Presidential Elections: Myths and Deceits by James Petras
Every aspect of this year’s US Presidential election has been fraught with myths, distortions, fabrications, wishful thinking and invented fears.
We will proceed to discuss facts and fictions.
The mass media, parties and candidates emphasized the ‘unprecedented voter turnout’ in the elections. In fact, 48% of the eligible voters abstained.
Prof. James Petras (right)
In other words, nearly half of the electorate did not vote. There were many reasons, including widespread disgust at both major party candidates and the weakness of ‘third parties’. This includes disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters angry over the Democratic Party’s cynical manipulation of the primary nomination process. Others were unable to vote in their neighborhoods because US elections are held on a regular workday, unlike in other countries. Others cast protest votes against economic programs or candidates reflecting their distrust and sense of impotence over policy. Eligible voters generally expressed reservations over the gap between campaign promises and post campaign policies. These political attitudes toward elections and candidates are deep-seated among those who ‘stayed home’.
In contrast among registered voters (53% of the electorate) over 90% cast their ballot. Ultimately, the presidential elections were decided by just half of the eligible voters with the winning candidate receiving about 25% eligible votes. This is not a robust mandate. Furthermore, Clinton may have ‘lost’ with the plurality of popular votes, since the US Presidency is ultimately decided by the ‘Electoral College’. In this case, Trump secured more states earning substantially more Electoral College votes, while the losing candidate’s votes were more concentrated in big cities and large coastal states.
The Myth of the Trump Revolution
Trump’s campaign displayed the typical demagogy of US politicians. In previous campaigns Barak Obama’s promised to work for peace, domestic prosperity, social justice and immigration reform. Once elected, Obama reneged on his pledge and continued to wage the old wars and launched new ones (seven altogether for the ‘peace candidate’). He approved a $2 trillion dollars Wall Street and bank ‘bailout’, while leaving over 3 million family home mortgages in foreclosure. He rounded up and deported two million immigrant workers. Meanwhile wage inequality between black and white workers actually widened; and overt police violence against black youth increased. We can expect Trump to follow Obama’s pattern of double speak and reverse his campaign promises.
So far, Trump seems to have appointed conventional Republicans to his Cabinet posts. Treasury and Commerce Secretaries will remain in the hands of Wall Street insiders. Prominent Republican warmongers will manage foreign policy.
Meanwhile, Trump has been on a post-election charm offensive to woo traditional conservative Republican Congressional leaders who had opposed his candidacy during the primaries. They will work with Trump in lowering taxes while eliminating government regulations and environmental controls – policies that have long been on their agenda. On the other hand, Trump’s populist pledge to ‘reindustrialize’ America will be opposed by Congressional Republicans with ties to Wall Street and financial speculators. Trump’s promise to persuade US multi-nationals to repatriate their billions and headquarters to the US will be opposed by the majority Republican Congressional leadership. Even a Trump Republican majority on the Supreme Court, will veto any Trump initiative to ‘force’ big business to sacrifice its tax-free overseas profits to come home and ‘Make America Great Again’.
In other words, Trump will implement only policies that coincide with the traditional Republican agenda and will continue some version of Obama’s pro-Wall Street policy. Instead of Obama’s executive tax loopholes benefiting big business, Trump will do it through legislation. Where Obama made pronouncement about supporting Civil rights and justice for African-Americans but actually ended up increasing police power and impunity, Trump will simply make modifications directly favoring the police state via Congressional legislation or Presidential decree. Whereas Obama rounded up and expelled 2 million immigrant workers, Trump will go after an additional 2 million Latinos on the basis of ‘criminality’. Obama relied on border police; Trump will beef up border patrols and concoct some agreement with Mexico’s conservative counterpart – short of erecting ‘the Great Wall’.
Obama and his Democratic predecessor, President ‘Bill’ Clinton cut the proportion of unionized workers in the private sector to 8%, through economic and labor policies backed by millionaire trade union bureaucrats. Trump, on the other hand, will crudely dismiss these impotent ‘union’ functionaries and hacks while slashing whatever remains of worker rights.
Presidents Obama and Clinton linked ‘identity groups’ with the interests of bankers, billionaires and militarists, but Trump will toss out ‘identity politics’ in favor of populist appeals to construction workers and infrastructure contractors while attracting the same Wall Street executives, billionaires and militarists that had worked closely with previous administrations.
Trump’s Wall Street appeal was clear after his victory when the stock market broke new highs, jumping 1,000 points between November 4 and 10th.
The pro-Clinton Wall Streeter boosters were smartly outflanked by the ‘silent majority’ of financial CEO’s who applauded Trump’s promises of deregulation and corporate tax cuts.
Despite the certainty of President Trump’s reneging on all his promises to American workers, he will still retain the support of small and medium businesses and professionals, who outnumber and outvote the so-called ‘white worker vote’.