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In the aftermath of US Elections


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  1. Although Trump have cut social expenditures, followed policies favouring big businesses, and especially helped Covid-19 pandemic to spread all around the country and become a national disaster by not supporting working people sufficiently and letting them die in thousands, more than 70 million Americans cast their votes for him and he lost the election with a small margin. What do you think are the main factors behind this continuing support for Trump?

There are of course many. Seventy million Trump voters certainly weren’t any more uniform than 75 million Biden voters. Some of the factors contributing to some voters supporting Trump are being widely discussed, for example people’s racism or at least their fear of losses for whites to benefit others, and their sexism and identification with macho behavior and authoritarian impulses.

There are other factors, however. For example a belief that Trump had positively affected economic results until Covid and that he was battling against shutdowns on behalf of the public to avoid economic losses. The belief that he hadn’t entered a new war and was trying to wind down military involvements. Therefore, ignorance of the real acts of Trump and their implications. And, also, quite symmetrically, like many Biden voters voted for him due to hating Trump while disliking Biden, many Trump voters voted for him due to hatred of Biden while disliking Trump.

One factor, I think quite important, that gets less attention and is often confused as well, is a class consciousness toward what Trump voters see as Democrats support for managers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and more generally formally educated, empowered, enriched employees who I call the coordinator class plus Democratic distance from and disdain for formally less educated, disempowered, and increasingly impoverished employees who I call the working class.

Trying to understand which factors predominate, and still more importantly how to address the associated concerns of all the factors weighs, or should weigh, as a very high priority.

  1. How do you think this election results will affect Trump’s electoral basis? Some commentators are arguing that they will shift to the right further, flocking to the ranks of right wing armed militia. To what extent, do you think that kind of militarisation of the white supremacism is possible?

No one knows the answer. In fact, almost all commentaries to date are highly problematic. Shift a relative few votes, Trump wins, and imagine the changed tone and topics of discussion. Yet, the country’s mindset overall, so to speak, on Election Day, would have been marginally different. Small differences, huge effects. But also, what does the word “base” even mean and how large is it, really?

If most of Trump’s support is primarily driven by racist hate, for example, and mostly not just posturing but really profound, then the danger is very real. Trump’s shenanigans over the election may be trying to allow four years of resenting and organizing against a stolen election and against the rise of black and brown citizens, on the road to 2024.

But if most of Trump’s support rests on ignorance of true circumstances and on hostility to coordinator class policies, and if popular activism propels Democrats to not only clarify true relations, but also reorient aggressively toward programs benefitting the workers not only materially, but expanding their organizational clout, all at the expense of both capital and the coordinator class elements above workers, the danger would not only greatly diminish, but one can imagine a significant and perhaps even quite large part of Trump’s support turning toward existing and new progressive elements. Sanders showed this possibility, the new, young, progressive Democrats would expand it, and more importantly grass roots local, regional, and national organizers and activists would propel it.

So do we get resurgent Democratic Party neoliberalism, and truncated ineffective grassroots activism plus a strutting Trump and greatly enlarged and emboldened racist, fascist Trumpist citizenry in coming years, or do we get surging progressive forces able to communicate effectively with working people and to push Biden and develop mass campaigns and organizations seeking diverse popular and progressive changes plus, electorally, the rise of OAC and others to national prominence. Many factors may be relevant, but surely the ability of leftist actors to forge multi issue, multi tactic, mutual aid based and collective organizing led campaigns will be one.

  1. One of the distinct features of the latest presidential election is the presence and activity of movements that work in Bernie Sanders campaign and advocating the demands that Sanders gave a voice. How do you assess the capacity of these movements to have an influence on the Biden administration?

