ON 8 NOVEMBER Donald Trump rode a wave of anti-establishment anger to become the 45th president of the United States in the bitterest campaign of modern times. Trump used blatant distortions and outright lies to convince voters that only he was telling things as they are, only he recognised the sufferings of ordinary Americans, only he dared lay the blame on the crooked, privileged establishment in Washington and Wall Street.
He had an ideal opponent in Hillary Clinton, the very embodiment of this elite, Democrat or Republican. Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama had fostered neoliberal policies that have been downsizing US industries, jobs and wages for 25 years. In doing so they had been steadily eroding their own electoral base and opening the way for a populist demagogue like Trump.
Hard Rain Gonna Fall
His Islamophobia, anti-Mexican racism and even revelations of his shameless misogyny attracted certain strata. Above all they gained him free coverage in mainstream news outlets. Also he had the support of the extreme right wing social media, with Breitbart, a self-proclaimed organ of the sinister “alt right” (the US far right), as a Trump campaigning tool. In the eyes of many it signalled a president with the backbone to push through radical change and the return of better times – to “Make America Great Again”.
Clinton’s counter-slogan, “America IS Great” went down like a lead balloon in many of the so-called rustbelt states and in small town America. It underscored how out of touch the Democrats were with the desperation and anger that has built up from below. Millions, disgusted with both candidates, just stayed home, the root cause of her defeat.
Trump victory was no landslide – indeed he lost by 2.5 million votes and only the undemocratic Electoral College system gave him the presidency. But with Republicans in control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, workers and the racially and socially oppressed face a massive attack over the next four years.
Already Trump’s victory unleashed a wave of thousands of hate crimes and physical attacks aimed at minorities, immigrants and LGBT people. In Trump’s America there will be tax cuts for the rich and welfare cuts for the poor. Black youths already face racist cops murdering them with impunity. Now Trump promises to increase police powers.
Millions of “illegal” immigrants will fear the knock on the door that leads to imprisonment and deportation. Women will soon face a “pro-Life” Supreme Court that could reverse Roe vs Wade, the 1973 case that set a precedent legalising a woman’s right to choose an abortion. This could herald a return to the dangers of backstreet abortions. LGBT people will face a likely erosion of recently won rights.
Public sector trade unions in the 32 States with Republican governors and legislatures are already shackled by “right to work” anti-union laws. Now they can expect Congress to generalise this legislation.
And, as we show below, Trump’s triumph threatens to reverse the meagre advances made to tackle climate change.
However, Trump already faces a wave of progressive anger. Students from state schools immediately took to the streets with the chant, “Not our President!” when the result was announced. Thousands of people, night after night, protested in streets, squares and campuses across the country. Plans have been laid for demonstrations on Inauguration Day (20 January), including a women’s march on Washington.
The key question is how to unite the various sectors into powerful movement beyond the inauguration. To do that we need to bring the working class to the forefront.
Bernie Sanders has once again spoken at mass meetings in the universities, as he did before the Democratic Party convention. He is calling for resistance but he is also continuing his profoundly wrong strategy of reforming the Democrats, which led him to support Clinton. This inevitably means mean a perspective of continued dependence on congressional Democrats and winning elections rather than the kinds of mass action needed to block every attack in the here and now.
If resistance is to be effective, it must not get sucked into the Democrats’ slipstream, only to be demobilised every two years when elections come around. To do this it must set as its goal the creation of a new party of the American working class, open to all those fighting back.