Trump’s regime is unpredictable and deeply reactionary. In just a few months, he has threatened disastrous war while carrying out attacks on immigrants, LGBTQ people, the environment, women’s rights, and health care – just to name a few parts of his vicious agenda. In response, we’ve seen big protests that have played a role in pushing back many of Trump’s policies and also the street mobilizations of the far right. Trump has the lowest popularity ratings of any president this early in their term and there is a mood among tens of millions of ordinary people that Trump should be removed from office.
Trump is hated for his racist, sexist, predatory policies, and the ruling establishment is embarrassed and worried about his presence in the highest position of world power. The billionaire class, political establishment, and military generals that are so used to controlling US politics are now dealing with an unstable maverick that undermines their ability to rule. Flowing from a system in crisis, both parties are deeply divided, and Trump is constantly shifting his collaboration partners and his enemies in Washington. Right now, he is working with establishment Democrats but, as with everything related to Trump, this could change quickly.
The Democratic Party leadership tells us that the main way to fight against the Trump agenda is to vote for them in the 2018 mid-term elections. However, we need to fight now against all of the policies of Trump and the Republicans that represent a profound threat to millions of people. We need mass protests with bold demands that can inspire people to get active. The $15 an hour minimum wage victory in Minneapolis this past summer shows that, even under Trump, movements can win offensive victories to improve our lives. At the same time, the initial opposition of Minneapolis Democrats to $15 shows that we can’t depend on the Democratic Party leadership to fight for us, and we cannot limit our demands to what’s acceptable to them and their corporate backers.
While Trump has been pushed back on a number of fronts, we cannot be complacent. He is still issuing executive orders against immigrants and preparing huge tax cuts for corporations as immediate priorities. He threatens to push the world economy into a trade war and hurricanes Harvey, Jose, Irma, and now Maria show the need for urgent action to halt climate change with a climate-denier sitting in the White House. We cannot wait until 2018. We need to link up all those organizing against Trump’s agenda — from Medicare for All actions to immigrant rights struggles and movements for economic justice — into a generalized struggle against Trump’s administration and the billionaire class.
One year is enough!
Socialist Alternative has raised the slogan, “Build the movement and drive out Trump.” This has been met with an enthusiastic response in many neighborhoods, campuses, and protests, but other activists raised questions with us. We were confronted with arguments like “Pence won’t be any better” or “This makes people think we can depend on the Democrats to impeach Trump.” Some of these arguments come from a healthy instinct and contain an element of truth, but Socialist Alternative feels that it is important to link struggles up and build the confidence of our movements to win clear victories against our enemies in preparation for coming momentous battles against the injustices of capitalism.
While Pence’s politics are just as reactionary as Trump, his coming to power in the wake of Trump’s presidency being toppled by a mass movement would fundamentally alter the nature of his ability to rule. We should remember that the right-wing Nixon Administration was in power when Roe v. Wade was won, the Environmental Protection Agency and Affirmative Action were created, and the Vietnam War was ended. Yet Nixon himself was a hard-line reactionary; these victories were won because of the strength of movements: the anti-war movement, the women’s liberation movement, the Black Power movement, and a combative labor movement. If Pence entered the Oval Office in the face of similar struggles being given confidence and momentum by Trump’s ousting, he would not be able to implement his agenda, and the stage would be set for potential further victories by empowered mass movements. Still, working people would need to be ready to follow up successful impeachment with a movement to defeat the whole regime and its right-wing agenda.
Right now, the pro-corporate Democratic leaders are not calling for impeachment even though “Four in ten Americans now support the impeachment of President Donald Trump — a ten point jump in the last six months — according to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)”, reported NBC News in August. They are afraid of mobilizing working people and destabilizing the system, so they are trying to funnel the palpable anger against Trump into the “safe channels” of the upcoming elections. They appear to prefer a weak Trump in power to rhetorically run against in 2018, rather than taking real action against him like building mass protests against his agenda or introducing articles of impeachment. They did not mobilize against Trumpcare with mass rallies, even though this was a big opportunity to cut across Trump’s base in the “rust belt.” In Hillary Clinton’s new book, she blames Bernie Sanders and the Women’s March organizers for her failure rather than understanding that the pro-corporate policies of the Democrats paved the way for Trump’s ascendancy.
Activists need to counterpose an effective strategy to defeat Trump: building movements in the interests of the 99%. This can show people, through experience, their own power and the limitations of the corporate strategy. Socialist Students is supporting a day of action on 16 November, entitled “One Year’s Enough”, with clear demands to end deportations, racist policing and attacks on reproductive rights as well as calling for Medicare for all, free public college and cancellation of student debt. We need more actions like this involving unions and community groups to not only rally but also disrupt the “business as usual” racism and sexism of the Trump regime, and prepare the ground to drive him from office whether through resignation or impeachment.
