Thu Jul 25, 2024
July 25, 2024

The 2024 election: No choices for working people

By JOHN LESLIE

The 2024 election offers no real choices for working-class people. It’s Genocide Joe versus the reactionary liar and racist Trump. Even before his lackluster performance in the June 27 presidential debate, Biden seemed poised to lose. During the debate, Biden struggled with his answers, reinforcing concerns about his age and whether he is fit for office. A Democratic activist was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer after the debate as saying, “Even though Trump was speaking bulls—t the entire time, he was speaking clearly.”

The reader has to wonder whether the offerings in this election are really the best that the U.S. ruling class can put forward to beguile the electorate.

Indeed, following the debate, panic mounted in ruling-class circles and within the ranks of the Democratic Party leadership. This is exemplified by  The New York Times editorial that was issued the following day stating that the sitting president should throw in the towel and clear the way for the Democrats to nominate someone more capable of performing the job. The Times wrote, “The clearest path for Democrats to defeat a candidate defined by his lies is to deal truthfully with the American public: acknowledge that Mr. Biden can’t continue his race and create a process to select someone more capable to stand in his place to defeat Mr. Trump in November.” On June 30, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution joined the NYT by calling for Biden to “pass the torch.” 

CNN, the network that hosted the debate, put it this way: “If Joe Biden loses November’s election, history will record that it took just 10 minutes to destroy a presidency.”

On the other hand, some of Biden’s supporters—from Vice President Harris to Pennsylvania Sen. Fetterman to the Philadelphia Inquirer—have pivoted to defending Biden’s performance, with Harris claiming that despite a “slow start,” Biden presented a “a very clear contrast with Donald Trump on all the issues that matter to the American people. Yes, there was a slow start, but it was a strong finish.” The gaslighting of the electorate, in which voters are told that they didn’t see Biden’s stumbling performance, is reminiscent of the Richard Pryor joke, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”

Biden is no alternative

Biden, who has spent his career in service to Wall Street, is no friend to working people. He has continued reactionary immigration policies despite GOP rhetoric accusing the Democrats of maintaining an “open” border. A Biden administration official bragged about deporting “more individuals than in any year since 2015.”

Biden has proved unable to assuage working-class concerns about inflation, and he and his party have doubled down on their support for the Israeli apartheid state. On the day of the debate, a group of 62 Democrats in Congress voted with the GOP to conceal the Gaza death toll by stopping the State Department from citing Gaza Health Ministry statistics.

Biden’s early career was based on opposition to school desegregation through busing, and we should never forget his role in passing the Crime Bill of 1994, which helped create the regime of mass incarceration in the U.S.

Then there is the way the Democrats, with Biden at the forefront, betrayed the interests of railroad workers in the midst of negotiations for a fair contract. As Workers’ Voice reported earlier, “After speaking out in favor of railroad workers’ right to a decent contract, members of the so-called Squad, who are seen by many as ‘left-wing’ Democrats, voted on Wednesday to impose the rotten deal put forward by the Democratic Party leadership. They showed clearly that there is a contradiction between their words of support and their actions. The core of their pro-capitalist politics is expressed in their votes.”

Biden deserves to lose, but does Trump deserve to win? 

Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail is at times violent as he lambastes immigrant workers as “poisoning the blood of our country.” In Trump’s world, immigrant workers are criminals, rapists, and murderers—who are here to take the place of “real” Americans. During the debate he said, “They’re taking Black jobs and they’re taking Hispanic jobs, and you haven’t seen it yet but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history…”

Trump has repeated a theme of the white nationalist “great replacement theory,” which claims that “elites” (often Jews) are replacing U.S. workers with immigrants from Latin America. White nationalist ideas like replacement theory, once just the inspiration for violent militia and neo-Nazi groups, have moved more into the mainstream of Republican politics in the Trump years. Trump himself made coded appeals to the far right in his campaigns. GOP advocates for replacement theory avoid the most blatant terminology, but the message is clear: “they” are intent on taking the future away from white Americans. This is sometimes referred to by reactionaries as “white genocide.”

Trump has also vowed to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” He has promised a “bloodbath” if he does not win the 2024 election.

Under the first Trump administration, Supreme Court nominations and federal court appointments have caused a sharp lurch to the right by court decisions on all levels. Trump in power meant a concerted attack on reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, the environment, and voting rights. And on July 1, the Supreme Court partially shielded Trump from Jan. 6 prosecution, with its ruling that makes U.S. presidents immune to prosecution for potentially unlawful acts that were carried out in the course of their “official” duties.

The 2025 Project

At the institutional level, a new Trump administration would be more effective in its attacks on the working class and oppressed. The 2025 Project, a detailed 900-page plan for governing in the next administration, promoted by the reactionary Heritage Foundation, lays out a program that would place virtually the entire federal bureaucracy under presidential control. It would eliminate entire departments and target federal employees who are currently protected by civil service rules. Federal jobs would become political appointments given to loyal supporters of the regime.

The project would also attempt to “stop the war on oil and natural gas” by slashing funding for renewable energy projects and replacing carbon-reduction goals (limited as they are) with plans to augment energy production. It would double down on anti-immigrant measures and seek funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.

According to The Guardian, “Alongside the document, the group is creating a database of potential personnel for an incoming Trump administration, as well as training them on how the government should work as part of a ‘Presidential Administration Academy.’ The final step will be a presidential transition playbook that seeks to help the next president hit the ground running once he takes office.”

