CPI-ML New Democracy

US Presidential Election : What it signifies and what it stands for

With over six million less votes and decisive defeat in the Electoral College, Donald Trump refusal to concede the race may appear to be incongruous. And yet it fits into a pattern. While personal traits may be and are important, there is a design in the madness.

The glaring obduracy of Trump is but a reflection of growing contradictions in USA’s economic and social life. Trump is too much of an insider in the echelons of power and Washington establishment besides being a billionaire businessman, to indulge in personal adventurism. It suits all the major players for Trump to act as he is doing. Firstly for himself, Trump wants to raise enough dust which does not settle over the next four years i.e. first term of Joe Biden. He has all the intentions of running in the next elections and wants to leave enough of a platform which acts as a pressure on the incoming Administration and acts as a springboard for his next bid. There is a historical precedent of discontinuous terms and Trump has all the intentions of emulating that example. His lack of concession will, in his calculation, do no harm to him as that is not what he likes to run as. He has brought to surface all that was obnoxious in US society which had always co-existed with other aspect i.e. democratic character; which made most heinous institution of slavery co-exist with democratic institutions; with most exploitative forms co-existing with egalitarian impulses; all these reflecting the class contradictions in a capitalist society built on the foundations of elimination of natives and exploitation of slaves along with crudest exploitation of working masses i.e. the plebeians of the land.

Trump’s strategy of discouraging early voting asking his supporters to vote on voting day i.e. November 3 and claim victory as those votes are counted first and fast, was at a discount from the start as nearly two third voted early through mail. These votes whom Trump tried to call ‘illegal’ have been legal and in vogue in USA, their number going up due to Corona. It was a poor strategy born out of recognition of lack of majority support. It had little chance of success except to throw enough dust which he did. He is making much of the highest votes polled by any incumbent ignoring that he was voted out by highest number of voters in US history.

His party, the Republicans, is going along with his game mainly for its own reasons. First and foremost with economic crisis assuming alarming proportions has made this “Party of Order” increasingly rely on the whipping up reactionary credo of enforcing domestic peace and increasingly resorting to racist divisions targeted mainly against African Americans. This racism is all permeating, systemic and ingrained into every day discourse of capitalist distortions of ‘survival of fittest.’ Republican Party had earlier also utilized an upswing in the struggle of African Americans and fomented reaction against it as well as rode over it to put itself up as a Party of Law and Order. That was Nixon time who saw in that an opportunity to resurrect his political career. With economic decline due to pandemic on top of deepening economic crisis due to inherent contradiction of the capitalism, Republican Party is under pressure to ward off demands for increasing expenditure on the people to mitigate economic adverse effects of the pandemic on the working people with is concomitant need of raising this money from the corporate. Republicans are whipping up racist rhetoric to divert attention from this. The fierce loyalty commanded by Trump from a section is rooted in the planks adopted by the Republican Party.

Another important reason, and in the immediate context may be more important reason for the majority of Republican leaders to play along with Trump, are coming run-offs for the two Senate seats in Georgia. This traditional Republican supporting state has flipped to Democrats in the recent Presidential election, for the first time since 1992 and only for the second time since 1948. These two seats will decide who control the Senate. If Democrats win these two seats they will control the Senate. Republicans will like to keep control of the Senate for their share in power and prevent any actions which may not be to their liking. Republicans do not wish to alienate or discourage the sections rallying around Trump so close to elections. Hence, their hesitation in asking Trump to make the concession.

