Donald Trump’s electoral victory demonstrates, with stark consequences, that the Democratic Party’s strategy of triangulation has hit a dead end. Hillary Clinton, a personification of the ‘political establishment’ which has so transparently acted against the interests of the working class and oppressed since 2008, was unable to defeat a candidate who did – in his own reactionary way – appear to present an alternative. Is it any surprise that a warmonger and former Walmart board member should fail to inspire enthusiasm?
It hardly bears repeating that Donald Trump passed the finish line as the most disliked presidential candidate in history, with Clinton coming in second. Nor do we need to repeat the laundry list of reasons why Trump represents a danger to labor, oppressed peoples, the freedom of the press et cetera. As we go forward into 2017 and beyond, socialists should be aware of the political realities:
As of the time of publication, Hillary Clinton is expected to win the popular vote despite losing the race. Liberal commentators are calling the Electoral College into question, as they did in 2000 when George Bush defeated Al Gore without a popular vote plurality. The Electoral College is an undemocratic institution, designed to blunt the power of what James Madison called an “overbearing majority” – in other words, to subvert democracy. However, the Electoral College is not the only or even most egregious example of undemocratic structures in the U.S. We should champion far-reaching and consistent democracy as the best arena for working class struggle and the only possible means of workers’ rule.
Liberal contempt has no place in any movement for human liberation. We acknowledge that Trump’s victory will embolden white nationalists, the ‘alt-right’ and other far-right forces to lash out against women, LGBT people, immigrants and racial minorities. However, blanket dismissal of the so-called “white working class” as dyed-in-the-wool xenophobes is both false and counterproductive. Many Trump voters can be won over to the politics of working-class emancipation, particularly as he fails to solve the economic grievances he raised during the campaign.
The lion’s share of the ruling class opposed Donald Trump, preferring Clinton or another Republican as a safe pair of hands for capital. The limits imposed on national governments by capital do not cut only against left governments: just as French capital pressured Francois Hollande to abandon his program of mild reform, or international capital imposed a humiliating surrender on Syriza in Greece, Trump could find himself disciplined by the needs of ‘the market.’ This will also manifest in how personnel for the new administration; while Trump ran an anti-establishment campaign, he has no governmental experience and no machine of his own with which to staff the executive. We can expect him to draw from the already-existing GOP.
We are already seeing the beginning of what promises to be mass opposition to the incoming Trump administration, with protests and organizing meetings coming together on an ad hoc basis. But ‘getting out on to the streets’ alone is not enough. The key strategic need of our time – rebuilding the institutions of our class, and above all fighting for principled revolutionary unity in a Communist Party – remains the same.