Election 2020: Trump and the 1% vs. the rest of us
Patricia Okoumou, a Congolese immigrant who scaled the Statue of Liberty July 4, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's immigration policies, joined protesters calling for the impeachment of the president during at a rally in Battery City Park, Oct. 28, 2018, in New York. She was demanding Trump's ouster then, and her t-shirt carries a message for Nov. 3, 2020: Vote Them Out. | Bebeto Matthews / AP

White nationalism. Police killings of innocent unarmed Blacks. A mass crusade for economic, social, and racial justice. The coronavirus pandemic. The worst depression since the Great Depression, with the GOP-run Senate’s refusal for the last six months to help the 26 million people without jobs. A big GOP threat to everyone’s health care coverage. Lack of worker rights, forced on the rest of us by the 1% and their political puppets.

All this and then the Supreme Court got loaded onto the pile after RBG died.

Welcome to the 2020 election, the most important of our lifetimes and in all likelihood the most important since 1932, 1860, or both.

It is not too much to say that prior to those two votes, the country seemed to be coming apart at the seams: In 1932 over the yawning gap between the plutocrats and the millions suffering from the joblessness, bread lines, poorhouses, and hunger all in the Great Depression, and in 1860 over the evil of slavery. This election has echoes of both inordinate plagues.

And more. GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump makes it clear, by both actions and words, that he’s an autocrat. “As president, I have the right to do whatever I want,” he told a group of right-wingers early last year. He’s tried, sometimes successfully, to carry that out.

The U.S. Constitution says otherwise, but Trump blithely ignores or repudiates both its written limits and unwritten rules. That makes this year’s presidential race between Trump and labor-backed Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Vice President under Barack Obama, so vital.

But it’s not just Trump who’s on the ballot this fall. It’s a whole cast of characters who split the U.S. into two camps and demand the country kowtow to the radical reactionary one.

Which side are you on?

That camp has been building for decades. In the 1950s, it manifested itself in massive resistance to integration, in the John Birch Society, and in the Joe McCarthy era, among other anti-worker and reactionary forces. Its denizens are right-wingers and white nationalists who demand “the other”—anyone who’s not them—be ostracized, exiled, or, if Black, shot by cops.

It includes Trump-following Republicans, their political allies, and financial puppeteers in the corporate class and the 1%, all in a cabal that conjures up schemes for their permanent rule. All of this represents the plan by the nativist right, other interests, and their marionettes, again mostly Republicans, to ensure they retain power, notably the power to repress workers.

The other camp is the rest of us: Workers, women, union members, Black Americans, youth, other people of color, LGBTQ people, the poor and near-poor, at least 70% of Jews, and around half of Catholics, plus progressive Protestants, many of them Black. This camp believes in the tenets of democracy. They—we—have fueled resistance to Trump ever since Jan. 20, 2017.

The conflict has only intensified in this campaign, as Trump and his camp openly cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. They actively try to suppress and repress voters to undermine it. That includes trying to stop voters from balloting. If Trump loses, his cabal is already inciting his armed white nationalist supporters to hit the streets.

Meanwhile, the usual phrase “go to the polls” doesn’t apply because the pandemic has forced millions of people to vote by mail, and not just in those states—Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and a few others—that have been doing so for years.

Which of course brings up another reason the 2020 voting is so vital: Trump’s lies about vote-by-mail as being rife with fraud, coupled with GOP manipulation of the balloting by every means possible to disenfranchise everyone who opposes their radical right, exploitative agenda. Victims, as we said above, are workers, women, youth, and people of color—all subject to repression, voter intimidation, and “scrubbing” election rolls of “enemies.”

Which side are you on?

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Add on Trump threats not to leave office even if he loses the Electoral College to Biden. Then load on Trump’s Postmaster General, big Republican donor Louis DeJoy, trying to halt vote-by-mail by literally removing mailboxes from central cities, cutting out deliveries, and dismantling sorting machines. What this election then becomes is a toxic stew that could determine whether the U.S. stays, in Ben Franklin’s phrase, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Now that we’ve got your attention—or scared you to death—with all this doom and gloom, let’s make the obvious point: We as voters and citizens not only must elect officeholders who will work for us, not the 1%. We also must be vigilant, and if needed, take to the courts and the streets to ensure our votes are both cast and counted. So the stakes could not be higher.

And the offices involved start with, but do not end with, the U.S. presidency.

Evicting Trump

With less than a month before Election Day, 17 million people have already voted, at least four million of those by mail, Trump notwithstanding. That fact makes public opinion polls somewhat misleading. But they show a consistent lead for Biden, ranging between eight and 14 percentage points nationally. One tangentially reliable GOP poll gives Biden a two-point lead. It’s an outlier.

