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 To Understand Election, Look Beyond Race

— November 10, 2016

The outcry over the election of the demagogue Donald Trump is righteous and necessary. The wealthy shyster fouled the already farcical 2016 election campaign with racist and misogynistic language and proposed few policies beyond those that would target Mexican and Muslim immigrants in unconstitutional and inhumane ways. Whatever his actual initiatives once he takes the Oval Office, his will be a presidential administration comfortable with the rhetoric of hateful chauvinism and must be resisted by a broad popular movement every step of the way.

It is also necessary, though, that this resistance movement attack Trump from the left and not the right. Hillary Clinton’s campaign failed to attract youth and African-American voters in sufficient numbers to win the election precisely because her opposition to Trump was reactionary and not genuinely progressive. Clinton offered nothing to the millions of workers who have seen their wages stagnate under eight years of an Obama White House.

Instead she built her campaign on the rhetoric of identity politics, attacking not only Trump but his supporters as racist, misogynistic “deplorables,” all the while laying the political groundwork for a massive escalation of militarism and war—perhaps even war with nuclear-armed Russia—once she took office. As the favored candidate of Wall Street, the Pentagon and the CIA, Clinton represented nothing hopeful and no positive change. In fact, as soon as self-styled “socialist” Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, she abandoned the tepid overtures she was forced to make toward workers and youth and concentrated her efforts at winning over the support of the Republican establishment, giving the actual meaning to the slogan “Better Together.”

Clinton is a reactionary war-monger with a track record that appealed strongly to the financial parasites and to the military-intelligence state. Her critique of Trump—including her invocation of identity politics—was entirely grounded in right-wing politics and was void of any progressive content. It is a damning indictment of her and the Democratic Party that she was unable even to defeat so repulsive a charlatan.

The rise of Trump itself is a damning indictment of the Democratic Party and the abysmal record of the Obama years. Entirely beholden to corporate and banking interests, the Obama White House dispensed with any attempt at alleviating the suffering of millions of Americans. Obamacare, whose premiums are scheduled to skyrocket next year, was legislation drafted by insurance industry lobbyists. Under Obama we witnessed the determined expansion of charter schools, the brutal crackdown on the Occupy encampments in 2011, the cold rebuff of the people of Flint, the institution of extrajudicial drone assassination (murder)–even of American citizens—and the disastrous expansion of war. And it is Obama’s administration that has carried out unprecedented levels of deportations.

Just as the enthusiastic following of Bernie Sanders represented exasperation with the status quo and the demand for actual change, so the support Trump garnered must be understood as a protest vote. Many of those who voted for Trump on Tuesday, and who are now labeled as white racists, voted for Obama in 2008. There is no question that Trump has attracted to his campaign the worst elements and more backward sections of the middle and working class. This fact does not mean that the white middle and working class is racist. In particular, the working class has come under direct attack by the Clinton campaign and her supporters. This attack must be understood for what it is, a class-based animosity. Working class whites and working class blacks and working class immigrants have all suffered under Obama and the Democrats, and they were abandoned by the Clinton campaign. Many among the white working class were drawn to the Sanders campaign, seeking a more progressive alternative to Clinton. Some of these workers turned to Trump. Many of them, and this must be stressed, stayed away from the polls on election day.

It is a ruse and a lie that the white working class of America is monolithically motivated by racism, or that there is an epidemic of “whitelash” in the country. This lie is peddled by the Democratic Party and its surrogates in movements like Black Lives Matter and By Any Means Necessary, as well as by comfortable white liberals who have only contempt for the working class. Its twofold purpose is to promote the interests of the affluent layers of the African-American middle class and, first and foremost, to divide and conquer the working class. It is the oldest trick in the American aristocracy’s playbook, and we must stop falling for it.


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