I think Sanders’ experience and effectivity is arguably a larger surprise and a more fundamental indicator of changes in the U.S. than the rise of Trump. If Sanders had run, what would have been the result? We don’t know, of course, but I think it would have been more turmoil, more conflict along the way, but also a far larger victory in turn establishing a take off point far more suited to far larger immediate gains and to building toward a far more progresssive and radical future. Sanders’ campaign was a kind of school for huge numbers of young people. If they retain their preferences and their energy and courage, I think they could certainly have significant impact on the next four years – while building lasting organization and awareness to propel even larger gains for far beyond those years. But it won’t be easy.

Democratic Party elites , on the one hand, do not themselves, personally, want to lose their control over and their careers based in the current Party agenda which is overwhelmingly to sustain social relations as they are. They revealed, for those who didn’t already know, during the primaries in 2016 and 2020 that they are more afraid of a Sanders type insurgency than they are of a Trumpian type presidency. I suspect that forcing Biden to abide progressive agendas is going to require that Biden feels that to not relent to such pressures will be worse for him and the Party elite and the powerful interests in society that both Biden and the Party elite represent than giving in to those pressures. This means for Sanders supporters and others to win change is going to entail Biden and those around him believing that he must give in because not doing so would just enhance movement commitment and capacity for winning even further gains. Of course the movement’s task is to not only get Biden to implement improved program, but then push for still more.

  1. Trump has undermined the democratic institutions and made right wing appointments to all institutions as he did to US Supreme Court. Do you think the newly elected Biden administration can undo this damage to democracy? What kind of policies should be followed to achieve this?

Trump has done graphically, and more aggressively, what is the norm in staffing institutions to his liking. What makes it more outrageous than normal – normal being that the staffs and actors are committed to business as usual – is that Trump was and remains oblivious to many elements of business as usual, and instead wants real, even fundamental changes, which, however, are horribly reactionary, off the chart reactionary, in scope and intent. That he breaks arbitrary rules isn’t what is wrong with him. It is that he does it in pursuit of vile aims.

Biden can actually ironically take a page from Trump’s book. Not, of course, from his values or preferred policies for society but from Trump’s willingness to violate what is expected and battle for what he desires. Appointments to positions, enlarging the Supreme Court, using the presidency as a tool for rallying visible, public, demonstrative, civilly disobedient support, albeit by something more substantial than lying tweets, plus multiple aggressive executive orders are all possible. Biden could welcome mass demonstrations, even foster them, and then ratify them – but that is highly unlikely. On the other hand, if they emerge and engage, Biden could succumb to them, pushing the whole society left in thought, and left in new policies – in his mind to ward off still more of the same.

  1. Bernie Sanders and all grassroots movements mobilized around his campaign still advocate that the Biden administration should rapidly adopt and move towards a Green New Deal policy, generating jobs that can provide a decent income for millions. What kind of socio-economic policies, do you think the Biden administration would follow? What are the main factors that influence these policies?

What the new administration would do, on its own, absent pressure, is, I would guess, somewhat better than what Biden and Obama did, but not much. Which could auger a horrendous result form 2024 on. But if the key factor which is massive public pressure exists, and if it manifests smartly, then I think much more may be won now while also ensuring that ensuing years could be even more positive.

2 Comments

  1. David Green November 16, 2020 8:29 pm 

    Paul Street isn’t a scholar, he’s a polemicist, and a lunatic one at that. DiMaggio’s granular survey analyses are obtuse, and driven by an effort to prove his assumption, that Trump’s supporters aren’t majority working class; as if anyone argues that. Many if not most Trump supporters have suffered from neoliberal policies, either on a personal or communal level. They dislike coastal elites, and rightly so.

  2. Raghav Kaushik November 16, 2020 8:06 pm 

    The interview seems to assume that Trump voters were working class. While working class voters were undoubtedly a part of the Trump voters, scholarship by Anthony Dimaggio and Paul Street shows that Trump voters are mostly petit bourgeois, slightly higher up on the income ladder than median incomes.

    Perhaps Michael Albert could elaborate on how he maps the notion of petit bourgeois to his notions of coordinator and working class.

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