The US presidential election is only a few months away now and polls are narrowing in this extremely polarised contest, writes TY NOLAN. President Trump is facing off against the Democrat’s establishment nominee, Joe Biden.
Notwithstanding the fact that the election takes place in the context of the biggest economic, political and social crisis in the US in decades, or that Trump is an un- qualified disaster, Biden has promised his wealthy donors (at a fundraiser in Manhattan) that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected.
The US has become the epicenter for the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, over six million people in the US have been infected with Covid-19. Nearly 200,000 have tragically died from the virus. While economists were predict- ing that an economic recession was looming in any case, the pandemic has been the tipping point. Around 22 million jobs were lost during lock- down, and only about half of those jobs have been recovered. For millions, this means they have lost their health insurance at a time when they may need it most. A stimulus package in March saw $4.7 trillion go to big businesses while only $250 billion is allocated for payments to working people! The $600 payment has been stopped. More than 14.5 million people are collecting unemployment benefits, compared to 1.7 million a year ago. Over the summer 75 million food boxes from the Department of Agriculture were picked up by hungry families. Meanwhile the top 12 billionaires in the US have increased their combined wealth to over $1 trillion!
Inequality spurs revolts
In response to all this a new wave of militant activists has emerged in the US. Amazon factory workers, Detroit bus drivers, and New Orleans sanita- tion workers have organised strikes and walkouts in protest over unsafe working conditions. The US has been a striking example that the prioritis- ing of profits over the health of work- ers, which is central to capitalism, is no longer being accepted by workers. Likewise, communities of colour have been among the hardest hit groups during the pandemic. Frontline workers are disproportionately people of colour. The borough of Queens in New York, the most racially diverse place in the world, be- came the epicenter of the virus in the US. People of colour, but especially black people, are dying at far higher rates than their white counterparts, in large part due to the poverty conditions which are disproportionately rife in their communities. On top of this, the tragic murder of George Floyd has reignited the Black Lives Matter movement. A multiracial working-class movement of mil- lions has spread throughout the country in protest of the mistreatment of black people by the police. Demands to defund the police and reinvest in communities of colour have become widely popular. Importantly, working-class solidarity has been built that did not exist to the same extent five years ago. Potentially the largest movement against injustice in US history has occurred in spite of the ongoing pandemic.
The two capitalist parties
Both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions happened recently, where each party put forward their response to these crises and a vision for the future during this complicated period. The Republican National Convention went as expected with Trump at the helm— demagogic and racist bile spewed from speaker after speaker. Republicans stressed in hysterical fashion the threat of violent mobs ri oting and looting small businesses during the Black Lives Matter protests. They warned Americans that socialism was threatening their freedoms. Trump focused on his su posedly brilliant handling of the economy while the country faces its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The unfortunate reality is the Republicans do have their base of support, but they are nonetheless massively out of step with the majority of working-class Americans who support the protests (65%) and left policies like Medicare For All (69%). The theme of the Democratic National Convention was true to Biden’s promise that his presidency will not fundamentally change anything. The left-wing policies put forward by Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign such as free college educa tion, a Green New Deal, and Medicare
For All were notably left off of Biden’s platform. Democrats have adopted a strategy of orienting themselves to- wards “swing voters” and “never Trump Republicans” instead of tap- ping into the progressive base of young and working-class people. Any policy deemed to be too radical will be left on the cutting room floor. This approach is completely out of tune with the mood of most working- class people at this moment. More Republicans spoke at the Democratic Convention than ‘progressives’, let alone self-described socialists like Sanders or AOC. This move by the Democrats will further alienate young people and all those being radicalised by the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement who enthusiastically support the ideas popularised by socialists in the US such as a $15 min- imum wage, funding public housing, Medicare For All etc.
A repeat of 2016?
Democrats are repeating the same mistakes they made in 2016. Nominating a life-long corporate politician will not motivate working-class peo ple to go to the polls. Adopting a plat- form of marginal reforms is no longer accepted by many Americans. These moves show that working-class peo- ple are not welcome in or repre- sented by the Democratic Party. Furthermore this strategy is inca- pable of building an actual alterna- tive to the right-wing populism of Trump. The failings of the Democratic Party mean there is a real chance that Trump can win a second term. Work- ing-class people need to learn the les- sons from 2016 and 2020, and move forward by building a socialist alter- native to the “two-party system” and capitalist status quo.