DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: FROM DE TOCQUEVILLE TO TRUMP
nota publicada en: https://prensaobrera.com/politicas/33536-
The electoral victory of Donald Trump marks a policy shift towards Bonapartism, that is, towards a regime of personal power having reactionary content. This is something that goes beyond the concentration of power granted by the American presidential system.
The characterization of the United States as a democracy of agrarian oligarchies, accompanied by a symbolic Executive Power is historically incorrect and even more so in relation to its subsequent development. The war with Mexico, the Civil War, the de facto annexation of Cuba, a string of financial crises in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and two world wars led to strong state centralization; the ‘regulatory’ agencies in all fields, especially in that of the national security agencies are, for all practical purposes, beyond the control of Congress. This phenomenon only grew more pronounced as a result of a sustained nuclear arms race, a new cycle of wars beginning with the disintegration of Yugoslavia and finally (if that term can be used), the capitalist bankruptcy now in its eighth year (and whose epicenter was precisely the US) -or going back even further, to the Asian crisis of 1997, and this does not even count the industrial and financial crisis of the ’70s.
It is no coincidence that Clinton warned in her campaign about the dangers of Trump getting his hands on the nuclear trigger. That possibility alone spells an epitaph for any political democracy and, of course, for the whole existing social system.
A Pro-coup Campaign
What has just ended is an election campaign characterized from the start as spotlighting a political crisis of exceptional magnitude: both within the Democratic Party, with the unprecedented victory of a “leftist”, Bernie Sanders, over Clinton, in twenty states; and especially with the technical ‘knockout’ of the Republican party apparatus at the hands of someone displaying himself as a media ‘clown’, a shady business dealing millionaire. A result different from the final outcome would only have led, as a consequence, then, to a shift in the roadmap of this political crisis, and in no way to its being overcome.
This crisis also needs to be placed into historical perspective, as it was preceded by the assassination of John Kennedy and his brother Robert; the collapse of the Carter administration; defeat in Vietnam and Nixon’s impeachment; and the electoral fraud enabling the defeat of Al Gore at the hands of George Bush (Jr). The Republican Party is in the presence of a decade long demolition of its development, with the emergence of the fascistic Tea Party.
The election campaign that has just drawn to a close had the definitive character of a coup, since it was characterized by the ‘leaks’ of the security apparatus involving the candidates and an internal struggle among them, which the ‘pro-Trump’ Robert Giuliani, the inventor of the “zero tolerance” campaign as mayor of New York City, described as “rebellion”. The ‘cleansing’ that Trump will carry out in the FBI reminds us of our own (Argentinian) Stiuso, the “Grupo Halcón” task force, of Lagomarsino and Nisman.
It’s the stagnation, “stupid”
A Clinton victory would not have represented a transition in “continuity” but rather stagnation, and this in the face of a world crisis that never ceases to grow. Which is to say, she would have headed an administration without end-of-term certainty.
The public debt, now 14 trillion dollars (which together with that of the states and municipalities easily tops 20 trillion dollars, 120% of GNP) is projected to reach 22 trillion dollars by 2025 with a Federal government total of 30 trillion dollars - not counting ‘entitlements’ (that is, future social security payments). Servicing the debt would pass from 250 billion to 800 billion dollars in interest payments during the same period. Russia, China, Japan and Saudi Arabia hold more than half of the US public debt, and all four are facing severe financial crises. The catastrophic consequences of the sale of that debt for the world economy is a recurring theme at gossip mill international financial gatherings.
The ‘economic recovery’ claimed in Obama’s name is not only quite “photoshopped”, since it fails to mention the decline in the active working population (those looking for work) or the deterioration in the quality of employment and in wages and salaries paid to the labor force. GNP growth is down –2 percent annually- below potential, nor does it take into account the accelerated aging of infrastructure and its accelerated obsolescence. Work productivity is in decline! The university student loan debt is on the verge of collapse - reaching an impossible to pay trillion and a half dollars. One entire State, Puerto Rico, was declared insolvent. The investment deficit is of such magnitude that private banks have hoarded nearly three trillion dollars. The emission of Federal Reserve funds, whether to bail out banks or to float zero-rate corporate financing, has exhausted all of its possibilities. The drop in trade is verified in the falling speed of circulation of monetary emissions.
