This article, written by a close contact of the ICC in the USA, looks at the current difficulties of the American bourgeoisie as revealed in the Trump candidacy and the rise of populism. Although written before the most recent scandal about Trump’s abusive attitude to women, this episode confirms a central point of the analysis in the article – the existence of a concerted attempt by the more serious factions of the ruling class, across the party divide, to keep Trump out of the White house.
A second part of the article, looking more closely at the situation of the working class in the US, and particularly the deep divisions within its ranks, will be published in the wake of the election.
As the 2016 US Presidential campaign approaches its crescendo, the media promises us this election might be the most important in US History. The bombastic billionaire Donald J. Trump, representing the Republican Party, and the much berated former First Lady and Democratic Senator from New York Hillary Rodham Clinton face one another in a dramatic showdown amid a media spectacle designed to convince the populace of the absolute importance of participating in the electoral process even when neither candidate is a source of great inspiration.
For the vast majority of the pundits, commentators and analysts arrayed on cable television each evening, and whose articles litter Facebook feeds, it is absolutely imperative for the American public to defeat the racist, xenophobic and even ‘fascist’ menace of Trump, even if it means voting for a less than stellar candidate in Clinton. Meanwhile, the minority of talking heads aligned with Trump implore the American voter to reject the politics of the status quo, take a chance on a true outsider and defeat the criminal Clinton, who they say belongs in prison anyway. This amped up rhetoric makes it all look like high stakes for the country and indeed the entire world. The main theme the media pushes day in and day out is that a veritable existential crisis of global civilization might befall us all should Trump somehow win the White House.
Against the election fraud
From our perspective, we have to once again categorically state the well-tested position of the communist left that the working class has nothing to gain by participating in this electoral swamp. Whether it is voting for Clinton to stop the country from falling into the hands of a dangerous tyrant, pulling the lever for Trump to reject the status quo and “make America great again” or supporting a minor party candidate to display one’s utter disgust with the other options, voting only serves to draw the working class onto the political terrain of the bourgeoisie and derail it from an autonomous fight to defend its living and working conditions.
At the end of the day, whoever wins the election and becomes the next President of the United States, the fundamental underlying conditions of capitalist decomposition that drive the deepening problems of bourgeois political life will remain. Electing Clinton might stop Trump, but it won’t stop the economic, social and cultural dislocations that drive Trumpism (and the populist upsurge more broadly). Electing Trump might stop the shady, corrupt, neo-liberal Clinton from assuming office, but wouldn’t the former reality TV star and neophyte politician really just turn policy over to the same old clique of “experts” as before? And voting for a minor party candidate like Jill Stein (Green Party) or Gary Johnson (Libertarian) might make one feel good about oneself for a few moments as a protest against the two main choices, but then the sad realization that either Clinton or Trump will be President will assuredly quickly set in. What is to be gained then from voting?
No, the only genuine route to struggle against all this for the working class is to resume the defense of its living and working conditions outside this sick electoral circus and beyond the control of all the bourgeois parties – right, left or center. While we recognize that present conditions may certainly hamper this process and that as a result many sections of the working class will be drawn into this electoral fray on one side or the other, we see no reason why this should alter our defense of the principle of abstaining from bourgeois elections that has been a fundamental position of the communist left for the last century
We also must say that on an objective level, the evolution of the US political scene over the last several years has been a stark confirmation of the analysis we have been developing since at least the botched Presidential Election of 2000 that led to George W. Bush becoming President over Al Gore – against the wishes of the main factions of the US bourgeoisie. According to this analysis, the conditions of capitalist social decomposition are exerting a reciprocal effect on the life of the ruling class itself, making it more and more difficult for the US bourgeoisie to control the outcome of its electoral apparatus to produce the results it desires. The botched election of 2000 led to the eight-year Bush Presidency that largely squandered the inter-imperialist advantage the 9/11 attacks gave the US state by invading Iraq in a unilateral and careless way, leading to a precipitous decline in the prestige of the United States on the international level and the increasing frustration of its imperialist goals.
