The Meaning of the Nov. 3 Presidential Election

Socialist Organizer Statement

On Saturday, November 7, Joe Biden was declared the new president of the United States.

Biden’s victory – with 80 million votes at the latest counting – represents a massive repudiation of Trump and his policies.

This vote against Trump was the expression in the electoral arena of the strike wave of teachers, often illegal, against Trump’s drive to destroy public education.

It was an expression of the 24 million people who took to the streets earlier this year to protest the police killing of George Floyd, proclaiming, “Black Lives Matter.”

It was an expression of the anger over the deaths of 240,000 people in the United States from COVID-19.

It was an expression of the widespread revolt over the caging of immigrant children and the separation from their parents, of the escalating destruction of the environment — and so much more.

Biden’s main campaign message was that he’s a “unifier.” He is someone who can bring Democrats and Republicans together again. He is someone who can bring workers and bosses together to “rebuild the economy in the interests of all Americans.” He is someone who can restore the United States’ “prestige” worldwide.

Many analysts point to the fact that the Black vote total for Biden was double the total obtained by Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is true. But in no sector of the Black working class was there any enthusiasm for Biden, who is viewed widely as the architect of policies in the 1990s that criminalize Black people.

PBS interviewed an elderly Black woman in Maryland who had never voted, and who said, “Biden is no friend of Black people, but this time around I had to vote for Biden; it was a question of survival for me and my family.”

*   *   *

Having said this, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Democrats were hoping for a landslide victory against Trump — and that landslide never materialized. The Democrats failed to take back the Senate or increase their majority in the House of Representatives, as they had predicted.

In fact, more than 74 million people voted for Trump, reflecting the widespread racism, xenophobia, and misogyny in the United States — all scourges fueled by the ruling class, to one degree or another, to divide workers and prevent them from fighting for their class interests.

The setback in the Congress stunned the Democrats. It is producing a major crisis inside the Democratic Party, with the “moderate” wing blaming the Bernie “progressive” wing for being too “socialist,” and with the “progressives” blaming the Biden moderates for turning their backs on the Bernie voters.

The Bernie wing of the Democratic Party was especially bitter. “How did we get here,” is the question posed by Briahna Joy Gray, former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders.

“When you start to dig a little deeper,” she said, “you see that this was an election in which the Democratic Party was very clear to put neoliberalism on the ballot. Joe Biden was a candidate who bragged to his donors that nothing would fundamentally change. He ran, clearly, with the plan to marginalize the left, and to be very clear about the fact that he didn’t feel like he needed to reach out and do that kind of outreach.” (Democracy Now, Nov. 4)

Joy Gray is correct: Millions of people who voted for Biden want Medicare for All. They want to defund the police so that monies can be reoriented to vital social programs. They want an end to “free trade” agreements that destroy the environment and leave a rust belt in their wake. They want to shut down the detention centers and grant papers for all undocumented immigrants. They want an end to U.S. wars and interventions abroad. The list goes on.

All these voters were sheep-dogged back into the Democratic Party by Bernie Sanders, only to be delivered to the Biden “neoliberals,” who then threw them on the trash heap, as occurred in 2016 and as will occur again in 2024, and beyond, if these Bernie activists don’t break with the Democratic Party and join the struggle to build a Labor Party rooted in the unions and communities of the oppressed.

Neither “moderates” nor “progressives” inside the Democratic Party are capable of drawing the only conclusion to be drawn: You cannot defeat the Republicans with Democratic candidates and policies that do not differ fundamentally from those of the Republicans. And the reason these policies do not differ — and cannot differ — is because both parties are funded and controlled by the same financial and corporate interests.  

That is why Socialist Organizer did not call for a vote for Biden or for Trump – both candidates of the capitalist class.

We raised the need for a Labor Party and for a Black Workers Party linked to the struggle for a Labor Party. In September, we helped to organize a labor and community conference for an independent party with over 200 unionists and community activists in attendance from across the country to chart the way forward by running independent labor candidates at a local level.

We called for the labor movement to heed and implement the 2017 resolutions adopted by the AFL-CIO that raise the need to break with “lesser-evil” politics.

We called for mass action and working-class unity around workers’ pressing demands, while also supporting Black self-determination, as the best to push back the right-wing racists and their ilk.

We put forward a fighting platform that calls for:

– Single-payer healthcare;

– No cuts in social services; no layoffs or concessions to pay back the capitalist debt — Bail Out Main Street, Not Wall Street!

