In the final US Presidential debate on Thursday 20st October, Republican Nominee Donald Trump refused to say if he would accept the result, instead offering a scary response of ‘I will keep you in suspense’. Indeed, Trump has repeatedly shown signs that he considers the election and the polls to be rigged in Hillary Clintons favour. Ignoring the fact that accusing an election of being rigged before an election result shows incredible lack of confidence in your own campaign, Clinton’s response has been similarly dishonest. Clinton not only has the backing of Wall Street and Pharmaceutical companies, but also has the support of many people on the left who, as I pointed out in my last blog post, see voting for Clinton as the lesser of two evils. None of this however answers the question of whether the US election itself is actually rigged in favour of either candidate. While, unlike her rival, Hillary Clinton has the support of capital and sections of both main parties in the United States, Donald Trump has the ability to fund his own campaign as well as a significant pool of grassroots support who are attracted to his anti-establishment platform, albeit a Racist and misogynistic one. While the polls are currently predicting a firm win for Clinton, these factors mean that we should not rule out the possibility of a Trump win entirely. Either way, it is naïve to suggest that Wall Street and the Political establishment will give up its grip on power in any way. Ultimately then, the question we should be asking is not whether the election will be rigged, but how rigged the economy will be under either Clinton or Trump.
Why Clinton is the Establishment Candidate
Before the candidates were chosen, and just days before the critical New York primary which had a major role to play in securing Clintons victory, the Bernie Sanders Campaign released a new advertisement that that hoped would help overcome its rivals Home state advantage and Take the Vermont Senator over the top. The advertisement said the following:
‘Wall street banks shower Washington politicians with campaign contributions and speaking fees. While Washington politicians are payed over $200,000 an hour for speeches that oppose raising the living wage to $15 an hour. Two hundred dollars an hour for them, but not even fifteen bucks an hour for all Americans. Enough is enough.’
The idea that elections are influenced too much by corporate donors was the main plank of Sanders criticism of Hillary Clinton and is now the main plank of Donald Trumps. Admittedly, Donald Trump does not advocate raising the minimum wage or introducing higher taxes on corporations, and has repeatedly had to defend his decision not to release his own tax returns. However, few seem more emblematic of the relationship between plutocrats and politicians than Hillary Clinton. In her time between leaving the State Department in 2012 and launching her own presidential campaign, Clinton personally pocketed $22 million – nearly four hundred times the median household income in 2015 – from speeches given almost exclusively to interest groups that had recently lobbied the government. While Clinton sometimes made populist gestures in public, they appeared to contrast starkly with her activities in private – especially when it came to her cosy relationship with Wall Street. In any case, it somehow proved controversial to assign blame for national problems – from deep and abiding inequality to the assembly line of corporate friendly legislation coming out of congress – to the very visible nexus linking politicians and the wealthy. With the Sanders campaign neutralized, many probably assumed that the issue had been safely put to bed. However in recent weeks, a continuous stream of documents published by WikiLeaks, mixed with Trumps predictions of election fraud has forced the issue into a much sharper view.
The sheer volume of emails, transcripts and internal campaign contributions that have emerged, particularly over the past few weeks, is simply staggering. WikiLeaks latest document dump contains emails related to Clintons Campaign Chairman John Podesta. Most notable are remarks from a 2013 speech to the National Multi Housing Council where Clinton discusses the need to have ‘both a public and a private position’. There are however a number of other notable findings that need to be pointed out:
· Upon accepting the Democratic nomination Clinton remarked that we should ‘never let Wall Street wreck the economy again’. In spite of this, in a leaked 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs, she referred to the idea that Wall Street caused the 2008 recession as an ‘oversimplification’ going on to complain of regulations on financial executives, arguing that the ‘bias against people who live successful lives’.
· At the firms Alternative investments Symposium that same year, Clinton told bankers that financial reform ‘really has to come from the industry itself…The people that really know the industry are the people who work in the industry’. Elsewhere, we see her apologising to the firm for the Dodd – Frank reform Bill and saying it ‘had to pass for political reasons’.
· Just weeks before announcing her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, Clinton dismissed concerns about the project as the whimsical objections of ‘radical environmentalists’ who supported Bernie Sanders, declaring ‘my view is that I want to defend natural gas. I want to defend the repairing and building of the pipelines we need to fuel our economy’
· In other speeches, Clinton prised Walmart (whose board she once sat on) for helping to foster a ‘spirit of community that I think is absolutely essential to the maintaninance of democracy’. Despite this, the vehemently anti-union firm has in fact devastated many local communities, displacing at least four hundred thousand jobs and allowing the Walton family – which has also made donations to Clinton – to amass a fortune that surpasses the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans.
