We have reached the final stretch of the Presidential and Legislative electoral campaign in the US (taking place on November 8th, 2016). Although there are other secondary competitors, only two presidential candidates have real possibilities of winning: Donald Trump by the Republican Party, and Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party.
By Alejandro Iturbe.
Some time ago, it seemed like the tendency was to an easy triumph of Hillary Clinton as a result, on one side, of the support of majoritarian sectors of the bourgeoisie (that see her as a “more serious” option) and, on the other, the rejection the figure of Trump generates. But the last searches show a “technical tie” with no clear definition. The classic TV debates between both candidates (in which many define their vote) will take place in this frame.
Beyond who gets elected, the reality is this election shows elements of crisis in the US political regime, in which both traditional bourgeois parties (Republicans and Democrats) alternate the turn in government. This expresses through a high rejection by the population to both candidates (those who “would never vote for them”). According recent researches of the Washington Post and the ABC News, among the population under 35 years old, 79% has an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and almost 50% thinks the same of Hillary. If we consider the election as a whole, 68% is unsatisfied by all the options. This will possibly be expressed in one of the lowest rates of electoral participation of the last decades.
This increase of “passive rejection” to the bi-party bourgeois electoral system has its origin in the combination of social-economic and political processes, and its reflection in the masses’ consciousness. Let us take a look at the central causes:
- The defeat of the international project of George W. Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan left the US imperialism (and its political regime) in a situation of more weakness before the international relationship of forces. This combines with the lies the previous Bush government used to justify the launch of the “war against terror”. As a result, the mistrust of “the ones below” to the bourgeois political regime and its manipulations increased.
- The economic crisis of 2007-2008 not only deepened but meant a leap in the process of decline of the masses’ life conditions, which started in times of Reagan, during the ‘80s: wage fall, worsening of labour conditions and decline and cuts of the public services (like health and education). The “American dream” and “the land of the thousand opportunities” ideologies ended (or are deeply affected); that is to say, the social advancement that was supposed to be guaranteed with “honest work” and “intelligence”. The harsh reality is that each time more workers’ sectors go down in their social position, and there is no real possibility of improvement or advance. This general picture gets more aggravated among the Black and Latin population, and among the youth. It is true the country economy is not in recession, and the rate of unemployment reached in the summit of the crisis went down. But most of the new jobs created are more precarious, and with lower salaries than before.
- The consciousness suffered a strong deception along the two turns of Obama regarding the promise of “change”. People saw him ruling “for the rich” (it is worth to mention the example of the General Motors reconversion), and not solving any of the problems most felt by the masses. At the same time, he holds a relatively strong policy against the immigrants, and he did nothing to stop the wave of violence and repression against the black youth.
Some of the manifestations
These changes in the consciousness had its expression in some initial processes. One of them was the Occupy Movement, of strong impact among youth, rejecting the “1%” (of the richest). Another significant process is the wave of struggle of Black people against the police violence and murders, which began in Ferguson and extended to the recent event in Charlotte. Not just because of its continuity, but this process is the most dynamic and combative one, so far not co-opted by the apparatuses. Its expression has been the Black Lives Mater movement, which now has a political expression through the platform “Movement for Black Lives” [M4BL] with the political program made public in August. It is also worth to mention some specific struggles, especially the campaign for the “15 dollars an hour”, which expressed -possibly for the first time as organized- highly exploited sectors of the class, and the actions of the immigrants movement against Obama’s deportations.
In the electoral field, these consciousness processes had a distorted expression through the polarization; on the right-wing, it took to the triumph of Trump among the Republicans (channeling sectors of the poor white working class with a xenophobic and racist speech, but at the same time “anti-system”), and on the other, to the excellent results of Bernie Sanders (presenting himself as leftist and “socialist”) among the Democrats.
The Republican split
This crisis of the regime hit both parties, at different levels. The Republican crisis is much deeper (some analysts consider it terminal).
This party (the “right-wing” of the bi-party system) expressed a coalition of imperialist bourgeois sectors (petroleum, construction, the so called “industrial-military”, agrarian sectors and the Cuban bourgeoisie of Miami), and it relied on an electoral base of middle class and privileged sectors of white workers. Some analysts consider the population processes (tendency to weight increase of the Black and Latin minorities) and the socio-economic processes (impoverishment of the population) signed an inevitable tendency of erosion of it historical electoral base.
But the point of inflexion of such crisis was the defeat of Bush’s project, and the discredit the Party was left in after this and the previous turn. Situation that, far for reverting, has aggravated: in the previous years, they had to accept “entryism” by the Tea Party (the existence of another organization inside the party), and now, we have to add the dispute and triumph of Trump on primaries.
From the electoral point of view, Trump’s role is very contradictory: on one side, his xenophobic and anti-system speech convinces (or wins back) a sector of white impoverished workers and self-employed. On the other side, his racist and male-chauvinist speech pushes voters out (a sector of white middle class women, middle class of minorities, etc.).
The essential is, however, that Trump is a “sharpshooter” (without control of the leadership of the Party) and he is defeating the candidates of the worn-out Republican old guard national leadership, and even of the Tea Party. In fact, the leadership has lost control of the Party.
In this frame, the Republican cadres and leadership split among several proposals: a) supporting Trump and try winning with him; b) concentrating in the election of legislators to maintain control of the Congress and then launch an offensive to recover control of the party; c) presenting an outsider Republican candidate, so split the party to found a new one. However, as the campaign goes on, the option c is being progressively discarded.
