by Bob Avakian
September 18, 2020 | revcom.us
The Democrats Can’t Fight Trump
the Way He Needs to Be Fought
In the Statement by Bob Avakian, August 1, 2020, On The Immediate Critical Situation, The Urgent Need To Drive Out The Fascist Trump/Pence Regime, Voting In This Election, And The Fundamental Need For Revolution, I spoke to this important point:
At this critical hour, every appropriate means of non-violent action must be utilized to remove this regime from power. And if, in spite of mass protest demanding the removal of the Trump/Pence regime, this regime remains in power when it is time for voting, then—without placing fundamental reliance on this—using all appropriate means to work for the removal of this regime must include voting against Trump (assuming the election is actually held). To be clear, this means not a “protest vote” for some candidate who has no chance of winning, but actually voting for the Democratic Party candidate, Biden, in order to effectively vote against Trump.
At the same time, however, I strongly emphasized that
Simply relying on voting to oust this regime will almost certainly lead to very bad, even disastrous results. This is especially true given what this regime is already doing, and what Trump is saying, in relation to the election.
Trump’s Blatant Racism and Support for White Supremacist Violence
It has become increasingly clear that a pivotal part of Trump’s strategy, in relation to the election scheduled for November, and his overall approach to holding power, is to make more and more blatant appeals to racism by trumpeting a call for “law and order.” Trump portrays the ongoing protests against white supremacy and police terror as violent—and, as is typical with him, he flagrantly and grossly lies about the extent and causes of this violence. He paints a crude horror scene of you-know-who coming to pillage and rape—to violate the homes and the people, especially the women—in the suburbs, which in Trump’s vision are all white. This is a direct “echo” of the vile tactics used by white supremacists organizing mobs to lynch Black people during Jim Crow segregation, and of how Hitler stirred up hatred of and violence against Jews in NAZI Germany. Here again, facts do not matter to Trump and his fascist regime and its supporters—or, rather, facts are to be deliberately distorted, defied, and perverted in pursuit of literally murderous aims.
It has been shown (for example, in a study by Princeton University) that, overwhelmingly (more than 90 percent of the time), these protests against white supremacy and police terror have not been violent; and violence that has been committed by the protesters themselves has been relatively minor (some fires, looting, and trashing of a few buildings, in small, confined areas, often at or near police stations—nothing like the picture Trump paints of whole cities being burned down and destroyed). But, beyond that, most of the violence in connection with these protests has been perpetrated by Trump supporters—by police, who have repeatedly attacked the protests, and by armed fascist thugs (those Trump calls “Second Amendment people”). At least 20 protesters have been killed in this way. And Trump and his supporters have justified—and even glorified—this violence by white supremacists.
The Democrats, and the “mainstream media” generally in the same camp (CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and so on), have largely tried to shift the focus away from the protests and onto questions where they feel Trump is more vulnerable—in particular Trump’s truly reckless handling of the COVID pandemic, and things such as statements by Trump (or attributed to him) insulting U.S. soldiers. But Trump will continue his racist attacks on the protests against white supremacy and police violence, and his attempts to paint the Democrats as backers of violence and “carnage” by Black “thugs,” anarchists” and other “far leftists”; and this will have the effect of forcing the Democrats to devote significant attention to responding to this. And what has been the response of the Democrats? They have made the point that most of the protests have been peaceful, and they even say that Trump wants violence; yet, at the same time, the Democrats accept, to a large extent, the terms (and the trap) Trump has set. They have put a great deal of emphasis on denouncing violence by protesters, without giving the same emphasis to pointing out who is responsible for most of the violence connected to the protests—once again, overwhelmingly Trump supporters. The Democrats do not highlight the bitter irony that here are people protesting violence by the police and, even when (overwhelmingly) their protests are peaceful, they are subjected to yet more violence by the police! The Democrats don’t emphasize yet another glaring irony: Here are Trump and his supporters denouncing and attacking people overwhelmingly carrying out peaceful protests against racist violence, while Trump defends monuments to “heroes” of the Confederacy, who waged a war, in which they killed hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers, in the attempt to preserve and extend slavery.
