Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has made bold statements about resistance to President Trump in the early days of his administration. But when the grossly unqualified Ben Carson’s nomination to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development came before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, she joined the unanimous vote to approve him.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader and a New York Democrat, voted in favor of war criminal Gen. James Mattis among other Trump candidates. Bernie Sanders, whose run as an open socialist for President drew many young people sick and tired of the capitalist system, attended Trump’s inauguration and has pledged to work with him on trade issues. Meanwhile top AFL-CIO flak Richard Trumka called himself “ready to work with” the new President.
This is not what a resistance looks like. It flies in the face of the spirited women’s marches of this past Saturday (January 21), which showed astonishing crowds, in many cities the largest demonstration in living memory. Those millions of women (and men) who voiced their disapproval of the misogynistic bigot now polluting the oval office formed a clear base for a movement against Trump’s billionaire cabinet and his right-wing agenda.
But the Democrats have largely given Trump room for maneuver, wheeling and dealing as if this is political business as usual in Washington. This is a particularly stark contrast to the Republicans, who acted as “the party of no” for eight years of Obama’s presidency, digging in their heels at any and every move the Democratic President made. The so-called “leaders” in the Democratic Party cannot even rise to this level.
This is not a mere coincidence or a moral failing on the part of the Democrats. They are elected with the support of the capitalist class, and their role is not to protect workers and the many oppressed groups who are in Trump’s crosshairs but to disarm their movements and act on behalf of their Wall Street and Silicon Valley funders. These blocs of capital have seen fit to work with Trump and their Democratic lackeys are willing to follow.
Trump’s strategy seems based on “shock and awe,” using the bully pulpit and the executive orders he once denounced and moving quickly to enact as many reactionary policies as possible. The opposition is thrown off balance before it has a chance to take shape. We have seen sudden shifts such as the go-ahead given to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline, both of which had been sidelined after mass opposition in the Obama era.
Strategies for Failure
In the face of these attacks the opposition to Trump has been scattered. This will intensify with reliance upon the Democrats, who are unwilling and unable to provide the kind of broad, intransigent opposition that can slow his reactionary agenda.
As Trump and the Republican congress look at dismantling the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), we see a strategy for failure at work. A recent poll showed that a majority of Americans want single-payer rather than either Obamacare or a return to the pre-ACA insurance regime. However, the Democrats are deeply complicit with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and would never make such a move. Several Democrats, including New Jersey Senator and so-called progressive Cory Booker, even voted against importing drugs cheaply from Canada.
Focusing efforts on defending Obamacare is a bad strategy because it is a bad law. There are positive aspects (insurance extended until age 26, birth control covered, no right of refusal for “pre-existing conditions”) but the core law, requiring everyone to buy insurance and setting up exchanges, has not worked. It has failed to contain skyrocketing insurance costs and the deductibles are frequently so onerous that the insured have no access to health care. Single-payer and socialized health systems have delivered superior results in many countries; it is only the influence of the for-profit health system that keeps Americans’ health at the whim of predatory insurance companies.
It is also important to oppose, without reservation, the attempts by shadowy intelligence agencies to blame everything bad about Trump on Russia. Whether or not Putin manipulated the US media during the election, Trump is not a puppet and would still be every bit as dangerous if the Russian government were to collapse tomorrow. And we should remember that the unflattering reports about the DNC were nothing less than the truth.
As we build a resistance to Trump and what he stands for, our horizon cannot be the low bar of life under Obama. It may have taken until 2011 for the Occupy movement to erupt but his regime was characterized by inequality, war, racist policing, deportations, rape culture, and environmental destruction. We need a visionary movement that sees beyond this to a just, sane world.
Mass Action and Independence
The Women’s Marches, coming merely a day after Trump’s inauguration and dwarfing the crowds that greeted him, were only a first step. However, their consciousness was deeply uneven, with many liberals and naïve first-time protesters spilling out into the streets. Not all of the slogans or ideas were perfect, and the platform was progressive but ignored by the Democratic machines who showed up to take credit for the mobilization.
Further provocations will require deeper organizing and more coordination. With every action Trump takes, he creates a new tangible target for the movements against him. Reopening the pipeline development is an example; it is well and good to be against simply climate change, but the pipelines are specific targets. As this continues, part of the role of socialists is helping to tie these movements together and bring out a whole web of organizing to stop Trump.
It is imperative that we cannot rely on the Democrats in doing this. Their records have already shown they are not ready to resist, and they will continue to cut corrupt deals. Some of these will be for favors in legislative terms, others for the corporations that back and own them. As a force, the Democrats are defeated and it is far from clear they have a good enough bench to take on Trump in 2020.
Even the tactic of running in the primaries as a sort of left version of the Tea Party will not work. Berniecrats like Alex Law in my own district (NJ-1) found this out the hard way. Safe Democratic seats are often controlled by highly connected officials who do not play around with left insurgents. They will be beaten soundly and there is no hope of capturing the party more broadly. Even in the unlikely event of primary victory, the Democrats would rather lose than give up control over the party.
Class independence is the only way forward. Only a mass party with a working class base and platform can stand resolute against Trump and his cronies. The ruling class, even at its most “progressive,” must betray the working class and the oppressed. This is its nature, to carry on building the sexist, racist, imperialist system even if it has to use a Trump to do it. Middle-class reformism is inevitably drawn back toward the Democrats. It takes a working class movement because only the working class has no choice but to fight capitalism or be pushed down.
Socialists need to lead the resistance and build this mass party. Defend our rights! Resist Trump, and fight capitalism!