On Tuesday, November 3, the eligible citizens of the United States elected a new president, representatives, senators and state legislators. This is probably the most important election in decades. Today, on Friday, a lot of the results remain inconclusive. Therefore, it is too early to give a comprehensive analysis. But, of course, the team of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Office has a lot of thoughts on our minds that we’d like to share with our audience. So we asked every member of the team: What is on your mind this morning?
November 3rd turned out to be a long crazy night. I never thought the race to the white house would be so tight after all that happened during the last 4 years: the lack of leadership, the handling of the COVID19 and social injustice. I always thought the truth will prevail but it seems like people are so accustomed to lies that it becomes a modus vivendi and modus operandi. As expected, while they were still counting the votes Trump already claimed victory and threatened to take legal actions. My big disappointment is to see how divided the nation is, so many people still believe in Trump. As a matter of fact, all his supporters voted for him but more people voted this time (including those who did not in 2016).
Up until the end, one can see how dangerous and dishonest this president is. He’s claiming false accusation of fraud in areas where he lost but he feels so comfortable where he won. He does not even have the decency to lose with class. I can only hope that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Black people have such a complicated relationship to the Democratic Party. We support it because the Republican Party is filled with people who never agreed with the outcome of the civil war, much less the Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and LGBT movements. On the other hand, Democrats over the years have gone further away from their progressive foundation and embraced a neoliberal vision. This has meant slashes in the social welfare net, weak environmental regulations and an entire generation that have been victims of mass incarceration.
Despite talk of Black defection to Trump, Black voters enmass supported Biden/Harris. There was a recognition that Trump’s anti-worker rhetoric was linked to anti-black resentment. A clear example is Trump’s attacks on the Post Office, which for generations of African Americans was a stepping stone to the middle class.
The question for the future of the Democratic Party is how to keep these voters engaged for the long haul. Fact is, Black voters tend to be more progressive than any other block in the country. In that famous Pew Poll, 50% of Black people are favorable to socialism. And this was evidenced by the election of Cori Bush, Jaamal Bowman and the reelection of Ihan Omar. And at least three Black socialists will be taking office in the New York State Assembly. And beyond elected officials there’s a growing engagement with younger people with the Black Radical Tradition.
When the progressives run on jobs, environmental protections and healthcare, they can win in Black communities. But there has to be an understanding that it’s not just challenging economic exploitation, but the range of issues facing our people, including social exclusion from the political process and personal denigration. And this is inclusion of supporting Black women who have been the backbone of our movements for generations.
There’s a quiet relief in the country now, but there’s work to be done. The fact that 15-25 million people took part in anti police brutality protests in America, and also came over to the polls in record numbers reminds me of the Gramsci saying about the “Optimism of the will.” I think Solange hit it home when she sang:
Black faith still can’t be washed away
Not even in that Florida water
Not even in that Florida water
In that Florida water
The national referendum on Donald Trump succeeded, but the referendum on a Republican Party that fully embraced Trumpism failed. Trump will lose, but the resounding Democratic victory that many anticipated never came. Even after all the racism, sexism, xenophobia, willful mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis, economic catastrophe, and everything else, nearly 70 million Americans still cast ballots for Trump. Joe Biden ran the same campaign playbook that won him the Democratic primary in the general election. He focused on Donald Trump, his decency, his ties to President Obama, and a return to normalcy. He continued to do this even at a time when the entire world was upended by the coronavirus making normalcy a pipedream. In the end, that proved to be enough. Thanks to tireless efforts from organizers across the state, Georgia flipped blue for the first time since 1992. Biden was also able to flip the needed rust belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Hillary Clinton lost.
However, in an election where there were supposed to be gains at both the Senate and House level for Democrats, those wins never materialized. The Democrats focus on suburban voters failed, highlighting explicitly for many, that this was a referendum on Trump and Trump alone. There is still hope with two runoff elections in Georgia for a Democratic Senate majority, and then the need to push for so much more if that materializes, but without that, more austerity and Mitch McConnell induced gridlock is anticipated. While Biden won, and Trump was defeated, dealing the harder, more difficult challenge of legislating out of the intertwined crises of COVID-10, climate, and capital remains to be fought. While we can now let out a sigh of relief about defeating Trump, if anything, this week shows the substantial amount of work that needs to be done.
I think the biggest takeaway from this presidential election is that there is a lot of work to be done. There was no blue wave, and Joe Biden seems likely to be the next president by an upsettingly small margin. The progressive left will have to constantly push the (probable) Biden administration further left, while also working to counter a rapidly growing extreme right. I do not know how this can be done, but we are going to have to fight white nationalists, the Republican party and the Democratic establishment the whole way. Progressives did well in their races, and progressive strongholds are emerging. But if we are going to effectively fight the right, we need to better communicate our policies and positions and reach even more people.
Watching Joe Biden and the Democrats very nearly manage to snatch defeat from the claws of victory up against an astonishingly incompetent and generally loathsome candidate for the second time in a row, I think any fair-minded person must give them credit for steadfastly refusing to learn anything at all. Another party might look at the ‘red’ states that passed progressive policies while rejecting moderate democratic candidates, or the fact that Obama managed to win Florida handily twice despite perceived status as a ‘radical’ change candidate, and they might think it was possible they could be going about things the wrong way. But, heroically Democratic elected officials and various hangers-on have already begun loudly blaming things like progressive’s lack of antipathy for ‘socialism’, and BLM’s demands for comprehensive police reform, for poisoning moderates and swing voters and losing them winnable races. A recent politico article calls Biden and Mitch McConnell, ruthlessly effective Republican Senate leader, ‘the new Washington power couple’ Biden’s record suggests to me that he will embrace cuts to social security and the introduction of brutal austerity measures; he has already begun to turn his back on the largest protest movement in the country’s history and abandon the ‘most progressive ever!’ policy platform he adopted during his campaign. Any nominally left of center political project must prepare to deal with him and his party as fundamentally antagonistic to their goals.
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung - New York