We’re Tempted to Say We Told You So, But We Won’t

Donald Trump will be the next president. What was unthinkable has become all too real. We anticipated as much in the editorial in our last issue, which we encourage people to read still.

Hillary Clinton could win the popular vote by more than 2 million, once all the votes have come in. As we write this, the margin is just over 1 million. Thus, this was not exactly a mandate for Trump. The country is no more or less divided than it was before Election Day. Trump starts out by being viewed as illegitimate by a large mass of people, evidenced by the protests that have occurred across the country and the proliferation of plans for various kinds of popular defense of individuals who may become most vulnerable if some of his schemes are hatched.

Trump’s promises to the workers who voted for him will not materialize to any important extent; in our view, that’s where a real opening might occur. Seventeen percent of the people voting for Trump had supported Sanders before. One hundred million did not vote—the majority party of nonvoters. We don’t know nearly as much as we should about why they don’t show up. It’s our best guess that they are simply too busy dealing with the realities of everyday life—working too long, taking care of kids before and after work, falling in and out of love, going in and out of jail, taking care of sick and elderly family members and relatives, dealing with hard episodes of dependence on drugs of various kinds, combatting the demons that lead all too many to suicide. It’s hard to imagine that too many of them didn’t vote because they thought that things were just fine the way they were. In all likelihood, they almost certainly thought that the outcome of the election wouldn’t matter all that much.

We have heard from a friend who has followed the hard right for years that many people attracted to it could, alternatively, be attracted to a consistent vision of an alternative to capitalist society, which up till now has not existed. They will not, however, be attracted to a defense of the existing state of affairs—no matter how dressed up in liberal notions of understanding, tolerance and opportunity. As a West Virginia friend wrote: “Racism was the icing on the ‘fuck you’ cake.” We think that’s right, and a reason not to despair too much. It will be necessary to defend all those who are attacked. But such defenses will not get anywhere if they are done in a preachy, moralistic way; such a defense strategy has to be coupled with an outreach to working-class and poor people who (as with Brexit in the UK) voted as a left-behind group. No major contender for the presidency had ever addressed workers in the ruins of the Rust Belt the way Trump did, even if the reasons he gave (China, trade) are spurious. Much of the liberal/soft-left alliance is covertly or even overtly anti–working class and it shows. There are people in the Hillary camp who are our enemies, and there are people in the Trump camp who are our potential allies, if a proper strategic outreach is developed. From the beginning we must reject the phony “left-right” spectrum defined by mainstream politics, the media, etc., and orient to “recombining” the forces across the spectrum against our enemies in both camps.


7 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Jeff Strahl,

    The idea that this was a genuine election is laughable. This was a spectacle, carefully managed by the ruling elite, primarily via its media outlets. The outcome reflects a decision taken by the elite to jettison Plan A, Hillary and a continuation of the Obama approach of “soft touch” austerity/police state legitimated by “inclusiveness” and a militarized global policy legitimated by “international cooperation.” Instead, Plan B was wheeled into action, a much more blatantly repressive domestic policy and much more unilateral global policy, legitimated with xenophobia and a “populist” mass movement. Look our, fascism ahead.

    • I don’t think there is a unified elite that made a concerted decision to switch from Plan A to Plan B. Hillary and Trump represented two sections within the capitalist class and there is real conflict between the ‘globalists’ and the ‘nationalists’ (to use crude labels). Most of the corporate media pushed a strong pro-Hillary message and many of those who voted for Trump must have been reacting against that message though within the limited bounds set by the media themselves. Trump was portrayed as a dangerous threat to the ‘good’ America but that meant also presenting him as a real alternative, while there was a total blackout on other candidates, especially Stein.

    • I don’t think there is a unified elite that made a concerted decision to switch from Plan A to Plan B. Hillary and Trump represented two sections within the capitalist class and there is real conflict between the ‘globalists’ and the ‘nationalists’ (to use crude labels). Most of the corporate media pushed a strong pro-Hillary message and many of those who voted for Trump must have been reacting against that message though within the limited bounds set by the media themselves. Trump was portrayed as a dangerous threat to the ‘good’ America but that meant also presenting him as a real alternative, while there was a total blackout on other candidates, especially Stein.

    • J. Levitsky,

      I mostly agree with Jeff here. I think, largely, this election was spectacle, although the rulers had to work with the electorates opinions to an extent.

