7th January 2021
The United States is not the world’s greatest democracy. It is, if anything, the world’s most cunning dictatorship. The scenes on Capitol Hill yesterday were the latest phase in a power struggle within the ruling circles of the US to maintain the grip of a particular faction which represents the hawkish political line as personified by Donald Trump.
To date, the margins in US politics have been slight. The ‘liberal’ Barack Obama was no less hawkish than many US Presidents before him when it came to foreign policy but clearly had a more open approach on certain social questions. A presidency under Joe Biden would be expected to continue down a similar path, tough on ‘enemies’ abroad, softer on social policy at home.
This in itself is largely illusory. Whoever becomes US President has to have garnered financial support from corporations and billionaire sponsors, has little room to challenge the grip of the military industrial complex and will only be allowed to be socially liberal insofar as they do so without undermining the profits of those backers.
The Electoral College system is inherently anti-democratic and can result in the candidate coming second in the popular vote still winning the presidency. Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes than Donald Trump in 2016 but Trump has been in the White House for the past four years.
It should not be forgotten that the US has imposed an illegal 60 year blockade against the island of Cuba. There are detainees held without trial at Guantanamo Bay. Interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have been examples in recent history of the US using its military might to assert its position in the world. The US is the world’s most highly armed nuclear power. This is not a paragon of democracy.
The backers of Donald Trump have nevertheless sought to break with this consensus and push the US even further to the right. The Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ message has provided the focal point for those in the US ruling circles who fear the US losing its military role as the world’s policeman; who fear it will lose its ability to throw its financial weight around to reinforce US ‘interests’; who fear the growing economic and military power of China.
Trump has been the vehicle by which the establishment consensus has been challenged. The Trump presidency has tested the potential for a right wing demagogue to occupy the White House. Trump’s support is still estimated to be 30% of the American people. That is by no means a majority but it does represent a potentially substantial power base in the wrong hands.
The claim that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ has no basis in fact and the Trump camp has produced no evidence, yet the claim still resonates with a political base disillusioned with a political system which does not meet their needs.
Trump’s supporters are wrong and misled on many counts but it is a fact that the US system does not serve the needs or interests of the mass of working class Americans. It has concentrated power in the hands of a rich political establishment backed by a few corporations which protect their vested interests. The tragedy of Trump’s supporters is that they are being manipulated by an alternative faction which wants to use their disillusionment to destabilise the system, in order to pursue their own interests.
A real challenge to the politics of the US establishment would be a united working class front, with no racial divisions, supportive of progressive policies at home and abroad, and capable of challenging the obscene levels of military expenditure which drain the economy while enriching a few military corporations.
This would be worthy of insurrection, this would be worth storming Capitol Hill to demand. That four people should die for a fake president perpetuating fake demands is a tragedy. The working class of the United States deserve better. They must unite to demand it.