Understanding the US elections – some things to read

After a period of time that seems as long as a geological eon, today is finally election day in the US. While we wait for the results to come in, Amy Gilligan and Bill Crane have collected together some articles from rs21 and comrades in the States that discuss some of the key debates that have gone on throughout the election.

(Photo: Amy Gilligan)
(Photo: Amy Gilligan)

Earlier this year, the marginal success of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primaries seemed to indicate that there might be some cause for hope in US politics. We spoke to a selection of activists on the left in the US about Sanders’ campaign, its impact on American politics, and what socialists should do come the November election. Nivedita Majumdar argued that the Bernie campaign managed to articulate, for the first time in half a century, the depth of anger and contempt for a system that nurtures a corrupt ruling class at the expense of ordinary people, while Adam Hudson discussed how the Sanders campaign opened up fractures in the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Schulte and Alan Maass argued that given Clinton’s likely victory at the time of writing, socialists face the challenge of a two-party system where the choice is between the “greater evil” and the “lesser evil”. In the end, you still get evil. Charlie Post warned against socialists campaigning for Clinton, and instead suggested we should be using our limited time and effort to rebuild what have been called the ‘infrastructures of dissent’.

Unsurprisingly, Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination in June. In an article written at the time in the International Socialist Review, Lance Selfa looked at the end of Sander’s ‘political revolution’, arguing that it would be an undesirable end for a ‘revolution’ that set out to change politics to end up being pressed into service of preserving the status quo. Lance suggested that the true test of the 2016 elections was how radical forces in the US could find a way to defeat the plague of ‘lesser evil’ politics. Alan Maass also discussed the problems with lesser evilism in an article for socialistworker.org. He says it will be a pleasure to see Trump’s campaign end in humiliation, but the logic of lesser evilism distorts understanding of what changes the world.

While Sanders’ campaign seemed to briefly destabilise the Democratic Party, in the run up to the elections the Democrats haven’t seemed to be in as precarious a position. The Republican Party, on the other hand, have remained divided with Trump as their candidate. Charlie Post, writing in The Brooklyn Rail, discusses the background to the realignment within the Grand Old Party, which has been ongoing since the start of the 2007-2008 recession. He looks at why Clinton is the candidate that capital is supporting almost across the board.

The question of who is supporting Trump is one that has repeatedly surfaced throughout the election period. One group that has long been associated with supporting the Republicans is the Christian right. However, with Trump as the candidate, that enthusiasm has wained. In an interesting article in Jacobin, Jon Anderson looks at the reasons for this, particularly focussing on the lack of support for the Republicans among Mormons in the US. A popular myth is that Trump’s base is made up of a ‘white underclass’, but as Michael A. McCarthy discusses, this doesn’t fit with reality. He argues that small business owners with slightly above average incomes form the core of Trump’s support. Elizabeth Catte also takes on the “myth of Appalachia” and the white poor as Trump’s core base.

Much of the fear-mongering about a potential Trump presidency has avoided engaging with Clinton’s own horrific record. While Clinton has postured as a ‘feminist’ candidate, in an article written when she first declared as a candidate, Estelle Cooch presents five reasons why Clinton won’t be good for women. Mara Ahmed in a letter to socialistworker.org expands on Clinton’s record, including voting for the Iraq war, leading the military campaign in Libya and supporting a coup in Honduras. She argues it’s time to boycott the Democrats.

In recent editorial on socialistworker.org, it is argued that the left will not be better off with either a Clinton or a Trump presidency, for different, but no less valid reasons. What, then, is the alternative? A substantial section of socialists in the US have called for a vote for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein as a progressive alternative to the two-party system. She was interviewed by Jacobin back in August about policies and prospects and more recently, writing in the Guardian, Stein and her Vice-Presidental running-mate Ajamu Baraka have put forward the argument that they offer the only true alternative to US militarism, an alternative that will redirect resources to rebuild the frayed social safety net and help those most in need in the US.

Look out for rs21’s coverage of the results and their aftermath in the coming days and weeks.



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