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Political changes after midterm elections in the U.S.

Translated by Pedro Fuentes


Some results

Two very emotional events occurred after the elections: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez occupied with environmental militants the office of the hitherto head of the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosy, and spoke out demanding that it was time for the Democrats to take energetic measures against environmental pollution and global warming. (See article on this page by Ben Becket). And on the other hand, in a Tashiba Tlaib street act, he made an inflamed speech supporting the unpublished attitude of an elected deputy to occupy the office of the “chief”. (See video) Both are the new deputies who claim to be members of the DSA and who were elected on the Democratic Party lists defeating in the primaries the Democratic caudillos of their member states of the bourgeois establishment of that party. These two facts that we highlight starring the two elected deputies of the DSA are a mathematically small part (in a universe of hundreds of deputies), but in any case an element to take into account in the recent elections that took place on November 6.

The general results say that the Republicans managed to maintain a majority in the Senate even by robbing the Democrats of a seat. The U.S. Senate, like the rest of the world, is the reactionary institution in which all states elect equal numbers of members and therefore are not an authentic representation of society. The conservative ruralist interior chooses the same number as the State of California today the fifth economy in the world to host a powerful proletariat as are also New York or Michigan.

Trump suffered a major defeat in the House of Representatives. The latest data from slow American scrutiny indicate that Democrats can reach a difference of more than thirty seats. With significant data in many districts of the so-called swings states (which define elections because voters change from one party to another), and in which the Republicans suffered significant defeats. For example, in New York’s traditionally Republican Long Island district, a Democrat won with progressive flags. Another is the large number of women Democrats, who participated for the first time. In elections in states praising governors, Democrats also won back two or three governorships that were formerly Republican. One of the most noteworthy is New Mexico (on the border with this country), where an indigenous Democrat woman defeated the traditional Republicans who ruled.

At the time of writing, the manual recount in Florida, where the manual system had to be used because the difference was less than half a point, has not yet been resolved. There, in the gubernatorial election, a Republican candidate, “thoroughbred Trump,” or ultra-right, faced a black candidate supported by Bernie Sanders who defended the political agenda of Medicare for All, Public Education, and like Bernie, opposed the financial interference of the big lobbies and corporations that support candidates that are organic to them. Of course, it will not be the same the balance according to who wins, but that in one of the most Latino states and that traditionally was a Republican bastion (the Democrats did not win since the 90’s), the election is defined by a few tens of thousands of votes is very significant.

The results of the DSA deserve a special place. In addition to the world-renowned bar worker Ocasio Cortez, there is another new Muslim national congresswoman by Detroit Rashida Tlaib and about 10 state congressmen or senators. One of them in deep Texas and another, Julia Salazar a young woman of Latino origin us Alexandria Ocasio Cortez through the populous Brooklyn district to the New York State Senate.

Also worthy of special mention is the Oakland campaign by Jovanka Blechkes, a black woman, homosexual and health worker. In California, primaries and generals go together. In an essentially Democratic state, Jovanka had to confront Buffy Wicks, a Democratic candidate linked to and supported by the city establishment. Jovanka had formally the support of 30 unions against 15 from Buffy and 11 environmental groups. Around it the East Bay DSA made a platform with several unions and action groups in a militant campaign from below. To get an idea of how important this election was for the Democrats, Obama came to Oakland to campaign directly for Buffy while Sanders came to support Jovanka. It was an example of an unequal media campaign between workers, socialists and environmentalists against the “owners. While the final results are not yet known, Jovanka has about 45% of the votes that are not enough to win the seat, but Oakland has won a breakthrough in class consciousness and the regional DSA a qualitative militant learning for the challenges ahead.


Polarization and politicization in the U.S.

The elections showed a great political polarization and also, a politicization of the American society. On November 6 were very visible on the streets of New York people (many of color), with stickers “I vote”, as well as political discussions and comments. He voted 30% more than in the previous midterm election and among young new voters the percentage went from 10 to 17%.

Polarization means two poles. The rural interior more politically backward and of the impression that in sector of the white working class the vote for Trump was maintained. Within the Republican Party they lost most of the candidates who were independent or openly opposed to Trump. In other words, Trump seems to have captured the Republican Party.

At the other pole, the wave blue, which won the popular vote by a considerable majority, the situation is more complex. Overall, the Democratic Party is not strengthened as a whole and with a clear direction. The main parliamentary figure, Nancy Pelosi, who was quick to say after the elections that she was open to compromise with Trump, has an approval rating of just 30% among Democratic voters according to the polls. Within the Democrats there are strong disputes surely linked to internal struggles for the apparatus that controlled the Clinton clan. Also because of the inability he has had so far to present an alternative agenda to Trump.