When Obama announced a 25% increase in health contributions, just two weeks before the election, Trump’s voter intention jumped. The announcement also laid bare universal insurance´s lack of financing - among other things due to the unstoppable rise in the cost of pharmaceutical drugs and private treatment. In this way, Trump received a helping hand even before the FBI reported a renewed investigation into Clinton’s use of private servers for public affairs.
Against the working class
Thus, in the political debate of the economic crisis, it was the “clown” that had the initiative, not the one that flaunted their “experience”. Clinton developed an empty ‘cultural’ agenda around climate, gender, and racism - which did not stop her from being voted by fewer African-American than Obama, while a majority of ‘white’ women (a curious statistical distinction) voted for her rival. Trump concentrated on “jobs” (the key to his victory) in a deceptive way. He proposed a protectionist policy and a devaluation of the public debt as instruments of a program of re-industrialization for the United States - tantamount, in fact, to a policy of commercial and financial war. He used the slogan ‘create jobs’ to disguise a transition from ‘normal’ trade war to devaluation and tariffs. The real estate speculator, who takes advantage of the fictitious valuation of urban real estate, laid bare the increasingly rent-based character of the American economy. This is exactly what “Brexit” showed as well.
As a fine representative of the capitalist reaction, he has opposed any increase in the minimum wage and the defense of the right to work through the unions. He has pledged to lower income tax from 35 percent to 15 percent. He has even put forward the repeal of banking regulations (capital requirement) that bankers are questioning, and may even name, as announced by the much-read Politico, an agent of Goldman Sachs as Secretary of the Treasury - as is the case with the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.
We are in the presence of a hodgepodge of contradictory measures, but each sharing a common thread: commercial and financial war and attacks against labor rights; that is, the same thing which, with less noise, the Obama administration has been doing all along. The same occurs with the reinforcement of the police state, which is already militarized. At the close of the campaign, Trump put more emphasis than ever on substantial increases in military spending, as if the Obama-Clinton wars were child’s play.
It remains to be seen whether US capital has the same characterization as Trump and whether it shares the opportunity to make a qualitative leap in the rush of trade and finance to capture a greater share of global surplus value. In Britain there is already a reaction against Brexit and a political crisis is emerging; Something similar might happen in the United States. Trump’s policy of extortion against America’s rivals in the world market means more militarization and wars. The mere news of Trump’s victory has accelerated the collapse of currencies such as the Mexican peso, the Brazilian real,Turkish lira or the Egyptian pound. The outflow of capital could lead to a devaluation of the Argentine peso and could affect ‘whitewashing’ of undeclared funds.
From these contradictions and antagonisms emerges the potentially Bonapartist character of the tycoon; Marx had observed that the crooked bourgeoisie can take over the management of the capitalist State, only if beforehand that State appropriates civil society in a way so intense as to make viable such a leadership. This is precisely the case that may evolve in the United States at the moment, shaken by the centrifugal forces of world capitalist bankruptcy and strong divisions within the state bureaucracy and within its parties, together with a potential political polarization.
To close this analysis it is necessary to go back to the beginning. During the primaries of this campaign and soon thereafter, the opinion polls showed something more than interesting: only Bernie Sanders could beat Trump ‘tête à tête’, even against Clinton in a three-way match. Sanders preferred to line up behind the liberal option vis-a-vis the fascist, after denouncing Clinton’s capitalist and pro-imperialist character (“representative of corporations”) and even her “corruption” and the “fraudulent” management he had faced in the Democratic Party primaries. He thus demobilized those who had voted for him ‘en masse’ and abandoned the work of gaining for the camp of the left the more depoliticized workers affected by the crisis. The possibility of a political polarization was given up in favor of what ends up becoming a victory for the political reaction. A major responsibility in all this falls onto the shoulders of the union bureaucracy, which blocked a candidacy opposing bipartisanism and put its apparatus at the service of a proven anti-worker clique - which is what the Clinton family has been.
The political inconsistency of the center-left was exposed in the brief lapse of a few short months, as was the volatility of the political crisis of the bourgeois State. Between a candidate of the “cultural struggle” and one of the “(reactionary) class war” the latter won. History repeats itseself.
La democracia en América: de Tocqueville a Trump