Comments on the 2020 Election and What We Should Do Now!
by Peter Bohmer, of Economics for Everyone, Collective 20, George Jackson Freedom Coalition
November 9, 2020
A huge, huge sigh of relief that Donald Trump lost! His chance of staying in power is slim and we shouldn’t allow it to happen. However, that close to 75 million people will have voted for this narcissist liar, this corrupt, misogynist, and racist by the time all the votes are counted, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and an environmental crisis that Trump denies, and an economic recession, is something we need to reflect on and understand more deeply. To me this vote for Trump is as troubling as Trump himself. In a country that is declining in economic and global power and simultaneously becoming less white which sadly, scares many white people, the strength of reactionary and racist ideas and support for people like Trump and the Republican Party is perhaps not that surprising. The danger of a growing fascist movement is real and one aspect of combatting it, is better understanding its appeal.
We, on the left, also need a program that combines economic, racial, gender and environmental justice with real organizing and popular education that is truly national and includes small towns and rural areas and is ongoing. This is necessary and cannot start a year or less before the election. Also, the millions who didn’t vote, one-third of the eligible population, are even more important to talk with and reach out to than those who voted for Trump. Your thoughts?
From the exit polls, the majority of white women voted for Trump as did a slight increase in the proportion of Latinx, from 30% in 2016 to 33%-34 % in 2020. This small increase for Trump is sometimes exaggerated. Moreover, there was a 2/3 increase in Latinx turnout which is a major cause of Biden winning Arizona and Nevada and probably also, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Native American vote was also central to Biden and Harris winning in Arizona.
Would Bernie Sanders and a progressive program have defeated Trump? I am not sure. If turnout among African-Americans had stayed the same as it did for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Bernie might have won. The massive vote of African-Americans against Trump and for Biden and Harris in key battle ground States such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan is an important and major reason why Biden is the President elect. Sanders might have lost as the vote at the national, U.S. House, state legislatures moved in a slightly more conservative direction. There was no Blue wave. The anti-socialist propaganda against Sanders would have been far more intense than it was. The leadership of the Democratic Party would have supported Sanders less than it did Biden, although their impact may have been limited. This is not an argument against Sanders but rather the need for more effective and long-run organizing and popular education.
Racism continues to be a major reason for the support for Trump and the Republicans. This is apparent from the 2016 results and was again repeated in 2020 as demonstrated by the large white working class vote for Trump. Economic and racial justice and anti-racism need to be synthesized and connected in a more effective way than they have been.
We shouldn’t give Biden any breathing room and wait to see what he does before acting. We need to build campaigns and social movements and mass action in the streets for a Green New Deal and environmental justice, a progressive stimulus package, Medicare for All, a Universal Basic Income, full employment, and a living wage, free higher education, increasing taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, significantly reducing the prison population, against police violence and racist policing, for reproductive justice including childcare for all, for LGBT liberation, for affordable housing for all, immigrant justice, against U.S. intervention abroad and against sanctions on foreign countries and against U.S. militarism, and for global justice. Let us demand, beginning now, and organize for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to support this program and explain to millions, its value. We should also organize for democratic reforms such as deciding elections by popular vote and expanding the Supreme Court. Elections certainly matter and are important but there is the danger of a continued very short run perspective and an over focus on elections rather than building power from below. Biden’s cabinet and policies that he proposes are likely to be similar to Obama’s, probably slightly better on climate change but still, neoliberal.
The two remaining Senate runoffs in Georgia are significant and one of the Democrats is progressive, Raphael Warnock. Although he only got 33% of the vote in the November 3rd election, all the Republicans together only got 49% in this race, and the weaker of the two main Republican candidates in that election last week is facing Warnock. There will be a runoff election between the leading Democratic and Republican Party candidates on January 5th, 2021. If Raphael Warnock and the other Democratic Senatorial candidate, Jon Ossoff win these elections, the Democrats will have 50 seats in the U.S. Senate which would mean Kamala Harris could be the deciding vote on legislation.
I am afraid Biden like Obama will try too hard to get Republican support which will not be possible without capitulation. Hopefully the Democrats can win the U.S. Senate in 2022, even if they end up with 48 or 49 seats in the Senate from this election.
I have zero sympathy for centrist Wall Street Democrats who are likely to dominate the next cabinet and Biden agenda. If the left of the Democratic Party, led by people like AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Bernie Sanders; and leftist Black and Latinx individuals and organizations such as the Black Lives led Movement (BLM) and The Poor People’s campaign, inside and outside the Democratic Party, form a new political party before or after 2024 that could be a significant step forward although it might have negative short-run impact. This truly multiracial and left bloc should grow and coalesce, significantly, and become a force, before it actually forms a political party. A new party could follow an unsuccessful attempt to change the Democratic Party, and where the Biden led administration continues the pro-corporate, imperialist and neoliberal agenda of the Clintons, Obama and Schumer.
In closing, it is important and positive for the world that Trump lost last Tuesday, November 3rd. However, going back to the policies of the Obama administration is insufficient for solving the ongoing crises: climate, the Coronavirus, poverty and inequality of income and wealth, economic insecurity, racism, mass incarceration, patriarchy, growing authoritarianism and alienation.
There are limits to reform of a capitalist society. While working on these reforms, we also need to build the power and the vision to go beyond minor or even significant reforms, towards ending capitalism and creating a participatory socialist society.
Power to the People!
Si Se Puede!
