USA: the partisan pandemic

Submitted by martin on 1 June, 2020 - 9:24 Author: Barrie Hardy
George Floyd protest

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash


The Covid-19 death toll across the USA is now into six figures. Major cities are in flames in protest against the casual killing of black men by police officers and white racist vigilantes.

It's all a far cry from Trump's inaugural prattle about ending supposed “American carnage”. Responsibility for much of the real carnage now is down to the actions of Trump and his cronies.

There are stores refusing entry to customers not wearing face masks and stores where they'll only let you in if you aren't wearing one. There are states where strict lockdown rules have been in force for many weeks and others like Georgia where lockdown has hardly been enforced before the State Governor declared most businesses could open.

According to a recent survey, if a vaccine against coronavirus were successfully developed, 50% of the American public would willingly take it, whilst a similar number wouldn't. It doesn't take a genius to work out the political persuasion of most on either side of that issue!

It's all part and parcel of the "Culture War” that has turned this serious public health crisis into a partisan political battleground - a partisan pandemic. A battle in the ongoing war to keep the Republican Party - representing the most rapacious wing of the American capitalist class - in power in the face of demographic change it fears will sweep it out of government permanently.

Under Trump there is no question that the GOP is effectively the party of white supremacy.

What white supremacists fear most is the end of their racial and cultural dominance. The demographic clock ticks away until the non-Hispanic white population in the USA is a minority.

That moment is twenty years off, but the voting implications are here and now. Republicans are invariably the losers when it comes to the popular vote, even if they emerge as winners owing the institutions such as the Electoral College - put in the country's constitution to placate the slaveowners.

The Electoral College could well have saved Trump's bacon in 2020 even if he lost the popular vote by a bigger margin than in 2016. However, his hope of a narrow victory on the basis of a strong economy have been shattered as unemployment climbs to unheard-of levels.

The unpreparedness and incompetence of the White House in dealing with the emergency, and bizarre pronouncements recommending injecting disinfectant and light rays as a cure for the virus, compound Trump’s problems.

A shift has taken place among the elderly population who may have voted Trump last time. Trump taking hydroxychloroquine? The more discerning among them know this is a lie. The over 65s are even less impressed with the suggestion made by Trump camp followers on Fox TV that they lay down their lives for the good of the economy.

Seniors are one of the many demographics where Biden now enjoys a substantial lead. The only demographic Trump in now ahead in is among whites, and that says it all.

Despite all the propaganda about the USA being a beacon of democracy, many states actually go out of their way to make it difficult for their citizens to vote. If voting were easier, then, as Trump recently said, "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again".In recent years there's been a veritable orgy of voter suppression as Republicans seek to maintain their grip on power. Don't register people. Have few polling stations so people get put off queuing and won't bother. Put polling stations miles away from where people live. Purge electors from the rolls without them knowing it. Demand ID.

Electoral districts are blatantly gerrymandered to the invariable advantage of Republicans. Wisconsin is a standout case of this. In 2018 Republicans got 45% of the vote and 63 seats in the state assembly, and the Democrats on 55% only got 36 seats. Trying to overturn gerrymandering and voter suppression through the courts is problematic if the judiciary is stacked with Republican appointees.

In Wisconsin again, last April, with the pandemic raging, voters were forced to queue to elect a member of the State's Supreme Court. The expectation was that low voter turnout would secure a conservative victory. Voters braved risks to their health and prevented that.

Trump's packing of the US court system with “conservative” judges has been his most important service to Republican rule. Future challenges to voter suppression will be met with staunch rearguard action in the courts.

One way of making voting easier is to encourage voting by mail, which brings Trump to the point of apoplexy. In his opposition to voting by mail, Trump is setting up the narrative for denying his impending electoral defeat. The claim, based naturally on no evidence whatsoever, is that postal voting is open to massive electoral fraud.

That was going to be the explanation for Trump losing the 2016 election, except that he didn't. A narrow defeat this year will see fraud claims ramped up even further and is bound to lead to some degree of violence on the part of his supporters.

Trump doesn't want to exchange the White House for a prison. A whole range of court cases have stacked up against him. Four more years’ immunity from prosecution whilst in office will see the statute of limitations run out on a lot of them.

Thus his recourse to every dirty trick in the book. Downright lies, obviously. Racism and xenophobia, this time with a particular emphasis on attacking China. Incitement to violence as witnessed by his calls to “liberate” states that are carrying out lockdown measures in accordance with his own government's advice. The promotion of baseless conspiracy theories against his political opponents.

Socialists do not want to see a second Trump term, because the results will be even worse for the lives of American workers, especially African-Americans and others whom Trump will choose to demonise. Nevertheless, the election period allows for the advancing of socialist ideas and policies which have become popular in recent years.

Particular emphasis can be laid on the need for a socialised medical system, now more urgent than ever, when Trump wants to strip millions more Americans of medical cover.

No illusions must be entertained with respect to the Democrat Party leadership. They represent different corporate capitalist interests and are in no sense a party of the working class or the labour movement.

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