      Deeper, behind this, I believe, there was a struggle in the US between a “Russian Faction” and a “German Faction.” Clinton and Obama representated the German side; both worked closely with Merkel and pushed similar policies and employed similar tactics. Maybe this could even be called an “EU” faction since the EU is basically a German institution.

      Trump represented the “Russian Faction.” Or anti-EU faction. Both these are rooted in the international vs national capital split among the capitalist class.

      Trump will now emulate Putin, and do his best to turn America into an Autarkich state with low population growth due to deportations and so on, thereby raising wages and binding workers to the state. And, tbh, with the advanced technology and vast natural wealth of America, I have trouble seeing how this wouldn’t work. Especially since America was really the only enforcer of globalism, if the enforcer goes renegade, whose stopping the whole gang from going berserk? after all, East Asia has been using protectionism and export-driven strategies successfully for years now.

      China is really the only serious obstacle to this strategy.

  2. Mathieu D,

    I agree with the perspective in this piece. Liberals, often despite themselves, talk down to those who are outside of their cultural and material framework. Now is the chance to show that alternatives are possible that don’t smack of elitism.

  3. John Garvey,

    Richard Greeman writes:

    The Banality of Evil: Elites Close Ranks Behind Trump

    Happy Thanksgiving! As we celebrate the America’s founding myth of the Pilgrim Fathers welcomed by the Indians, the National Guard, militarized local police and (unlicensed) security guards continue to brutalize unarmed Standing Rock Sioux Indians (and members of dozens of other tribes) protesting the construction of the unapproved Dakota Access Pipeline on their sacred lands and water sources.[1]

    Meanwhile, as public outrage concentrates on President-elect Trump, our sitting Democratic President, a modern Pontius Pilate, washes his hands of this ongoing atrocity against Native Americans by “letting it play out.” And although Obama has used his Presidential Pardon to free hundreds of non-violent drug offenders, the former leader of the American Indian Movement, 72-year-old Leonard Peletier, continues to rot in jail for his role in the 1975 occupation of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Indeed, according to Amnesty International[2] there are dozens of high profile long-term political prisoners Obama ought to pardon, many in their 80s, including Black Panthers and Puerto Rican activists in prison since the 60’s, often in solitary.[3]

    Obama still has nearly two months left in the most powerful office in the world. He has time to right some of the wrongs for which history will hold him responsible. With the stroke of a pen he could stop providing arms, intelligence and tactical support to the Saudi Arabian airforce terror-bombing hospitals, schools, and funerals in Yemen. He could cancel his international program of assassination-by-drone of nameless suspected ‘terrorists’ selected (like your Amazon.com recommendations) by algorithms. He could send emergency aid to the suffering population of bankrupt Puerto Rico, crushed under the draconian conditions imposed by an appointed a commission of bankers. And that’s for openers.

    But Obama won’t. Meanwhile, our Deporter-in-Chief continues to get a free pass from the liberals and the ‘left.’ Why?

    Banalizing Evil

    A week after the catastrophic Nov. 2016 election upset, it is clear that the entire political/mediotic class, both right and left, is closing ranks behind Donald Trump. While millions of Americans are anguished about racism, war, global warming, and increasing violent attacks on minorities, immigrants (particularly Muslims), and LTBG folks. Students and demonstrators continue to chant “Not Our President,” but the elites are busy normalizing the abnormal, legitimizing the illegitimate, and banalizing evil.

    Reading from right to left, the Republican “big tent” now includes formerly unmentionable proto-fascist outliers : white nationalists and the Alt/right. The Republican establishment, which once lifted its nose at Donald’s racist, sexist buffoonery, now welcomes Trump and his wolf-pack like long lost brothers. The Lord-High Donald-elect will doubtless signal them His forgiveness by appointing Gov. Romney to something or other. A jubilant Market is expressing its confidence as stocks rise.

    His Trumpship has been less charitable to the broadcast media, whom he cannot forgive for belatedly drawing attention to his blatant lies (printing little bits of truth on little ribbons at the bottom of the screen). This week he summoned the mainstream TV pundits and moguls to his Tower for a private audience on the condition that it would be strictly off-the-record. And of course the media lap-dogs and curs came in fawning and wagging their tails in hope of conciliation (ignoring their professional obligation to remain independent and inform the public).

    Having thus humbled these faux-journalists of the airwaves by tempting them with the illusion of “access,” the boss of The Apprentice showed them the whip and brought them to heel. “They learned *nothing* over past 18 months of covering Trump,” tweeted Erik Wemple of The Washington Post.[4] In any case as long as they don’t shut down Trumps Twitter account, he doesn’t need them any more. Welcome to the post-truth era.