There is also a progressive wing that is heterogeneous, which we will talk about later. One sector is influenced by Bernie Sanders of “Our Revolution” who is Sanders’ platform more than an organization. Bernie Sanders has actively participated in the campaign supporting Ocasio and other candidates and has emerged strengthened and stronger to dispute the 2020 Democratic primaries. In their 2020 primaries the Democrats are going to have a large number of candidates which reflects the crisis we are talking about. One of them will be the senator qualified by the left as Elizabeth Warren’s false progressive.


The political and social context of the elections

Political polarization in the U.S. is also social polarization. The economic situation in the US has improved, in mega economic terms it is now good. There is no unemployment and there is GDP growth. One of the causes has been the brutal lowering of taxes to the big bourgeoisie and an increase in investments. But the fact that there is full employment does not mechanically mean social improvements, but the opposite happens. There is a rapid deterioration of health aggravated by Trump’s policy. According to a comment of the economist Deaton in “Project Sindycate” (page of economists and politicians like Stigliz or Krugman can be called of neokeynesians) “The pharmaceutical industry, is killing people en masse. Life expectancy at birth has now fallen three years in a row for whites in the United States. That hasn’t happened since World War I and the 1918 flu epidemic. And this is due to the pharmaceutical corporations’ pursuit of gross profits. Trump is never going to stop that in a million years. It is no coincidence that the biggest concern of the U.S. population is 70% that the most worrying issue is health. (We will return to this issue with “Medicare for All”)

In relation to wages the situation is not so extreme, but as the same article points out; “an important piece that is still missing is the growth of wages. The benefits of overall economic growth have been overwhelmingly directed at shareholders and top management, not at the poor or middle class. And for those reasons there is a demand for wage increases, for the minimum wage at the hour of 15 dollars that has been one of the axes of Bernie Sanders’ campaign taken now by the so-called progressive sectors. We must add to these two issues that increase social inequality and poverty, the sharp deterioration of public education and the increase in the price of rents.

And on the other hand, the ecological question. To the increasingly harsh storms and the increasingly frequent rough-and-tumble fires in California as a result of climate change, Trump responds with the deregulation of oil production. At the moment, the US is the largest oil producer thanks to the fact that the obsolete platforms that caused the contamination of the Gulf of Mexico have returned to operate in that area and that cracking is taking place riskyly and the mines have also been reopened. So the withdrawal of the Paris agreement was not a symbolic gesture). Trump acts accordingly in the most important country for all humanity on the planet.

Trump’s far-right and divisive approach in these elections created the climate for the terrorist actions of far-right Trump supporters. Domestic” terrorism led a Trump supporter to send 14 bombs by mail to several Democratic personalities and opposition figures and days later to the attack by a Nazi group on the Pittsburgh synagogue where 11 people died. Trump’s response was only a day’s pause in the face of these tragedies and then continued with his racist hate attacks and the sending of 15,000 soldiers to his southern border in response to the caravan of Central Americans. This theme was the axis for their ultranationalist xenophobic campaign. Trump does not speak as president for the whole nation but as a personalist and authoritarian who has an ideology and a program to consolidate his national and international base.


Before making the political balance, some comments on the meaning of Trump’s policy

Trump’s ultra-nationalist and xenophobic discourse of “America First” (which even means that all other Americans like Central and South Americans are his subjects), is also that of his children or political allies who spread around the world with Ogan in Hungary, Duterte in the Philippines, the Nazi ultras in Germany and other European countries and who now also has another one in the most important country in Latin America with Bolsonaro in Brazil. That discourse is based on the ideology of Steeve Bannon, the former executive president of Breitbart News, the cradle of the ultra-nationalist racist alternative right, who has been Trump’s main strategist. It is an ideology, a program and a policy of response to the so-called neoliberal globalization that we and other Marxists have defined in various texts as a new phase (or more properly a subphase) of the imperialist phase or stage defined by Lenin and that has its own characteristics.

The magazine “The Economist” in the last edition of October has as its cover “China versus America, the dangerous rivalry”. And inside, Trump’s phrases from his speech at the United Nations Assembly: “We reject the ideology of globalization and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. And he comments that his great patriotism is the struggle against China and again quoting a phrase from his speech Trump says: “We were going in a direction that would allow China to be bigger than us in a very short period of time”. “That’s not going to happen anymore. At the time the world bourgeois press commented with irony and contempt on Trump’s speech. But in the world of more chaos and crisis in which we live, these opinions of Trump must be put in the serious context of the trade war between China and the U.S., which is more than that; it is a struggle for geopolitical primacy, as indicated by the increase in the military budget of the two countries. For the time being, this fight is limited to the control of the Pacific and Asia.