This situation also suits the Democratic Party establishment. It helps them to project taking White House away from Trump in itself as a big victory. It helps them to ask the people not to expect anything more. Joe Biden is a candidate of the Democratic Party establishment for whom the most important is to keep the support of big capital. Democratic Party has used mobilizations by its progressive sections to garner votes and essentially nothing more. The more Trump whines and delays more it helps Biden and Democratic Party establishment can sing this tune. They are talking about restoration of democracy and the like, in essence restoring status quo which is becoming increasing untenable in the milieu of deepening economic crisis and growing social contradictions. But this has not detracted Democratic Party establishment from trying to do just that. In fact Joe Biden Presidency will be more like third term for Obama Admn. in more ways than one. At least that will be the attempt of Democratic Party establishment which will face challenge from the rising struggles of exploited and oppressed in the USA including opposition from the progressive sections of the Democratic Party. Joe Biden presidency will be ridden with contradictions as it is stepping in at the time of sharp escalation of all the basic contradictions of imperialist system. Its attempts e la Obama to paper over the internal contradictions and to pursue US hegemony in a world which has undergone much change over the last four years is doomed to fail. However, this will be an interesting period of growing struggles of the people and how these contradictions will play out and how these will be utilized by the progressive and revolutionary forces will be closely watched. In fact, this coming face-off is much in the air. Progressive section of Democrats is already demanding Biden to honour his pre-election promises.

To suit this purpose some myths are being circulated. Firstly, there is much propaganda about Trump base. But a closer look exposes the myth. Trump is currently polling 47.2% votes and his vote share will further decline as vote counts in the states he has already lost are completed. By comparison, Mitt Romney had polled 47.2% votes in 2012 Presidential election against Obama. Even McCain had polled 45.7% against Obama in 2008 after two terms of George Bush with disastrous Iraq War and explosion of great recession. Trump himself had polled 46.1% in 2016 when he had won due to higher Electoral College numbers. Obviously, the talk of Trump base is definitely exaggerated. Republican and Democratic Parties, as the two main contenders of power, have their traditional electoral bases and vote share is roughly in that range in a non-wave election and votes polled by Trump are in that range. Higher voter turnout this time is partly due to heightened contradictions in US society and partly due to greater opportunity to vote due to expanded time frame due to ongoing pandemic.

Second myth propagated is that Trump has rallied poorer sections around. In 2016 he had rallied anger of working class in rust belt over loss of jobs for which many among them held trade pacts responsible and identified Democrat leader Hillary Clinton with them. But any general mobilization of the sort i.e. of the working masses in his favour has not been there nor was there. In fact, Trump has been the choice of the richer sections of society. He has been the establishment figure posing as anti-establishment to tap the anger of the people against neoliberal policies. In that he was and is backed by the corporate and ruling elite to project two versions of the same policies as choices; differing on many things but not on neo-liberal agenda; differing on sectoral emphasis and concrete measures but not on the general trajectory of showering benefits on the super-rich. It is also significant that this was the costliest election in US history with more than 6.6 billion US $ spent on Presidential election alone and over 14 billion US$ if one includes the House and Senate races. Small contributions have accounted for less than one fifth (20%) of what was spent by and for the candidates for Presidency. Not difficult to see the impact of big money on these elections.

According to an exit-poll conducted by Edison Research published by several outlets, Trump polled much higher among the high earners. Aversion to his crude rhetoric among sections of elite should not be taken as his rejection by the elite. If we take broad categories based on annual family income, Trump polled 54% of the votes of those whose family income was above US$ 100,000 a year compared to Biden’s 43%. This section comprised 28% of the US electorate. His advantage was much more pronounced among those earning between US$ 100,000 and US$ 200,000 who comprised three fourth of these (21%) and among whom he polled 57% to Biden’s 41%. Compare this to those whose annual family income amounted to less than US$ 100,000, comprising 72% of the electorate, 57% preferred Biden to Trump’s 42%. From these polls it is obvious that Trump has been a preferred choice of the higher earning section of US populace. Contrast this with the widespread propaganda that Trump is more popular among the poorer sections. That is based on Republican Party electoral support base.

Total family income in 2019?

Trump           Biden

Under $100,000                  72% of voters           42                    57
$100,000 or more               28%                            54                    43

Three issues dominated the US elections this time around. Firstly the issue of Corona pandemic. On this issue Trump has been in denial mode as he did not wish to raise money from the super-rich. (Analyzed in greater detail in earlier comment published in this issue.) Second was the issue of systemic racial injustice. Trump sought to overplay this to do a Nixon but failed in this. He unleashed Proud Boys and likes of Ku Klux Klan. He overplayed this and did so crudely. Moreover, this came in conflict with the growing difficulties of the people including white skinned working people. Here again, he got the majority of votes of white Americans like most Republicans before him also did. His highlighting law and order platform slightly increased his votes among well to do sections of some minority groups which was more than compensated by higher voting enthusiasm among African Americans which was more to defeat Trump and less to elect Biden. Third important factor was the disenchantment among blue colour workers, most of them white, with their growing difficulties. This played a significant role in the battle ground states particularly rust belt states e.g. Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three traditional democrat states which had been instrumental in Trump winning four years earlier.

