Hold up! What is that sound we’re hearing? Is it the sound of the air being let out of the Trump balloon?
Trump’s moves to consolidate his grip on the various branches of the US government did prevent further dissension within those branches, as long as he appeared invincible. But the movement in the streets severely weakened that image. He tried to move to outright military repression, but that was a step too far for even the Wall St. Journal editors, never mind the military brass. (See Trump in Trouble.)
Unable to repress the movement in the streets and stymied at least temporarily in his drive towards one-man rule, the defeats are mounting and the cracks in his regime have started to widen.
Supreme Court rulings
The Supreme Court gave him two stunning defeats – their rulings on the rights of LGBTQ people and on DACA (the right of immigrant children to remain in the US). Contrary to how they like to portray themselves, the judiciary responds to political pressure just like every other branch of the capitalist government. Take the first ruling – on LGBTQ people. That opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch. The Wall St. Journal editors pointed out how his opinion on that issue completely contradicted a previous ruling of his. They explain the reversal by the fact that this case was so “politically charged”. Yes, indeed!
As for the DACA ruling, Chief (in)Justice John Roberts was the swing vote. Back in November of last year, the NY Times had reported that Roberts appeared headed towards siding with Trump. “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. indicated that the administration was on solid legal footing in saying the program was unlawful,” they reported in an article headlined “Supreme Court Appears Ready to Let Trump End DACA Program”. What caused Roberts to change his mind? Clarence Thomas got it right, when he wrote in his dissenting opinion that it was an attempt to avoid “a politically controversial… decision.”
These two decisions further undermined Trump’s appearance of strength, and they were due to the power of the movement in the streets.
Now, like rats leaving a sinking ship, a series of former loyal members of Team Trump are starting to resign.
One is Joseph Hunt, head of the (in)Justice Department’s civil division and former chief of staff for former attorney general Jeff Sessions. He announced his resignation just hours after signing the lawsuit to try to prevent the publication of John Bolton’s book. The week prior, Brian Benczkowski, former head of the criminal division, and Noel J. Francisco, solicitor general, had announced their plans to leave.
Next came Mary Elizabeth Taylor, former assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. A lifelong Republican functionary, she formerly was a top aide to Mitch McConnell. The Washington Post reported that she had been “a pivotal behind-the-scenes figure in the administration.” As a black woman, she knew that once Trump was gone, and with the possibility of a Republican wipeout in the Senate, her chances for a cushy professorship somewhere were severely diminished if she continued to be associated with the Racist in Chief. So she resigned.
Berman defies Trump
Next came the firing of Geoffrey Berman, chief prosecutor for the Southern District of New York for the Department of (in)Justice. Under Berman’s watch, that district had prosecuted Trump associates Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen and was investigating Deutsche Bank, which is reputed to have handled much of Trump’s shady business deals. The S.D.N.Y., located in the heart of Wall St., is reputed to be proudly “independent” of political advantage for Republicans and Democrats. Berman refused to resign at the request of Attorney General Barr, forcing Barr to inform him that Trump had fired him. When questioned about it, Trump in effect threw Barr under the bus, denying any “involvement” in the affair.
Berman did not resign; on the contrary he refused to step down. But the whole situation developed exactly because he was doing his job independently of the immediate political interests of Trump. In other words, he was burnishing his image of indepencende rather than as being a Trump flunky. And what gave him the fortitude to openly defy Barr? Especially considering that Berman was a Trump ally, it would seem that it was Trump’s weakening position. Equally significant, Trump was forced to back off from having his lap dog and golfing partner Jay Clayton appointed in Berman’s place. The reason he had to retreat was that South Carolina’s Senator Lindsay Graham refused to back Trump. Graham, who is usually one of Trump’s most vicious attack dogs, is facing an unexpectedly close race for reelection, which his lead in the polls having shrunk down from double digits to 4%.
Then, finally, came the Tulsa fiasco on Saturday, June 20. The very fact that he had to change the date was significant. Normally, Trump never bows to any criticism, not even the slightest. The rally itself, was a serious defeat for Trump, with the Tulsa fire department estimating the crowd size at 6,200 in an arena that holds 19,000. At least in part, Trump’s claims that one million had signed up was due to having been fooled by thousands of teen age fans of K Pop and users of TikTok. As Ocasio Cortez put it, “you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID.” The New York Times reported that Trump “was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place. Brad Parscale, the campaign manager who had put the event together, was not present.” If this continues, expect Trump’s right hand man – Parscale – to be fired.
Like any bully, Trump lives off of the perception of strength. If serious cracks appear in that perception, it’s possible that he will collapse like a ballon. As Oaklandsocialist has reported, Trump’s reelection is in serious trouble both in the national opinion polls as well as in most swing states. Polls also show that the Republicans may lose control over the Senate.
Nothing is guaranteed in US politics. It’s possible that Trump could come roaring back. For example, he is launching a chauvinist anti-China campaign, led among others by trade advisor Peter Navarro who recently went on CNN claiming that China may have intentionally developed and sent to the US the virus that causes Covid 19. In today’s anti-racist climate, it seems that this claim will be met with a backlash, but who knows? It is also possible that Trump and the Republicans could suppress the vote enough to win reelection. In that, they could be assisted by their militia thug allies. And once the campaign starts in earnest, Biden’s weaknesses could deal the Democrats a major blow.
But it’s also possible that Trump and the Republicans could be wiped out in the November elections. One indication of that possibility is the May fund raising reports of both camps. Biden reported having raised $80.8 million vs. $74 million for Trump. In addition, Biden’s main super PAC raised $7.5 million vs. $2.4 million for Trump’s main one. If Biden wins, there may be a general euphoria and, along with it Biden could really rise in the polls. In any case, there is always the “honeymoon” period when a new president first takes office.
It’s not too early to start thinking about a possible Biden presidency. Much has been made of his horrible history, including his open association with known racist politicians, his responsibility for mass black incarceration and his strong support for the Bush-led war against Iraq. Biden, however, is simply a creature of US capitalism, and he represents those interests as best he sees them. In the current climate, he is likely to swing “left”.
Up until now, we have thought that the racists that Trump has stirred up will fight tooth and nail even if the Democrats sweep the election, even possibly engaging in terrorism and violence. But is that necessarily true? They have gained confidence due to Trump being in office. If there is a general mood of revulsion against Trump, and that mood is expressed by election results, is it possible that the racists will be demoralized and tend to crawl back under the rock under which they came from?
The capitalist media has attacked Trump over and over for how “divisive” he is. They mean that he’s stirring up open racism, tending to have the pot boil over rather than just simmer on the back burner. The majority of white Americans don’t like that. They prefer a United States that is more calm and stable. One that allows the majority to ignore the realities of US capitalism, including racism, police brutality and poverty as well as criminal adventures overseas. Will a President Biden be able to provide them with that?
There are several factors that would seem to make that difficult. One is the enormous federal deficit that has accumulated. That will make further deficit spending to prop up the economy more difficult. Also, it seems unlikely that Covid 19 will go away. There is also the continued weakening of US imperialism worldwide. All of this has been the basis for the rise of the violent militias and white supremacist groups, so on balance it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll just disappear. But as we learned in the 2016 elections, we should not rule out any possibilities.
Another huge issue is this: Will the union bureaucracy be able to retain its unchallenged grip? Several cracks have started to appear. These are also due to the power of the movement in the streets. This movement cannot continue forever like this. What organized strength, both inside the unions and out, will it leave?
So many questions, so few answers.