Vi publicerar här en analys av presidentvalet i USA och de kommande dramatiska åren med Donald Trump som president. Artikelförfattaren Pat Byrne förutspår att Trumps mandatperiod kommer att skakas av vågor av masskamp som kan leda till att vänstern kraftigt flyttar fram sina positioner. Vi har valt att dela upp den djupgående analysen i två delar och vi ber om överseende med att vi av tidsskäl publicerar artikeln oöversatt.
Trump’s Victory Will Lead to a Big Shift to the Left in America – Part 1
Trump’s controversial election as the next US President will soon come to be seen as a phyrric victory, “won” on a false platform and a rotten bill of goods.
Never having held any public office, Trump has ignored at his peril the basic responsibilities that standing for election involves. He approached his campaign to become president as a super salesman making false and exaggerated promises left right and centre, and without a thought for the consequences. But political office is not like making a sale to a gullible customer, then ignoring their complaints while moving on to the next sucker. After an election the electorate can hold you to account.
Moreover, after winning the Presidency there is no next sale to be made. When things go wrong a President Trump will not be able to pass the buck – for the American people the buck stops at the White House.
Worse still, by cloaking himself in progressive economic clothes with promises of a return of jobs and plenty to the workers, and an end to corruption in Washington – promises that he has not the slightest intention of delivering – Trump has created the most almighty rod for his own back. Trump has set himself up to fail, and to fail spectacularly.
At the same time, by viciously targeting ethnic minorities and offending women during the election campaign, Trump has alienated himself from large sections of the population, even before he starts his roller coaster presidential term. It is unprecedented in American politics to see mass demonstrations against a newly elected president. Likewise, the shock, revulsion and ridicule that Trump’s election has called forth from so many commentators. This is merely a harbinger of the future wave of radical protests and mass disgust that will sweep Trump out at the next election, along with the Republican right that he is allied with.
As such, Trump’s election is yet another symbol of the increasing polarisation of American politics and of the inexorable decline of the American empire.
Trump Didn’t Really Win
In any analysis of the American Presidential election result, the first thing that needs to be pointed out is that Trump didn’t really win it. When all the votes are finally counted, Clinton will have won the popular vote by more than a million votes, and possibly by as much as 2% in percentage terms. In any sensible election system, Clinton would now be the President, not Trump. Yet, because of the archaic electoral college setup used to elect US presidents Hillary’s direct voting majority was transformed into a big loss with only 43% of the electoral college votes (232) to Trump’s 57% (302 votes).
The only other time in the 20th and 21st centuries when the popular vote was overturned by this strange electoral college system was in the year 2000 when right-wing Republican George W. Bush defeated Democratic candidate Al Gore. That election hung on a miscount in the single state of Florida, with Bush being saved by a narrow decision of the conservative-dominated Supreme Court. And we all know the disastrous consequences of that election – the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars that have plunged those areas into continuing destruction and chaos.
This naturally leads us to ask the obvious question: why does America have such an undemocratic system for deciding who its Presidents should be rather than a direct vote as in most other countries? After all, each US State Governor, who plays exactly the same role in relation to the state legislature as the President does to Congress, is elected by direct vote.
The answer lies in the historical development of the United States. More specifically, it was introduced as a means of incorporating the slave system within the Founding Constitution – if there had been direct elections for the President then the southern slave states would have had very little influence given their small white populations that were eligible to vote contrasted to their massive black slave populations who weren’t. Clearly the slavers would have been overwhelmingly outvoted by the voters in the non slavery states, and for this reason they were unwilling to sign up to the new Founding Constitution without a mechanism designed to tilt Presidential elections in their favour. To ensure their participation, direct election was rejected in favour of an electoral college which guaranteed every state, representation no matter how small its population. More importantly, the arrangement boosted the number of slave state electoral votes by allowing them to include 60% of their non-voting slaves in their population counts – thus each slave was viewed as being only 60% human with their white masters being entitled to cast their votes for them! As a result of this corrupt system, no less than eight out of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian, Virginia being the most numerous slave state.
Millions of potential votes for the Democratic Party have been deliberately suppressed by the introduction by Republican-dominated state governments of regulations designed to exclude large numbers of poor people and ethnic minorities. The biggest exclusion concerns those who have committed a crime – over 7 million citizens have had their votes permanently taken away making the United States the only country to withhold the vote from felons even after they have served their sentences and been released.