Strategies by Democrats That Flow From and Reinforce the Problem Itself
There are two basic causes for how the Democrats and their allies do—and do not—respond to what Trump is doing with his attacks on the protests and his contrived racist horror story of mobs of “those people” bent on violently attacking innocent (white) people and their property. First, the Democrats’ electoral strategy is focused on winning a relatively small number of “swing voters,” largely white people in the suburbs, in a small number of “swing states.” Flowing from this, and once again largely accepting the terms Trump has set, the Democrats see it as very important to reassure these voters that the Democrats, too, denounce—and, by implication, will use the power of the government to suppress—violence that supposedly is carried out by protesters and supposedly threatens these (white suburban) “swing voters.” Here it has to be said that, even on its own—very wrong and perverted—terms, this is likely a losing strategy. Not only is it the case that, by far, most of the violence connected with the protests has been carried out by Trump supporters (including the police), while overwhelmingly the protests themselves have been peaceful; but, even if the intent of everyone protesting were to remain completely peaceful, including when provoked and attacked by the police and armed “civilian” racists, there will still be violence—exactly because Trump and his supporters will continue to carry out, and to escalate, the violence, no matter what the protesters do.
It is true that, at this point, the vote in a few states essentially determines the outcome of presidential elections—so that, as was the case with Trump in the previous presidential election, someone can lose the popular vote and still become president. But, even given this reality, an electoral strategy that could work much better for the Democrats would be to take on Trump’s whole racist approach, directly and forcefully, and appeal to Black people and other people of color, and the large number of white people (especially, though not only, younger generations) who have shown that they are motivated by a definite desire for an end to social injustice, blatant inequality, and rampant police violence. That is a great “reservoir” that, theoretically, the Democrats could focus on appealing to.
But the Democrats themselves will not—cannot—really do this. And this gets to the deeper reasons why the Democrats approach things in the way they do. Although, in the present situation, where there has been a massive outpouring against police terror, the Democrats have felt the need to talk in general terms about “police reform,” as representatives of this system of capitalism-imperialism the Democrats are very firm about the fundamental need for the police to enforce the oppressive “law and order” of this system, with the racist violence that involves. So, the Democrats cannot carry out a campaign that actually unites with the strongly and widely held sentiment that this police violence must end. At the same time, as representatives of this system, and as upholders of its traditional institutions and “stability,” they do not want to win an election and head the government on the basis of appealing to and further arousing a force of tens of millions filled with passionate intensity to end police terror and white supremacy, which in fact are built into and required by this system. Better, from the Democrats’ point of view, to appeal to longings for “a return to calm and normalcy”—which are likely to resonate with many middle class suburbanites—even though there will not be any “calm and normalcy,” in large part because the fascist forces will not allow it.
Appealing to the “Grievances” of the Fascists Will Only Strengthen Fascism
Once again now, as was the case during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, there are “mainstream” voices (such as CNN’s Chris Cuomo, brother of the Democratic Governor of New York state, and Thomas Friedman, a prominent proponent of the “great benefits” of highly globalized capitalism) who argue that, in order to win this time, Biden and the Democrats should appeal to Trump’s “base” by recognizing their “grievances,” rather than humiliating them. But there are deep-seated bases for this fascism, and the minds of these fascists will not be changed by “being nice” to them or acting as if their “grievances” are “legitimate.” As I (and others who have seriously studied this fascist phenomenon) have pointed out, the reality is that these “grievances” flow from resentment against any changes that even slightly undermine white supremacy, male supremacy, xenophobia (hatred of foreigners), rabid American chauvinism, and the unrestrained plundering of the environment. And, even though, in the most fundamental terms, the Democrats represent this system of capitalism-imperialism, which embodies and enforces all of this, the Republican party, as it has become more and more blatantly fascist, has cultivated and organized its “base” through aggressively promoting, in extreme terms, this inequality, oppression, and plunder of the earth, along with a rejection of, and passionate “resentment” against, the scientific method and rational thinking. For example, there is this important analysis, by African-American theologian Hubert Locke, speaking particularly to the Christian fundamentalists that are the driving force of this fascism:
It is not happenstance that it is a movement that draws its strength and finds its support principally in the so-called heartland of the nation and especially in its southern precincts. This is the portion of the United States that has never been comfortable with post-WWII America. The brief period of normalcy after the war was followed within a decade by a pent-up and long overdue racial revolution that overturned centuries of culture and tradition, especially in the South. The disillusionment, two decades later, with an unpopular war in southeast Asia shook the foundations of traditional/conventional patriotism in American life; it was followed in the next decade by a sexual revolution that upset deeply entrenched views among this portion of the American populace about the subordinate place of women in society and the non-place of gay and lesbian persons in American life. These political and social and cultural defeats have now erupted into a pitched battle to turn back the clock on the last half-century and return America to its pre-war purity. It is not without significance that teaching creationism in the schools, for example, is such a prominent part of the religious right agenda. That was a battle the right lost in the mid-1920s but it is not one that the right ever acknowledged losing‑‑just as some die-hards have never acknowledged losing the Civil War. Consequently, the restoration the religious right seeks is one that would recapture a way of life that disappeared in this nation a half-century ago.1
This is what “Make America Great Again” actually means. The Democrats could not “compete” with this, without abandoning their own “identity” as the party that supposedly cares about social justice and addressing the environmental crisis.
