On 13 September, one of Donald Trump’s political dirty tricksters, Roger Stone, signposted a Trumpian future. Though convicted, Stone has avoided prison thanks to a presidential pardon.
To pay back the favour, he has suggested that should Trump lose the 3 November election, he should declare martial law and arrest political opponents such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg.
According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump has made over 20,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency. The serial liar did however let the truth slip when he admitted that the Republican Party would never win an election if it was easy for Americans to vote.
Then there was a half truth — that the election on 3 November will be rigged. What Trump left out of the claim was that he and his co conspirators would be the ones who’d be doing the actual rigging.
The Republican Party, representing the most rapacious wing of the American capitalist class, is entering a demographic cul-de-sac as the country’s population becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse. To maintain their grip on power, they have resorted to means of voter suppression such as gerrymandering voter districts and purging electoral rolls. Under Trump the suppression of voters’ rights has reached a whole new level.
Trump’s wants to create total chaos come election time. His primary attack is on postal voting. He has consistently undermined it, despite this being the safest way of voting for a country which leads the world in victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump made one of his cronies, Louis DeJoy, postmaster general, the better to delay mail in ballots by cancelling overtime, eliminating sorting machines and reducing post office hours.
The US Postal Service is held in high regard by most Americans, almost as the NHS is here, so outrage at Dejoy’s actions forced a pause to his acts of sabotage. Nevertheless, DeJoy refused to reverse measures already implemented and postal workers were ordered not to reinstall sorting machines. In defiance postal workers have taken direct action to get some machines working again.
During his testimony before Congress it turned out that DeJoy was involved in an illegal straw donor scheme. He has an added incentive to want a Trump victory — escape from prosecution!
In Trump’s America you’re above the law provided you’re one of his supporters. The President actively encourages you to break the law, as witnessed by his recent advice to supporters to try to vote twice, once by mail and once by turning up at the polling station on the day.
Like most Trump stories, his claims of widespread voter fraud are invented. There were just four cases in 2016, and three of those were people who tried to vote for Trump twice. Yet Republicans will recruit 50,000 volunteer monitors at a cost of $20 million to challenge voters at the polls. It will be a massive exercise in harassment and intimidation of African-American and Latinx voters.
Trump can also expect help from Putin, whose troll factories will be working overtime in coming weeks. Gone are the days when US security services were worried about Russian interference in elections. Trump appointed officials are downplaying Russian meddling and talking up (without any evidence, of course) a supposed role of China and Iran.
John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence, has announced he will no longer brief Congress in person on foreign election interference.
New revelations about Trump’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic are coming in a 15 September book by Bob Woodward, reknowned for his work on the 1970s Watergate scandal. Trump knew how serious the virus was as early as January, but continued to play it down “to avoid public panic.” That meant; to avoid panic on the Stock Exchange.
His disregard for human life is also highlighted by reports that he regarded members of the armed forces as “suckers” and “losers”.
Time was when just having an extra marital affair was enough to see off a candidate’s electoral prospects. Now none of these revelations seem to damage Trump electorally with his core supporters. He is standing on no political platform or recognisable manifesto. It’s simply a matter of vote Trump. As ever it’s all about him, only now even more so!
What of Joe Biden, the only person who could actually defeat Trump? Trumpists portray Biden as a socialist. Laughably. Biden’s platform is mildly reformist — tax increases for the super rich, some minor environmental reforms, maintaining the Affordable Care Act — but nothing like Medicare for all or banning of fracking. Essentially Biden offers a return to the pre-Trump “normal”, a loveable grandad figure, a safe pair of hands.
Whether or not Biden’s approach will win enough votes, there will be no return to the old normal. Sharp socio-economic inequalities have been exasperated by the pandemic, and a mass movement has been developed against racial injustice with Black Lives Matter.
If Biden is elected, then socialists must first mobilise to block any “Trump coup”, and then challenge Biden on social issues with particular emphasis on the need for universal health care, now more important than ever.
Socialists also need to address the question of democratic rights and argue for legislation that outlaws voter suppression. The undemocratic nature of the Electoral College was starkly revealed in 2016, when Trump lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College.
The institution needs to be abolished. Calls for a vigorous prosecution of Trump and his clan for all the crimes they’ve committed must also be made. Biden must not be allowed to let Trump get off the hook.
Trump could still win. He will, for example, abolish payroll tax, thereby drastically cutting social security and devastating the lives of millions of poor Americans. Trump season two would certainly be more authoritarian than his first outing.
Bourgeois democracy is fragile in the “land of the free”. Add in armed vigilantes turning up at polling stations to supplement the work of the “monitors” and you get a good idea of how things could develop. Only mobilisation from below can push back the threat.