England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Trump: What would a second term mean for working people?

The US primary elections on Super Tuesday 5 March saw the last of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination withdraw. Trump faces a host of court cases but it is unlikely that a Supreme Court which he partly hand-picked would prevent him standing for President, as they’ve already ruled against attempts for certain states to keep him off the ballot.

Given Trump’s absolute dominance over the Republican Party, and Biden’s staggering unpopularity, even among Democrats, it is very possible Trump could win a second term. If he did, what would that mean for working people? We print here an edited version of an article from our US sister organisation’s paper Socialist Alternative.

By Varun Belur, Socialist Alternative (ISA in the US) 

If re-elected, Trump would enter office in the context of a changed and highly volatile world situation. The New Cold War, the economic, political and military conflict between US and Chinese imperialism and their allies, has seriously escalated since Trump’s first term (2016-2020).

Trump’s ‘go-it-alone’ approach and opposition to NATO would not make US imperialism less dangerous or less warmongering. While Trump says he would “end the war” in Ukraine, this is only because he sees it as the “wrong war” and would prefer to focus even more on ratcheting up the direct conflict with China. There is zero difference between Trump and Biden on giving unconditional support to the Israeli regime for the slaughter in Gaza.

What is at stake?

Trump’s victory would be a massive boost to the populist and far right around the globe. He could also be better able to implement his right-wing agenda in his second term. His first was marked by tumult and constant turnover in his administration. But today’s Republican Party is stocked with Trump loyalists and a great number of his opponents have been essentially purged from the party.

Key targets for Trump would likely be attacks on immigrant rights, environmental regulations, and workers’ rights. We can also expect more vicious anti ‘woke’ attacks on LGBTQ+ people and any teaching of the history of racism.

Trump’s 2024 platform on immigrants is draconian, promising mass deportations, barring all refugees and much more. This goes far beyond Trump’s promise to “build the wall” in 2016. Horrifyingly, Trump’s attacks on immigrants will not in reality be that dissimilar from what Biden has already done in his first term.

One thing is certain. Trump is no friend of working people. His main agenda will be to reward the CEOs and owners of big corporations and to build his own financial empire. This will include weakening the labour movement and using the government to defeat working class struggles.

Trump is liable to overreach himself on a number of issues. This can provoke a backlash to his policies and provoke a broad crisis. International markets are much more fragile than during his last administration. Serious financial analysts fear if Trump pushes through an extreme policy on tariffs or further sharp cuts in taxes on the rich, it could trigger a financial implosion, an economic recession and/or a political and social crisis.

On the other hand Trump’s policies and attacks could trigger a revival of struggles, further revive the labour movement and trigger a growth of the socialist left. However the stakes for such struggles will also be tremendously high and defeat for the left would have major consequences. This points to the critical need for the left to draw lessons from the past period, especially the need for independent sustained organisation, clear leadership and a bold programme.

Authoritarian regime

If Trump were to win a second term after blatantly trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and inciting the attempted coup on 6 January, it would shake the whole system of capitalist democracy to its core. The goal of Trump 2.0 would be to create an authoritarian regime more like Hungary or even Turkey where the media and state apparatus are under the direct control of one party and its leaders, and dissent is dangerous. Capitalist democracy exists to serve the interests of the rich but this outcome would also be a direct threat to the right of working people and the oppressed to organise in their own defence.

Trump’s supporters are preparing now to surround the president with hardline loyalists, but also to expand presidential power. This will involve making dramatic changes to government bodies under federal authority to bring them under direct presidential control. Under capitalism, no arm of the state operates in a truly independent or ‘nonpartisan’ manner, but the prospect of the entire machinery of the federal government under the control of Trumpism is rightly frightening for many working people.

How do we get out of this mess?

Trump’s re-election would be a dramatic setback for workers and youth, both in the US and internationally. The key responsibility for this disaster would lie with Biden and the Democrats. The Biden administration has escalated Trump’s economic war with China and increased military tensions, poured billions into wars and presided over a huge transfer of wealth from workers to the ruling class.

Because working people lack a positive alternative to vote for, it’s likely that Trump would win the presidential election, were it held today – not because the American people are a hopeless, reactionary mass, but because the political options are so dreadful and a lot of people stay home. Of course, a lot can happen between now and November 2024.

How do we get out of this mess? There are no shortcuts to building a political force to represent working people. We urgently need to forge a mass movement in the US which takes aim at all wars, bipartisan anti- migrant policies, and organises for Medicare for All, a cancellation of student debt, and a Green New Deal.

The potential for such a movement can be seen in the mass protests that have swept Germany in recent weeks. Over a million people have marched against the far right ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) whose support has been growing alarmingly. This is the scale of fightback we need against our own reactionary threat here at home.

In a longer term sense, one of the most critical projects that the American working class needs to take up is the creation of our own political party that makes no concessions to corporate or right-wing politics. We need a party that is truly democratic and fights for the kind of ideas that inspired millions to get involved in the Bernie Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020, and builds on the lessons of those campaigns. The construction of a working-class political alternative to the Democrats and Republicans is the only way we can stop the never-ending cycle of ‘lesser-evil’ matchups like Trump vs Biden.

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