Elections to the post of President of the biggest economic and military power in the world are only days away. While it will obviously have important effect on different countries and regions, in fact the whole of world, the elections are, as usual, being fought on domestic issues. In fact, in case of USA, the two are intertwined, USA being the biggest exploiter of the world.
In 2016, Democratic Party had chosen to lose the White House but not the support of corporate. While it was obvious that Bernie Sanders could easily beat Donald Trump, Democratic Party establishment anointed Hillary Clinton as the Party candidate for Presidency as Sanders wanted some change in the neoliberal policies of the country. In 2020, Donald Trump has risked his re-election but has ruled out any increase in taxes on the corporate. His Corona pandemic handling is not solely due to his idiosyncrasies but largely due to his refusal to increase public spending to the level demanded by the situation. And that is due to his refusal to raise money for this expenditure, which must come either by fiscal means i.e. raising the taxes on the super-rich, or by monetary means that would lead to increase in interest rates which again is not to the liking of the corporate.
Donald Trump is among the leaders of those countries who have refused to raise money from corporate, and hence denied the serious nature of the pandemic itself. He termed it an ordinary flu. A type of Flu it is, and mostly non-serious but with high rate of spread and deadly among the elderly especially with pre-existing conditions. US has a large population of elderly who lead an active life and hence have good chance of exposure. Moreover, nCorona being a new virus, human beings have no immunity to it, nor is any vaccine yet available. All this was well known to Trump but he had staked his all in the service of super-rich and hence went on to discredit scientific advice. However he succeeded in discrediting only himself, with Science speaking louder than this demagoguery. With over nine million corona positive cases and over two lakh thirty five thousand deaths, Corona had the better of him. Like the old Biblical god, Corona is a very vindictive virus, does not like those who disregard it or make fun of it.
It is not that Trump did not have or, even if he did not, could not have, scientific advice. But the main thing is that he did not want to lose nor could he afford to lose the support of the corporate. He could definitely have improved his chances of re-election with considerate and scientific handling of Corona pandemic. This is proved by the victory of Labour Party leader of New Zealand, Jacinda Adern, who as Prime Minister was running very low in opinion polls but scored an unprecedented victory due to her handling of Corona pandemic in her country, a fact admitted by all commentators and Jacinda Adern herself.
Trump has projected handling of economy as his strong point and has simplistic formulae have been giving all benefits to corporate, encouraging local production for jobs and curtailing foreign nationals working in US. But the Economy has taken a big hit during Corona pandemic, rendering millions jobless. In fact, the number of those applying for unemployment benefits has gone up unprecedentedly. GDP has shrunk by biggest margin, something not seen since Great Depression. However, nobody blames or would have blamed Trump for the state of economy during Corona pandemic. But taking steps for Corona control and mitigation would have meant increase in expenditure. Trump could have used this as an opportunity but he is a representative of big capitalists who have scored big during the pandemic. In fact during six months i.e. from March to September 2020, billionaires in US have added nearly a trillion US $ to their wealth. According to a report in inequality.org, wealth of 644 US billionaires increased from US$ 2.94 trillion on March 18 to US$ 3.88 on October 13, an increase of 31.6%. On the other hand, homelessness, destitution and poverty have grown among vast multitude. Trump and Republicans have opposed measures to mitigate the sufferings of the poor, quibbling over all amounts.
Given people’s hard conditions, Trump and Republicans have seized upon the racial divide as the way out. This is not at all surprising. Given the bad condition of the working people and Admn.’s unwillingness to take measures to mitigate their suffering, Trump and his supporters have poured oil on the burning fires of racial division. In USA, a big movement has come forth against the systemic racial injustice, especially against the African Americans. This relates to discriminatory and brutal treatment at the hands of police. (We can easily grasp it as there is systemic ill-treatment of Muslims and Dalits by police in our country). This movement, spearheaded by Black Lives Matter which has been in existence for several years, burst forth throughout length and breadth of the country after the chokehold murder of Floyd in Minneapolis. African Americans were supported in this movement by a large number of democratic people drawn from other racial groups including a large number of White people- people of North European descent.
