The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 80/No. 4      February 1, 2016

(front page)

Trump, Sanders support shows
working-class discontent

The protracted erosion of jobs, wages and conditions of life for the working class across the United States is fueling discontent and anger on a level not seen since the 1930s. Working people, in city and countryside, are looking for answers to why this is happening, and what can be done about it. And they’re increasingly fed up with “establishment” ruling-class politicians — Democrat and Republican alike — who they see as part of the crisis being visited on them.

This is why the most demagogic “outsider” candidates with a populist message — Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump — are attracting workers’ attention and interest. Practically every week media pundits have said these candidates are on the verge of fading away, yet their poll numbers are rising as the first primaries near. And it’s why there is more openness and interest among workers to considering a revolutionary working-class program and course.

The grinding depression conditions that the working class and the rural poor continue to face underlie the unprecedented shake-up in the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Now there is growing alarm among Republican politicians that conservative establishment candidates can’t win support among workers, and that Trump might actually win the nomination. Presenting the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Jan. 12 that condemned Trump, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Republicans need to “resist that temptation” of following “the siren call of the angriest voices,” joining in taking aim against the real estate mogul.

“I will gladly accept the mantle of anger,” said Trump in the Republican candidates debate two days later. “I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly.” Exchanges like this just strengthen Trump’s image as a “nonpolitician” who’s not afraid to say what he thinks and doesn’t worry about what’s “politically correct.”

Contrary to widespread claims in the main liberal media, Trump’s appeal and the source of his demagogy about stopping immigration is not racism. “His supporters are people, not caricatures,” Kaddie Abdul, a Muslim woman who attended a Trump rally in Nevada wearing her hijab, wrote in the Guardian newspaper Jan. 13. She was not harassed and said the people she spoke to “feel marginalized economically, politically and socially; they see a world different from the one they think should exist.”

His appeal is to bring “America” back to greatness, for a classless “we” to take control, for which he will be the voice. His rallies draw tens of thousands of workers, including some Blacks and Latinos.

Trump, like Sanders, appeals to workers’ opposition to Washington getting embroiled in new foreign wars. For this reason, they are the favored candidates of Patrick Buchanan, who said, “For anti-interventionists, Trump vs. Sanders is the ideal race.”

Democrats, Republicans fracturing

The crisis in the Democratic Party and Sanders’ rise in the polls also reflect the growing anger in the working class. Although the Vermont senator calls himself a “democratic socialist,” his campaign has nothing to do with socialism. More than anything else, he runs as the voice of the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011-12. His demagogy about “massive income and wealth inequality” and the “greed of Wall Street” focuses on calls to break up the big banks, raise taxes on the rich and other reforms aimed at shoring up capitalist rule and protecting it from working-class revolt.

In the latest polls Hillary Clinton, who as little as a month ago appeared a sure bet for the Democratic nomination, is running behind Sanders in New Hampshire and in a statistical tie in Iowa. Clinton’s campaigning has often looked tired and lackluster.

At a Jan. 17 Democratic candidates debate in South Carolina, Clinton identified her campaign with the record of Barack Obama. “President Obama has led our country out of the Great Recession,” she said, but “Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing.”

“Bernie mopped the floor with Hillary,” opined John Podhoretz in the New York Post the next day. Clinton’s goal was “to make the point she’s the serious and sober candidate and Bernie Sanders is a pie-in-the-sky fantasist,” he wrote. But “the country is in a rage, Democrats as well as Republicans, at the brokenness of our politics and the stagnation of the middle class. Hillary cannot find a way to tap into that — and tapping into that is all Sanders does.”

In the last quarter of 2015 Sanders raised $37 million — more than Clinton — and from more individual people than any other candidate in U.S. history.

Democratic Party leaders are starting to panic. If Clinton’s campaign continues to falter, suggested MSNBC-TV host Joe Scarborough, other party stalwarts might jump into the primary race. “Those close to [Secretary of State] John Kerry and [Vice President] Joe Biden have said specifically that, if she loses Iowa and New Hampshire, they are going to have to take a much closer look,” Scarborough said Jan. 11.

Leading figures in both parties increasingly complain that the twin capitalist political vehicles are coming apart at the seams, often blaming working-class, “less educated” men, especially those who are Caucasian.

“Particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck,” Obama told National Public Radio in December. “There is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear — some of it justified, but just misdirected,” he said, which Trump is “exploiting.”

Far from turning further and further to the right, Caucasian workers’ unprecedented discontent, like that of the working class as a whole, is aimed at finding a way to fight the grinding depression conditions they face.

And under the nation’s first Black president, the only progress for workers who are African-American has come by taking to the streets against the powers that be in popular protests that have forced the rulers to take steps to rein in their cops.

The New York Times ran an article titled, “For Republicans, Mounting Fears of Lasting Split” Jan. 10. “If an establishment candidate wins the nomination,” it said, “about two-thirds of Trump supporters would vote for him as a third-party candidate.”  
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