While the US bourgeoisie was able to temporarily right the ship with the election of the first African-American President Barack Obama in 2008 – reinvigorating the image of the US state internationally, reviving the electoral illusion for millions, especially among the younger generations, and providing a measured response to the outbreak of the Great Recession in 2008 – these gains proved frustratingly fleeting. Obama’s Presidency served to ignite a fierce right-wing resistance in the form of the Tea Party, which over the course of his term in office saw the Republican Party increasingly fall under the influence of an erratic and ideologically driven faction of right-wing diehards who could not be trusted to take the reigns of national government.1
Although early in his administration Obama was able to ram through a health care reform plan that has so far survived court challenges from the right, as his Presidency has unfolded, it has become increasingly clear to large swathes of the American public who voted for him that he would simply not be the transformative figure of his campaign rhetoric: he has continued Bush’s mass surveillance programs, aggressively stepped up America’s droning operations abroad, done little to counter income inequality, increased deportations of immigrants and surrounded himself with Wall Street insiders from the start.
Moreover, although Obama has so far avoided entangling the US state in new Bush style Cowboy adventures abroad, his stated international policy of “leading from behind” has not endeared him to the war hawks in either party, as he has come in for increasingly harsh criticism for not standing up to Putin, allowing Syria’s Assad to cross the red line of chemical weapons use without consequences, watching Libya slip into chaos and not sufficiently bombing the Islamic State. On the domestic front, the unabated march of income inequality, the continued hollowing out of the “middle class,” and a failure to bring the contentious political rancor about immigration to a close have fueled a furious “populist” rejection of Obama’s Presidency by many in the so-called “white working class.” 2
This populist upsurge, coupled with the increasing descent of the Republican Party into ideologically driven positions, has created a dangerous situation for the US bourgeoisie at the close of the Obama Presidency. No longer able to trust the Republican Party with national office, the main factions of the US bourgeoisie have been forced to rely almost solely on the Democratic Party as the party of national governance. The increasing difficulty to manipulate election results and the now centuries old institutions of the US state have meant that Obama has had to deal with a Republican Congress for most of his Presidency. This has only increased the pressure on the Democratic Party to transform itself from the ostensible “party of the working class” to a neo-liberal party of technocratic governance and to increasingly show this face to the American public.
As a result, over the course of the Obama Presidency, the Democratic Party itself has become increasingly unmasked as a ‘neo-liberal’ party beholden to the same capitalist interests as the Republicans – discrediting it in the eyes of millions, especially among white workers and self-employed people who have become enamored by Trump’s populism, but also the younger generations, many of whom who were attracted to the insurgent candidacy of the “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign.
These are the main fault lines that have defined the 2016 Presidential campaign for the US bourgeoisie. On the one hand stands a dangerous figure the main factions of the bourgeoisie simply cannot risk assuming the ship of state; on the other a largely discredited representative of the old political guard, who is despised by large sections of the population both right and left – if for different reasons. How can the bourgeoisie manage such a perilous situation? We will explore that question in some analytical detail below.
The Trump candidacy: The Republican Party commits suicide
One thing in this election campaign is certain: the main factions of the US bourgeoisie do not want Trump to win the Presidency. This is true regardless of political party. The Republican Party establishment is as much afraid of a Trump Presidency as the Democratic Party. Major figures in the Republican Party such as the Bush family have signaled they will not vote for Trump. Staples of the “movement conservative” press like the National Review actively oppose him and Republican candidates for Congress and the Senate have had to keep their distance lest they alienate the all important swing voter. While Trump may have the stated support of some Republican figures concerned about their own political future, who do not want to run afoul of the populist upsurge, it’s clear that Trump is regarded as an interloper in the Republican Party.3 Once a Democrat who supported abortion rights and socialized medicine, and who has even sung the praises of the Clintons in the past, Trump’s credentials as a social conservative are in serious doubt. Moreover, his willingness to trash the Iraq War, run down the Bushes and praise Russian President Putin are not in keeping with the Republican Party’s neo-conservative doctrines on foreign policy. So how in the heck did Trump win the Republican Party nomination for President?
The answer to this lies as much in the trajectory of the GOP itself, as in the figure of Trump. As the Obama Presidency unfolded, the Republican Party – already reeling from the disastrous second Bush Presidency – adopted an increasingly hostile and oppositional stance to the President. In the 2010 mid-term elections a new crop of hardcore ideologues associated with the Tea Party movement were elected to Congress, forcing the Republican Party establishment to accommodate an increasingly boisterous right-wing allergic to compromise and even to governance itself.