Some historical figures are already calling to not vote for Trump (a way of calling to vote for Hillary). The latest is centrally supported by the sectors more concerned about the foreign policy and see Trump is an adventurer in this regard, what could cause disasters; with Hillary they cannot only dialogue but also implement a “serious” foreign policy.
The Democratic Party (the alleged “left-wing” in the bi-party bourgeois system) is also a coalition of bourgeois sectors (financial, health and education) that traditionally got the votes of the workers (with the support of the Unions), and integrated the traditional leaderships of the Black and Latin minorities.
It is more cohesive in its leadership than the Republicans: Hillary is clearly supported by Obama and got Bernie Sanders’ endorsement. The latest also played a “collector” role, as with his speech during primaries he avoided bigger splits among the left.
But despite the cohesion and the help of Trump’s “scarecrow” image, Hillary does not have a guaranteed triumph. She belongs to the heart of the Democrats, and she has shown already she is a reliable figure to the imperialist bourgeoisie. Her right-wing image and her lack of charisma also generate strong rejection. The background frame of these splits among the Democrat electoral base is the disappointment with Obama, what is now intensified by Hillary’s image, specifically among the youth.
Even if Sanders helped avoiding a major drain, he did not avoid an important part of the Occupy movement to reject Hillary. And there is a rupture of part of the black population base, expressed in Black Lives Matter, that is not integrated to the Democrats and grows through the outside of the traditional black Democrat leaderships (like the block of Black deputies of the DP, which supported Hillary since the beginning).
A policy for the elections
In the frame of these two false bourgeois options, it is worth to question what electoral policy must the leftists have. Some organizations (like Socialist Alternative, section of the international Trotskyist tendency Committee for a Workers’ International – CWI) made the major mistake of calling to vote for Sanders in primaries, leaving all class criteria aside: the Democrat Party is not only a bourgeois organization but an imperialist one.
Other organizations, like the International Socialist Organization (ISO), which correctly opposed to vote for Sanders, now propose to vote for the Green Party (GP) and its presidential ticket. It is correct to not call to vote for Democrats neither Republicans. But the support to the Greens is not enough for a truly independent policy, as the GP makes agreements with the Democrats it considers as “progressive” ones. The GP is not a real alternative because it has no real connection with popular, workers or unionist sectors. It is an empty super-structure, with a strongly reformist petit-bourgeois leadership (its program is based on the illusions of transforming and renewing the American democracy, kicking the 1% out of power but no questioning all the way the class nature of the American democracy and the imperialist economic system). Another problem is the GP has not proposed any real solution to the youth and black people struggle, or to the movement for the immigrants’ rights. In this regard, it made the same pitfalls as Sanders instead of pointing a real solution for the ‘economicist’ platforms. Finally, its foreign policy is a disaster: its vice-president, Ajamu Baraka, supports Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict (so he is militarily against the revolution in this country).
In this frame, by not existing a clear, independent alternative of the working class to support, the correct policy is to call to null vote, and to make a campaign of denounce of the lack of independent alternatives and proposals.
Another correct policy is to support independent, socialist candidatures, which are still very weak. An option is the critic support to the Socialist Action presidential ticket (Jeff Mackler for president and Karen Schraufnagel for vice-president). It is a critic support because of this organization’s incorrect policies regarding the Syrian Revolution and the lack of commitment to defeat Assad and take the revolution to an initial democratic victory, and because of its unconditional defense of the Cuban Castrist bureaucracy, which has become a restorationist bourgeoisie.
However, the position of Socialist Action is far more progressive than the one of the candidate for the electoral front Peace and Freedom Party, Gloria la Riva, member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, directly supporting all the bureaucracies and dictatorships with a “leftist color”, despite the adjustment to their people (Assad, Castro, Maduro, etc.).
The sympathizer organization of the IWL-FI in San Francisco (Workers’ Voice) will encourage and participate of the campaign for Berta Hernández (Left Party) as candidate for legislator by the district; a campaign that looks for the popular and workers’ mobilization.
To look and build towards the future
Each one of the two bourgeois main candidates that wins, one thing is sure: the next government will have to deepen the attacks to the workers and the masses and will intensify the repressive escalade against the youth, immigrants, blacks and latin@s.
The second aspect is, any one of them to win will probably head a government much weaker than Obama’s despite the image of “hard” the candidates want to show. In both cases, the social base and the support of the masses will be much less and more fragile. Therefore, although this is not automatic, there might be more spaces for struggles and less capacity of control by the regime.
The elections would then be a “transit station” in the course of the deeper processes and the permanent necessity of organizing the unity to struggle from the bases; to unify the activists and social and unionist strugglers for this perspective. From the Bernie Sanders’ base (very angry at him because of what he did), to encourage the demand on 15 dollars p/h, the defense of health and public education, the struggle for the immigrants’ rights, and the BLM demands.
And in this path of organizing and unifying the struggles, to move forward in the construction of a political organization, independent from all the bourgeois alternatives, to give a voice to the workers and the oppressed sectors.
 In the US, to vote is not mandatory but optional. Also, the elections take place during the week (without payment for the non-worked hours), and the electors must register previously. This system discourages the vote of the workers, a tendency that will be accentuated in this election due to lack of interest or even rejection.
Translation: Sofia Ballack.