So far, there has not been a presidential election like this since 1968, when thousands of youth faced a police riot outside the Democratic convention in Chicago. Or maybe 1972, when the “peace candidate” George McGovern overwhelmed the Democratic Party leadership and won the nomination (only to be overwhelmingly defeated by Nixon, with the tops of his own party abandoning him).
This one might be a wilder ride yet.
The Wall St. moguls are pulling their hair out. They had it all set up – Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton. Two of their own. Now, Bush is on life-support and Clinton is running scared.
Within their favored party – the Republicans – they are facing an out-of-control creature of
their own creation. In order to confuse and stupefy the US public, they lulled them to sleep
with nonsense TV, 15 second sound bytes, religious claptrap, jingoism, xenophobia and racism. They glorified one multi-millionaire after another. (Kardashians, anybody?) And out of this toxic brew emerged… The Donald, dripping from head to toe, from every pore with nonsense, racism and demagoguery. Swaggering, strutting and puffing himself up. And the crowd eats it up as if they were watching a professional wrestling spectacle.
On the day after the vote in New Hampshire, the Wall St. Journal’s editors had a long editorial analyzing the results. They concluded by urging the more mainstream Republican candidates to “sooner rather than later… stop attacking each other and start educating voters about Donald J. Trump.”
When US capitalism has to maneuver, tack and turn, maybe even beat a strategic retreat,
then the Democratic Party is comes into its own. One problem for the Democrats, though, is that they used up their scant supply of fresh young faces eight years ago with Barack Obama. That’s partly because of the domination of the Republicans at the state level. So all the Democrats have left is a mainstream candidate with too much of a track record — Hillary Clinton. That, and the kindly grandfather figure with the anti-Wall St. message, Bernie Sanders. It’s likely that Sanders never thought he’d get this far, never thought he actually stood a chance of winning the nomination. But the disgust with Wall St. combined with the pitiful state of affairs as far as the Democratic Party’s leading figures has upset that apple cart.
One of the few remaining bases of support for Clinton is among black voters and, in fact, among a layer of working class voters in general. These voters don’t vote for a fringe candidate; they don’t caste their votes to make a political statement. As Sanders’ star rises, though, it’s possible he will start to cut into that source of support. (Another reason for the support for Hillary among those voters is that many workers fondly recall the economically “good years” of the Bill Clinton presidency. But Sanders attack on Wall St. and on “income inequality” can start to undermine that source of strength.)
Movement from Below
The real issue is how and when a movement from below will rise, one that breaks out of official channels. In the unions, for example, while the disgust with the leadership is rampant, very few members are willing to actually organize to change things, to build an opposition to that leadership.
It’s similar with US politics in general. The reason Sanders has attracted so much support (aside from the mood in general) is that he is perceived as a source of power.
Beyond Bernie Sanders?
Now, on the national level, millions are placing their hopes in Bernie Sanders. By electing him, their problems will be solved, or so many think. The question of the hour is whether they will go beyond Sanders. What happens if Clinton ends up with the nomination and Sanders supports her? Will his supporters go along? Will they simply become demoralized and drop out of activity? Or will they strike out on a new course?
Or how about if – miracle of miracles – Sanders wins the nomination? Will the Democratic Party leadership abandon his campaign, as they did with George McGovern in 1972, allowing the Republicans to win the White House? That partly depends on if Trump wins the Republican nomination. If so, then the Democratic tops are more likely to organize for Sanders since Wall St. is horrified at the though of a Trump presidency, even more so than a Sanders presidency. Also, if Michael Bloomberg launches an independent campaign, then it’s likely that the Democratic tops would support him over Sanders or Trump.
And if Clinton wins the nomination and is then elected, will Sanders become more of a galvanizing voice of opposition? And what will he do after 2018, when his present term expires? It seems very likely that he will retire if he’s not president. Will he then take a slightly greater degree of independence from his fellow Democrats?
So many questions, so few answers.
But the main point still remains: For 100 years, US capitalism has maintained political stability through thick and thin through their “two party system.” Resting now on one and now on the other, their rule has remained unchallenged. The task of building an alternative to these two parties, a real, serious mass workers’ party seems almost insurmountable. Even greater than the task of throwing off the yoke of the conservative union bureaucracy seems to union members. Part of the reason that the task seems so insurmountable has been exactly that stability, that appearance of invulnerability, of the rule of Corporate America. Now, their control over the two parties is weakened. How far will that go and with what ultimate results?
One principle remains, though: The US working class needs its own political party. It’s true that the two big business parties are in turmoil unlike anything seen in many decades. But they remain big business parties and the start of building an alternative stands in direct contradiction to supporting Sanders and the more liberal wing of the Democrats. You cannot support Sanders and effectively work to build that alternative.
Build the grassroots movement and grassroots candidates
We have argued on this blog site that at this point the main emphasis should be on building the local campaigns around the issues like the police, environmental destruction, etc., and that an important part of building those campaigns should be to encourage them to run their own, independent candidates for local office – independent of and opposed to the two main capitalist parties. And as we see every day, that cannot be done while supporting a Democrat (Sanders) at the national level. While we have to pay attention to national politics, that still seems to be the most important place to put our energies.