Trump is in deep trouble, but the outcome is uncertain.
His national approval ratings are sinking like a stone, down from 41% approval, compared to 55% disapproval as of June 11. This near 15% gap compares to a mere 5% gap in March.
As we learned in 2016, what really matters is his ratings in a few key “swing states.” He’s in trouble there too. He trails Biden by an average 3.4% in Arizona and Florida, by 7.3% in Michigan, by 3.3% in Pennsylvania, by 5% in Minnesota, and by 1% in Ohio.
Or look at it another way: Another survey showed that 10% of 2016 Trump voters are considering voting for Biden in 2020. As the article points out, every voter who switches away from Trump has a double effect; not only does it add a vote for the Democrat, it subtracts a vote from the Republican.
Build the movement in the streets
Oaklandsocialist has repeatedly commented that the best way to get Trump out is not by campaigning for the Democrat; it’s by building an independent movement in the streets. A byproduct of such a movement, we have pointed out, would be a change in the general consciousness and mood. That is exactly what is happening. It is also having a profound effect on the bulk of the US capitalist class. They seem to have reached their limit as far as Trump’s extremism. Recent criticisms from the US military tops are the clearest indication:
The criticisms of and outright defections from the Trump camp by these top representatives of US capitalism (the military chiefs) started as a result of his kowtowing to Putin in Helsinki in July of 2018. At that time, former CIA director John Brennan called Trump’s actions “nothing short of treasonous.” When Trump announced the military abandonment of its allies in Syria, the Kurds’ PYD, two top generals in his administration – Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly resigned.
This trickle of visible opposition from the military-industrial complex was insufficient to put Trump in check. Under pressure from the twin crises of Covid-19 and the mass movement resulting from the George Floyd police murder and similar such murders over the years, Trump was forced to become even more extreme. He tried to moved closer towards outright military rule. He announced that he was going to use the 1807 Insurrection Act to mobilize US army troops to put down protests around the country. He then had peaceful protesters in Washington DC removed by tear gas so that he could hold a crude photo-op in front of a prominent church near the White House. Among others, he brought Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, along with him, the latter dressed in camouflage battle fatigues. This was intended as another step towards strong-man rule, in part through military repression.
Trickle threatens to become a deluge
The response was swift and certain. There was an outcry in the capitalist media. Even the Wall St. Journal editors warned, Trump. “In the current moment the sight of troops on U.S. streets would be more likely to inflame than calm,” they wrote. Both CNN and MSNBC unleashed an unrelenting barrage of criticism.
But maybe even more significant was the criticism from the military. Since political commentary from active military officers violates US political traditions, this direct criticism appeared through retired officers. First was former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, who asserted his confidence that military tops would obey “lawful orders” of Trump, but then in effect questioned whether such orders would necessarily be lawful, meaning that they would have a reason to disobey Trump. He was swiftly followed by James Mattis, who broke his vow of silence that he had made when he resigned. Mattis’s sharp criticism was seconded by John Kelly. Another former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Hayden spoke out, as did retired General Tony Thomas, former head of Special Operations Command and retired General Martin Dempsey. Active duty officers in effect distanced themselves from Trump without openly participating in the criticism. For example, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David Golfein sent a memo to his troops, urging them to “to do what you think is right for the country, for your community… for every Black man in this country who could end up like George Floyd.” Different branches of the military made plans to rename various military bases that had been named after Confederate commanders of the US Civil War.
Esper and Milley retreat
Under this barrage of criticism, Secretary of Defense Esper was forced to retreat. He had loyally repeated Trump’s rhetoric, calling on the necessity to “dominate the battlespace”, meaning the streets of the US. After harsh criticism and calls for his resignation, he had to recant, saying his choice of words was inappropriate and that he hadn’t known the purpose of his accompanying Trump for the photo-op at St. John’s Church. (Yeah. Right.) Next was Milley, who gave a commencement speech to a top military war college in which he criticized his own appearance dressed in battle fatigues in the streets of Washington. There was immediate speculation that both could be on Trump’s chopping block, but that won’t be so easy. Removal of these two would simply mean another piece of evidence of the absolute chaos within the Trump administration. Even the Wall St. Journal editors, and that section of the capitalist class they represent, would not be pleased.
Council on Foreign Relations
The movement in the streets has caused an enormous problem as far as US capitalism asserting its influence around the world. Richard Haass, chairman of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, recently published an article in that body’s magazine, Foreign Affairs. Entitled “The World is Watching,” Haass made exactly that point. The entire article is worth reading in full, but Haass’s main point is that US capitalism is already in a weakened position globally and that the turmoil at home makes its assertion of power many times more difficult. That (plus the destabilization at home) is the real reason for the military-industrial complex’s growing rejection of Trump. He is simply bad for US capitalism.