Democrats would be welcome to participate in these actions, but the demands of the movement should not be limited to what is acceptable to the corporate interests that these politicians serve. Most people see the introduction of articles of impeachment as a way to dump Trump, but neither Republicans who oppose Trump nor the Democratic Party leadership is willing to introduce articles of impeachment. We should call on them to make this important step to give an opening for us to bring down the Trump regime and the billionaire class as a whole. To strengthen our struggle against the right-wing agenda, we need a party that unambiguously fights in the interests of the 99% and is willing to do everything necessary to win battles now to beat back Trump and the billionaire class.
Weakness of politicians
Trump’s ego thrives on giving the appearance of strength, but make no mistake about it – his regime is weak. Not only have he and the Republican-dominated Congress been unable to implement their main policies, but the administration is mired in continuing crisis and scandal. This came to the forefront especially with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, but it could also erupt again, either over the investigations by special prosecutor Mueller or with another major blunder by Trump. If there is an opening to drive Trump from office during a future scandal, we cannot leave that discussion to the halls of power. An organized mass movement carrying out escalating protests and other forms of mass direct action would be needed to call not only for Trump’s impeachment but also with clear demands to transform the lives of working people and the balance of political power.
The main thing that protects Trump from all-out catastrophe is the weakness of the Democratic Party. Polls show that people see Democratic leaders as more out-of-touch than Trump. The Democratic leadership, despite previously announcing a cynical and limited populist programme they called a “Better Deal” that garnered little enthusiasm, are now in an uneasy (even if temporary) alliance with Trump. Immigrant “dreamer” students correctly protested against Nancy Pelosi using them as a bargaining chip while being willing to discuss militarization of the border and increased war spending. We should remember that it is the Democrats and their pro-corporate policies that opened the door for Trump’s right-wing populism, and it is only the unpopularity of these out-of-touch politicians that could save the divided Republicans from annihilation in the 2018 elections.
At the same time, Bernie Sanders has tremendous authority and has introduced the popular “Medicare for All” legislation. Key Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Schumer refuse to sign on, and many signatories are only on board due to pressure from below. We can only win single-payer health care if we build a movement involving unions, community groups, and Sanders’ Our Revolution. Socialist Alternative would argue within this coalition that we need a new party for working people to win not only better health care but also housing, education and an end to corporate domination of politics.
Currently, the motivation for protests is not a general call for impeachment. Instead, people are organizing against the attacks on immigrants, against the “alt-right” and on a host of other issues. The starting point of socialists is not just to enter into these movements and push them towards impeachment demands. We need to articulate a strategy to win in the “here and now” against deportations, racist policing, housing crises and for bold demands to improve our lives. It is through these struggles that people will develop the confidence and organized power capable of toppling the president and ultimately the system he represents. We propose linking up these movements and calling for Medicare for All, free college tuition, an end to deportations and racist policing as well as a green unionized jobs programme to develop housing, social programmes and infrastructure. A united movement is needed rather than isolated struggles.
This November, on the one year anniversary of Trump’s election, we should begin escalating actions with protests, student walkouts and occupations of politicians’ offices who are complicit in Trump’s rule. Eventually, to bring the right-wing politicians to their knees, we will need workplace action and a new working-class party that can effectively mobilize people into action and cut across empty right-wing populism with a bold program to improve the lives of working people.
Lessons from history
After being forced by movements to implement progressive legislation that he personally opposed, Richard Nixon was eventually driven from office. The Watergate scandal loomed over him for months in office before the ruling class finally pushed him to resign. The prestige of the presidency was undermined in a way that the billionaires never wanted to see through the resignation, but they calculated that Nixon’s continued presence in the White House would tarnish their system even further. But what really drove out Nixon was the threat of a wider revolt by radicalizing youth and workers, who were increasingly taking up broader anti-establishment and even anti-capitalist demands.
Before Nixon, Democrat Lyndon Johnson was effectively driven from office as well. In Johnson’s case he simply didn’t run for re-election, in recognition of the massive unpopularity flowing from the Vietnam War which he had escalated and the growing movement against it.
The ruling class is willing to accept presidents leaving office through means other than an election, but only if they feel it is necessary to help them stabilize a serious crisis. Any attempt to remove Trump by the ruling class before his term is up in 2020 would, at the same time, try to obscure the real issues of naked billionaire rule, wars, deportations, and attacks on our living standards that the leaders of both parties fundamentally support. They would instead connect any calls for Trump to leave office with the need for “national unity” and patriotism.
In contrast, Socialists connect our demands, tactics, and strategy to bring down Trump with emphasis on the need to build a movement from below rather than trusting the establishment. We connect the fight against Trump to the need for a movement for fundamental socialist change.
Socialist Alternative does not want the end of Trump to mean a return to “stable” corporate domination, sexism and racism. We want to build a movement that can challenge Trump’s agenda and get him impeached while also developing our own power to change society. A decisive victory against Trump would only be one step, but an important step, on the road to breaking the power of the billionaires by building movements, unions and a party from below that can offer an alternative to this rotten system.