Trump’s Last Stand

K Mann

Posted November 6, 2020

This article is part of discussion of a fluid situation in American politics. It represents the author’s analysis of a specific conjuncture at the time of writing. We will publish other assessments as the situation develops.

Illustration by Victor Juhasz.

Legal challenges notwithstanding, Joe Biden’s apparent victory in both the popular and electoral college vote brings to a close a sordid US presidential election. Voters were offered the choice between Trump, a reactionary, racist, sexist, climate change denying lout and would-be dictator, and ex-vice president and longtime senator Joe Biden, the moderate Democrat offered to the electorate after the Democratic party leadership managed to torpedo the candidacy of Bernie Sanders and his popular calls for universal health coverage through Medicare and the forgiveness of college loan debt.

Trump’s Three-Prong Strategy

Trump’s campaign strategy was not based on a program to address the twin crisis of the pandemic and unemployment, and certainly not as a climate change “denier” to confront issues such as the nearly uncontrollable widespread fires that have killed dozens on the US west coast, most certainly exacerbated by global warming. Rather, Trump who trailed Biden steadily between 5-11 percent in most polls for months pursued a three prong approach: The first was to denigrate Biden as senile, beholden to his party’s supposed left wing, and through the business dealings of his son Hunter, corrupt. He called Biden’s running mate Senator Kamala Harris, a former California attorney general a socialist and lobbed racist and sexist taunts against her. None of this gained traction, even with the reactionary and overtly pro-Trump cable news channel Fox. His accusations against supposed “crimes” by Biden and Obama were so outrageous that even his lapdog attorney general William Barr refused to take them seriously.

The second line of attack was to threaten the use of violence and voter intimidation by encouraging far right gun-toting militia men. His call during the first presidential debate for one such group, the “Proud Boys” to “stand back and stand by” was widely seen as encouraging violence to limit potential Democratic voter turnout.

The third line of attack was to delegitimize the elections itself, claiming that the Democrats were planning on stealing the election through massive mail-in and absentee voting. The claims of voter fraud were refuted by election scholars and experts and never really taken up by the right-wing media or any but the most far right fringe members of the Republican party. This line of attack was designed to prepare a legal challenge to any outcome that involved Trump losing. In the closing weeks and days of the campaign he insisted, contrary to all technological, legal, and administrative precedent that the winner must be declared on election night even though the vote counting methods used by scores of states have long resulted in results being reported in the hours or days after the polls closed. The pandemic also resulted in huge numbers of absentee and mail-in votes also slowing vote counting as voters sought to avoid the dangers of in-person voting.

Trump was always alone in his most extreme declarations and dark threats. Neither Fox news nor Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell accompanied him down this path. The military already made it clear that it would not be intervening in the elections. There was very little reported election site violence on election day although angry pro-Trump mobs gathered outside of the Maricopa County Recorder’s office in Phoenix, Arizona where votes were being counted.

The Democrats also showed that they were not above using legal maneuvers to undermine democracy for their own partisan advantage. In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona they succeeded in excluding the Green party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker.

Requiem for a failed coup d’état

In the run up to the election the US left debated possible scenarios of an attempted Trump “coup.” Several union locals passed resolutions in favor of a strike in the event of an attempt to overturn a Biden victory. By the morning of Friday, November 6 however, it became all but inevitable that Biden would win the necessary 270 electoral votes to secure the US presidency. Although Trump threatened to unleash a torrent of lawsuits, legal experts and newscasters including those on Fox news opined that absent proof of voter fraud, of which there seems to be none, these lawsuits will face an uphill legal fight to overturn the results. In fact, all of Trump’s initial legal gambits to stop the vote where rebuffed. His sole “victory” was to have poll watchers allowed to observe vote counting from six instead of ten feet in Pennsylvania.

Without the vocal support of his party, Fox news and other reactionary news outlets, it appears that this was the coup d’état that didn’t happen. Trump will continue to make patently false charges about voter fraud, but legal challenges are highly likely to fail in spite of a stacked conservative Supreme court, and the mainstream news media will likely move on, focusing on Biden’s “transition team.”

Nevertheless, there could still be need for street mobilizations in the unlikely case that Trump got the Supreme court or state courts to overturn the election results and some have already been planned. There still could be violence by right wing militias especially if Trump continues to tell them the election was stolen, but this too seems unlikely. To protect the integrity of the vote, demonstrations have been planned in various cities throughout the country on Saturday, November 7. Local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have been active in protests in “battleground” states.

The struggle continues

As the dust of the election settles, struggles will arise for effective measures against the rapidly spreading pandemic, mass unemployment, threats of eviction, rapidly growing environmental disasters, and the fight against racist police violence. Even without the presidency, Republicans may hold onto the Senate majority which will continue to pose obstacles to a second round of stimulus payments to unemployed workers, employers, and state governments and stymy Biden’s pursuit of the limited measures he would pursue to confront the current crises. As president Biden’s support for fracking, opposition to Medicare for all, and flat refusal to consider defunding police departments should help rekindle the energy displayed during the many weeks of mass antiracist protest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.