What does the U.S. ruling class want from the 2020 elections?

Biden and Trump
Photo: Bloomberg News

By David Sole

On August 11 the Democratic Party announced their candidate for Vice-President of the United States to be California’s Senator Kamala Harris. Harris, a former prosecutor and Attorney General for California, joins former Vice-President Joe Biden to complete the Democrat’s ticket challenging Donald Trump in the November 3 national elections.

Harris, whose mother was from the nation of India and whose father was Jamaican, immediately became the subject of intense discussion in the major, bourgeois media as well as social media. Biden, of course, was the establishment candidate trotted out to squash the mass movement that supported Bernie Sanders, an avowed “socialist.” Far from being progressive, Biden is widely recognized for his pro-war policies over decades and conservative positions going back to opposition to bussing for racial integration in the 1970s.

Rather than counter-balancing Biden’s conservatism, Harris was chosen to reinforce this record. Commentators in many publications hailed Harris as being a popular choice throughout Wall Street. Her “law and order” history as prosecutor and state Attorney General along with her solid record supporting imperialist U.S. foreign policy, complete the Democratic Party leadership’s commitment to completely break with the strong left wing of that party on the ground. It is assumed that progressive and even radical people will be forced to vote for Biden-Harris as “anyone but Trump.”

This thinking is precisely why the Democrats have lost so many presidential races over the past decades. Rather than inspire the masses of poor and working people, who make up an overwhelming majority of the electorate, the top leaders of the Dems select candidates who cannot and will not promote a movement that could evolve into a mass movement for social change. They rather lose to the Republicans than risk a movement that could get out of hand and develop into a serious class struggle.

It is possible that the voters will turn out in large enough numbers to defeat Trump at the polls. His revolting personality and policies make that entirely possible. A large portion of the capitalist ruling class probably would like to see that, and consider Trump to be a destabilizing factor internationally as well as domestically. The program put forward by the Democratic National Committee which everyone knows contains promises not often kept after an election didn’t even include national health care, something urgently needed, especially in face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it is entirely possible, also, that once again 50% or so of the voters, mainly poor, will stay home, seeing nothing being offered to them. This could allow Donald Trump to win another election. This may be less likely than in 2016, but cannot be ruled out.

The ruling class in the United States is perfectly willing to accept another four years of Trump. After all he delivered a tax cut to the wealthiest that some estimate worth a trillion dollars. His outrageous cuts to environmental protection, health and safety, the postal service, etc. have also fattened the corporate fat cats beyond their wildest dreams. And so far he has done that without provoking mass protests or uprisings. Even the mass demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd have generally focused on local policing policies and tactics, leaving Trump relatively unscathed.

So whether the Democrats win or the Republicans prevail the ruling class will continue to enrich themselves while workers and oppressed people will continue to lose ground.

One other possibility also should be considered. What if Trump loses but refuses to leave office? Or if he unilaterally moves to postpone the election? He has already floated the false claim that the election is suspect due to widespread mail-in balloting. And the whole country is already up in arms due to Trump’s lackey, Postmaster General DeJoy’s, sabotaging mail delivery across the land.

Who could challenge Trump if either of these scenarios unfold? The Democratic Party leadership, always subservient to the wishes of the ruling class, cannot be depended on to unleash a strong attack. Never willing to open up a mass struggle they probably would go to court. But should anyone expect the current Supreme Court of the United States to do what’s right?

People need to recall what happened in Florida in the 2000 presidential elections where George W. Bush stole the election from Democrat Al Gore. Violent right-wing gangs entered buildings where ballots were being counted. The Democrats refused to call for a complete statewide recount and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court handed the victory to Bush.

Would the military move to enforce the Constitution and oust a recalcitrant Trump? It doesn’t appear that Trump has strong support from most of the military and it is unlikely they would support such a move. However, it is also unlikely that they would be willing to intervene in a disputed election. After all, who would be in a position to give such orders? And the ruling class wants stability more than anything else in order to keep their coffers filled.

When Nixon faced impeachment it was later revealed that the Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger worried that the President might try to use troops to hold onto power. Schlesinger admitted he told the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “ignore any White House military initiatives lacking his [Schlesinger’s] signature.”  Of course this was entirely illegal on the Defense Secretary’s part, but clearly had backing from the broadest sections of the ruling class.

It also should be remembered that Nixon and his “plumbers” were laying out a plan to murder a leading member of the [bourgeois] press, Jack Anderson. Anderson was a popular and widely published columnist who had been exposing much of Nixon’s illegal activities. Nixon operative G. Gordon Liddy “suggested poisoning Anderson’s aspirin or lacing his steering wheel with LSD to cause a fatal car accident.” [grunge.com] The murder was not attempted and Liddy and others soon got embroiled in the Watergate break-in scandal.

A Trump move to overturn or prevent the elections could, however, unleash a mass movement. The millions, mainly though not exclusively youth already in the streets in cities and towns across the United States, have shown that they are against white supremacy and oppressive police. But a characteristic noted by many observers of this unprecedented uprising, now in its third month is its anti-establishment orientation, often explicitly anti-capitalist.

The gross violation of the right to vote or failure to abide by the results of the election could easily transform the Black Lives Matter movement into an even more massive and determined uprising against any fascist turn by Trump and Company. Such a development would not be welcome by the ruling class who would not be in control of it. But such a mass movement would be a real opening for revolutionary struggle and independent working class politics.

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