By David Sole
For months President Donald Trump has been talking publicly about refusing to accept defeat in the November 3 election. And since his resounding loss to the Democrat Joe Biden he has refused to offer the traditional concession speech nor proceed with the legally required steps to ensure a smooth transition from one administration to the next.
However Trump’s actions are what should be raising alarm bells. Only six days after the election Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Esper, a compliant Trump lackey, came into disfavor in June of 2020 when he publicly opposed the President’s proposal to send U.S. active duty troops into cities to crush Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Miller’s rapid rise (he only was approved by the Senate for his Counterterrorism Center position in August 2020) has been described as “meteoric.” Appointing a relatively inexperienced person to the Cabinet position is noteworthy as is any new Cabinet appointment following an election where the President will be out of office on January 20, 2021.
Trump went on to remove a number of top Pentagon officials, replacing them with loyalists, some of whom have a history of racism and xenophobia. The New York Times said the President’s actions “amounts to a purge of the Pentagon’s top civilian hierarchy without recent precedent.” [NYTimes.com 11/11/20].
Anthony J. Tata was handed the post of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Tata’s name was withdrawn from consideration for another position by the U.S. Senate after it was revealed he had called former President Barack Obama “a terrorist leader” and posted Islamophobic comments. His new position will not require Senate hearings.
Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel, is being installed as Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Trump’s attempt to get Macgregor the position of Ambassador to Germany in August also collapsed. Macgregor had referred to Muslim immigrants as Muslim “invaders” and had urged martial law at the U.S.-Mexico border so that those attempting to sneak across into the United States could be shot.
Tata, Macgregor and several other appointments by Trump were described by the N.Y. Times as “highly ideological Trump foot soldiers.” At the National Security Agency Trump installed Michael Ellis as General Counsel despite the strong objections of NSA Director General Paul M. Nakasone. It is an open secret that Trump is also considering the firing of CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Much of the media and the Democratic Party transition team are playing down these Trump appointments. It is being noted that some of the President’s loyal supporters in the Republican Party are now urging him to accept defeat. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke out on November 12 saying that the U.S. military officers and enlisted personnel will be loyal to the Constitution, not to any individual. This was taken as a slap at Trump who has repeatedly hinted at holding onto power or carrying out a coup d’etat.
Take Fascist Threats Seriously
The progressive movement should not and is not waiting for others to defend “democratic rights.” It may turn out that Trump’s threatening words and actions sputter out as January 20 approaches. But it would be wiser to continue to take action and make preparations in case the deranged man in the White House really does make a move. He certainly seems to be placing key figures into powerful positions of the military and the intelligence services.
We can be sure that if Trump decides to attempt a coup it will most certainly be preceded by some major provocation at home or abroad. When Adolph Hitler sought to consolidate his Nazi Party position in Germany in 1933 his operatives set fire to the Reichstag building, Germany’s parliament on February 27. Hitler had only been sworn in as Chancellor four weeks earlier. But he used the fire to create a hysteria, blaming the Socialists and Communists, and then outlawing the opposition parties. Mass arrests of union leaders, radicals and others followed.
How hard would it be for loyal Trump supporters to organize a “terrorist” attack that would be blamed on the left, antifa, Black Lives Matter or some other “fall guy.” It is likely that the U.S. military would then be stampeded into support or at least silenced. Trump’s right-wing followers, many armed, would be encouraged and mobilized. Much of the rest of the public would be confused or intimidated. This possibility should be seriously considered.
Organizing by the progressive movements must continue and not be lulled by the electoral victory of Biden and Harris. Before the election many unions and central labor councils passed resolutions specifically calling for a general strike in the event of any coup by Trump and Co. Coalitions are forming around the country in many states and localities pledged to oppose illegal actions before or after the election. These efforts should be redoubled and not be abandoned thinking Trump is through. Appeals to soldiers citing their right and duty to “disobey illegal orders” are already being circulated via social media.
Intensify the Struggle When Biden Takes Office
Following the Biden-Harris election victory, demonstrations and celebrations in the streets erupted around the country. One can understand the relief many people felt assuming that Trump had been soundly defeated. But those celebrations should have been tempered with the understanding that Biden, Harris and the bulk of the Democratic Party machine are firmly committed to, and under the influence of, the biggest corporations and banks in the United States. They are tools of the ruling capitalist class.
Despite the existence of a small left wing inside the Democratic Party, now and in the past, the Democrats exist to keep a lid on mass struggle by drawing in the majority of workers and oppressed minorities. It has only been days since the November 3 election and news media are already commenting on the conservative leanings being shown in the Biden transition team’s considerations for top spots in the government.
Already the corporate Democrats associated with Biden have viciously attacked progressive members of their own party for the electoral loss of several members of the House and the failure to win back the Senate. They blame the righteous demands for a green New Deal, defunding the police, and Medicare for All for their own failure to win over voters. They fail to note that Biden lost the state of Florida to Trump, while the “radical” referendum for $15 an hour won 60 percent of the vote there.
If anything, the progressive movements need to start early to make sure their followers do not de-mobilize in expectation that Biden’s administration will move in a strong progressive direction. Black Lives Matter activists ought not wait a minute in their transition planning. Biden has a long record of racist positions from opposing integration by busing in the 1970s to his role in the 1994 crime bill which Biden, “as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, largely wrote and shepherded through the legislative process. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 received bipartisan support at the time but has been criticized for some of its provisions, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, and its impact on mass incarceration.” [FactCheck.org 7-12-19].
Until 2019 Biden also supported the racist death penalty, only changing that position when he started thinking about running for president in 2020.
Harris also has a record of filling the jails in California with people of color convicted of minor drug charges. At the very same time, she later admitted, she was using recreational marijuana. Despite her attempts to change her image to the contrary, Harris never prosecuted a single killer cop, either during her tenure as San Francisco DA or as California Attorney General.
Biden famously stated after winning the November 3 election that “I have your back” speaking to the African American community. Does anyone believe he will take a strong stand against police terror around the nation?
Housing activists must also keep up the pressure for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports from many states indicate that the widely proclaimed Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium has been largely ignored by landlords and judges.
The coronavirus explosion will need more than the Biden task force that has been promised to try to get it under control. The entire country is in need of national health insurance. Anyone familiar with the many deductibles and out of pocket costs in the Medicare program understands that “Medicare for All” is not a cure for the problem. A true free national health care system is what is called for, which could be financed by vast cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget.
The United States has long needed a program that guarantees a decent paying job or else a basic income to the entire working class. The pandemic has made this demand, raised by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in speeches and his last book in 1967 absolutely essential.
Anti-war activists know full well that Biden and the majority of the Democratic Party, along with the Republicans, are firm supporters of United States imperialist foreign policy. The military-industrial complex and the Pentagon are one of the main pillars of the capitalist economy and protectors of the world capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. It isn’t too early to start demanding an end to imperialist wars, the defunding of the Pentagon and bringing U.S. troops home from the hundreds of bases scattered around the globe.
Protection of the environment, decimated by the Trump regime, must be another focus of the progressive movements.. Just reversing Trump’s executive orders will not address the crisis to the climate. The climate change protests from 2019 need to be revived. The lull in protest energy that drew in so many youth was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the diversion of the election campaign. Back into the streets!
In the short run the progressive movements must organize against and prepare to oppose any move to overturn our democratic rights by a Trump coup. At the same time we must build the movement in the streets to fight for fundamental change to the many ills of this capitalist system which will soon be headed by Joe Biden. In this protracted struggle our many movements need to merge into a powerful stream that can go forward to overturn the entire capitalist system and replace it with a system designed to meet the needs of the people – socialism.