The anger, xenophobia, and polarization so sharply on view on Super Tuesday didn’t come about overnight, or even since the Great Recession began or since 9/11 in 2001. It’s been a long time brewing, a product of some 50 years of unfolding bipartisan crisis.
A lot gets blamed on Republicans by progressives and liberals. It’s easy to see why, given the mean-spirited politics of their current leading candidates – not just Donald Trump, but Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as well. However, since 1961, Democrats have held the presidency half the time and controlled the House and Senate 68 percent of the time (not always simultaneously). All four of the Democratic presidents before Barack Obama have had majorities in both branches of Congress for at least two years of their terms. It just doesn’t hold up for the Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to blame the other party of U.S. capitalism for the catastrophe visited upon working people both at home and abroad.
Over this half century, things have gone increasingly downhill for working people, with expanding income inequality, stubborn unemployment, stagnant wages amid phenomenal productivity, the initiation of permanent war, and the unprecedented brutality of the state at home and abroad, from cops in U.S. streets to the Pentagon. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are responsible.
They are also both responsible for the growth in hysteria about terrorism, paranoia about immigrants, and tolerance of racism and sexism that, alongside the economic crisis, have fueled the rise of Donald Trump and his backers, including the Ku Klux Klan. Similarly, conservative and reformist politicians in power in Europe have prepared the ground for the ascendance of ultra-right parties and outright fascists in France, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, and Hungary.
Trump and his fellow reactionaries appeal to people who are looking for solutions and leaders, while thoroughly distrusting conventional politicians and parties. In the U.S., this cynicism has been fueled over past decades by the Vietnam War, the Watergate and Irangate scandals, and the missing weapons of mass destruction that were the pretext for the second Bush’s war against Iraq.
The far-right danger is real and present, especially for those who are always the first victims of fascism. Trump’s hard-core supporters – those who actually agree with what he says, and aren’t just happy he is giving the establishment the finger – could form the basis for a fascist movement. But that day is not yet here. There is still time to use the civil liberties we have left to fight, and to fight hard, against a complete takeover by racist, misogynist super-nationalists.
This will have to be a ground-up effort. The answer doesn’t lie with whom the U.S. public does or does not vote in. The consistent direction of Democratic and Republican office-holders over the past long period has been ever-rightward. No candidate representing the capitalist parties can or will stop the threat posed by Trump and his kind. Instead, the solution lies with a ground-up effort by people who understand that the change we need depends not on building bigger border walls, but on freeing ourselves from the death grip of the profit system that the whole electoral system is designed to uphold.