The latest average of more than 100 national polls, from FiveThirtyEight.com, gives Biden 52.3% of the vote to 41.8% for Trump. Biden crossed 50% on June 16, and except for two one-day dips to 49% plus change, has stayed above it ever since. Trump’s high, just above 45%, was in February, and he hasn’t been above 44% since April 21. He has never led.

But the election is not one election, but 51: One in each state, plus Washington, D.C. And the aim is to win 270 of the 538 votes in the Electoral College, with each state having electoral votes equal to the size of its congressional delegation, including its two senators. The Constitution guarantees D.C., without voting representation in Congress, three votes.

Polls in swing states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—tell a different story. Colorado and Virginia were swing states, too, in 2016. They’re now put in the Democratic column. Minnesota was “safe Democratic” until Trump lost it by a sliver of votes then. Ohio, Iowa, and especially Georgia were GOP states four years ago. Now they’re up for grabs.

Biden leads in each swing state, with margins ranging from 0.9% in Ohio to 10.7% in New Hampshire. His Michigan lead is 8.4%, just ahead of Wisconsin (+7.1%), Nevada (6.9%), and Pennsylvania (7.1%). In Iowa (1.1%), Arizona and Florida (+4.4%), and North Carolina (+2.7%), Biden’s lead is within the polls’ margin of error. So is Trump’s 1.7% (48.4%-46.7%) lead in normally deep-red Texas, the second-most populous state.

Numbers aside, in issue terms, and democracy terms, union leaders are outspoken about the need to beat Trump.

“The media frenzy is on, spinning out doomsday scenarios of what Trump will do if he loses the election,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said on Sept. 16, even before Trump refused, in the Sept. 29 presidential debate with Biden, to commit to obeying the outcome.

“At a rally in Nevada, Trump even alluded to negotiating a third term if re-elected this fall. Whether he was kidding or not is hardly the point. We’ve never dealt with anyone like this.

“No matter what happens, the AFL-CIO will be a center point for our response because our democracy is not ultimately secured by the press or the courts, but by working people’s determination to defend it…. We will do everything within our power to protect the election and contribute to the broader fight for democracy. But above all, we need to keep our eyes on the prize, and the prize is winning. Without that, nothing else matters,” Trumka said.

“Joe Biden has been endorsed by almost every union in the country because he stands with us when it comes to fighting for workers’ rights,” Teamsters Local 986 Secretary-Treasurer Chris Griswold explained in the latest edition of the Southern California Teamster.

And “Biden believes workers should have affordable health care and he fought against insurance companies that wanted to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions,” Griswold added, speaking about another key issue in 2020—made even more vital by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump “has been in court to reverse that Affordable Care Act,” in a case the U.S. Supreme Court, with two or maybe three Trump-named justices, will hear on Nov. 10. “So people who need health care the most could be denied coverage,” Griswold continued. Experts say losers would include recovered coronavirus victims. It would be pre-existing.

“Biden also believes every worker should have a right to join a union and be on a level playing field when you are negotiating for higher wages and better benefits. Unfortunately, the Trump administration overhauled the National Labor Relations Board with people who are on the side of corporations, not workers,” Griswold added.

Communications Workers President Chris Shelton also cited the Supreme Court, and its possible role in the election, when he opposed Trump’s nominee for a third High Court seat, federal appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden meets with union leaders outside at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., Sept. 7, 2020. | Carolyn Kaster / AP

Barrett’s record, in court cases, speeches, and law review articles, is almost exactly contrary to the pro-worker, pro-woman, and pro-civil rights path of the trailblazer she would succeed, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Donald Trump is counting on Amy Coney Barrett to support his attempts to undermine the upcoming election. We must not let that happen. Make a plan to vote, safely and securely, and ensure your vote is counted. Our democracy depends on it,” Shelton declared.

“From the PRO [Protecting the Right to Organize] Act to robust federal infrastructure funding, Biden has solutions, which is why our trade union and nearly every union has endorsed his campaign for president. We deserve much better and we all know it,” said Painters President Ken Rigmaiden.

Retired Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones, who, four years ago, called out Trump’s lies about layoffs at the Carrier plant near Indianapolis whose workers his local represented, recalled Trump efforts to get working-class votes in 2016. The Hoosier State went for Trump then and he leads Biden there now, 49% to 42%.

“When Trump said ‘Vote for me. What do you have to lose?’ a lot of workers thought ‘What the hell,’” he told Our Revolution, the organization Bernie Sanders supporters established after the Vermont senator’s 2016 Democratic nomination loss to Hillary Clinton.

“They won’t make the same mistake twice,” Jones predicted.

There’s still a lot of work to do between now and Nov. 3 to make sure that’s the case.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).