In this situation, Trump is seeking to deepen racial divide for his electoral gain. One can recall how Republican Nixon had sought to use post-segregation situation to deepen the racial divide. Then, like now, was war weariness about wars abroad, then being Vietnam War. But Nixon could succeed because US was not in economic contraction nor was facing economic competition like now. Moreover, Nixon was a mainstream Republican, clicking on the support bases of that Party, having been Vice-President to Eisenhover for eight years. Moreover, Nixon was not an incumbent, hence could pin blame for all the mess on Democrats, who then were deeply divided.
Trump is taking refuge in the racial divisions at a time when his handling of Corona pandemic is being widely questioned; when his support among the industrial working people has been shaken by the sharp decline in living conditions of working masses and he has nobody to blame but himself though he is trying hard to hold Xi Jinping responsible for this, but Xi is not on the ballot.
The importance of these elections does not lie in the candidates who are contesting but the conditions in which these elections are taking place. Democrat Joe Biden is a long time Washington insider, having been Senator since 1973 and Vice-President in Obama Admn. for eight years from 2009. He was running very weak in the primaries till the Democratic Party establishment, Obama-Clinton machine, came forward to call the nomination in his favour. Joe Biden does not inspire change but the real question is what he would be compelled to go along with and what Trump victory would signify for those fighting for racial justice and economic relief in the times of pandemic. Trump has come to signify more of the same, and this same is not being liked by a large number of Americans, least by the forces fighting against racial injustice and economic inequality.
Internationally, whosoever wins the Presidency, though the style may be different, task will be to manage the US decline and playing its role as biggest economic and military power in a multi-polar world. Trump had shrunk US footprints to core areas where he had been belligerent. He was focused on China and in Middle-east he was bent on rallying ruling Arab Sheikhs and dictators around Israel. His only contribution, if it can be so called, was to denude the US foreign policy of high sounding albeit ill suited phrases like Human Rights, Democracy etc.
Significance of these elections lies in its effect on struggles going on and growing in America. Irrespective of the outcome, the struggle for racial justice will grow, though it will face different situation depending on the outcome. The struggle against sharply growing economic inequality will be sharpening. From Occupy Wall Street this trend has not stopped. Right now the focus will be on increasing taxes on the rich to meet the situation of the pandemic. Biden has not been a votary of the same but the forces growing in America will force him to tilt that way. He will definitely try to be a corporate check on anti-neoliberal agenda of a section of Democratic Party. His running mate- Kamala Harris- has also been close to corporate and establishment in Washington. But as noted earlier, there is growing strength of the movement which will intrude into the reckoning. How far these forces will be able to influence the policy agenda will depend on a number of situations including outcome of the Congress and Senate races where a number of the candidates supportive of these forces are running. Democratic Party is facing a sharp divide and for the time being is united for common opposition to Donald Trump and prospect of coming to power in the ensuing elections.
A word about Indian Americans is not out of place. An overwhelming number of them are against Donald Trump and are likely to vote for his opponent. Friends of BJP in America, an RSS outfit, is campaigning for Donald Trump who has established close partnership with RSS-BJP Govt. Modi had shared stage with Trump in Howdy Modi. But the real reason at present is US efforts to bring India into its anti-China campaign and make India a part of US led India-Pacific military alliance, a sort of Asian NATO. RSS-BJP has been a strong supporter of a closer and open alliance with US hoping to increase its stature in Asia and hoping to attract capital of companies of USA and its allies from China. These are calculations of RSS-BJP, but section of Indian diaspora, though a minority of Indian Americans, suffers from a sort of schizophrenia, opposing racial injustice in USA but supporting RSS-BJP in India who are targeting minorities, particularly Muslims, and Dalits in India. Though a show of this large ostensible support is orchestrated by RSS propaganda machinery as most of the Indian Americans have been traditional supporters of Democratic Party, however such a schizophrenic response is built in the very fabric of caste system prevalent in India where one protests against injustice to self, but does not hesitate to heap or support injustice on others. Indian Americans should bring this to an end and see this connection between white supremacists in USA and Hindutva zealots in India.
October 31, 2020