Over recent years, a number of other regulations have been introduced by Republican states to make it difficult for poorer people to register to vote. Such measures have accelerated since the narrowly carried decision of the Supreme Court (by five votes to four) in 2013 to remove key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which controlled voter registration in individual States.
“In 2016 alone, at least 14 states installed restrictive voting laws around the country, including limitations on voter registration, photo ID mandates and narrower time periods for early voting” (Brennan Center for Justice). A favourite trick has been to remove large numbers of voters from voting lists on the pretext of preventing voter fraud through double voting, a virtually non-existent problem in American elections. In contrast, voter participation has gone up dramatically in those few states such as Oregon where voting barriers have been removed through automatic voter registration at driving licence centres and with ballots by mail being sent out to registered voters in advance.
The manipulation of the voting registers in the Republican-dominated states has without doubt helped Republican not only win this Presidential election but elections for the Congress and local State governments.
Low Voter Turnout
Even if we disregard these undemocratic aspects of the US election system, there is a deeper problem in American democracy: the abysmally low turnout of voters in most elections. Despite all its self-proclaimed propaganda about being a beacon of democracy, when it comes to voter participation, the United States ranks near the bottom of the developed world – it stands at 31st out of the 35 leading countries in the OECD.
The reason for this, as study after study has shown, is that large sections of the American public regard politics as a corrupt and cynical game media played by the Republicans and Democrats on behalf of the wealthy and the corporate elite. A game that doesn’t benefit them but only helps the rich get richer. This cynical but accurate attitude is prevalent among the poorest layers of the population.
Against this general background of voter apathy, this year’s Presidential election was particularly poor. Only 58% of registered voters turned out to vote, the lowest percentage since the 1996 election two decades ago. Compare this to the 62% who voted in Barak Obama in 2008 on his “Real Change” platform. Such was the lack of enthusiasm for both candidates in this election, that millions of Democratic voters stayed home, a fact that helped Trump win some of the traditional Democratic states.
Clinton versus Trump
Hillary Clinton completely misread the mood of the American voters, and especially those in the old industrial states of the North commonly referred to as the rust belt. After decades of falling living standards, crumbling environments and an increasingly precarious lifestyles of themselves and their children, American workers were looking for radical change. All Clinton appeared to offer was more of the same.
Trump on the other hand, promised to boost living standards for workers, to spend massively on renewing America’s crumbling infrastructure, to bring back industry and create jobs. Indeed, he boasted that he would be the greatest job-creating President of all time. Similarly, he promised not to cut social security or medicare and warned that Clinton would do so. He promised to end the international trade deals that had encouraged US companies to take jobs overseas to cheaper labour countries. That was why the Republican leadership opposed Trump and declared that he was not really a Republican, something that appealed to blue-collar Democrats.
The fact that all of his promises were false promises was not important to Trump. As he saw it, the whole presidential campaign was a marketing exercise designed to identify the primary concerns of the electorate and then tell them what they wanted to hear so he could get their votes.
Meanwhile, Clinton emphasised all the wrong things. Right through the Democratic primary race Hillary highlighted her long record in politics: her previous positions of First Lady, then the Senator for New York, and then the Secretary of State in the Obama administration. But all this was actually a negative not a positive for many voters. They didn’t want a Washington insider, and Hillary was seen as the ultimate insider.
In complete contrast, Trump’s lack of political baggage allowed him to claim to be the outsider who would cut through the political inertia and get things done. An important help in defining his image as a decisive dealmaker was his many years as a reality TV star in The Apprentice, a carefully edited show in which he appeared as the all-knowing boss who was always able to spot the best up and coming business people while weeding out the failures with his brutal catchphrase “You’re Fired”.
During the presidential election Trump presented himself as a self-made man playing to the American myth of self improvement. But the truth was that he was a rich kid who inherited a dynastic fortune from his father who brought him up in the real estate business.
Trump’s success in becoming a billionaire was presented as proving his capacity to win and succeed, and for successfully handling the economy.
