by Bill Onasch
Sometimes Nomenclature Matters
The television news readers, and even the President incorrectly identify Donald Trump as “President Elect.” The first billionaire to reach transition to the White House actually remains “President Designate” until the second Wednesday in December.
I’m not nit-picking. The real presidential election takes place next month when the “Electors” we voted for last Tuesday gather in their respective state capitals and the District of Columbia.
It is not a mere formality—it is decisive. And for the second time in this millennial century they will select the candidate who placed second in the popular vote. Neither the news readers, nor the current sitting President wish to remind us of this inconvenient truth exposing a democratic process that can be as much of a scam as Trump University.
While some racist graffiti soon started appearing after Trump’s “triumph,” tens of thousands spontaneously took to the streets proclaiming Trump was not their President. They are not just sore losers. A majority of American voters had already made that same decision.
In a couple of places they got hijacked by self-styled “anarchists” who bird-dog others’ events committing minor vandalism leading to tear-gas and arrests by cops. But these actions have been mostly peaceful—certainly the one I attended in Kansas City was and many brought their kids and dogs. I’ve been following elections since the days of “I Like Ike” and I’ve never seen such protests before a new President even took office.
But like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary Clinton did not join in or encourage such peaceful rage. Just the opposite—she and President Obama pledged to support the orderly, peaceful transition claimed as the cornerstone of American democracy. They remain loyal servants to the ruling class. That class mostly would have preferred a second Clinton managing their interests—but they value stability above all else.
The President put aside any hard feelings about Trump’s earlier vicious campaign that convinced millions that Obama was not an American citizen. Trump was just as gracious calling his 90-minute meeting in the Oval Office “a great honor.” He also praised “crooked Hillary” for her decades of devoted public service.
An Unjust Transition
Over the past 7+ years I have described the Obama administration as the most reactionary in living memory. But it won’t take long for his replacement to set a new record.
Undoubtedly, one of his very first actions will be to complete a trifecta by filling the Supreme Court vacancy–aiming to strike a quick blow for theocratic Christian extremists by reversing Roe. A host of other anti-labor, misogynist, xenophobic rulings will likely follow.
For at least two years Trump will have a firm grip on all three branches of government. That doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants, much less what he has promised. He’s already accepted the fact that he can’t immediately repeal and replace what he calls ObamaCare. He won’t get anybody to pay for a ten-foot wall along the Mexican border. A Brexit-like abandonment of NAFTA and other capital export deals already in place would mean a showdown battle with most of his fellow ruling rich.
But he can do a lot. Trump has no need for the Grand Bargain that eluded Obama for new efforts to slash and/or fully privatize entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He will have clear sailing for tax cuts for the rich—shifting more of the burden on the rest of us. And deregulation will be given high priority as well.
The Global Impact of Trumpism
Harmful laws and court rulings can be ultimately reversed. Greenhouse gas emissions threatening our very biosphere will hang around for centuries. Their damage is irreversible.
The Obama administration paid only lip service to this crisis while promoting the explosive growth of fracking, proliferation of pipelines, offshore drilling, and fueling planes and drones bombing on at least two continents every day. Concerned about his legacy, as a lame duck he signed some executive orders—mainly aimed at coal—that are the main component of his pledge to the inadequate Paris Climate Accords. Clinton said little about the issue in her campaign.
Executive orders can and will be annulled by the next Executive. Trump has declared climate change to be a hoax. He has pledged to rescind Obama’s Paris pledges. He has promised to make coal great again and to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline Obama had consigned to purgatory. Trump has selected Myron Ebell, a climate “skeptic” on the payroll of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead the transition of the EPA.
This worst news of all has received little attention in the incoherent, leaderless protests so far. That makes the previously scheduled nationally coordinated demonstrations in support of those trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline all the more important.
Has America Gone ‘AltRight‘?
Alternative Right is the new buzz phrase describing a proto-fascist vanguard more sophisticated and adept than the Klan or Militias. Their main public face is Breitbart News, disdained by legitimate journalists. They more or less rescued Trump’s campaign from bumbling relatives and amateurs. They are rumored to be in line to direct President Trump’s media relations.
It’s doubtful Trump has any cohesive ideology. He is the ultimate opportunist with a track record of some dramatic flip-flops. No tail will wag this dog. That doesn’t make him less threatening, only less predictable.
Before and after the Breibart connection Trump didn’t hesitate to appeal to widespread latent bigotry. But that doesn’t explain why hundreds of thousands of white workers, many of them union members, who had twice voted for the first Black President voted for Trump. They were the biggest factor in the collapse of the “Blue Wall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that both Clinton and pollsters had counted on. Even less does it account for many Blacks not voting, or a record number of voters of all colors who voted “down ballot” but left the presidential line blank.
No, the working class is not moving to the far right. They repudiated the traditional party of the blue collar workers who took their support for granted and didn’t speak about the issues that concern them most. The labor-Black-Latino-women base of this official capitalist party has collapsed. These fickle friends are losers.
The traditional Republican party is in no better shape. The Bush family, Romney, Bloomberg and others who probably believed they would reclaim the party of Reagan after Trump went down in flames have become irrelevant.
There are other countervailing trends that demonstrate our class is not moving to the far-right:
* During the primary and caucus campaigns an elderly Jewish “democratic socialist” spoke to dozens of rallies numbering in the thousands, mainly young people of all colors and gender, from coast to coast; won endorsement of several important unions; and received more than twelve million votes. But this impressive mobilization fragmented when senator Sanders tried to deliver them to Clinton.
* Last Tuesday, voters in four states approved substantial raises in the minimum wage.
* In Michigan, the fledgling Working Class Party, founded by veteran socialist trade unionists, with no budget for TV/radio ad buys, got nearly 225,000 votes for their one state-wide candidate.
We are entering a period that is over ripe for political realignment.
In February, 2012 I wrote a rather lengthy article entitled Forging a Trident Strategy For American Workers. It was not a reference to the nuclear submarine designed to launch multiple warhead nuclear missiles in a mushroom cloud doomsday but rather the three-pronged weapon of the Greek god Poseidon illustrated above. It was meant to symbolize three mutually dependent paths of struggle for Class & Climate Justice:
We have trade unions and issue movements doing work with varying degrees of competence and success in two of these arenas but in electoral not so much—some worthy educational campaigns like the Michigan Working Class Party and one elected socialist, Kshama Sawant, serving a second term on the Seattle City Council.
And the needed handle for thrusting these prongs in a unified effort to take political and economic power on behalf of the working class majority—a mass party of our own—does not exist.
Not much of the perspective in that article was anything uniquely original. It was an attempt at a fresh reintroduction of lessons learned the hard way by American workers. I believe it remains not only appropriate but urgently needed today.
As we fight the reactionary attacks we know are coming with an incomplete defensive weapon we need to simultaneously forge the missing components required for a counter-offensive in the class war.
As in other English speaking countries our model is a labor party. We had a promising false start with the Labor Party project launched in 1996. The remnants of that party in Kansas City will soon be calling a meeting to revive a Labor Party Advocates group and we are in touch with others in Oregon, Arizona and Ohio who have kept the flame burning.
That’s a small step to be sure. But at least it will be in the right direction. We would sure like to have you along side.
That’s all for this week.
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