It is not the subject of this article to delve deeper into the subject of imperialist globalization and the supremacy and domination of a nation-state. We mention it because it helps to reflect on the meaning of Trump’s policy and to have more elements for the balance of the mid-term elections.


Partial defeat

Trump has been defeated in these elections. But we think that in spite of that he will continue with his policy that has nothing of improvisation even if the character has it. It responds to the strategy of the American ruling class (or a sector of it) to regain decadent supremacy and regain hegemony with an imperialist nationalism that has important allies in the world, among them Bolsonaro in Brazil. A new strategic ally as defined by Secretary of State, Bolton. This new ally that has the contradiction that will govern a country in which its economy is mostly dedicated to exports to China.

The crisis of neoliberal globalization and the lack of solid anti-capitalist alternatives give conditions for Trump’s internally weakened policy to continue to exist. The retention of the Senate is another element that counts for us to say that it is an important partial defeat that in any case encourages the Brazilian and world resistance against ultranationalism. The main enemy of all Americans comes out weaker but has not died. The one who can now strike a much harder blow will be the struggle of the US workers.


The hot potato is in the hands of the democrats

Is it possible to conquer Medicare for All? Is it possible for the Democratic bench to take it into its own hands? Certainly what they have in their hands is a hot potato called Medicare for All. Hence, their ability to “peel it and eat it” is another difficult question to “digest” for a bourgeois party linked to the big capitalists and the whole ruling class. It would mean attacking the big laboratories that “are eating the health of the population”.

Bernie Sanders has already called on the Democrats to take the social agenda. After hours of the election he said it would be a political disaster if they focused on the issue of Russian interference rather than social issues. But one thing is Bernie Sanders and another is the Democratic Party. The PD can perhaps hinder the dismantling of Obamacare, but another thing is to socialize medicine and provoke a chain reaction on other social services that ends up attacking big corporations.

It is good at this point to come back to what may be happening in this party. This is a bourgeois party that throughout the long stage of bourgeois stability has had the support of workers and minorities and still has it. But now the situation is changing, there is a crisis of that bourgeois democratic regime that gave it stability to contain that social base. Because of this crisis, Trump’s ultranationalist government is in power. The appearance of the progressive wing with its different nuances (Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Lee etc.) reflects this crisis. A first approximation would lead us to say that it is a petty-bourgeois wing within the bourgeois party. That is to say that it would seem that it is not a maneuver of the Democratic leadership “to change something so that nothing changes” so as not to lose base (although some are in that game), but that it is a real fact. We know that the petty bourgeoisie is an inconsistent class, and therefore does not have the capacity to capture the apparatus of the Democratic Party for itself; we also know that the bourgeoisie is not going to let go and that having illusions in that policy would disarm the socialist vanguard and its potential influence on the workers.


A policy of demand and denunciation that is a challenge for socialists

But that doesn’t mean that the socialists don’t have a policy toward that so-called “progressive” wing and for the whole Democratic bench. Let’s remember that Trotsky, who in his last years of life was very close to the U.S. and the Socialist Workers Party (Canon) demanded of Roosevelt (a bourgeois government) that he would be willing to support the army preparing for entry into war if he did so on the basis of organized armament of the workers. (a socialized army)

Using that example would be to require Democrats to “eat the hot potato” from Medicare for All. In other words, they should use their majority in parliament to vote for Medicare for All. This would be a demand policy that would be very well seen by the whole mass movement. And since they are not going to carry it forward it would be a qualitative leap for a party that has gone from 5,000 militants to 55,000 and that now has deputies. Ocasio and Tashiba would be a formidable lever to carry out this policy of placement and demand in parliament. Of course, this battle does not only take place in parliament but also in the mass movement. It would be a policy to mobilize masses, for the workers to assume the vanguard of a real movement against Trump, which would place and allow to create better conditions for the strategy of ending the hegemony of the democrats in the workers.

The challenge is very great; there is also a hot potato in the hands of the socialists… But why not think that it is possible? Why not think that we have the tools to carry it forward? Why not think that if the socialists knew how to win in a face-to-face confrontation against the Nazi ultras in Charlottesville cannot now plunge this much greater challenge? Why not think that with Ocasio and Tashiba in Washington, Julia in New York and the rest of the socialist representatives plus whatever they join, you can’t make a great national campaign and make a great mobilization in Washington to support a bill that will be presented by the two brave deputies who will already be inside the house in 2019. It would also be difficult with a great mobilization to win the parliament, but it would be possible to win hundreds of thousands of workers so that the socialist vanguard is not only a vanguard, but that it becomes a real movement of the workers. And it would be an example and an improvement for the internationalist socialists of all countries.

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  • Pedro Fuentes
  • Bernardo Corrêa
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