The fact that Trump has gone bankrupt numerous times, using the pro-corporate bankruptcy laws to retain his past profits and abandon his debts, has been cleverly marketed as his ability to always make a comeback. Even worse, he managed to spin the fact that he has not paid taxes for 30 years as a mark of his business acumen appealing to everyone who wishes that they too could escape paying their taxes.
As they say, in this age of marketing and public relations “perception is nine tenths of reality”. And who better than a reality TV star to enter the White House. And with Trump “the party of property” finally got a property developer as its champion.
The American political system is the most corrupt in the advanced world. Far from wanting a fair playing field, each big company hires lobbyists to influence and bribe the politicians in Washington and at state and city levels, in order to secure political and economic decisions that will increase its profits. To rig the system in its favour and against its competitors. Playing into their hands are the dramatically increasing costs of political campaigning which force politician to start serious fundraising from the day they are elected. Things are so bad that Congressmen and Senators routinely offer each other large bribes just so that they can be elected to those specialist sub-committees of Congress that make the detailed decisions affecting business interests.
Clinton was widely seen as an enthusiastic participant in this corrupt system of influence peddling and special interests with her long involvement in fundraising for the Clinton Foundation which has made her and her husband rich and a part of the 1% that was constantly getting richer. That image was further highlighted by her private speeches to Wall Street companies which raised hundreds of thousands of dollar for each event, speeches which despite repeated calls she steadfastly refused to publish.
Meanwhile, Trump’s claim to be an ‘outsider’ made it easier for him to promise to come in and “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington. Of course, Trump is no outsider at all. As a billionaire, he is the ultimate insider who has used his wealth to game the system for decades. As such, Trump was not one of the bribed like Clinton, he was the one doing the bribing! He was attacked of previously giving money to Clinton and then turned it into knowing all about political corruption as one of the businessmen who had been doing the corrupting. He continually talked about the political system as corrupt and rigged against the common people. He used Sanders critique of capitalism without offering any of Samders solutions.
Indeed, Trump boasted of doing so in his campaign claiming to have made financial contributions to many of his Republican rivals to do his bidding.
Ironically, Trump used his position among the super-rich to his advantage, by arguing that he couldn’t be bribed because he was so rich already. That he couldn’t be corrupted by special interests as he didn’t need them. An argument that deluded many people into believing his promises about ending political corruption. What too many ordinary people forgot is that Trump, like most of the rich, has an insatiable desire to expand his wealth, and the power that comes with it. That their appetite grows with the eating.
A Media Spectacle
In his election campaign, Donald Trump spoke like a salesman. He tended to describe things as “fantastic” and “beautiful”; “so fantastic” and “very beautiful”; “incredible”, “unbelievable” or “wonderful”. He regularly trotted out appeals to the credulity of the voters asking them to “believe me” while telling them “I love you” and so on. In addition to all this hyperbole, Trump regularly boasted about himself, about his abilities, his virility and so forth. Clearly, boasting is an integral part of his personality.
Trump’s antics were all part of a performance and his supporters saw them as such. American society tends to loves stars and celebrities, larger than life characters that they can adore. Trump clearly understands this and plays to it for all he is worth. Thus, his presidential campaign was the ultimate political stage show which demonstrated that modern election campaigning is as much a media spectacle as a serious contest of ideas. That in an electoral campaign it was more important to establish an image that appeals to the discontent and aspirations of those sections of the electorate that one is targeting, rather than focusing on a detailed programme.
In this way, Trump confounded the rules of every election playbook. Instead of trying to avoid scandals he sought to generate them and all the attention and publicity that goes with them. The more sensation he stirred up the more excitement he created around his candidacy. He thumbed his nose at the media and gained popularity. He lost the televised debates but won the election. In this way Trump has exploded many of the rules of the media game and seriously undermined its organised power over the political process.
Another established rule of politics that Trump appeared to disregard was the polished marketing of political leaders with their slick presentation and carefully prepared messages and soundbites. As we have seen elsewhere, most notably in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn the new leader of the British Labour Party, large sections of the public want real people with definite principles to lead them. Instead of polished performers they want rough and ready representatives who are authentic rather than artificial; people like themselves rather than from an alien political class.