With election settled in favour of Biden, a decrescendo of noise notwithstanding has ushered USA in an era of unprecedented sharpening of contradictions. Biden Admn. will be called upon to tackle Corona pandemic- medically and more importantly its economic effects, to address systemic racial injustice in USA and to what he called as ‘transition to green economy’. All these in a world where US is facing increasing challenge from other imperialist powers, especially China. Biden will have to address the multi-polar world; his attempts to pursue US hegemonic drive will come in cropper. Biden had termed Russia as the main adversary of USA in his opinion in the last Presidential debate. That will make his going even more difficult as he would further cement the growing alliance between the two major powers in the world- China and Russia. If he pursues that line, which he articulated in that debate, it will be more advantageous to Chinese rulers. His support to all powerful military-industrial complex will only create further hotspots in the world, but will fail to restore the uni-polar world his predecessor Obama tried.

How Biden will address the issues facing his incoming Admn. can not address the roots of the problems. His call to “unite” rather than address the root causes will be hollow and only embolden the privileged sections, for whose benefit it is essentially meant. An important test would be how far he is willing to combat neo-liberalism. That he has been an avid votary of neo-liberalism and has drawn strong support from the corporate and super-rich will come in clash with rising struggles of the people which is also having effect on the Democratic Party with the growing strength of ‘progressives’ in its legislative wing. It may in fact help Biden and Democratic Party establishment if they fail to win control of Senate. In that case they may be able to pin the blame for their inability, in fact unwillingness, on to Republicans while continuing the same economic policies and marginalizing the progressive sections.

Whatever the actual steps of this opera, it would be more like more of the same so far as economic policies go. In that respect, the actual course would broadly vindicate what one of the great teachers of world proletariat, Fredrick Engels had observed long back, “And nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends- and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it.”

Biden Victory and Indian Govt.

Defeat of Trump may have some impact on the ruling dispensation in India. Indian Prime Minister was slow in congratulating Biden on his victory. And importantly, when PM Modi did manage to talk to President Elect Biden, the two sides dished out different versions of that discussion. According to Biden Campaign, in the phone call between the two i.e. Biden and Modi on November 17, Biden talked of “Strengthening democracy at home and abroad.” But the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson dished out somewhat different version with Modi talking of strength of democratic system in USA. Obviously, Modi does not want Biden to be working for strengthening democracy in India; they may not mind US interference in other countries.

RSS-BJP has not hidden its preference for Trump. Friends of BJP in America have worked for Trump. (Mentioned in earlier comment.)

While Biden Admn. will continue to follow the Asia-Pacific strategy to counter China which was inaugurated by Obama under his ‘Pivot to Asia’. In that respect, there may be little difference between Trump and Biden Admns. rhetoric apart. However, there may be difference between types of response to China between the two Admns. and that may have impact on Sino-Indian relations. It may or may not be accidental that Indian Govt. had announced some progress in disengagement plan with China soon after Biden had been declared winner of the US presidential race. 

Biden Admn. may not be so indulging in Modi led RSS-BJP fascist agenda in India, its attacks on minorities and attacks on the democratic rights of the kind made by RSS-BJP Govt. Biden is on record having expressed disappointment with NRC in Assam and CAA law. Vice-president Elect Kamala Harris, referring to Modi Govt.’s actions in J&K, had said, “We are watching… part of the values what we are as a nation is we speak out about human rights abuses and when appropriate we intervene..” It will be pertinent to recall how Indian Govt. had faced criticism on Kashmir issue in US House panel dominated by Democratic Party. This aspect may have some bearing on the developments in India.