Republicans’ rabid anti-communism is a sign of their political weakness
The Republicans are trying to portray Democratic nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as puppets of some 'radical left' communist takeover attempt. Despite the show of strength, the anti-communist rhetoric actually reflects Trump's political weakness heading into the election. | Photos: AP / Photo illustration: C.J. Atkins / People's World

Joe McCarthy would fit right in at this year’s Republican National Convention. Denouncing communists—both real and, more often than not, imaginary—was the bread and butter for the 1950s red-baiting senator from Wisconsin. At the dawn of the Cold War, the bogeyman of the Soviet Union was the stick used to beat back a strong labor movement and a growing left in the United States. Today, Trump and the GOP are trying the same trick. History repeats. But as the granddaddy of communism, Karl Marx, might say, if McCarthyism was the tragedy, then the anti-socialist antics of the Republicans are surely the farce.

The message beamed to the televisions of America from the RNC this week is one of impending doom if Trump is not re-elected. It was more than implied, several times, that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are secretly plotting to install a communist dictatorship to kill freedom and hand the country over to Black Lives Matter protesters and foreign countries. Peruse some of the claims made by speakers at the convention’s opening night and you will descend into an alternative universe, an apocalyptic world conjured up to distract, divide, and deceive.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the top Trump toadies in Congress, declared the “Woketopians”—woke utopians?—will make Biden “an extra in a movie written, produced, and directed by others.” The Democrats will apparently disarm everyone, empty out the prisons, lock all of us in our homes, and invite violent gangs to move in next door.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who built his career on exposing communists (usually imaginary), would have been right at home at the Republican National Convention this week. Here, McCarthy points to a map supposedly showing the extent of Communist influence in the United States, June 9, 1954. | AP

Cuban-American businessman Maximo Alvarez praised Trump for standing against “the forces of anarchy and communism” and implied Biden might be possessed by the ghost of Fidel Castro. When the Cuban revolutionary was asked decades ago if he was a communist, Alvarez claimed, he replied that he was a Roman Catholic. The Democratic nominee, also a Catholic, is hiding the truth, just like Castro did, Alvarez warned, in order to trick America into “swallowing the communist poison pill.”

26-year-old Charlie Kirk, who heads up the billionaire-backed right-wing astroturf student group Turning Point USA, pitched the election as “a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything we love.” His speech peddled in the kind of racial anxiety that motivates many a white supremacist. Trump, Kirk said, “is the bodyguard of Western civilization,” the only thing standing between “our families” and the “vengeful mob.” It doesn’t take too much reading between the lines to see exactly what Kirk was really saying: Trump is the defender of white America against angry Black protesters, immigrants, and foreigners.

The coded racism and rabid anti-communism (the two almost always go together) continued in the remarks of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the barefoot gun-toting lawyers who are facing charges for threatening peaceful Black Lives Matters protesters in St. Louis back in June. Trying to gin up despair among middle- and upper-income whites living outside the cities, they claimed that the Biden-Harris “socialist agenda” includes “abolishing suburbs,” eliminating single-family homes, and letting “crime, lawlessness, and low-quality apartments” invade thriving neighborhoods.

In this June 28, 2020, photo, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, standing in front their house, take aim at Black Lives Matters protesters who were on their way to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. The McCloskeys delivered a speech laden with racist overtones at the Republican National Convention on Monday. | Laurie Skrivan / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

As they spoke, GOP convention producers cut to an image of Black protesters supposedly marching into white suburbia to destroy it—led by none other than St. Louis’s soon-to-be Congresswoman Cori Bush, referred to by the McCloskeys as “the Marxist liberal activist leading the mob to our neighborhood.” The whole speech, equating the entry of Black families into majority white neighborhoods and Black working-class people standing up for justice with Marxist revolution, was dripping with blatant racism.

But it was Donald Trump, Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle who most determinedly fanned the anti-communist flames and strove to whip the non-existent convention crowds into a rabid frenzy.

With an anger and intensity that could rival Mussolini, Guilfoyle railed against “Biden, Harris, and the rest of the socialists,” who will allegedly let “rioters destroy our cities,” allow “human sex drug traffickers…cross our border,” and turn America into “a land of discarded heroin needles in parks.” It’s all part of a plan, apparently, to send all our jobs to China and enslave everyone to the “weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology.”