From violently opposing Obama’ healthcare reform efforts to government shutdowns and even threatening to default on the US national debt, the Tea Party insurgency gave the Republican Party new electoral life in the wake of Obama’s rousing victory, while at the same time threatening the stability of GOP institutions. From 2009, the Republican Party played a dangerous game with the Tea Party, whereby it reaped its insurgent energy for electoral success, while risking a hostile takeover by a virtual mob-like hydra of hardcore right-wingers within its ranks. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner was forced to play a careful cat and mouse game with these insurgents, balancing electoral and political success with the need for actual state governance, which always requires compromises with the other side of the aisle. Eventually however, dealing with the Tea Party insurgents proved too much for Boehner and he resigned from the Speakership in 2014, at which point it was only reluctantly assumed by Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
As the Obama Presidency unfolded, it became increasingly clear to the main factions of the US bourgeoisie that the Republican Party could not be trusted to contain its radicals and therefore it was not a viable option to put a Republican in charge of the White House. With a choice between functional gridlock and uncertainty of what an empowered Tea Party movement would bring forth in the Republican Party, the main factions of the US bourgeoisie opted for the former. It was in this context that the US bourgeoisie began preparations for Hillary Clinton, then serving as Obama’s Secretary of State, to succeed Obama as President.
However, just because the main factions of the bourgeoisie have decided to back one candidate in the election doesn’t mean they cancel the campaign. The state still must field candidates from each of the main parties in order to preserve its democratic façade. And although historically the US state has had remarkable success in manipulating the electoral process to produce the desired outcome – particularly through manipulation of the media narrative – the process is not guaranteed to always work as planned, as the election of 2000 showed. In politics, as in life, accidents happen. With each election there is the risk the wrong candidate will win and the US bourgeoisie will be stuck with a less than optimum choice in the executive mansion. While in times past this has not posed a dramatic problem as generally each candidate could be steered by the institutions of the state (the permanent bureaucracy) towards policies enjoying a general consensus among the main factions of the ruling class, the present day descent of the Republican Party has complicated the matter, making it that much more essential that the Democrat prevail in the end.
Historically, the long drawn out primary process has been the main tool through which the US bourgeoisie ensured that the best possible candidate, from its point of view, would become the nominee of each major party. The primary process is consciously designed to weed out mavericks and insurgents as it favors establishment candidates with the political and financial backing of the party hierarchy. However, much like in 2012, the 2016 Republican Party primary opened with a carnival-like atmosphere. With 17 candidates representing various factions of the party, including maverick billionaire Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party primary was generally billed as the contest to see who would lose to Hillary Clinton in the General Election.
Nevertheless, even if the main factions of the bourgeoisie were generally lined up behind Clinton, it was still desirable for them to push forward a Republican who could be a credible governing alternative if an accident happened or Clinton’s own legal troubles proved too much to overcome. Set up for this task were figures like former Florida Governor (and brother and son to former Presidents) Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio (an Hispanic who once favored immigration reform) and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (a darling of the Tea Party who nevertheless appeared to govern effectively, having faced down mass protests over his right-to-work law in 2011 and an attempt to recall him from office). Each of these candidates had their own political baggage, but they had nevertheless shown themselves to be malleable to the political consensus of the main factions of the bourgeoisie.
Nevertheless, the 2016 Republican primary would not turn out like it did in 2012 when establishment candidate Mitt Romney (considered a safe alternative to Barack Obama) fended off a series of insurgent challengers to secure the nomination. The 2016 contest would see Trump systematically take down each of his rivals with a hurl of personal insults and embarrassing call-outs of their political failures. Bush and Rubio were denounced as soft on immigration, while Scott Walker was dispatched for turning his state into a fiscal disaster.4 None of these establishment candidates ever appeared to pose a serious challenge to Trump, flooring the political pundits and seemingly putting fear into the hearts of bourgeois institutions. In fact, Trump’s only serious challenger, the Tea Party firebrand Ted Cruz, was himself a radical outsider despised by a political establishment that only belatedly coalesced around him to try to stop an even greater evil in Trump.
When Trump accepted the Republican Party nomination for President at the party convention in July, it was the culmination of some of the deepest fears of the main factions of the US bourgeoisie (outside of proletarian revolution): an unpredictable, erratic and dangerous figure, considered something like a Messiah to his followers, had usurped the mantle of one of its two main political parties. Certainly, from the point of view of the main factions of the bourgeois, the two party system was now in jeopardy, if not the democratic ideological apparatus itself. There was nothing left to do, but to furiously oppose Trump in the general election – something which, as we will see, the main factions of the bourgeoisie had already concluded required Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination.
How did Trump do it?
