Biden beats Trump by 76 million, votes to 72 million, to become the 46th President of the United States of America? Both candidates got the most votes ever in such elections. Despite his obvious shortcomings, his cavalier attitude and the vitriol heaped (fairly and unfairly) upon Donald Trump millions more people voted for him than they did in 2016. So even more people than last time preferred his mixture of outspoken ignorance, arrogance and boasting to the more moderate and measured dystopia of Joe Biden, who also received fair and unfair criticism.
Interestingly, over 71 million voters (including women and men of colour) preferred to back the ‘pussy grabbing’, ‘immigrant child-separating’, ‘climate change denying’ and ‘Covid-19 trivialiser’ Donald Trump. Yet, just as astonishing is the fact that over 75 million voters preferred to put ‘crime bill Joe’, the ‘friend of middle-eastern autocrats’ and ‘military juntas’, in the white house seat of power.
In view of their respective track records, perhaps it would be more accurate to consider that among these 146 million plus voters, many millions probably voted for Donald Trump simply because he was NOT Joe Biden and many millions probably voted for Joe Biden simply because he was NOT Donald Trump. There was undoubtedly a large element of ‘fingers crossed‘ hopeful voting – for the lesser of two evils – on both sides of the political divide.
So no substantial surprises then: Another already divided capitalist country remains deeply and aggressively divided. Despite a record-breaking electoral turnout neither of the two pro-capitalist contenders for the election could attract an overwhelming majority on their side. The narrow victory by Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 has apparently been mirrored by a somewhat larger, but still not overwhelming victory of Biden over Trump. Despite the intervention of a global Covid-19 Pandemic, which threatens not only the death of the elderly and vulnerable, but the rapid atrophy of the capitalist mode of production, nothing much else has changed.
Therefore, apart from Covid-19, the fundamental issues are still the same in 2020 as they have been for over two decades. The two-party pro-capitalist system in the USA has for decades sung the same political anthem and to essentially the same tune – but in slightly different musical keys merely to suggest a difference between them. The basic, but increasingly discordant universal capitalist anthem, contains the lyrics, ‘work hard and you will succeed’, along with ‘you are free as long as you obey the law‘, and ‘voting is the way to change things you don’t like’.
Practically everyone knows that none of the above is true whether one party sings it in the key of ‘D’ and the other in the key of ‘A’. In 2016 and 2020 ‘the Donald’ delivered it in F sharp and in 2020 ‘the Joe’ delivered it in B flat. And yet, as Leonard Cohen once intoned; “everyone knows, the boat is sinking; everybody knows the captain lied”. Passengers on the good ship USA, with Covid-19 unequally spread along all first, second and third class decks, have just chosen which lies to believe or disbelieve and who will get to captain the rapidly disintegrating ship of state.
But everybody knows that although there are exceptions, most people will work hard and now never succeed in getting their basics needs; a well-paid, secure occupation and a secure home. Everybody knows that most people obey the law but will never be free of debt, free of government dictate, or free of official harassment if authority chooses to harass. And everybody knows that voting changes little or nothing for ordinary people. Because everybody knows it is the rich and powerful who wield most influence in and on the institutions of power. Everybody knows that for a large majority of all ages, genders and ethnicities, things have got steadily worse.
However, what was new in the USA was that Donald Trump in 2016 struck a relevant chord with an extra verse to his version of the anthem based on ‘draining the swamp’.
The years of accumulated disappointment and disgust with the political class and state bureaucracy by the so-called ‘little people’ who are numbered in millions in the USA, runs deep and will not be removed by this election. So the elation of those who wanted Trump out – and got it – will be short lived for the following reason. The newly elected Captain Joe will be in charge of the same rotten, badly listing, disease-riddled and steadily sinking ship of the western capitalist Imperial line. President Biden will, among other things, be tasked to oversee the patching up, scrubbing clean and limited repainting (a watered down green?) of the same outmoded economic vessel.
The hope of the multi-millionaire elite backers of Joe Biden is that the patching up, scrubbing clean and repainting of the currently damaged and partly quarantined ‘USS. Enterprise’ will be done by a section of the low-paid working classes who have not yet been made redundant and consigned to tented street living, before ‘boldly going forth‘ again.
That is the hope – if Donald Trump can be persuaded to vacate the White House. His attempt to have the 2020 election results legally negated due to alleged fraudulent voting almost mirrors the Democratic Party attempts (2016-18?) to obtain sufficient evidence that alleged Russian electoral interference contributed to Trumps eventual victory. Those past congressional and present legal antics are not simply a question of bad losers having self-indulgent tantrums. They indicate the depth and extent of the determined struggle between the rival economic and financial factions of the elite for control of the future direction of US capitalism – a rivalry which will persist.
For whatever the result of this particular ongoing political charade among the US elites, the underlying economic and financial reality – everywhere – is that the capitalist business model is in tatters. And it is clear why. Constant industrial and financialised profits ultimately require, constant production and constant global consumption. However, both these requirements need high global employment numbers, relatively high global wages or salaries and limited international competition.
Although computerised and automated production methods quickly create masses of products, these same industrial upgrades to production techniques also reduce the number of well paid employees staffing them. Moreover, competing countries employ similar technology and also require fewer well paid employees. The result is more national and international production than can be sold and the classic, built-in symptom of capitalism – relative over-production – kicks in. More goods and services are produced than can be sold at a profit – leading sooner rather than later – to more bankruptcies and unemployment.
Such global relative over-production, now exacerbated by Covid-19 triggered unemployment, is rapidly producing an extreme crisis needing painful resolution. People reduced to prolonged poverty and oppression in large numbers are faced not only with disappointment and disgust at the political puppets in power, but with the stark alternatives of resigned submission or rebellion. In the past such internal crises were resolved by external wars. In fact two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) occurred as 20th century alliances of severely troubled capitalist countries compelled (conscripted) their unemployed and angry workers to ‘join up‘ and attempt (somewhat successfully) to destroy each other.
However, in the absence of some unhinged leader prepared to risk everything (MAD) Nuclear weapons now inhibit the option of total war. As a consequence, in the 20th and 21st centuries any serious crisis within a capitalist-based country has therefore been confined to civil wars – short or protracted. Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen etc., provide obvious nuanced examples of this outcome in the less capitalistically developed countries. However, any future large-scale economic crisis within the advanced countries is now also likely to be played out – again – in the form of civil wars.
Although there is an alternative to the above outcomes, as long as there is a lack, among sufficient numbers of people, of a clear and convincing non-sectarian vision of an alternative socio-economic system, then despite optimism or pessimism over current and future election results, the future – everywhere – looks bleak.
Roy Ratcliffe (November 2020)