Trump’s Oval Office Speech and Silence of Labor Leaders

Trump tried to look “presidential” While Pelosi and Schumer tried to look sober and caring

Donald Trump has learned some lessons from the Republicans’ defeat last November.

America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans…” So spoke Trump last night in his Oval Office address.

A “Normal” President?
As a columnist for the Washington Post
 put it, “Trump tried to play a normal president on television. The result was very strange…. It was disconcerting to hear a speech that, at least for the opening minutes, could have been delivered by any normal politician.”

Trump spoke without all the crazy gesticulation, the nutty sounds and off-the-wall rhetorical flourishes that his true-believer followers love. For the moment, he seemed to have recognized that, yes, telling one outright lie after another is damaging him among a wider layer of society. So, instead of outright lying, he simply told one horror story after another, gave statistics about drugs coming across the southern border, and merely implied that that is what the Wall is all about.

In other words, he realizes that to keep his Republican congress members on board he has to win over a larger base in society.

Democrats: “Facts, not fear”
In reply, the Democrats’ Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer did their best to remind audiences of who the real Donald Trump is. “the president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts,” said Pelosi. “We don’t govern by temper tantrums. President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts; division not unity,” repeated Chuck Schumer.

Both sides face an insurmountable problem:

Neither side can afford to compromise
A few days earlier, Trump had started to compromise – back down, actually, as he has already done on withdrawing the troops from Syria. Then he was given a tongue-lashing by Fox, and made to realize that if he retreated on this, his signature issue, that the next two years will be a nightmare for him, and he won’t be reelected in 2020. His party activists would desert him in droves, and even his own fellow-Republicans would then turn against him.

Schumer and Pelosi would also be perfectly willing to compromise, but they face a similar problem. There would be absolute bedlam within the Democratic Party were they to okay a single penny for the Wall. Pelosi is having a hard enough time as it is controlling the likes of Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez, who, in turn, would have to bitterly denounce her and any compromise she agreed to because their base would tend to lose all hope in the Democrats.

How will the crisis be resolved? In fact, can it be resolved?

The Democrats in the House have passed a temporary funding bill, but that bill is very unlikely to pass in the (Republican controlled) Senate. Even if it did, it would be vetoed by Trump, whose veto is almost guaranteed to stand up in the Senate… at this point.

“Emergency” and Supreme Court
In the next few days, Trump will visit the southern border. One possibility is that he will use the visit to do what he has threatened: Declare an “emergency” and unilaterally authorize funding for the Wall. Among other things, this would face a legal challenge. That challenge would then channel the crisis into the third wing of the US government – the judiciary. On short order, it would be heard by the US Supreme Court. That Republican-controlled court would then have to decide: “Do we stand with our party and our president, or do we try to maintain a shred of credibility that we, the Supreme Court Justices, are impartial and non-political, that we rule based strictly on the US Constitution?”

Either way, the Supreme Court Republican majority loses.

Deafening silence of union leadership

The ever weak AFL-CIO President, Rich Trumka. But it’s not only him, no sector of the union leadership is organizing against these policies.

Once again, the deafening silence in the room is that of the union leadership. (See this article for more on the impact of their silence.) Well, not exactly. On Monday, January 7, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka issued a statement on the government shutdown. Probably issued on orders from his Democratic Party bosses, it was exactly what was to be expected: Mealy mouthed. “Ending the government shutdown and putting people back to work must be the highest and only priority of the U.S. Senate. The AFL-CIO calls on all senators to reject consideration of any bills or business unrelated to opening the

Bernie Sanders latest email, sent out Jan. 7. No mention of government shutdown. Mobilizing the working class is completely foreign to the “progressive” Democrats

government. Every day this senseless and manufactured crisis drags on, real families with very real bills are harmed and millions are denied the vital services we deserve. Politicians need to do their job and allow us to do ours.” 

The attached name to the statement was Carolyn Bobb, whose phone number is (202) 637-5018. Oaklandsocialist called to see if she had any further comment, including whether the AFL-CIO was going to organize any sort of protest. However, we were unable to get through so we left a message. We urge others to call also.

That was the sum total of what Trumka had to say. Not a word about the Wall. Not a word about the horrific situation those desperate people at the border are facing. Not a word about the need for working class unity between native born and immigrant workers. And of course not a word about workers mobilizing to fight for our interests.

The leadership of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which now says it has 56,000 members, is likewise silent. Again, nothing on their web site. As they say on their calendar, “there are no upcoming events scheduled right now.” Nope. Nothing important happening, folks. “Please check back soon!”

The explanation for this silence lies in their being tied by the umbilical cord to the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party as led by Bernie Sanders. While this wing might make some noises about “progressive” goals like Medicare for All, the one thing they avoid like the plague is any sort of mobilization of working class people, anything that might actually disrupt the wheels of motion of US capitalism.

That is why it’s such a mistake to give any support to these liberal/“progressive” capitalists – because in supporting them, we are inevitably drawn ever closer into their entire strategy. That strategy is: Limit ourselves to elections and legislation only. Never mobilize the real power of the working class, including working class youth.

DSA could and should be mobilizing tens of thousands of working class people (including the unemployed and including working class youth) and tens of thousands of the specially oppressed in the streets to demand:



  • End the federal shutdown NOW; full pay for all federal workers!
  • No! to the Wall; Release all asylum seekers!
  • Full federal assistance and services for all who need it; no reduction in food stamps, etc.
  • Full pay raise for all federal workers; for an immediate $5/hr raise for all!
  • Drive Trump/Pence out of the White House!

That would lead to a real break in the situation. It would sway the views tens of millions of workers. Along the way, the Republicans’ unity would crumble like a cookie left out in the rain and they would buckle immediately in the Senate. Most important of all, though, it would be a huge step towards what’s desperately needed in the US: the beginnings of a mass working class political party.

Lone protest as Oakland Federal Building. 
This protester had several fascinating conversations, but if tens of thousands were mobilized it would transform America.

Update: Shortly after this article was published, national DSA sent around a letter calling for support for federal workers, including for members to leaflet at sites around the country. While it’s positive that they are at last recognizing this crisis, simply leafletting is nowhere adequate. Nor is it being organized; they should be urging each branch, as a branch and led by the branch leadership, to take public action.

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