Trump is fighting back. He is probably mainly guided by his lizard brain, just acting by instinct alone, although his inner circle may well have a more conscious strategy in mind. This circle includes Donald jr., daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Probably semi-fascist Stephen Miller is at least on the periphery.
Originally, Trump had hoped to win 10% or more of the votes of black voters. The George Floyd murder and the resulting protests made it impossible to accomplish this while also appealing to his racist base. Naturally, he chose the latter. Probably through some of his subordinates, he saw to it that federal officers, some of whom were from the federal bureau of prisons, were mobilized on the streets without any identification. Trump’s simultaneous call to defend “our precious Second Amendment rights” amounted to a call to mobilize his racist militia base. An example of the extreme danger of this combination was seen in the attempt of right wing Second Amendment fanatic Gregory Wong to integrate himself into the National Guard in Los Angeles. Wong was armed to the teeth and dressed to appear as if he were a member of the National Guard. Taken together, this raises the serious danger of such armed militias turning out en masse on election day to threaten and actually carry out violence and even further suppress the vote.
Trump’s racist base
Trump is also planning of further whipping up his racist base. It is no accident that he’s planning his first reelection rally on June 19 – Juneteenth, the day many black people celebrate the end of slavery. Nor is it accidental that that rally will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, site of a horrific race riot in 1921 in which six square city blocks in the black community were razed to the ground, hundreds of black people were killed and some 6,000 black people were interned in a concentration camp. He is sending a message to his racist base, the same message he’s sending when he vetoed the renaming of those military bases which are named after Southern Civil War generals.
November elections: Outcome uncertain
As for the upcoming elections, nobody – not even Trump himself – knows how far he and the party he controls will be able to go in suppressing the vote. A “good” start was made in Georgia in the 2018 by-election. In that state, it was revealed that 1.3 million voters – disproportionately black – had been purged from the voting rolls. (See 2018 elections: voter suppression, racism and chauvinism.) Another trial run in that state was made in the recent primary vote there. In that case, all news reports detailed outright chaos at the polls. How far they will succeed in going in November both there and in other swing states is unknown.
In part, nobody knows to what extent Covid 19 will return by then and how much chaos it will cause. There is also the question of how much Trump will be able to mobilize his racist base, including the heavily armed militias. A recent report from Modesto CA, which calls itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World, gives a hint of what these fascists are capable of. To what extent will they be able to mobilize under the banner of preventing non-citizens and falsely registered voters from voting, and using this pretext actually shut down polling places in heavily black and/or Latino voting districts?
The elephant in the room who nobody notices is the US labor movement. Nobody notices it because the union leaders are doing their level best to keep the unions Missing In Action. Two weeks after the murder of George Floyd, when everybody even including Trump had at least expressed concern, AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka finally issued a statement. That’s it. He issued a statement, pitiful as that statement was. However, there are signs that the mass struggle against police violence and racism is starting to have an effect inside the unions. The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents most public transit bus drivers, has said that its drivers won’t transport those arrested in the protests. This is a recognition of the clamor among the members, who were already starting to refuse on an individual basis. In New York, the union said its members would not transport cops en masse to protests. And on the West Coast, the Longshore union is planning on shutting down the ports on Juneteenth as part of the movement.
Two clear further steps are needed. First and foremost is for the unions to mobilize the membership to participate in and actually lead the movement in the streets. Doing this would be a step towards actually shutting down the country and it would send a clear warning to both the racist groups as well as to Trump and the Republicans.
Second is to expel the police “unions” from the AFL-CIO. Not only does their presence represent an enemy in our midst, it is a direct danger to the public sector unions. The coming campaign to limit union rights of cops will spread to all public sector workers, unless a clear distinction is made between actual workers and the police. A campaign starting in the public sector unions is necessary. (See a model resolution here.)
On both issues, it will have to start by the rank and file opposition caucuses because the union bureaucracy will continue to resist taking any real action.
Anybody who says they know who will be president come January 20 is at best fooling themselves. But one thing is certain: Contrary to the dream that Biden sows of returning to a more calm and less “divided” past, the coming years will be ones of turmoil, chaos and struggle. If Trump is returned by hook or by crook, the racists and similar types will enormously boosted and Trump will double down on his moves towards one-man rule. If he gets back in and the Democrats capture both houses of congress… well, even Shakespeare couldn’t write a drama that will do that situation justice! If Biden gets in, he will be the weakest president in many, many decades if not actually centuries. Millions will be expecting action on police racism and violence, on the environment, on jobs and income, and on a more fair tax system. But the systemic economic crisis will prohibit this if nothing else does. And the senile president will be totally unable to command a personal following. Not only that, but Trump’s armed and racist base will not accept the result and serious terrorist acts from them are likely.
The coming period will be full of struggle, drama, suffering, chaos… and uncertainty. The only thing we can be sure of is that it won’t be boring!