide to Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee represents the Business Roundtable. The BRT is a lobbying group of CEO’s that supported Trumps tax cuts. WSJ 11-17-2020.
“He will always place the public interest at the center of his decisions, because he is accountable to every American he serves as president” says one of Biden’s spokespersons. That’s a lie too but it’s not because of a moral defficieny, it’s in the public interest to lie in these situations. Who the “public” is in these situations is the issue.
And more, “Public servants serve all Americans, not themselves or narrow special interests” says a Biden transition team statement. Right now both parties are spending some $120 million in senate races in Georgia; no worker believes that is being spent to increase their chances of getting cheaper drugs, better health care, more schools or better transportation. Michael Bloomberg spent almost $1 billion for a chance to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. The total cost of the 2020 election is running around $14 billion. The two capitalist parties are competing for our votes to see which section of the US ruling class can get their snouts in the public trough and plunder the world’s resources for the next four years.
Having two parties is a good position to be in for the unelected minority that decide what happens and when in the US
On Super Tuesday, the power in the Democratic Party decided Biden would be their best hope and the left wing, Sanders, the “squad” would be shut down. Biden reassured business leaders that their world wouldn’t fundamentally change. CEO’s aren’t worried. Things will be “more predictable” There will be “no sweeping changes” are some of the reported comments. “In all, a Biden presidency will be slightly less hospitable to business than Mr. Trump’s but also more predictable and, many business leaders hope, boring.”, wrote the Wall Street Journal
The reality is that the Democratic Party is anything but an opposition. It attacked its left wing and blamed them for the narrow victories of some candidates because they were attacked as “socialists” and radicals. Alexandria Ocasio Ortiz countered this absurd argument (usually reserved for the Green Party from the Democratic camp) in an interview in the New York Times explaining how the so-called radicals have shown how to organize and also how to win and win big. Some time back Ocasio Ortiz pointed out that only in the US would she be in the same party as Joe Biden.
The Democratic Party is rightly seen as part of the problem. In the 2016 election almost 100 million opted out. This party controlled both houses and the presidency under Carter, a period during which no major legislation important to workers or labor was passed. Carter also used the Taft Hartley against the miners. In the first two years of the Clinton Administration the party again controlled both houses and the presidency. We had working class and poor women thrown off welfare in to union jobs without the pay and benefits, NAFTA and the same old aggressive murderous foreign policy. Obama, was the drone king, the Deporter-in-Chief and betrayed organized labor’s leadership with the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). I say “leadership” because it was legislation that primarily benefited the leadership and relieved them of the need to do any aggressive organizing.
The Democratic Party alternative is seen as more of the same. Its support for defunding the police hurt candidates far more than the socialist scare. I lived in what we call here a Black community, a relatively ecoonomically depressed community. In a meeting about community issue I once attended, a call to get rid of cops met plenty of opposition from Black residents. ”The drug dealers will have free reign” one woman said. Not only will the capitalist state not defund the police, and certainly not abolish this social force, it is important to have some transitional demands and proposals that can be the basis for replacing them and taking public safety out of the control of the capitalist state. You have to deal with safety linked to jobs, housing opportunity education and do on.
While minor reforms may be forthcoming, it’s important to remind ourselves that not all was well before Trump. Trump is a product of the economic and political crisis of US capitalism, not a cause of it. The pandemic has changed everything. It has shown very clearly who are important or essential members of our society and who aren’t. It has laid bare the weak underbelly of US capitalism and the market and the bankruptcy of the two parties of big business.
The stimulus, the second bailout of the system in 10 years, will have to be paid for and that means workers and the middle class. The global competition between the big powers and the relative decline of US capitalism’s influence on the world stage will mean increased worker exploitation at home. As Joe Biden made clear, the US “has to become more competitive.” But competition harms us. Only an international working class movement and solidarity in action can show a way out.
The CEO’s that are hoping for a “boring” Biden Administration? The class struggles ahead will deprive them of that.