We can allow ourselves a moment of conditional satisfaction, if not rejoicing. The American electorate has decided to cancel series two of the Trump Presidency, and not just on the grounds of good taste. The raging pandemic, mass unemployment, and racial injustice were major reasons for his ouster in addition to his misogyny, racism, corruption and numerous other displays of narcissistic malevolence.
Unfortunately Trump’s defeat has not been as resounding as many hoped. Seventy million Americans voted for a sociopath knowing full well what he was like. Biden achieved a record breaking popular vote, close to five million more than his rival, but Trump recorded the highest score of any Republican candidate ever and demonstrated that he could build significantly on his base amongst a largely white population of voters. His camp hope he can make a comeback in four years’ time, either personally or via one of his designated successors.
Race and ethnicity have been more of a deciding factor in American politics than social class. The demographic time bomb still continues to tick against the Republican Party, as the US population becomes more diverse and better educated. Angry white men will increasingly become a minority, which is why in Republican controlled states voter suppression efforts will be redoubled.
Trump increased his vote in rural America and continues to enjoy considerable support among the “left-behind” working class in the rust-belt states, although he did nothing to improve their employment prospects. His main appeal is to older white Americans wanting a return to an imaginary “golden age” — essentially one of white supremacy.
Inroads were also made into the Latino vote in Florida, where the mere suggestion that Biden was a “socialist” was enough to move some towards Trump. Some increase in his vote share among black males was put down to naive comments from some influential rap artists.
It should go without saying that Trump is not a normal bourgeois politician. He’s trashed many of the democratic conventions and restraints on presidential power with comparative ease. His policies have benefited the big corporations and super rich despite the belief among his mass following that he stands up for the common people.
A further term for Trump would have placed civil, women’s and workers’ rights under increased threat, not to mention public health and the environment.
Additionally there are his attacks on science. Some of Trump’s highest recorded vote shares came in counties which suffered the worst deaths from Covid 19. When they passed around the Kool-aid in Jonestown, at least the deluded followers of that cult didn’t know it was poisoned. With the Trump cult, his followers seem willingly to embrace the risk of being infected by a deadly virus.
Security fences have gone up around the White House and there is no signs yet that Trump is willing to leave the building when his time is up. Fascist elements among the faithful might even try some kind of Mussolini-style march on the capital in the more modern form of a heavily armed motorcade. We’ve even had talk from Bannon about putting “traitors’” heads on pikes.
Trump’s delegitimising of the electoral process serves to ramp up the danger of violence, and political assassinations could well be attempted given the current climate.
The left in America must demand that Trump and his gang be vigorously prosecuted for the numerous crimes they have certainly committed. Trump will use his remaining weeks in office to minimise the legal dangers he faces when he leaves it. Expect more pardons for his cronies. However, he will face more than a score of sexual assault charges which he cannot duck out of easily on becoming citizen Trump. We can add to that the numerous cases being investigated in New York regarding bank fraud and money laundering.
Federal cases like obstruction of justice should also be pursued. Just because he’s an ex-President shouldn’t make him immune from the law. Biden must not be allowed to let him off the hook for fear of antagonising his base and the Murdoch media.
Socialists also need to champion demands to end the obvious democratic deficit. The electoral college should be abolished and renewed efforts made to end voter suppression and gerrymandering. Calls for proportional representation are also needed to help socialist candidates get out of the two party straitjacket and build an independent electoral presence.
Trump has established a road map for a future right-wing authoritarian regime in America. Whether or not that prospect has been only postponed will depend on the ability of the left to build mass movements for democratic rights and social justice on the streets and in communities. Ending the dominance of the two rich men’s parties should be the goal.