by Elisabeth Wichser
With the 2020 Presidential Election cycle coming to an end, the nationwide COVID crisis has begun to surge again. On October 23rd, 85,000 new cases were reported, smashing the previous record set in mid-July. The continuing mass fear around COVID-19, particularly fears of losing jobs, of being evicted, and of not being able to buy food are being overshadowed in the corporate media by the elections. Neither Trump nor Biden have offered any serious proposals to address the coming second wave of COVID cases, to reinstate the additional unemployment benefits, or to address the coming housing crisis. Talks of a second stimulus package, including direct payments from the government to working people, have been intentionally delayed by the Democrats. The first Presidential debate proved to be extremely chaotic, with most American and international newspapers calling it a national embarrassment. While the second debate was more “respectful,” both candidates still failed to put forward any concrete (or believable) policies to help the working class in this time of crisis. While many news outlets are claiming there will be record voter turnout, statistics about voting must be qualified: of the 328 million people in the U.S., 240 million are eligible to vote thanks to widespread voter disenfranchisement. Of that 240 million, only around 50% voted in the 2016 election.
Already, a record 66 million people have cast ballots in early voting and millions more have mailed in their ballots, in both instances surpassing the early voting and mail-in turnout of the 2016 election. Crucially, however, in 2016 there wasn’t an international pandemic. So while the corporate media are using these statistics to suggest that voters are excited about the election and candidates, in reality, many are most likely using these avenues to avoid crowds on election day. The predictions of record turnout must be qualified by the fact that it won’t likely be more than half of the U.S. population between those who have been disenfranchised and those with no faith in the electoral system.
One of the driving forces of voter turnout this election cycle is lesser-evilism. Many people are rightly fed up with Trump and all the terrible rhetoric and policies he’s done in office, including his new tax codes that funneled money to the rich and his complete disregard for the loss of life from the coronavirus. There is a large push, especially from most of the corporate media, to back Biden as an alternative to Trump. Of course, Biden provides no real alternative to Trump and will do nothing to fundamentally challenge capitalism.
Trump Threatening American Democracy?
Trump has emboldened the right-wing from the beginning of his time in office, threatening women, immigrants, Muslims, black people, and the LGBTQ+ community. The current election takes place in the context of a deep recession, enormous economic insecurity for working people, a global pandemic, and the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Even in the ruling class, many see Trump, his campaign, and the Republicans as a destabilizing factor politically, making the current crises much worse.
For months, Trump has been hinting that he will not peacefully concede the election if he loses—and his loss is likely. In response, liberal publications like the New Yorker have been publishing fear-mongering pieces like “What Can You Do if Trump Stages a Coup?” Articles like these serve to scare people into voting for Biden to “protect our democracy,” which isn’t really much of a democracy at all.
Though Trump is certainly a right-populist, he isn’t a fascist. The right-wing could certainly take a loss badly, with scattered groupings committing acts of violence, but they will not likely be directed or controlled by Trump. The military overwhelmingly supports Biden, as does most of the ruling class. Even Biden has come out and said that Trump won’t stage a coup, at least not militarily.
One possible scenario is that we could see a repeat of the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore which ended in the Supreme Court deciding the victor after allegations of miscounting votes in Florida, a key “swing state.” Because most states are ill-equipped to handle the mass of absentee and mail-in ballots this election cycle, tallying votes could drag on for days, possibly weeks. Because of state laws, 42 states will not begin counting mail-in and absentee votes until the day of the election, though most ballots will have been received before election day. It’s also possible that the electoral college, the United State’s undemocratic body that gets to decide who is president, could decide the victor against the popular vote. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but the electoral college overruled the popular vote and effectively installed the new President. If current polling trends hold, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a repeat of the 2016 election of Trump. The results could be too obviously for Biden that the electoral college, made up of political and capitalist elites, will support the more stable champion of capitalism: Joe Biden.
Biden a Probable Victor
Biden, though not crass like Trump, has a similar record of racism, sexism, and of furthering capitalism. He opposed desegregation policies such as busing in the 1960s and played a lead role in creating the 1994 Crime Bill which led to the current state of mass incarceration, disproportionately affecting black men. Both Trump and Biden stand accused of sexual assault, a fact that has largely been invisible in the corporate media and debates. Of course, both Trump and Biden are capitalists to the core, always searching to promote big business profits over human needs. Both have horrible records on the environment and neither supports Medicare for All in the middle of a deadly global pandemic.