But how did Trump do it? How did he succeed where so many insurgent campaigns had faltered before? This is a question that will likely puzzle academic political scientists and sociologists for some time to come, but what seems clear is that Trump’s conquest of the Republican Party is a result of the intersection of his embrace of an international wave of populist politics and his unique personality and personal wealth. Not being beholden to political donors and party institutional structures, Trump was free to conduct a true maverick campaign that took up the main themes of political populism emerging across the old industrial world today: a critique of neo-liberal policies, a promise to defend domestic industries and jobs from outsourcing and international trade deals, a pledge to beef up the safety net for displaced workers and a fierce opposition to immigration – seen by many ‘lower class’ whites as the source of lower wages, declining living standards and community disintegration.5
Substantively, these policies have an appeal to many,, even if only in the sense that they appear the opposite of the bourgeois policy consensus from both major parties over the last several decades.. Copying part of the stylistic playbook of Italian fascism, Trump has built a virtual cult of personality around himself (something that goes back to his days as a pop culture icon in reality TV) that has captured the attention of millions of Americans who are so disgusted with the politics of the neo-liberal capitalist consensus they are willing to take a chance on a man every “responsible” media outlet and pundit tells them is a disaster in the making. However, from the point of view of Trump’s base, the disaster has already happened, only continues to deepen and none of the “responsible” candidates appear to want to do anything about it. Trump’s candidacy is in large part an insurgency fueled by the desperation of millions of working class people whose once relatively stable jobs and expectation of social improvement appear to have been frustrated precisely by the kind of policies liberal elite consensus tells them are in their best interests (Globalization, outsourcing, free trade, etc.).
Still, even if Trump’s stated policy preferences are not in line with the wishes of the main factions of the ruling class today, we must be clear that they nevertheless do not escape the realm of bourgeois policy itself. In fact, it is probably the case that the main factions of the bourgeoisie are right that his stated policies are simply incompatible with the objective political-economic condition of the capitalist world today. Should he by some chance upset expectations and win the Presidency, the working class should be clear that this would not result in the restoration of some Halcyon way of life from the good old days of the post-World War II economic expansion. Rather, he will likely either fail miserably in implementing his policies due to resistance from other bourgeois factions or we will find out that his Presidential aims were in fact a giant hoax all along, as he hands real executive power off to the professional politicians and policy wonks of the very same factions of the ruling class he claims to hate.6 And of course, if he ever did implement his stated policies, that would certainly make things even worse for the majority of the working class - as British workers have already found to their cost, with a collapse in the pound sterling and corresponding abrupt increase in inflation. Trumpian style populism is no answer for what ails the working class.
Clinton vs. Sanders: The Democratic Party reveals itself
As we have seen, the Republican Party has rendered itself too volatile for the main factions of the bourgeoisie to trust in the executive mansion at this juncture in time. However, the very descent of the Republican Party has had a reciprocal effect on the Democratic Party, whereby it is increasingly called upon to shed its veneer as the “party of the working class,” and reveal itself as the neo-liberal capitalist institution it is. This process has accelerated over the course of the 2016 campaign and was particularly manifested in the contentious primary showdown between the establishment candidate Hillary Clinton and insurgent upstart Bernie Sanders – the “democratic socialist” Senator from Vermont.
As the 2016 primary season began, the main factions of the bourgeoisie had already long ago settled on Hillary Clinton as their preferred candidate to succeed Obama in the White House. Whatever their fierce rivalry in the 2008 Democratic primary, which saw Obama apply a momentary brake to Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, the main factions of the bourgeoisie believed that a Clinton Presidency would be the best chance for a stable transition to a new administration and could keep the democratic electoral illusion going. Having voted in Obama as the first African-American President in 2008, the American public would now have the chance in 2016 to vote in the first female President. Having supposedly defeated racism in the 2008 election, the American voter was now ostensibly given the chance to deliver a giant victory for the feminist cause. As such, this time the Democratic primary was supposed to be a virtual coronation of Queen Hillary, as she was expected to face no serious challengers. In fact, many pundits worried that the lack of a serious primary challenger might put her off the game when the general election campaign started in the summer against a battle-tested Republican nominee.
Alas, the coronation proved to be long in coming. The Clinton campaign would face a protracted and surprisingly strong primary challenge from the left in the form of Vermont’s “democratic socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ insurgent campaign was likely not anticipated by the main factions of the bourgeoisie, who probably believed he would amount to little more than a protest candidate earning a paltry single digit vote share. However, as Sanders managed a virtual tie with Hillary in the pivotal Iowa caucus and then surged to clobber her in the New Hampshire primary, the main factions of the bourgeoisie – through the institutions of the Democratic Party and the liberal media – were thrown into a panic.