Alongside Heritage, more than 100 other right-wing organizations are participating in the 2025 Project, which represents a far more comprehensive approach to a rightist “revolution” than Reaganism or Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America. Heritage Foundation head Kevin D. Roberts explained the four “broad fronts that will decide America’s future.” These are: “1. Restore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children; 2. Dismantle the administrative state and return self-governance to the American people; 3. Defend our nation’s sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats; 4. Secure our God-given individual rights to live freely—what our Constitution calls ‘the Blessings of Liberty.’”

Roberts asserts that “inflation is ravaging family budgets, drug overdose deaths continue to escalate, and children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism, with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries.”

The capitalists have no solutions

The growth of the far right is a symptom of the crisis of the capitalist system, the ruling class’s incapacity, and the reformist “left’s” subordination of class independence to lesser-evilism. The voters are given the choice between two evils and expected to accept this as the way things are. Neither capitalist party has any solutions to the multiple inter-locked crises of capitalism. So, they play at culture wars and manufactured outrage.

A section of the ruling class is impatient with bourgeois democracy, which we know is at best merely a screen for the dictatorship of the capitalist class. Meanwhile, the so-called defenders of bourgeois democracy, while decrying Trump as a threat to their “democratic” norms, have played into the neo-McCarthyite attacks on supporters of Palestinian liberation. Far from defending democratic rights like the right to protest or free speech, the Democrats, including Biden, have joined the chorus smearing Palestinians and their supporters as antisemitic and “supporters of Hamas.”

Elections are not the best method for defeating the advance of the right. The right wing is waging a two-pronged assault inside and outside of the GOP. Far-right groups like the Proud Boys or Patriot Front pretend to be pro-worker, but in reality they represent a political agenda that seeks to decisively defeat the working class and oppressed. Defeating the far right will require the mass mobilization of all oppressed and exploited people independently of the bosses’ parties. Multi-class electoral alliances and kowtowing to the lesser evil won’t save us from the far right. Capitalist courts, cops, and politicians are not on our side.

Reformist groups steer working people in the wrong direction

Reformists have a track record of channeling the energy of popular movements into the Democratic Party. The 2016 and 2020 Bernie Sanders campaigns were an example of this sort of politics and the disorientation of the left. Reformists used the Bernie campaigns to divert real anger against the system into the calm waters of the Democratic Party. Rather than breaking with the Democrats and building a new working-class party, the trade-union bureaucracy, big NGOs, and reformists of all stripes subordinated the interests of the oppressed and exploited to the election promises of one of the two big parties of Wall Street.

This has been has also been the record of the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) and the tragically misnamed Communist Party USA (CPUSA). In 2024, the CPUSA has been calling for a vote for Biden and the “pro-democracy alliance (or, if you prefer, united front or popular front)” despite Biden’s full-throated support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza and recent concessions to the far right on immigration. They do take note of this by saying that the  “administration’s policies—like Gaza and immigration—could split the coalition needed to defeat Trump.”

The DSA is calling for Biden to drop out of the race, saying that Biden is “unfit to lead.”  In their statement, they criticize both Biden’s and Trump’s performances in the June 27 debate, writing that “during the debate, both candidates repeatedly fought to appear the most pro-cop, pro-war, and anti-immigration, and ignored questions on issues such as childcare, racial justice, and democracy.” They continue, “If Biden is the nominee in November, Trump will be president in January, and corporate Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.”

Within the ranks of the DSA there is a debate over whether to support the campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez despite her support for Israel during this horrifying U.S.-financed slaughter in Gaza. These housebroken so-called socialists in Congress, who talk left but vote with the Democratic Party mainstream, are not a solution to the isolation of the left but act as shock absorbers for the capitalist class.

A DSA leadership statement seems to take a step into new territory, stating that “more and more workers are realizing that we deserve more from the political parties we support; as workers, our goal is to defeat the right and expand the democratic and social rights for the global working class—not serve the interest of the capitalist class. Unless we can build a left-wing working-class alternative to the Democratic Party, the capitalist class and far right will continue to perpetuate violence and injustice at home and abroad.” Unfortunately, DSA’s orientation to electing “progressive” Democrats means that assertions about the need for a working-class party sound hollow.

What to do next? 

First, we say to hell with both Biden and Trump. Both are enemies of the working class and oppressed. As the 19th century French socialist Jules Guesde said, “Between cholera and the plague, one does not choose.” Without any real alternatives to offer, both parties stir up fears about the other. The GOP claims, without evidence, that a Democratic victory would mean the destruction of the country. The Democrats claim that a GOP victory would mean the end of “democracy,” while their housebroken apologists on the “left” ignore Biden’s war crimes and ask us to vote for Democrats to “stop fascism.”

None of the problems we face, including a second Trump administration, can be solved by voting for the Democrats. The solutions lie in our ability to build mass democratic movements against the bosses and independent of both bourgeois parties. Our future depends on the real activity of the working class and oppressed, not on politicians or the courts.

In this election, it is possible to register a protest vote for independent socialist candidates, break with the Democrats, and begin the hard work of building a working-class alternative worthy of the name.

Workers and oppressed people need a party of our own. This party must be based on a clean break with the Democrats, without adaptation to lesser-evilism. Such a party would fight for the interests of the oppressed and exploited at the ballot box and in the streets. Ultimately, real social transformation will not come through electoral means but through the independent mobilization and organization of the working class and its allies.

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