US elections: The movement is the key

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Amid Donald Trump’s bluster and threats over the forthcoming presidential race, the real power to fundamentally change the sick system is on the American street, says US activist Virginia Rodino

Last month US president Donald Trump was asked what he would do should he lose the election. He replied, “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster… There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” This follows Trump’s repeated blustering claims that the only way his opponent Joe Biden can win is through a rigged election.
He said, “This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam, this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that.” Trump’s insistence that the US Supreme Court would decide the victor provides additional explanation why he was so hell-bent on quickly pushing through ultra-conservative right-wing Christian judge Amy Barrett to the Supreme Court. Trump’s propaganda around rigged elections follows both his and Republican governors’ suppression of absentee ballot voting and the decommissioning of hundreds of sorting machines at the post office, which would facilitate timely vote counting. He’s also tried to actually delay the election.
The president wrote on Twitter on 30 July, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” This delay is likely also due to him needing to stall for long enough to allow a Covid19 vaccination to become available. Over the past couple of months Trump has even floated the idea of remaining beyond the eight constitutionally limited years for which he could be president, saying at rallies: “We are going to win four more years. And then after that, we’ll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign.”
In response, dozens of progressive pro-Democratic Party organisations have formed a coalition to ‘Protect the Results’, pledging to mobilise across the country if Trump doesn’t accept the election outcome. His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen — once known as Trump’s “fixer” and who is now disbarred — recently warned Congress, “I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” The president also recently threatened to use the military to quash peaceful protests. The Protect the Results coalition, comprising trade unions and liberal groups, is demanding that “every vote be counted, even if it takes days or weeks to get an accurate count from critical states, especially given the expansion of mail-in and absentee voting during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
If Trump refuses to concede, the coalition says it will organise large demonstrations to get people in the streets. Importantly, the Rochester (New York) Labor Council pointed out that “the most powerful tool of the labor movement in our history has been the power of the general strike” and that “united working people refusing to work across the nation have a greater power than any political machinations of aspiring despots”. The council passed a resolution calling on the national AFL-CIO — the main federation of US trade unions — its affiliate unions and all other labour organisations in the US “to prepare for and enact a general strike of all working people, if necessary, to ensure a constitutionally mandated peaceful transition of power” if Biden is elected.
Last month AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said US trade unions should “stand ready to do our part to ensure his defeat in this election is followed by his removal from office”. Trade unions and progressive organisations preparing for mass demonstrations is incredibly potent in this moment of white nationalist violence, where kidnapping and assassination plots against sitting governors are being uncovered, as white supremacists are emboldened by a president who hasn’t yet been held accountable through the courts, mainstream media, or congressional actions.
Only one entity has been able to push Trump’s outrageous behaviour off centre-stage, and that has been Black Lives Matter (BLM). The huge and historic protests against racist police brutality has forced seismic shifts in people’s perceptions of the system, and their power over it. BLM has brought millions of ordinary people onto the streets, led by black youth. The movement rocked the racist foundation of what this country was built upon and has followed the youth-led climate justice movement and the school student movement against guns, demanding system change and not simply a vote for another corporate politician.
These movements have shown ordinary Americans that their power can be found in the streets toppling statues and in their schools and workplaces demanding safety and equality. Therefore, no matter if the Democrats or the Republicans win the election in a few weeks, the US working class is ripe to not just hold politicians accountable but to look beyond to their fellow workers and neighbours to join together and create the real change we need.