Junior, no doubt eager to impress his father, stuck to repeating the conspiracy theories and lies proffered by the president over the last several months. Coronavirus struck us “courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party,” which “favors Biden.” The Marxist millionaires (if ever there was a more paradoxical notion) backing Biden, according to the little Trump, are salivating at the chance to destroy “freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the rule of law.” The election is really about “church, work, and school versus rioting, looting, and vandalism.” It is Donald Trump against the “evils of communism and radical Islamic terrorism.”

Donald Trump, Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle were perhaps most strident in their attempt to use anti-communism to whip Republican voters into a frenzy. | AP photos

The convention’s opening night showcased everything Republicans must have been hoping to roll out if they’d gotten the chance to run against Bernie Sanders, an actual socialist. Instead, they got Biden, leaving their already lame anti-communist harangues seem more ill-fitting than ever.

Now, they have to settle for making Biden and Harris the puppets of the “radical left”—which, translated from Republican-speak, usually means progressive working-class women of color like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and, now, Cori Bush.

When you think about it, it seems confusing that the election strategists and media managers in the Republican Party actually assume their Cold War redux fantasy land TV program will convince very many people that there is an imminent danger of a communist takeover via the supposed maven of Marxism Joe Biden.

Do they really expect people to believe all that nonsense?

No, they don’t.

Trump’s response to the coronavirus has been a total and complete failure. His incompetence has contributed to making the COVID-19-sparked downturn into possibly the worst economic crisis in our country’s history. His allegiance to the ideology of white supremacy is repulsive to most Americans at a time when righteous anger against systemic racism has brought as much as a tenth of the U.S. population into the streets in protest. These are the things worrying most voters—not the socialist apocalypse.

The narrative being spun at the RNC is so narrowly focused and so extremist that one can only conclude the puffed-out chests and anti-socialist muscle-flexing are actually nothing but a sign of the GOP’s political weakness. It’s a sham show of strength. Republicans know that stoking racial hatred and demonizing the left are tactics that will only work with a relatively small segment of voters—and that small segment is exactly who the party intends to reach this week.

The average of current polls shows Trump pulling in 42% against Biden’s 51%. Give or take some marginal movement, the gap hasn’t changed much for months. That spells trouble for Trump come Nov. 3. Most analysts have already concluded that winning the popular vote is totally out of reach for Trump (reminder: he didn’t win the most votes in 2016, either), and with several swing states leaning toward Biden, squeaking out an Electoral College win is also a tall hurdle.

The path to re-election for Trump, therefore, rests on activating every single member of his hardcore base. One advantage the president has going for him, though, is that his support among that crowd is solid and enthusiastic. The convention programming is intended to fire them up and not let even one MAGA loyalist stay home on Election Day.

There is no intention whatsoever of really doing much to expand the Trump electorate; it’s too late for that. If putting a few Black Republicans on stage can make some white moderates feel Trump’s not too racist to give him their vote, then all the better. If some of the white suburban women who’ve been wavering in their support for the president can be made to ponder her family’s safety, that’s a bonus. If an aging anti-Castro fighter convinces some Miami voters to think twice about Biden, that’s a gain.

Whatever actual Communists propose—such as health care, jobs for all, peace, democratic control of the economy, an end to racism—is irrelevant for the Republican fear campaign. | PW

But the clear audience for the RNC is precisely those who have been with Trump from the very start. And to mobilize them, the Republican Party is doing exactly what ruling elites throughout recent history have done anytime people united to stand up for working people and fight back against racism. Trump and his crowd throw out charges of communism in order to distract from their own corruption, theft, and failure.

Whatever actual Communists propose—such as health care for all, jobs for all, peace, democratic control of the economy, an end to racism—is irrelevant to the discussion for the GOP. The humanist, democratic ideals of real Marxists—not Biden, Harris, or Trump’s other targets—are never allowed to enter the conversation.

When 180,000 people are dead from coronavirus and over 50,000,000 jobs have evaporated, the ruling party has nothing left to run on. There is no platform; there are no policy proposals. There is nothing left except worshipful praise for the leader and fearful denunciations of everyone and everything else as communism.

It’s been said that anti-communism is the last refuge of scoundrels. In an era when more than half of Americans under 30 express positive views of socialism, the audience for scoundrels like Trump and his coterie is shrinking. The panicked, knee-jerk anti-communism on display at the Republican National Convention this week shows the clock is ticking for this farcical strategy.

Anti-communism just won’t work like it used to, and Trumpism is destined to go the way of McCarthyism. But it’s still going to take a fight to finish it off.

As with all opinion articles published by People’s World, the views presented here are those of the author.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.