Some immediate perspectives from the (global) deep south:
Trump, the 2020 elections and US democracy
Regardless of whether Trump or Biden gets into the White House and whatever the results of the Senate and House elections, US corporate capital and the ultra-wealthy will continue to rule the economic and developmental roost. What this will means is greater inequality, intensified destruction of the natural environment and climate change, and a burgeoning of the ranks of precarious workers and the poor (particularly those of colour).
By Dr Dale T McKinley**
Whatever the final outcome of a highly unpredictable Presidential election in the USA – leaving aside the simultaneous elections for the US House of Representatives and the Senate – there are certain things about the process and context that are patently predictable.
First, Donald Trump is once again making false claims that the ‘other side’ (i.e. anyone who does not support/agree with, him) is committing electoral fraud and trying to steal the election. He has gone further by making the absurd ‘demand’ that the counting of votes must stop (which would ironically mean victory for Biden). America’s little ‘Il Duce’ and his Republican party have begun filing legal challenges and have indicated they will go to the Supreme Court (which of course they have now stacked with a friendly majority).
Second, due to the continuation of the implicitly undemocratic Electoral College system, the election is yet again coming down to a handful of ‘swing states’ (in this case, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia). This is despite the fact that Biden is already a clear victor in respect of the overall popular vote – by almost 4 million out of over 140 million votes cast by the latest count.
Third, the electoral numbers reaffirm the now almost century-long dominance of a 2 party, status-quo political representative system; the USA’s electoral choices at the national level remain razor thin. And, even though tens of millions of eligible voters did not participate and there has been some cross-over voting, this elections reaffirms that the USA is a seriously divided nation along racial, class, gender and socio-cultural lines.
Fourth, the response so far of US and other ‘markets’, which have seen modest surges in futures and stocks/share prices, yet again reveals that US/ multinational corporate capital will always desire predictability above all else, as long as it remains within systemic (capitalist) ideological boundaries.
What is more foundational though, is that these predictabilities represent much deeper, structural realities that underlie not only the present elections but indeed the entire democratic edifice in the USA. What Trump and the 2020 elections (which have really been going on for the past two years at least) have done is to bring those realities even more clearly and prominently to the surface, where (most of) the people in both the USA and the world can now see them. So, what are these realities?
That the USA has always been, as the neo-conservative/religious right intellectual guru Paul Weyrich openly and approvingly argued in the 1980s, a country ruled and governed by a minority. This is because the institutional foundations of the political system in the USA – such as the Electoral College and the Senate – are designed to ensure an over-representation of those from mostly rural/small-town, lightly populated, predominately white and conservative states. As long as this remains the case, so too will elections functionally reflect this reality.
That the unrelenting (and largely successful) efforts by the Republican party and Trump to do everything possible to corral and suppress the right to vote for all, has further institutionalised and greatly strengthened a historicised hierarchy of citizenship. When added to the similarly successful and unprecedented efforts to pack the judiciary with yes men and women, the cumulative result will be a long-lasting reinforcement of the power of the (racial and class) minority.
That despite some of the more progressive demographic and social changes in the USA, especially over the last 2-3 decades, a sizeable section of the population remains socially-culturally and politically conservative (including amongst the African-American and Hispanic population as well as amongst more recent immigrant communities). Combined with the USA’s historic and dominant embracing of a populist and narrowly identitarian nationalism and imperialism (and Trump’s fuel on the fire approach to both), this reality will remain crucial to the outcome of all electoral politics in the USA and engagement with the rest of the world, for some time to come.
That regardless of whether Trump or Biden gets into the White House and whatever the results of the Senate and House elections, US corporate capital and the ultra-wealthy will continue to rule the economic and developmental roost. What this will mean is greater inequality, continued destruction of the natural environment and climate change, and a burgeoning of the ranks of precarious workers and the poor (particularly those of colour).
It is the unfortunate and magnified inheritance of our time that what happens in the domestic realm of the USA reverberates across the globe, with both direct and indirect, short and long-term, consequences. As we watch what unfolds in this more immediate phase, we would be wise to pay close attention to the underlying, structural realities that are now so clear to see; less we too follow in the footsteps of associated predictability.
**Dale McKinley is an independent writer, researcher and lecturer as well as research and education officer for the International Labour, Research and Information Group, based in Johannesburg. He is a veteran political activist who has been involved in social movement, community and liberation organisations and struggles for close to four decades. The author of several books, he has written and published widely on various aspects of South African, regional and global political, social and economic issues and struggles.