Unlike the crafted arguments and clipped formulations of Clinton’s campaign, Trump’s speeches were full of unfinished sentences and non-sequential ideas. The ultimate example of this was his response in the final televised debate to the fresh allegations of his sexual abuse of women. After briefly excusing his disgusting and abusive behaviour as typical male boasting he abruptly switched the subject to the fight against ISIS, without stirring a hair on his impossibly coiffurred head.
Trump’s strange manner of speaking made it come across as fresh and unrehearsed even while it was in fact carefully prepared and repeated in rally after rally. His apparently off-the-cuff style was more exciting than the usual political speeches – you didn’t know exactly what he was going to say next. In many ways this is very much like his Presidency – no-one knows what it will be like. This is large numbers of people voted for him – to shake things up and end the boring predictability of media-savvy politicians that were almost always on message.
Despite being a member of the elite, Trump presented himself as the candidate against the elite, against the establishment. He continually talked about the political system as corrupt and rigged against the common people. As such, he used some of the arguments of the Left but twisted them in a reactionary way.
He used the discontent of the majority of Americans with the decline of their living standards to call for a return to an earlier period when the United States ruled the world. His slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ sought to tap into the futile longing of layers of the “left behind” to return to a more prosperous and stable past when white men could provide for their families and dominated society. Apart from the racial and sexist undertones involved in this image, it was also linked to an appeal to revive the American Empire.
Trump approached the important question of US trade relations in the same way. His ‘Put America First’ slogan laid the basis for his call for the tearing up of the international trade pacts which many Americans see as responsible for the loss of their jobs overseas.
But despite all his propaganda, Trump’s candidacy did not represent a popular revolt. It was merely a symptom of discontent in the absence of a popular revolt candidate. Thus the low turnout of only 58 per cent. Neither Trump or Clinton enthused or represented the real mood of the electorate.
A key aspect of Trump’s campaign was get people to blame ‘the other’ for their misfortunes. To play on people’s fears and prejudices. As a result of his attacks on ethnic minorities and women Trump has made it acceptable to be, racist, ant-feminist, homophobic, and Islamaphobic. As a result of his proposals to crack down on various groups, and his reactions to protests in his rallies, he has encouraged authoritarian attitudes to spead. In this way, Trump has managed to corrode politics and public life.
No wonder that in the exit polls Trump votes identified immigration as their most important issue closely followed by terrorism.
The Sanders Alternative
A crucial aspect of the 2016 US Presidential Election was the emergence of a radical popular alternative in the shape of the massive Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic Party nomination. Sanders represented the same mood of protest against the growing wealth and power of the tiny elite and the reactionary neo-liberal policies they have imposed, that we have seen elsewhere. The growth of parties like Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, and the left-wing renewal of the Labour Party in Britain are examples of an international radicalisation of politics on both the left and the right.
However, Sanders was particularly unlucky in having to stand against a candidate in the shape of Hillary Clinton. Clinton was someone who had been consciously working to secure the Presidency for decades and had established a commanding position within the Democratic Party and the media. In comparison, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to become British Labour Party leader faced a set of rivals who were relative non-entities which made his success all the easier.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Sanders faced a much harder task in trying to overcome the opposition of almost the entire Democratic Party machine. Clinton was able to call in all her favours built up over thirty years and thus to secure the early commitment of most of the Democratic Party leadership and the state networks and resources that they commanded. Clinton also had the mainstream media on her side which had crowned her as the Democratic Party candidate for years and accordingly refused to report on Bernie’s challenge in the crucial early stages despite the turnout of tens of thousands to his rallies.
In spite of all this, Bernie Sanders was able to mobilise a movement of millions opposed to the corruption of American politics and the domination of society by big business, while building mass support for a platform of important social reforms in healthcare, education, the minimum wage and so on. Indeed, as a self-declared socialist, Sanders made the word “socialism” a credible term again for the first time since the 1930s. Against all the odds Sanders came close to winning the nomination, and thereby established a credible radical alternative in the eyes of large sections of the public.
Could Sanders have Beaten Trump?
Many people are naturally asking if Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic Party candidate instead of Hillary Clinton, could he have beaten Trump. Obviously, no-one can answer such a hypothetical question. Nevertheless, there are important reasons to think that Sanders could have defeated Trump.