All this, in turn, is tied in with the fundamental reasons why the Democrats will not call out the Trump/Pence regime for what it actually is—fascist—which, as I have emphasized, “is not just a matter of horrific policies but of a qualitatively different form of rule, based on brutal repression and violation of what are supposed to be the most basic rights.”2 First of all, if you acknowledge that this regime is in fact fascist, then that raises very big questions about the whole system, and how it is that such a fascist regime could come to power—not through something like a military coup, but through the “normal channels” and institutional procedures of this system. And, along with that, if you recognize that this regime is fascist, then that has very big implications in terms of what must be done to deal with the dangers posed by this fascism—which, in reality, requires stepping outside of the “norms” of this system and mobilizing masses of people in determined, non-violent but sustained struggle in the streets to demand the ouster of this regime, as is being called for by RefuseFascism.org.
The Immediate Urgent Need for Mass Mobilization Against This Fascism
In sum, the Democrats, being who and what they are, will not and cannot deal with all this—neither the election, nor the larger situation in which this election is taking place and the profound stakes that are actually involved—in any way other than on the terms, and within the limits, established by this system, which has produced this fascism, and to a large degree on the terms set by the fascists themselves.
This can be seen in what the Democrats have done in their attempts to deal with the way in which the Trump/Pence fascist regime has—repeatedly, and in an escalating way—trampled on the “norms” of this system. Time and again, the Democrats have sought to deal with this by trying to utilize the very “norms” and institutions that this fascist regime is defying and tearing up, or bending to its fascist aims—the courts, congressional hearings and proceedings, and so on.Time and again, the Democrats have failed. Yet they stubbornly refuse to seek any means of opposing this regime other than by resorting to these “norms” and procedures. This is what they are doing, and will be strongly inclined to continue doing, even in the face of Trump’s increasing and intensifying moves to suppress votes in the upcoming election and his clearly indicated determination to have himself declared the winner in the election, or to remain in power regardless of the outcome of the election.
All this is why—even though, if it comes down to it, voting against Trump by voting for Biden will be necessary and important—it will very likely lead to disaster to rely on voting and just hope that the election will solve the problem.
And all this points to the very great likelihood that regardless of the actual outcome of this election (assuming it is actually held), if Trump declares himself the “winner” and refuses to leave, in the absence of truly massive mobilization demanding that the Trump/Pence regime must be removed, the Democrats will end up capitulating to Trump. The mass mobilization that is needed cannot be built “overnight,” in the aftermath of the election—and it cannot be built by confining things within the framework and limits insisted upon by the Democrats.
The truth—the truth about this country, and the truth about what is represented and is being implemented and enforced by the Trump/Pence regime—must be brought alive as a crucial, and immediately urgent, focus of the fight against injustice and oppression and against the fascism of this regime. This must be done without waiting for the election, but by taking action right now, and in an ongoing way, with masses of people—first in the thousands, growing into millions—in sustained mobilization around the unifying demand that this regime must go.
Waiting for November, and Relying on the Election, Will Likely Lead to Disaster:
We Need to Take to the Streets, and Stay in the Streets, Demanding Trump/Pence Out Now!
1. Reflections on Pacific School of Religion’s Response to the Religious Right, by Dr. Hubert Locke. This is available at revcom.us.
In addition to my own writings and speeches on this question of fascism, which are available in BA’s Collected Works at revcom.us,* there have been a number of important studies of particularly the Christian fascist phenomenon—including in recent books by Katherine Stewart* and Kristin Kobes Du Mez*—which make clear that these fascists are firmly committed to their extremely oppressive, reactionary, and literally lunatic views and aims, and they will not be moved by attempts to appeal to their supposed “legitimate grievances.”
* For example, my recent article Patriarchy and Patriotism—Aggressive Male Supremacy and American Supremacy—The Danger and the Immediate Challenge draws from important insights in Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation; and my 2017 speech The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In The Name of Humanity We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible cites important analysis in Katherine Stewart’s book The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. [back]
2. From Statement By Bob Avakian, August 1, 2020, On The Immediate Critical Situation, The Urgent Need To Drive Out The Fascist Trump/Pence Regime, Voting In This Election, And The Fundamental Need For Revolution. [back]