– Massive public-works funding to put the 30 million jobless back to work at union scale;

– Massive funding for hospitals, Proper Protective Equipment, and research to address the scourge of COVID-19, which has taken four times the number of lives of U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam;

– Defund the police and redirect the funding to vitally needed social programs;

– Stop the deportations of undocumented immigrants, shut down the detention centers and repeal the NAFTA 2.0 “free trade” agreement!

– End the U.S. wars and interventions the world over; slash the war budget and redirect the funds for jobs and social services.

These are policies that neither of the twin parties of the bosses is able or willing to embrace and act upon.

*   *   *

While Biden has been declared the winner, this does not mean that the issue of the transfer of powers has been settled. Far from it.

Donald Trump issued a very ominous declaration the day after the November 3 election — a declaration he has reiterated repeatedly: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win the election! If you count the illegal and late votes, they can steal the election from us.” He insisted that he would not stand by and let this happen.

Donald Trump Jr. took it a step further, proclaiming that, “We must fight to the death” and “This is total war.”

We cannot underestimate the seriousness of these threats, however frivolous the allegations of “illegal votes” may be. Trump has vowed not to concede the election; he is filing hundreds of lawsuits and hoping that the Supreme Court will save him.

It is unlikely that Trump will get anywhere with these allegations of “illegal votes.” The consensus among the political establishment is that Trump does not have a leg to stand on. Leading Republican figures, including past Republican presidential candidates, are peeling off from Trump. 

Some of these Republicans are offering to meet with Biden to propose the names of possible cabinet members, including the Secretary of State, who could be supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Others, such as former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, a likely member of Biden’s transition team, are already congratulating Biden profusely but warning him in the same breath that he must resist any and all pressures from the “socialists” in the Democratic Party. Medicare for All must be off the table, Kasich insists.

The dominant wing of the capitalist class — including the Army and national security apparatus — has sent clear signals that they would prefer to see Trump pack his bags and exit the scene peacefully. The stability of the political institutions of capitalism — which Trump is disrupting — is at stake.

Besides, a Biden administration, hemmed in by a Republican Senate and framed by Biden’s overture to “heal the divide” with the Republicans, is just what Wall Street needs to ensure passage of the Draconian budget cuts necessary to pay back the mounting debt and open the way to yet another “jobless recovery” that lines the pockets of Big Business and the bankers.

For Wall Street and Big Business, Biden must be the man to put a halt to the growing radicalization in the U.S. working class, including in the trade unions, and among youth. He must be the man to get the AFL-CIO and its affiliates to swallow the bitter pill of layoffs and concessions — an effort known as “corporatism.” He must do what Trump could not do, and that is subdue the unions.

Wall Street may want Trump to bow out, but Trump and his minions, emboldened by the roughly 74 million votes received in this election, appear to have other ideas — and we cannot exclude a very chaotic next couple of weeks, even months.

*   *   *

A significant wing of the U.S. labor movement has joined forces with labor’s allies in the Black and Latino movements to protect the right to vote.

In early October, with just one month to go before the elections, a group of veteran labor organizers decided to form an ad-hoc labor coalition — Labor Action to Defend Democracy, or LADD — to help promote independent mass actions, including labor strikes, to stop Trump from stealing the election. “Labor can make the difference,” stated a LADD organizer.

Spurred by LADD, hundreds of union locals, central labor councils, national unions, and other workplace organizations adopted resolutions calling on the labor movement to “take whatever nonviolent actions may be necessary to stop Trump from stealing the election.” Some of the resolutions — such as the ones adopted by the central labor councils in Rochester (NY), Troy (NY), Seattle (WA), Madison (WI) or Western Massachusetts — called for workplace actions up to and including a general strike.

More than 300 demonstrations were organized nationwide on November 4. Unions in many cities joined these actions. On November 7 the labor movement took the lead in organizing similar actions across the country. In the San Francisco Bay Area, all five AFL-CIO labor councils came together to organize a march and rally in downtown San Francisco to defend the right to vote.

This fighting spirit of the labor movement was captured well in the Open Letter sent to the presidents of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) by the presidents of seven educators’ unions in California. The Open Letter states, in part:

“As an alliance of education unions in some of the largest cities in California, we call on our national unions — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — to commit to immediately mobilize millions of union members, community allies and others into mass protests at the first indications of an attempt to steal the election. Specifically, we must be prepared to act independently of the Democratic Party to defend the future for working people through collective action.”

Acting independently of the Democratic Party will be needed — in the workplace and in the political arena; it is the task of the hour.

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