For one thing, Sanders could not be painted as a Washington insider, being the only declared socialist in Congress. Coming himself from a white working class background, Sanders naturally appealed to the workers in the rust belt in a far more genuine way. He offered real solutions to their problems not the opportunistic slogans offered by Trump.
Sanders warned consistently that Clinton would be an unpopular candidate, because of her insider image and toxic political baggage. That her status quo image would not motivate democratic voters to turn out and vote. Events proved Sanders right. Clinton lost 6 million of the voters who had supported Obama four years earlier. Turnout among black voters in particular fell back with large numbers staying home. The appalling role of the black elite in the Black Congressional Caucus in delivering the support of black communities for Hillary against Bernie Sanders should not be forgotten in the reckoning that will follow this disastrous defeat.
Of course, we know from recent experience that polls are not the most accurate guide to the end result. But they can give an indication of the way that the wind is blowing. During the Democratic Primary race many opinion polls were conducted on the question of who was better placed to defeat Trump. Almost all of such polls showed Sanders defeating Trump by a much larger margin than Clinton. This was in contradiction to the key argument used by Hillary’s supporters that she was the “realistic” candidate to beat Trump – exit polls in the primaries showed that a large number of her voters cited their main reason for voting for her was that she was the candidate who could best beat Trump, a message that the media constantly put out despite the consistent poll findings pointing to the opposite conclusion.
For these reasons it seems clear that the Democrats needed a radical candidate in order to prevent Trump from appealing to white workers angry with the failings of the US economy.
Reasons For Trump’s Success
Clinton argues that the reopening and then closing of the FBI case against her for using her private server to store her State Department emails in the last two weeks of the Presidential campaign was the decisive event that lost her the election. No doubt, this strange development did cause her to lose some votes and or to energise some more Trump turnout. But the truth is that the race against someone so obviously fake and reactionary as Trump should never have been that close. If Hillary had been the right candidate she should have won by a landslide.
On another level, Hillary’s supporters are trying to explain away her defeat by blaming it on misogyny against women. No doubt patriarchal attitudes did play a role. However, there were must have been bigger factors involved in Trump’s success which for example explain why 53 per cent of white women voted for Trump.
Above all, it was about voters wanting a change – in the exit polls 80 per cent of Trump voters saw him as an agent of change. Clinton was seen as ‘the more of the same’ candidate. If a female candidate was needed to break through ‘the glass ceiling’ then a more radical women, say Elizabeth Warren, would have been able to better tap into Trump’s white working class constituency and undermine his appeal.
Clearly the vote for Trump also included a major amount of bigotry and racism as he sought to appeal more to emotion and prejudice than to rational argument. Obama was supposed to be proof that racism was being overcome, but as we saw in the campaign in Britain for Brexit, racism is on the rise across the world. This rise is clearly connected to the crumbling of capitalism and all the damaging effects this is having on working families everywhere.
Trump chose to give voice to the rising discontent brought on by this social and economic decline. However, rather than pointing to the economic system which has caused all these problems, Trump blamed all the failings of capitalism on “the other”. On the foreigners and /or immigrants taking “our” jobs, “our” trade, “our” culture and so on. We know from history where such propaganda can ultimately lead – towards authoritarianism and fascism.
The fact that the widespread discontent of American working people with capitalism in decline took on an exclusively right wing form in this presidential election is mainly because it was prevented in taking a left wing shape by the defeat of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy by the democratic establishment and the media. The centrist Clinton candidacy robbed Americans of the left-wing choice and thus a section of them went for Trump.
In spite of this obvious fact, too many liberals are reacting to the presidential defeat in an elitist way. They have started to write’s off working class communities as irredemiably racist and reactionary. In this way, the liberal elite mirror Trump’s ‘othering’ and dismiss Trump supporters as bigoted, evil, backward etc. This is really an attempt to get them off the hook and avoid really examining why these voters deserted the Democratic Party.
The poor whites are disparagingly described as “trailer trash”. Yet, all the exit polls show that a big majority of voters including many Trump supporters reject neo-liberal capitalist policies and support a progressive agenda. Indeed, if the recent presidential election exit polls are anything to go by, there is a big progressive majority among the voting public: two thirds of American voters expressed support for a higher minimum wage; three quarters want higher infrastructure spending, 70% want debt free college; and three quarters want social security expanded.