Mark Findlay analyses the results and considers some of the fall-out from the election of Donald Trump as US president…
President-elect Trump is an open racist, misogynist and homophobe. Let no one forget this. He will be president from January and with both the Senate and House Republican controlled, this gives him near-unquestionable power at the level of government to implement what he wants. He will also appoint a further member to the Supreme Court, which is likely to further consolidate power. His road to power includes use of his goon squads, voter intimidation, gerrymandering, interference with voting lists and many other things.
The Trump presidency looms large in Europe too, and in France in particular. Le Pen and the Front Nationale must be being encouraged by this result. While staying with friends in France, I saw they had a Bande Dessinée book (in French) showing the possible outcome of a Le Pen victory. This must be seen as a distinct possibility now, with Hollande completely discredited and the old Right divided. Racism is now part of the norm in France, too.
Trump’s victory appears to be large, with him getting probably over 300 electoral college votes against 228 (270 = victory) so far, but it appears that Clinton has actually won the popular vote. At the time of writing, Trump is actually 209,000 votes behind, less than the population of Brighton and Hove where I live so razor thin:
Obama 62,156,980 votes 50.6%
Romney 58,805,060 votes 47.8%
Trump 59,551,275 47.5%
Clinton 59,760,810 47.7%
est. 92% in
updated 7:57 am ET, Nov. 9
Note that counting hasn’t finished so this might change a bit.
But a combination of the undemocratic system, gerrymandering and the distribution of the electorate have given him the victory that we see. We cannot forget, however, the unfortunate pollsters, who put Clinton 2% ahead. This is significant and is very similar to the error in poll results found here at Brexit, for the Conservatives in 2015 and to elections further into the past. The polls underestimate support for the right consistently. The results also show that it’s been the Democrats to lose. The Trump vote, as I said above, was less than a million more than that for Mitt Romney, but Obama managed 62 million; 50.6%.
The distribution of the electorate was significant and in and of itself wasn’t entirely the fault of the parties. Clinton’s support was heavily concentrated in certain states such as California and New York, but Trump had many narrow majorities, which gave him a disproportionate number of electoral college seats. Truly, the US presidential system is even less democratic than the UK first-past-the-post system.
The CNN exit polls show clearly how the vote was split by race, sex and also age. . Clinton was 10% ahead for woman voters, over 20% ahead for voters up to 24, and right up to age 39, 11% or more ahead. By “race”, if we accept the term, she took 88% for Black voters (presumably African-American), 65% for Latino and Asian, and 56% for “other race”. Amongst white voters (presumably everyone else), Trump took 58%.
Of course, part of the cause of Trump’s victory is massive disappointment with Obama, on-going decline in living standards and hatred of machine politics (of which Clinton is a prime example). But, as with Brexit, with the complete failure of the left (and yes, it’s FAILURE big time), the white working class responded overwhelmingly to his racist campaign. Listening to Women’s hour this morning (yes I’m a man who often listens to this), one of the commentators pointed out that white women actually formed part of his base, in spite of his gruesome misogyny and record of assaulting women (the exit poll above shows that white women supported Trump by 53% to 43%).
Critical to the election result was that Trump did well in the “Rust Belt” states; i.e. those that have massively lost employment in “traditional” industries like coal, iron, steel and motor. The Democrats have largely lost these states. The white working class voted racist there, unfortunately. These states include Michigan (not yet called, but Trump ahead), Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; also the old coal mining states of Kentucky and West Virginia. Only Illinois, containing Chicago, and arguably New York State itself, which are both exceptional with their big Democratic voting cities went for Clinton.
Clinton also failed to win enough support from the African American community – a massive possible vote for her. This may have been affected in part by the systematic gerrymandering and manipulation of voting rolls by the Republican dominated state and county governments in the “South”. This follows a 2013 Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights act (section 5, which “Required states and counties with a history of racial discrimination to get the approval of the Department of Justice before changing local voting rules and practices.”). The decision effectively nullified this, allowing racist local legislatures to put obstacles in the way of (mainly) African-American voters. The left needs to join with the communities in fighting this- this is a real possible battleground.
Looking at how things might have been different if Sanders had the Democratic candidate, during the primaries his opinion poll results were better than for Clinton, especially in the “rust belt”. His policies seemed genuinely popular, but the Democratic machine, which is of course big-business controlled, were determined to see him off. Sanders himself ended up being a bit of a disappointment, effectively trying to lead his base into just supporting Clinton. It appears that part of his support did switch to Trump, which was unfortunate, but shows the depth of dissatisfaction that existed for Clinton.
Trump has been compared with Hitler, including by me, and the list of his methods seems to be very similar. But there are a number of significant differences. Hitler was chosen specifically to smash up the powerful German working class (and ultimately, the working class across Europe). In the US, the working class movement has long been almost completely destroyed. But it has partly been replaced by community movements; Black, women, lesbian/gay/trans, Latino/a, community resistance to poverty, Native American, environmental and more. It is these communities that are now under threat in a big way. The Supreme Court, with a 5th (and perhaps more) conservative member(s) may cause further harm to voting rights, but in particular it could make anti-Abortion rulings, perhaps invalidating Roe vs Wade, a 1960s decision that allowed abortion rights.
We need to look forward to the kind of resistance that needs to be built. It’s clear that the movement will have to go back on to the streets. Black Lives Matter, womens’ groups and many others will have to be part of the battle. As above, these are the groups that are fighting to defend the communities that Trump wants to smash. We should be supporting the Native American battle against the oil pipeline in Dakota as right now they are in the front line. Apparently, the oil companies look likely to simply ignore Obama’s halt on construction. They know that a friendly president is waiting in the wings.
With all this against us, is there anything positive out there? Well the massive support for Sanders suggests that there is a large potential opposition, which needs to be organised. On-going weather disasters speak loudly against the pretence that there’s no climate change. There’s also massive disappointment among the Democratic base. Obama achieved very little progressive. Obamacare appears to be Elastoplast at best, and Trump’s campaign gleefully played up the recent increase in premiums for what is still an insurance based scheme. The left needs to exploit this with focussed demands. It’s for the US left to work this out, but alongside anti-racist, pro-choice, LGBT/Gay marriage, must be campaigns for free healthcare, for real jobs, and an end to gross inequality.
London Socialist Resistance meeting:
After the US elections, what next?
Tuesday 15 November, 7:30pm
Community Centre, 62 Marchmont Street
WC1N 1AB (Kings Cross & Russell Sq tubes)
Speaker: George Binnette, just back from US, Boston Red Sox supporter, & Camden UNISON branch secretary p.c.
Report, analysis, discussion:
- How could Trump win?
- Where next for Bernie Sanders and his supporters?
- Is Green candidate Jill Stein a radical alternative hope?
- How does the US left and trade unions build resistance?
- What does ‘Black Lives Matter’ tell us about racism in the US?
- Where is the ‘world’s greatest democracy’ going?
Free tickets available at Eventbrite.