    On the “left,” Obama and all the Democrats except good old Bernie Sanders are singing the same song: “All we are saying/ Is give Trump a chance.” And even Bernie feels obliged by decorum to join the Democratic chorus by offering to ‘work with Trump’ on creating jobs rebuilding the infrastructure (while expressing his doubts)

    There are even elements on the far left who seem ready to banalize evil by “giving Trump a chance.” For example their are Zombie Stalinists in the anti-imperialist movement who are overjoyed that Trump loves their idol Vladimir Putin. They support Putin’s bombing of Aleppo and his occupation of Crimea, and proclaim that Trump’s election “saved us from WWIII.” There are also state-socialists and neo-Keynesians whose mouths are watering at the prospect of Trump’s infrastructure promises.

    As for the official labor movement: “None other than AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka raced to the front of the line to congratulate Trump on his victory and pledge to work together with the new commander in chief. Trumka proclaimed “The President-elect made promises in this campaign—on trade, on restoring manufacturing, on reviving our communities. We will work to make many of those promises a reality.”[5]

    Willing Dupes

    Apparently the official left are willing dupes of the world’s best snake-oil salesman, who made his fortune hiring non-union, undocumented workers to build his casinos and by borrowing hugely, syphoning off the money, and then skipping out with the profits, leaving investors, contractors and employees unpaid. Surprise: Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan is also a scam.

    Instead of taking advantage of low interest rates and using government money to hire workers to repair and rebuild the bridges, tunnels, roads, schools, parks and energy sources that were originally built under the New Deal and still in use, Trump would give huge tax write-offs to private interests and allow them to keep and profit from whatever they build forever (for example to collect tolls in perpetuity). These private contractors would not be likely to undertake non-profit projects like schools, and they would be free to make any labor arrangements they choose.

    “As the White House official responsible for overseeing implementation of President Obama’s massive infrastructure initiative, the 2009 Recovery Act, I’ve got a simple message for Democrats who are embracing President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan: Don’t do it. It’s a trap,” warns Roland Klain. “Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and
    a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors.”[6]

    Nobel-prize economist Paul Krugman concludes: “we already know enough about his infrastructure plan to suggest, strongly, that it’s basically fraudulent, that it would enrich a few well-connected people at taxpayers’ expense while doing very little to cure our investment shortfall. It’s hard to see any reason for this scheme unless the inevitable corruption is a feature, not a bug.[7]

    Please, no Illusions

    As I wrote here last week, “We should have no illusions about the impact of Donald Trump’s victory. It is a disaster. The prospect of a unified right-wing government, led by an authoritarian populist, represents a catastrophe for working people. Some may have hoped that Trump’s outlandish campaign threats were not meant to be taken seriously ; but the man means business, and he is not going to waste his crucial first hundred days pussyfooting around, as Obama did.”[8]

    Nor should we have any illusions about the Democratic “opposition,” —the left wing of the U.S. capitalist duopoly ­— although as individuals many in government and the media will be moved to speak out. This is very important to note. We are not alone. As my daughter, Jenny Greeman, wrote on her Facebook page last week:

    This week I’m demonstrating. Demonstrating my values. Demonstrating to other women, Jews, children/grandchildren/great grandchildren of immigrants; to African-Americans; the LGBTQI community; to refugees; to people who rely on social security and Medicaid; to artists, scientists, and ecologists; to Muslims; to Marxist-Humanists; to educators; to Indigenous peoples, that I stand with them against violence. I stand with them against bigotry, sexism, and racism. And that I stand with them against the dismantling of our public good, against unfettered capitalism and against the destruction of the whole world for one more generation of fossil fuel profits. I DEMONSTRATE.

    Today anguished Americans everywhere are sitting down to Thanksgiving wondering what to do and where to turn. Jenny is wearing a safety-pin on her lapel as a signal that she is prepared to intervene non-violently to aid and comfort any victim of bullying. I hope that catches on. At midnight, decent folks in the government, the military, the corporate media will be worrying about the future during their too-much-turkey insomnia. They may be weighing the risks of speaking out against the shame of going along to get along. Count on them. As one brave official breaks ranks, , so will others. Think “Snowden.”

    The essential thing to not to blame each other for this catastrophe, which we are all going to have to suffer through together. Especially (you folks on the left) not to stigmatize white working people. Many of them voted first for Sanders (primaries) and then out of desperation, for Trump. Respect their dignity as people: their revolt against the elites was as much about dignity as it was about economics. When their crony-capitalist con-artist throws them to the wolves, they’ll realize they’ve been screwed and will join us in the struggle.