In solidarity, Peter Bohmer
by Peter Bohmer, October 20, 2016
I have watched the three presidential debates this year. Trump’s contempt for women, his anti-choice, anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim immigrant stance, his stereotyping of Black and Latinos, his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations was disgusting. His toxic machismo and not so coded racism and white nationalism were on full display. Clinton, although not as bad never mentioned poor people, and called for and bragged about continued U.S. militarism. To Trump’s racist claims about electoral rigging and fraud in Black communities, his mentioning of Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago; Hillary Clinton could have but didn’t respond with the past and present actual racist voter suppression, especially by Republicans but also many Democrats in limiting voting by people with felonies, requiring multiple ID’s, making registration and voting difficult, especially in low income communities. Also these three debates were limited by no questions about one of the central issues of the day, climate change, and the excluding of the Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson. … (see link above)
by Peter Bohmer, August 7, 2016
note: This is a letter I sent to long-term friends, Michael Albert and Steven Shalom on July 31st, 2016. They printed their revised question and answer commentary on August 4, 2016, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/thinking-about-the-election/ We still have some disagreements, although less in their final version of August 4, 2016 than in their earlier draft, the one my letter below refers to. Their published version of August 4th is an important contribution to an important discussion.
Dear Michael and Steve, July 31, 2016
I read your proposed Question and Answer analysis of the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election pamphlet and while I think the tone is more respectful of those on the left who feel they can’t vote for Clinton than earlier writing by Michael Albert, I still have problems with it.
1) I think maybe because you want to highlight Clinton’s differences with Trump, which are real and significant, you are less critical of her than I am, e.g., her strong support for fracking, the Trans Pacific Partner, the TPP (in the past) without now saying she was wrong, her close connections to AIPAC and her intense anti BDS position, her connections to Goldman-Sachs and Wall Street, her positions along with Obama on Latin America, e.g., Honduras and Venezuela, her public support for the 1996 “Welfare Deform Act” and the 1994, 1996 crime bills, etc. You should not demonize Clinton but show a little more outrage at her and most of the Democratic Party’s imperialism and militarism.
2) Note how Bernie Sanders, Michael Eric Dyson, etc., in coming out in support of Clinton and Kaine also feel compelled to praise them. While not a logical necessity, there is pressure both from the pro Clinton people and in order to justify one’s position and to make one’s support meaningful to downplay criticism and even faintly praise Clinton.
3) I think we are in a period of danger (Trump, growth of white supremacy connected to Trump’s candidacy, climate change, etc.) but also a period of renewed interest in activism and political engagement, socialism, Black Lives Matter, etc. This period of potential growth of activism and social movement growth may be very short-lived. Your strategy of asking people to vote strategically contributes unintentionally to demobilizing people who are beginning to become very engaged. For example, although I have been quite critical of the Green Party in the past for their lack of grassroots organizing and their whiteness, I think there is a real possibility now of a significant growth in membership, in building chapters, and in votes for Jill Stein. Saying the Greens should wait until after November is likely to miss the moment. For example in Olympia some younger activists just formed a second Green Party organization as an alternative to the existing one which has good people in it, but has not been all that active or grown.
4) There is a difference which you ignore between asking individuals to vote for the lesser of two evils in swing states and asking that organizations, social movements follow this rule. It makes a lot more sense for an individual to do that. However, I question this strategy far more for a radical organization like Black Lives Matter or the Green Party as it is likely to be seen as a compromise with a pro-corporate and neoliberal militarist, Hillary Clinton and the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and furthers the skepticism people have for political engagement and for a new and radical politics.
5) I originally wrote Michael Albert many months ago that my position and many people I know is that we should simultaneously strongly and totally oppose Trump while building organizations, social movements that deal with the key issues of the day–a two pronged strategy. With regards to Clinton and the November presidential elections, we should not focus on Hillary Clinton and her campaign but of course say, she and the Democrats are not as bad as Trump and the Republicans, and leave it up to people whether they vote for her or not. I also expressed this in a commentary I put on Znet about a month ago which I am including here. It stresses being respectful to those, especially people new to activism and younger people, who are into rejecting Clinton and the Democrats. You may want to skip the following if you already read it.
“July 14, 2016
What I find missing from my friend, Michael Albert’s commentary in the Left Unity section of Znet, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/we-need-a-united-left/ is an acknowledgement and a validation of the moral outrage felt by many people, mainly but not only young people, that they are being told to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Michael Albert is right that Hillary Clinton will do less harm than a Trump presidency but the harm of her militaristic, imperialist and neoliberal administration will be major to people inside the United States, and probably even worse for those living in other countries.
So I think people who say they cannot in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton, even in contested states such as Florida, Ohio, etc. should not be criticized nor pressured to change their mind. I know many, many people in this category and when I ask them what they are likely to do in November, besides talking about their anger at the mainstream media promotion of Clinton and the marginalization of Bernie, and the daily and massive coverage of Trump; almost all of them also tell me they will either not vote or vote for Jill Stein and the Greens. I do not criticize this decision although if they ask me what I believe, I say that voting for Hillary Clinton in states where it is not clear who will win, also makes some sense and is defensible.
Reducing voting to a strategic decision leaves out the moral dilemma felt by so many newly politicized and radicalized people, who are a natural base for the growth of an anti-capitalist transformational politics. My point is not so much that I totally disagree with the analysis that Michael Albert and others put forward; I disagree with the way they are presenting it.. This is important because it makes building social movements and anti-capitalist organizations that include both those who are making a tactical decision to vote for Hillary Clinton in some states and those who absolutely refuse to vote for her, more difficult, now and after the November, 2016 elections.”
In solidarity, Peter Bohmer
Political Economy of Racial Inequality: Challenging Racism
August 20, 2014, Pete Bohmer,
For Black Prisoners Caucus at Clallam Bay State Prison
Question? What has changed and what hasn’t changed with regards to U.S. racism over the last 50 years?
A.“Race” and racism central to understanding the U.S. past and present, e.g. ,immigration
B. “Race” as a social not biological construct, but socially relevant, (story)
C. Changing forms of racism, easier to criticize past than present. …