Fri Jul 12, 2024
July 12, 2024

Biden vs. Trump: Most Voters Dislike Them Both

By JAMES MARKIN

With inflation and the war on Gaza dragging on, and Biden becoming increasingly unpopular, the Democratic Party is facing an uneasy situation in the upcoming November presidential elections. The candidates of the two main bourgeois parties, Biden and Trump, both appear to be similarly unpopular. In fact, looking at the latest state-by-state polls—the way that U.S. presidential elections are actually decided—shows the race to be extremely close. Trump, who four short years ago was defeated and seemingly abandoned by his capitalist backers, following his increasingly desperate attempts to overturn the result of the election, has seemingly regained capitalist support and has a good chance of victory.

Real economic pain hurts Biden’s position, not a supposed “vibecession”

This polling has seemingly puzzled strategists in and around the Democratic Party, who argue that the economy is great and voters should naturally support an incumbent who has delivered for them economically. Supporters of the president have even coined a term for this apparent “contradiction,” calling it a “vibecession.” In an article for the New York Times, liberal analyst Paul Krugman explained that, while according to polling, people might rate their own economic outlook as positive, they still see the overall national economic outlook as negative, despite official economic statistics. So, he believes that it is only a recession according to “vibes,” hence “vibecession.” This patronizing narrative is, of course, merely an attempt to paper over the real cost-of-living crisis facing workers in this country so that Biden can lay claim to a “positive economy.”

The economic reality facing workers in the United States is anything but as rosy as Krugman and Biden’s supporters would want you to believe. According to analysis done by Thomas Ferguson and Servaas Storm, real wages have actually declined over the latter part of the Biden presidency, as wage increases failed to account for increases in inflation. This cost-of-living crisis has been felt across many aspects of life but is perhaps most acute in the crisis-ridden health-care system. One poll suggested that a majority of people in the U.S. face issues with the cost of health care. According to the poll, 60% of people report going without important health-care treatments due to the costs, and around 20% skipped crucial medication for the same reason.

Another major cost for working-class families is rent. Data suggests that rents have risen overall since the beginning of the pandemic and have risen at a rate 1.5 times faster than wages. There might be more to this phenomenon than meets the eye given that, this month, the FBI raided the Atlanta-based major corporate landlord Cortland management, as part of an investigation into the software Real Page. The FBI alleges that corporate landlords all over the country have been using the software to collude and fix higher prices for renters.

This collusion along with the ongoing crisis of health-care costs and the general pain of inflation all point to the fact that there is no “vibecesson,” but rather that the working class has continued to face cost-of-living issues and declining real-wages even as profits and business indicators soar. This goes to show that while these economic indicators might reflect an economy that is doing well for the ruling class, ordinary working-class people are still in quite bad shape. This is further evidence that Biden’s vaunted and expensive industrial policy, including the CHIPS Act, has failed to trickle down into the pockets of the masses.

While polling should be taken with a grain of salt, and mainstream analysis of polling of racial groups can often be reductive and somewhat racist, polling reflecting dissatisfaction with the economy is what forced Biden’s supporters to dream up the idea of “vibecession” in the first place. While many of his supporters trumpeted the end of this phenomenon in January, the cost-of-living crisis was never illusionary and has not gone away. This crisis has continued to be reflected in mainstream bourgeois polling, including a major Gallup poll this spring, in which inflation was rated the most important issue for voters, with 55% saying they worry about this problem “a great deal.”

In the face of this, Biden has attempted to promote his “good economic numbers” and to fear-monger about how a Trump presidency would lead to the end of democracy in the USA. A University of Chicago poll of young people suggests that this approach might be more effective among white people than among Black and Latino voters. While most groups rated inflation as the number one issue, the “threat to American democracy” ranked second for white and AAPI voters but was not seen as most important by Black and Latino voters, who instead were more concerned with issues like poverty, income inequality, economic growth, and gun violence.

While again it is important to not generalize based on broad racial categories, this would also seem to be reflected in national polling, which suggests Biden is losing his edge over Trump with Black and Latino voters. Polling also suggests that the president’s support for the massacres in Gaza has also hurt him with Black voters. This data from polls is supported by more concrete events as well. For example, last month, the NAACP issued a rare rebuke to Biden, calling for an end to U.S. arms shipments to Israel.