· While the Democratic Party platform backs a $15 minimum wage, emails show that a senior Clinton aide not only advised against it but likened the Democratic base to the red army for favouring it. Also, Even though the Clinton campaign supports an extension, emails revel that she praised the Simpson – Bowles deficit reduction plan, which specifically called for cuts to the popular program.
Taken together they document the inner workings of the Clinton machine and offer a window into the incestuous relationship between corporate America and many of its political masters. Perhaps most strikingly, they show the deceitfulness of the Democrats and show the content many high ranking officials in the party have for its base of activists. Were it not for the apocalyptic prospect of a Donald Trump victory in November, the leaked emails could have well sent Hillary campaign flying of the rails.
Trump’s Economic Platform
Despite Donald Trump’s racist and sexist rhetoric, as well as his endorsements from far right groups such as the KKK, much of Trump’s support is primarily rooted in Economic issues. In 2016, a radical, right wing, middle class insurgency that began in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has displaced, at least temporarily, the hegemonic capitalists in the Republican Party. Trump’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate is the most recent act of struggle for the leadership of a Party that began in the aftermath of the global recession and the election of Barack Obama.
Donald Trump’s ‘outsider’ campaign for president marked a deepening of the right wing radicalization of sections of the middle classes and of the crisis of capitalist hegemony in the Republican Party. When Trump announced that he would be standing as a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in June 2015, few political commentators including myself took his campaign seriously. With a field dominated by Republican mainstays like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, most believed that Trumps campaign would fall at the first hurdle. However, within a month, Trump was out polling a crowded republican field. In July 2016, he became the Republican presidential nominee. What makes Trump so unacceptable to the Republican establishment is not merely his unabashed bigotry, nor his current electoral calculations. Trump, in many ways is a radical right wing opponent of capitals dominance over the Republican Party. Not only does Trump express the xenophobia and Racism of his populist base, but he rejects central tenets of the bipartisan neoliberal agenda that has impoverished sections of the middle class as well as working and poor people. Trump rejects the idea of the US as a muscular, imperialist nation ready to use force to protect the global interests of US capital, instead promising to invest the millions spent on wars on US infrastructure. He blames NAFTA and other Trade deals for the loss of US manufacturing jobs, and calls for high tariffs to protect US jobs against ‘unfair’ competition.
It is easy to see why this would appeal to the middle classes. The impact of three decades of neoliberalism, in particular with the stagnation of real incomes and growing inequality, combined with the massive loss of personal wealth, growing personal debt and growing economic insecurity amongst broad segments of the US working and middle classes, has led to deepening dissolution with conventional politicians. While younger working and middle class voters were disproportionately attracted to Bernie Sanders campaign, older white middle class voters have been drawn to Trump. Caught between a decimated labour movement and an extremely aggressive capitalist class, parts of the middle classes are drawn to a politics that scapegoats immigrants, unions, and people of colour. The Trump phenomenon is due in part to the rise of right wing populism throughout the western world and the dangers that modern capitalism is posing to peoples livelihoods.
Of course, it is unlikely that whatever the result in November, that the Trump phenomenon will permanently transform the Republican Party. In the unlikely event of a general election victory for the Republicans, Trump will want to concede a number of his anti-establishment policies, in an attempt to create unity in what has become an extremely divided party. Those that refuse this offer of unity are likely to try and distance themselves from trump as far as possible thus starving him of support from within his own party, similarly should republicans accept Trump, they will probably work increasingly to push him to compromise on more and more of his anti-establishment principles. Finally, while I am sure that Wall Street and Corporations would rather see someone they know they can bet on to look after their interests become president, a Donald Trump victory will cause all but shoulder shrugging from the owners of capital.
In conclusion, while Wall Street will have to accept the result of this election, this will not change the inner workings of the economy. With Hillary Clinton we see a candidate whose allegiance to corporate America is in plain sight, with Donald Trump we see a candidate who will have to have to have his views moulded and his power restricted in order to meet capitals demands. This is not to suggest that the candidates do not pose different threats, while with Clinton we will most likely see a reversal of corporate regulation, with Trump we are likely to see an emboldened far right and increasingly militarised police force. It is for this reason, that the left must fight not just the candidates but an increasingly holistic and dangerous capitalist class.