While to most voters neither candidate is particularly appealing because neither represents our interests, Biden is particularly popular among the ruling capitalist class. As the New York Times states, “While Mr. Biden’s campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine.” The campaign has raised over $200 million dollars just from donors who each gave $100,000 or more. Top Hollywood producers, Silicon Valley capitalists, and Wall-Street financiers have all given massive amounts of money to the Biden campaign. This makes sense as Biden represents a more stable protector of American capitalist interests than Trump. While a Trump victory isn’t impossible, the polls suggest that Biden will win.
What Can We Expect Under a Biden Presidency?
Nothing will fundamentally change under a Biden presidency. Biden will most likely attempt to slash benefits and implement further austerity measures on overstretched social services. For example in 2011, Biden reached across the aisle to help create a bipartisan across-the-board government spending cut to the tune of $1.2 trillion. With Obama, Biden helped build immigrant detention centers and oversaw continued American imperialism. Although Biden’s campaign has made some promises, they will inevitably be broken, just as they were under Obama. Obama promised hope and change but delivered further imperialism and neoliberalism. In the first two years of his presidency, Obama and the Democrats had a majority in both Houses of Congress, yet decided to bail out the banks, not workers, during the Great Recession. Obama and the Democratic Party didn’t deliver any of their pro-worker promises like single-payer healthcare, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), or closing Guantanamo. Of course, once Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, Obama and the Democrats blamed them for their inability to pass any progressive legislation.
It’s possible that because of the social unrest sparked by the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, Biden and the Democrats will throw working people a few concessionary crumbs and pass mildly progressive legislation such as a second stimulus check. But Biden and the Democrats will never do anything that would fundamentally challenge the austerity, inequality, and precarious future on offer from capitalism. The Democratic party is funded and controlled by the capitalist class.
Help Build a New Workers’ Party, Vote Hawkins & Walker
The capitalist class depends on the Democrats and the Republicans to keep voters trapped between two pro-capitalist political “choices.” The corporate media plays a crucial role in promoting the two-party trap. Major presidential debates feature only the two mainstream parties, deliberately excluding Hawkins & Walker, Green Party candidates for President and Vice President. Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker have fought to be included on the ballot in the majority of states this year but the threat of a workers’ party terrifies the capitalist class because it would seriously undermine their control of the political system. The organization of a mass, progressive and left political party of workers and youth, free of corporate money and influence, could win immediate demands such as universal healthcare (“Medicare for All”) and other policies opposed by the Republicans and Democrats. The corporate politicians have no real answers to rising discontent and have intensified the pressures of lesser-evilism through the corporate media. Lesser-evilist arguments have always been intensely applied against workers trying to organize our own party. Voting for candidates that are actually willing to fight for socialism, candidates like Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker, is important now more than ever because we can start to jam the lesser-evil machine that prevents a lot of necessary changes from happening. Working people need to stand against the tide of lesser-evilism which only seeks to maintain the status quo. The ISG is critically supporting a vote for Hawkins/Walker because their campaign includes fighting for Medicare for All, a socialist Green New Deal, and an Economic Bill of Rights for working people.
While the outcomes of the election are uncertain, we do know that we need a party of our own, by and for working people, that can pose a serious challenge to capitalism. We call on all voters who are tired of electoral business as usual to break decisively with the Democrats and Republicans and vote Hawkins & Walker this election. Encourage your friends and family to do the same, and join the struggle to build a party of our own after this election, another election that sidelines the real needs of working people. Biden and Trump and their parties want a return to the past status-quo of falling living standards, systemic racism, and no future. Instead, consider getting organized with the Independent Socialist Group as a step towards a better future!
The Independent Socialist Group calls for:
- Ending gerrymandering and ending the monopoly of the two corporate parties. End undemocratic ballot access and campaigning restrictions orchestrated by the two parties of big business.
- Abolishing undemocratic institutions like the Supreme Court, Electoral College, and Senate and replacing them with democratically elected representatives, subject to recall, and only receiving the average wage of working people.
- A new political party of, by, and for working people fighting for socialist policies!
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0