What Should We Do Now?

Photograph Source: John Eisenschenk – CC BY 2.0

A huge, huge sigh of relief that Donald Trump lost! His chance of staying in power is slim and we shouldn’t allow it to happen. However, that close to 75 million people  will have voted for this  narcissist liar, this corrupt, misogynist, and racist  by the time all the votes are counted, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and an environmental crisis that Trump denies, and  an economic recession,  is something we need to reflect on and understand more deeply. To me this vote for Trump is as troubling as Trump himself.  In a country that is declining in economic and global power and simultaneously becoming less white which sadly, scares many white people,  the strength of reactionary and racist ideas and support for people like Trump and the Republican Party is  perhaps not that surprising. The danger of a growing fascist movement is real and one aspect of combatting it, is better understanding  its appeal.

We, on the left,  also need a program that combines economic, racial,  gender and environmental justice with real organizing and popular education that is truly national and includes small towns and rural areas and is ongoing. This is necessary and cannot start a year or less before the election.  The millions  who didn’t vote, one-third of the voting age population,  are even more important to talk  with and reach out to than those who voted for Trump. Your thoughts?

From the exit polls, the majority of white women voted for Trump as did a slight increase in the proportion of Latinx, from 30% in 2016 to 33%-34 % in 2020. This small increase for Trump is sometimes exaggerated. Moreover, there was  a 2/3 increase in Latinx turnout which is a major  cause of Biden winning Arizona and Nevada and probably also, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Native American vote was also central to Biden and Harris  winning in  Arizona.

Would Bernie Sanders and a progressive program have defeated Trump? I am not sure. If turnout among African-Americans had stayed the same as it did  for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Bernie might have won. The massive vote of African-Americans against Trump and for Biden and Harris in key battle ground States such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan is an important and major reason why Biden is the President elect.  Sanders might have lost  as the vote  at the national, U.S. House, state legislatures moved in a slightly more conservative direction. There was  no Blue wave. The anti-socialist propaganda against Sanders would have been far more intense than it was. The leadership of the Democratic Party would have supported Sanders less than it did Biden, although their impact may have been limited. This is not an argument against Sanders but rather the need for more effective and long-run organizing and popular education.

Racism continues to be a major reason for the support for Trump and the Republicans. This is  apparent from the 2016 results and was again repeated in 2020 as demonstrated by the large white working class vote for Trump.  Economic and racial  justice and anti-racism need to be synthesized  and connected in a more effective way than they have been.

We shouldn’t give Biden any breathing room and wait to see what he does before acting. We need to build campaigns and social movements and mass action in the streets for a Green New Deal and environmental justice, a progressive stimulus package, Medicare for All, a Universal Basic Income, full employment, and a living wage, free higher education, increasing taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, significantly reducing the prison population, against police violence and racist policing, for  reproductive justice including childcare for all, for LGBT liberation, for affordable housing for all, immigrant justice, against U.S. intervention abroad and against sanctions of foreign countries and U.S. militarism, and for global justice. Let us  demand, beginning now, and organize for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to support  this program and explain to millions, its value. We should also organize for democratic reforms such as deciding elections by popular vote and expanding the Supreme Court.  Elections certainly matter and are important but there is the danger of a continued very short run perspective and an over focus on elections rather than building power from below. Biden’s cabinet and policies that he proposes are likely to be similar to Obama’s, probably slightly better on climate change but still, neoliberal.

The two remaining Senate runoffs in Georgia are significant and one of the Democrats is progressive, Raphael Warnock.  Although he only got 33% of the vote in the November 3rd election,  all the Republicans together  only got 49% in this race and probably the weaker of the two main Republican candidates  in the election is facing Warnock. There will be a runoff election between the leading Democratic and Republican Party candidates on January 5th, 2021. If Raphael Warnock and the other Democratic Senatorial candidate, Jon Ossoff win, the Democrats will have 50 seats in the U.S. Senate which would mean Kamala Harris could be the deciding vote on legislation.

I  am afraid Biden like Obama will try too hard to get Republican support which will not be possible without capitulation. Hopefully the Democrats can win the  U.S. Senate in 2022 if they end up with 48 or 49 seats in the Senate from this election.

I have zero sympathy for centrist Wall Street Democrats who are likely to dominate the next cabinet and Biden agenda. If the left of the Democratic Party, led by people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Bernie Sanders;  and leftist, Black  and Latinx individuals and organizations such as the The Poor People’s Campaign and the Black Lives led Movement (BLM),  inside and outside the Democratic Party,  form a new political party before or after 2024 that could be a significant step forward  although it might have a negative short-run impact.  This truly multiracial and left bloc should grow and coalesce, significantly, and become a force,  before it actually forms a political party. A new party  could follow an unsuccessful attempt to change the Democratic Party, and where the  Biden led administration continues the pro-corporate and neoliberal agenda of the Clintons, Obama and Schumer.

In closing, it is important and positive for the world that Trump lost last Tuesday, November 3rd. However, going  back to the policies  of the Obama administration is insufficient for solving the ongoing crises: climate, the Coronavirus, poverty and inequality of income and wealth, economic insecurity, racism, mass incarceration, patriarchy, growing authoritarianism  and alienation.

There are limits to reform of a capitalist society. While working on these reforms, we also need to build the power  and the vision to go beyond minor or even significant reforms, towards ending capitalism and creating a participatory socialist society.

Power to the People! Si Se Puede!

Peter Bohmer is a faculty member in Political Economy at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He has been an activist since 1967 in movements for fundamental social change.