Buoyed by overwhelming support from the so-called “millennial” generation of younger voters who regard Clinton as part of a discredited old guard of neo-liberal politicians out of touch with the emerging “progressive” consensus, Sanders threatened to make a real game of it. Even if he wouldn’t actually win the primary, his protracted presence – running a genuine campaign in which he correctly and effectively painted Clinton as a neo-liberal friend of Wall Street – threatened to weaken the candidate preferred by the main factions of the bourgeoisie in the general election. Already facing possible indictment over her email scandals and already detested by many voters after years of right-wing attacks, Clinton could not afford to lose the millennial generation (so critical in Obama’s electoral victories) to third party candidates or protest abstentionism.
What followed can be described as nothing less than a political nightmare for the Democratic Party, and its allies in the media, as seemingly no plausible attack was left unused in the quest to make sure Clinton prevailed. Sanders was roundly attacked in the media for being a utopian dreamer out of touch with objective reality, and his supporters were painted as mostly white privileged brats who just wanted everything for free. The Clinton campaign actually employed a small army of paid operatives to patrol social media to “correct” anti-Hillary posts and degrade Sanders. The Vermont Senator’s male supporters were labeled misogynist “Bernie Bros,” while Sanders himself was said to be myopically concerned with class and economic inequality to the detriment of the Democratic Party’s tried and true identity politics around race, gender and sexual orientation. This was of course a way of slandering Sanders and his supporters as out-of-touch white guys, blinded by their “white privilege.” The Clinton campaign actually trotted out African-American surrogates, like former Civil Rights activist turned Congressman John Lewis, to delegitimize Sanders’ own background as a civil rights campaigner in the 1960s while a student at the University of Chicago.
In a bizarre turn of events, before the primary was over, the Clinton campaign, her surrogates, the Democratic Party itself and the liberal media were all basically running a campaign against Roosevelt’s New Deal itself, suggesting that it was based on “white privilege” and that many of its structures were simply incompatible with social reality today.7 Clinton ran against socialized medicine, juxtaposing it to the great “achievement” of the Obama administration – Obamacare, which still leaves millions of Americans without health insurance – and argued Sanders’ goal of free tuition at state universities was simply practically impossible. Rather than run a “Hope and Change” and “Yes, We Can!” campaign as Obama had in 2008, winning over millienials in the process, Hillary was forced to run on an “Accept and be Satisfied” and “No, We Can’t” message. Far from being a candidate of transformative progressive change, Clinton and the Democratic Party itself were revealed as part and parcel of the capitalist political infrastructure, just more useless politicians like all the other useless politicians for tens of thousands of younger voters who had become enamored of Sanders’ message of an expanded Social Democracy and political mobilization in the context of the emergence of something resembling a movement culture.
As the primary progressed and voting irregularity after voting irregularity emerged, many Sanders supporters became increasingly convinced that the Democratic Party was in fact stealing the election from their candidate and handing it over to Clinton in something of a corporate coup d’etat. These suspicions were confirmed in the summer when WikiLeaks released a series of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) showing that the party structures did in fact conspire to defeat Sanders and ensure Clinton was their party’s nominee. However, whatever the veracity of the various “vote rigging” allegations made against the Democratic Party by Sanders supporters, the fact that so many believe them is itself an ominous sign. The Democratic Party and its nominee not only appear as corporate shills to many in the younger generations, they also seem to operate on the level of a third world tyranny. The democratic electoral apparatus itself is now called into question as a result of the Democratic Party’s rather desperate and clumsy conduct in the primary campaign to ensure Clinton would fend off the challenge from Sanders.