    Meanwhile, we ourselves have to join the struggle. I mean now, today, Thanksgiving 2016. Time to join the struggle of the embattled Indians of North Dakota who are non-violently defending the last scraps of what was stolen from them in unfair treaties: their sacred burial grounds and their sacred river, source of their water. Energy Transfer Partners, protected by the state, the National Guard, and a brutal private security company, has apparently already begun digging a tunnel under the river, despite the lack of an easement from the Army Corps of Engineers.

    This week the Indians’ camp-site was invaded without provocation in the middle of the night by North Dakota law enforcement, shooting rubber bullets, launching gas-canisters at eye-level, and spraying the Indians from a water-cannon in sub-zero weather. (It’s a wonder the army didn’t give them anthrax-infected blankets to keep warm!) Three hundred indigenous and their allies were treated for injuries, several quite serious. Nonetheless, the government is also blocking the only bridge out of the area, to prevent the embattled Native Peoples from bringing in reinforcements or evacuating wounded.

    Our sitting Democratic President, to whom many appeals have been sent, remains silent. Mr. Obama is proving loyalty to the energy industry by his support for one energy-industry corporation, holding the door open for Trump, backed by the whole industry. If Energy Transfer Partners gets away with this land-grab, imagine what will happen under Trump.

    Now is the time to join the resistance. If, glutted with Thanksgiving Turkey, we fail stand up to Obama and support the Indians, we deserve to choke on a bone. Four years is a long time. Let’s not be “good Germans” and wait until its too late.

    Here is where you can learn more about Standing Rock, sign the petition, donate money, find out about ongoing actions and become part of them. http://standwithstandingrock.net/take-action/

    United we stand, divided we fall. Don’t fucking mourn: Organize!

    New York
    Nov. 24, 2016

    [1] 300 injured Tuesday. Sign petition here http://standwithstandingrock.net/take-action/

    [2] Please sign petition http://act.amnestyusa.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1839&ea.campaign.id=27118&ea.tracking.id=Country_USA~MessagingCategory_PrisonersandPeopleatRisk&ac=WPSGGTL27118&gclid=CPW8vKvhwdACFUZXDQodOF0KrA

    [3] http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32043-beyond-innocence-america-s-political-prisoners-and-the-fight-against-mass-incarceration

    [4] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/business/media/trump-summons-tv-figures-for-private-meeting-and-lets-them-have-it.html?ref=todayspaper
    [5] “Union officialdom in the United States has been pushing nationalist poison for years and years. Rather than try to organize immigrants and build working class solidarity across international borders to do battle with the multinational corporations that drive working people into the dirt everywhere, Trumka and his ilk push for “partnerships” with the billionaire bosses and blame job and income declines in America on low paid “foreign workers.” Sound familiar? It should; it was the bedrock of Trump’s appeal to the workers in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio..” http://insurgentnotes.com/2016/11/some-facts-and-figures-and-a-bit-of-commentary-to-go-with-it/

    [6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-big-infrastructure-plan-its-a-trap/2016/11/18/5b1d109c-adae-11e6-8b45-f8e493f06fcd_story.html
    [7] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/opinion/build-he-wont.html?ref=todayspaper
    [8] http://jewishcurrents.org/lets-all-hang-together-or-well-hang-separately/

  4. Max Crosby,

    Insurgent Notes writes:
    “There are people in the Hillary camp who are our enemies, and there are people in the Trump camp who are our potential allies, if a proper strategic (?)outreach is developed. From the beginning we must reject the phony “left-right” spectrum defined by mainstream politics, the media, etc., and orient to “recombining” the forces across the spectrum against our enemies in both camps.”

    When, pray tell, does this process commence, and where and how does it commence?

    I’ve only been reading your online publication for a short while, and while I haven’t read each and every doc here I keep bumping up against the same thing I always see with ultra-leftists and/or fringe leftists in the United States — (in other parts of the world it is sometimes different) — lots of grand pontificating about the Big Issues– some of it, like the title of this piece, surprisingly smug — and no evidence of some kind of real world attempts to apply these perspectives in a manner of direct relevance and transparent clarity among mainstream working class and poor people.

    Can you point to some immediate suggestions or examples of where your current, or people on some similar wave length, are acting on these perspectives? In the here and now? If you don’t think this is happening, can you suggest when it will start — and who is going to start it?

    Best of luck.


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