In politics, a day or a week makes a big difference
Democratic caucus-goers wait more than an hour in line in an early caucus ballot precinct site at an AFL-CIO union office in Henderson, Nev., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. Voters filled out ballots with first, second and third choice picks, to be tallied Saturday, Feb. 22, in the Nevada Democratic Party caucus. | Ken Ritter/AP

What a difference a day (or week) makes.

During the first week of February, a sense of panic spread through the ranks of many Democrats and activists. First, there was the Iowa Caucus vote counting debacle, and then Trump was acquitted in the sham impeachment trial.

Then the criminal, white supremacist, rapist, autocrat in the White House, unbound, deepened the Constitutional crisis by exacting revenge against his perceived enemies. Trump continued to put himself, his administration and all his cronies above the law, enabled by the Senate GOP and Attorney General Barr, aka, his “fixer.”

If that wasn’t enough, many mainstream mass media pundits fawned over a Gallup poll showing Trump’s approval rating had risen to the highest of his presidency and declared the SOTU a success. Trump, they said, had the best week of his administration.

That was then.

This past week, a record number of voters turned out for the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, demonstrating high voter enthusiasm to oust Trump. And a new Quinnipiac poll showed any of the top 6 contending Democratic candidates beating Trump nationally. Granted, in battleground states, the election is a close contest. But the survey indicates the deep and enduring hostility toward Trump by a wide swath of the American people.

“The coordinated cover-up (during the impeachment sham trial) is a call to action,” Rev. William Barber II told the Congressional Black Caucus’ 2020 National Black Leadership Summit. “It’s not a time to be depressed. It’s not a time to whimper. It’s not a time to mourn. Sometimes a good slap in the mouth will wake you up.”

Trump’s authoritarianism, said Barber, is a sign of weakness and desperation in the face of a persistent and growing democratic resistance and gains made through multi-racial “fusion” politics.

Indeed, despite all of his bluster and bullying, and vow to protect the “forgotten man,” Trump continues to expose himself as a lying fraud and hypocrite with glaring vulnerabilities. Trump showed he can be defeated if the broad, diverse, multi-racial movement to oust him wins the battle to frame the narrative on economic and social justice, democracy, climate, and moral grounds.

For one, Trump’s SOTU boast that “our economy is the best ever” is an outright lie.

Many Americans are hanging on by their fingernails, filled with anxiety and fear. Economic growth and the monthly job figures appear impressive on the surface, but cannot hide an unmistakable crisis of class, racial, and gender inequality nor mask an underlying “invisible” crisis of everyday life.

In 2018, the wealthiest 10% held 70% of total household wealth, up from 60% in 1989. The share going to the top 1% leaped to 32% in 2019 from 23% in 1989.

“The increase in the wealth share of the top 10% came at the expense of households in the 50th to 90th percentiles of the wealth distribution,” said a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve. The bottom 50% of the Americans “are literally getting crushed by the weight of rising inequalities.”

Job growth didn’t start under Trump. It began during the Obama administration after the passage of the $800 billion stimulus bill to jumpstart an economy in freefall. Job creation has yet to reach the same levels under Trump.

However, many of the new jobs are low wage without benefits forcing many people to work extra jobs to make ends meet. Moreover, workers are suffering from 40 years of wage stagnation, driving down living standards. Wage increases are mostly due to state and local governments passing increases in the minimum wage, policies opposed by the GOP.

As a result, working families face what Annie Lowrey calls the “Great Affordability Crisis.” The basic costs of health care, housing, and education are rising far more rapidly than wages.

The U.S. has 140 million poor and low-income working people living in poverty, including 26 million African Americans and 66 million whites. Eighty percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Forty-four percent cannot cover a $400 emergency bill, and nearly 50% have no retirement savings.