Of course, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party wouldn’t have engaged in such tactics if they didn’t think it was to their electoral advantage and indeed this all proved too much for Bernie Sanders to overcome. For whatever his strengths among disillusioned younger voters and those liberals and progressives disappointed with the Obama legacy, Sanders simply could not make major headway with older minority voters, older women and the various levels of the “professional class” that have become the Democratic Party’s electoral base. The Clinton campaign played its advantage with minorities to the hilt, often engaging in blatant pandering to these groups in something of an absurd complement to Trump’s racial demagoguery. In one debate, Clinton promised not to deport non-criminal illegal immigrants – a promise few serious observers can believe she has any intention of keeping if elected.8 Clinton’s new found progressive discourse on race stood in stark contrast to her conduct as First Lady when she demonized black youth as “Super Predators” or in the 2008 Democratic Primary, when her campaign used racial dog whistle politics to attack Obama for attending the church of the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright.9
Clinton’s blatant flip-flopping on racial politics stood for many as another example of the Clintons’ willingness to “triangulate,” which means being willing to say whatever is politically convenient for them at the moment for a particular audience. Far from constituting the optimistic candidate of a better tomorrow, Clinton has come to be despised by many would-be Democratic Party voters as a slick but substanceless political operative who will say whatever it takes in her quest for political power. Many appear to hate her even more than they hate Trump, even if it’s only because they assume Trump is honest about his bigotry, while Clinton hides her regressive policies behind nice-sounding, but utterly dishonest rhetoric.
Sanders falls into line behind Clinton
In the end, all of Clinton’s advantages proved too much for the upstart Sanders campaign to overcome and Clinton was eventually able to secure the Democratic nomination in advance of the party’s convention in Philadelphia in July. Still, having won 45% of the vote in the primary, Senator Sanders had built up considerable political capital within the Democratic Party. While the main factions of the bourgeoisie may hate him, they also know they need him to play along if their goal of assuring Clinton ascends to the White House over Trump will be achieved. What would Sanders do? Would he go rogue and run as a third party candidate splintering the Democratic Party vote and handing the Presidency to Trump? Would he endorse the Green Party candidate Jill Stein with the same result or would he accept his defeat “graciously,” endorse Clinton and turn his attention to defeating the greater evil of Donald J. Trump?
Anyone who has followed Sanders’ career over the years already knew the answer. Although nominally a political independent, Sanders has always caucused with the Democrats in Congress. He campaigned for Bill Clinton in 1996 and has publicly criticized third party candidates in the past. However distasteful it was to him after his stinging political defeat in a contest that was almost certainly not fair even by bourgeois standards, Sanders nevertheless endorsed Clinton and promised to do whatever he could to keep Trump from becoming President. He gave a rousing speech at the Democratic convention actually claiming – after months of saying the opposite – that Clinton would make a “great President.” From a dangerous insurgent threatening to derail the main factions of the bourgeoisie’s plans, Sanders now became their “useful idiot,” nevertheless becoming among the most important figures in the general election, tasked with delivering his millennial followers for Clinton.
The problem for the main factions of the bourgeoisie was that, to many of Sanders’ erstwhile supporters, this sudden about-face did not seem at all credible. How could the beloved and incorruptible Bernie go from a harsh critic of this war-mongering corporate stooge to calling her a great candidate for President virtually overnight? Many refused to believe it or concluded that some coercion had been worked to make Sanders change course. What did they threaten him with? A harsh lesson in the realities of bourgeois electoral politics was being taught. Still others simply gave up on the Bernie bandwagon and concluded he was a sell-out politician himself who took millions of dollars in small donations, promising a new kind of politics only to turn it all over to the same corporatists he claimed to despise. Many of these voters have since moved on to Greener pastures (no pun intended), such as Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Others, impressed with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson’s stance on legalizing marijuana, now carry his banner.
In any case, Clinton’s continuing difficulties with millennial voters is now a major problem for the main factions of the bourgeoisie. Younger voters’ fascination with Barack Obama was the main catalyst for his two electoral victories. Now eight years after Obama’s historic election, many millennials have given up on the Democratic Party altogether – seeing it as the corrupt neo-liberal capitalist institution it is. In their immediate quest to get Clinton elected over Trump, the main factions of the bourgeoisie have unleashed a massive propaganda campaign designed to make these millennials vote for Hillary anyway. This has taken the form of a typical anti-fascist campaign, attempting to convince them that whatever their distaste for Clinton, Trump will inevitably be worse. The fascist must be stopped even if it means voting for the contemptible corporatist.
But the propaganda campaign hasn’t stopped there. A viciousshame campaign has been unleashed in the media and on social networks, shaming anyone who says they will vote third party or stay at home in November. Denouncing such voters as “spoiled,” “privileged” or simply race baiting them as out-of-touch white men, the ideological mouthpieces of the ruling class are engaged in an intense campaign to discipline the younger generation and instruct them in the proper rules of American two-party democracy In the United States’ first-past-the-post system, Duverger’s Law10 is operative – you only get two choices. Voting for a minor party candidate or staying at home will only help the insurgent neo-fascist populism that is on the rise today. If Trump wins it will be the millennial generation’s fault, or Sanders fault or the fault of those political “purists” too good to cast a vote for a flawed candidate. According to this ideological campaign, it will be anyone but the Democratic Party and Clinton’s fault if the nation and the world are forced to endure Trump.