This war issue isn’t just hurting Biden’s support in Black communities; the issue is killing Biden in a different way—with the politically activated segment of the population. This group of trade unionists and non-profit workers is critical for getting out the vote and operating the president’s electoral ground game. While the loss of their votes alone might not cost the president the election, the loss of their support or at least of their enthusiasm will cost him deeply, especially in battleground states, which are critical to winning the White House under the deeply undemocratic Electoral College system.

The legal battle against Trump

With his campaign for president floundering, Biden and many of his supporters have taken solace in Trump’s many legal woes, evidently hoping that the courts will deal with Trump for them. Indeed, at a Connecticut campaign fundraiser that took place after Trump was convicted on 34 counts of fraud, Biden reportedly leaned into the trial, noting that “for the first time in American history a former president that is a convicted felon is now seeking the office of the presidency.”

While from a working-class perspective, the prosecution of a former head of state with as despicable of a track record as Trump is welcome, the courts have, for the most part, decided not to go after Trump for his many crimes against working people. While one case was brought against Trump for the serious crime of sexual assault, there has been no prosecution in the Southern District of New York for the untold number of people he has killed with drone strikes, and no jury has heard any case about Trump’s immigration policy, which separated a similarly unknown number of families and ruined countless lives. Instead, excluding the sexual battery case, Trump’s legal cases have largely been of the pettier variety, focusing on crimes against the norms of capitalist society.

A full overview of Trump’s legal issues would not fit in this article, but the cases can be broadly broken down into four categories: business crimes and fraud, personal crimes and defamation, crimes related to the 2020 presidential election, and crimes around government secrets. While Democrats have placed hope in each category leading to Trump being imprisoned or banned from running for office, an investigation instead reveals that none of them are very likely to stick to Trump, or at least harm him before the election.

The first category, for fraud and business crimes, resulted in a ruling against Trump in New York state court last year. While the judge imposed major fines on Trump and his business enterprises, this issue seems unlikely to impact his run for the White House. Similarly, the crimes involving Trump’s personal life have not appeared to be the lifeline that Biden might have hoped for. While a judge did rule that Trump was guilty of rape, and his conviction of 34 felonies for falsifying business records in order to hide an affair did make major news, it is unclear that Trump will have to face significant jail time for these cases. That is true especially because he can continue to hold off whatever punishment he receives through appeal until after he is potentially elected president.

The second category, Trump’s prosecution for holding on to classified documents after his term as president ended, has turned out to be somehow even less dangerous for Trump. While this case may be a breach of the law, as socialists we have no issue with the exposure of state secrets. Nonetheless, Trump appears to have caught a break in this case when a loyalist judge that he appointed to the bench was appointed to oversee it. Reports suggest that this judge, Aileen Cannon, has been stalling the case such that it is unlikely to be heard before the election.

This brings us finally, to the cases around Trump’s attempt to rig the 2020 presidential elections. On paper these appear to be the most serious, but unfortunately, also appear unlikely to bring Trump down before the elections. The first case, brought by the DOJ seems unlikely to be dangerous to Trump since he would be in charge of that office if elected president. The other, in Fulton County, Ga., appeared to be the most dangerous to Trump, since as a state prosecution in Georgia he would not be able to receive a pardon if convicted due to the state’s harsh “tough on crime” policies. However, the case has since been derailed by appeals and delays after personal misconduct from the local DA was exposed.

In short, it appears that none of these legal cases is likely to prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in November. Of course, this is no surprise given the power of the Republican Party in the court system. Indeed, in general the courts generally will take the side of the capitalist class, and workers should not rely on them to bring real justice. With the courts failing to “get rid” of Trump, and the Democrats providing very little in the way of an alternative, there is a fair chance that by the end of the year Donald Trump will be president-elect for the second time.

With polls suggesting that workers in the USA largely despise both options given to them by the major capitalist parties, it has never been clearer that this country needs a political party that actually stands for the working class. While the project of building a new workers’ party in this country cannot be done in time to prevent a second Trump presidency, building it is critical to resist the inevitable attacks on workers, immigrants, and women and gender minorities that would follow his election.

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