Meanwhile, Trump continues the prolonged extreme right assault on social benefit programs, including repeal of the entire New Deal and Great Society gains of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Trump’s $4.8 trillion 2021 Federal budget aims to gut these programs in the name of closing a federal deficit that has grown as a result of Trump’s tax cut to the one percent.

Trump’s budget calls for cutting $920 billion from Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the Child Health Insurance Program; $850 billion in Medicare cuts; $70 billion in Social Security cuts, including disability benefits; and $181 billion in Food Stamps.

Trump proposes to increase military spending to $740 billion, including billions for nuclear weapons like a new submarine-launched nuclear warhead.

Trump proposes cutting one-quarter of the EPA budget, to gut the agency amid a climate crisis threatening all life on Earth.

Despite a $1.6 trillion student debt crisis, Trump proposes making it harder to pay back loans, including cutting the Student Loan Forgiveness Program for those who opt for jobs in public service like teachers.

“Trump’s immoral budget is full of reckless and cruel cuts to health care, education, housing, basic food assistance, and more,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Cal.). “All while funneling billions to a xenophobic border wall. Congress must and will reject it.”

Budgets reflect priorities, values, and morals. By every measure, Trump’s budget is immoral.

One might think Trump and the GOP had learned their lesson. After spending years seeking to dismantle Obamacare, they were routed in the 2018 elections, as voters turned out in droves to protect what they had.

The GOP might have learned a similar lesson in the 2006 elections. After winning re-election in 2004, Pres. George W. Bush, full of hubris, embarked on a drive to privatize Social Security. A wave of voter anger propelled the election of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

But the Trump and GOP effort to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Obamacare is deliberate and needs to be hung around their necks.

Trump is gambling that his anti-people budget will mobilize support based on racism. Trump is tying Medicaid cuts to preventing taxpayer money from going to “illegal aliens” and their families. Many white voters, including white workers, have been conned into opposing Medicaid expansion, a program they desperately need. The right-wing has convinced them Medicaid and other government-funded programs only benefit “undeserving” people of color and immigrants.

“Ain’t no way I would ever support Obamacare or sign up for it. I would rather die,” said Trevor, a white resident of Tennessee dying of liver cancer. “We don’t need any more government in our lives. And in any case, no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens.”

And sure enough, Trump’s State of the Union address, which doubled as a campaign kick-off, revealed his re-election strategy. Trump extolled distorted and false economic achievements while tarring his Democratic opponents as extreme socialists supporting government give-aways, massive tax increases, and totalitarianism. Trump charged Democrats with supporting “open borders,” and claimed he alone is protecting Americans from the hordes of criminal “illegal aliens” entering or residing in the U.S.

Trump’s game plan seeks to accomplish two contradictory things at once. First, shore up his most loyal base of supporters, especially white right-wing religious fundamentalists, by trumpeting his opposition to abortion, and inflaming racial resentments and anti-immigrant hate.

But secondly, Trump hopes to chip away at African American support for Democrats and regain support among suburban white women, crucial constituencies in battleground states. He will try to demonstrate he’s not a cruel racist and extremist and will defend health care for those with pre-existing conditions. He hopes his anti-immigrant policies will resonate with African-American workers, by asserting immigrants are out to take their jobs.

Democrats and the mass democratic movement can prevail by exposing Trump’s lies and making sure every voter knows his and the GOP aim to abolish Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. But also, by projecting a counter-narrative that rejects hate and fear, a morality based on truth and justice, for a shared future that lifts our multi-racial, multi-national working class and people together, for economic, racial, and gender equality, sustainability, and peace.

Only a message that combines economic populism with racial justice can inspire and unite voters of all racial and national backgrounds; it is a message that was tested and crucial to winning Congressional races across the country in the 2018 elections.

We should heed Rev. Barber’s call to action. In his closing remarks to the CBC Leadership Summit, he paraphrased the great African-American freedom fighter, Frederick Douglass. “This mess should only serve to increase, intensify, and embolden our resistance,” he said.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He served as national chair of the CPUSA from 2014 to 2019. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.