While it is reasonable to expect that the anti-fascist shame campaign will largely succeed and most erstwhile Sanders supporters will cast ballots for Clinton in November, it is also clear that many will do so only grudgingly. For many of these unenthusiastic Clinton voters, the Democratic Party has been revealed as a contemptible institution unworthy of long term electoral loyalty in the absence of a fascist menace like Trump. If it were any other Republican running against Hillary this time, she may very well lose.11 For the main factions of the bourgeoisie, this situation is indeed fraught with peril. As the Republican Party descends further into ideology, incoherence and erratic behavior, the Democratic Party must be called upon as the party of rational and responsible bourgeois governance. However, the more and more it fulfills the role, without another credible party to balance it out, its ideological veneer as the party of the working class and the oppressed is further revealed to be an illusion. Bourgeois electoral ideology finds itself sinking ever deeper into a crisis.
2 We won’t pretend that there isn’t a good chunk of old fashioned racism in the anger towards Obama from among white members of the working class, but it is also clear that part of the rancor comes from white workers who voted for him amidst the unfolding economic crisis of 2008, but who were quickly disappointed by his failures to enact any kind of substantive improvement in their standard of living, other than a half- baked health care reform plan that did little to stem the rising cost of health care in the only major country without a national health program.
3 It is true that while many establishment Republicans have openly rejected Trump, the leaders of the party infrastructure – such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus – have had to reluctantly come over to his side. The risk that the Republican Party would openly split apart was a constant fear of the bourgeoisie during the primary campaign. It was necessary for the sake of the stability of the two party system that once Trump won the nomination in the primary contests the party could not be seen to actively oppose him. Of course, the risk of a splintering of the Republican Party is still present, even if it has been momentarily suppressed.
4 Poor Rand Paul (a darling of libertarians, but never a serious candidate for the Presidency) was taken out when Trump simply implied he was ugly.
5 Of course Trump, running as a Republican, has also had to accommodate numerous standard Republican ideas and has given some lip service to social conservative positions on abortion. The extent to which he actually believes any of that is anyone’s guess, but he has actively courted the LGBTQ2 vote in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting, which he blamed on Islamic homophobia – hardly a typical right-wing tactic in American politics, but typical of various populist parties in Europe.
6 This appeared to be exactly what Trump was planning when reports emerged that he was courting former rival John Kasich to run with him as the Vice Presidential candidate. According to these reports, Trump promised to let Kasich run both foreign and domestic policy, with Trump assuming a figurehead-like role of “making American great again.” While it was more or less an open secret during the early period of the G.W. Bush administration that VP Cheney was running things, it is pretty clear that given Trump’s personality and temperament, such an arrangement this time would have been nothing short of a disaster for the US state.
8 To be fair, Sanders made the same promise – the difference being he probably sincerely meant it.
9 It has been suggested by many on the right that it was actually the 2008 Clinton campaign that was responsible for the emergence of the racist “birther conspiracy” regarding Obama’s qualifications for the Presidency. While the campaign itself never used this particular attack, evidence has emerged that it was indeed suggested by one campaign strategist as a potential avenue to delegitimize Obama.
10 A concept in academic political science, Duverger’s Law states that the nature of a country’s voting system will determine the number of viable national parties. A first-past-the-post system generally ensures that only two parties will ever compete for national office. In this conception, voting for a third party in such a situation is irrational, because it only increases the chances the party one is least aligned with will win.
11 A fact that has stoked conspiracy theories that Trump’s candidacy is actually a hoax based on a compact with the Clintons to blow-up the Republican Party and ensure Hillary wins in November – meanwhile Trump gets massive free media exposure to feed his narcissistic ego and keep his family’s brand in the spotlight. While there is no credible evidence this is true, the extremely bizarre way that Trump has run his campaign since securing the Republican nomination certainly raises questions about his seriousness. In fact, it is not only wild conspiracy nutters who have proposed this. It has been suggested, if jokingly, by none other than one of Trump’s vanquished Republican foes Jeb Bush.