From Brexit to Trump - a system that’s designed so big business never loses

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Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials - 9 November 2016
9 November 2016

So Donald Trump has been elected US president. But this was only thanks to the country's bizarre election system, whereby a candidate who wins a majority in a state automatically wins all the electoral votes of that state. As a result Trump won, despite having 139,000 fewer votes than Hillary Clinton according to the latest figures available. The turnout was 58%, up 4.7%, from 53% in 2012.

Of course, Clinton was the candidate of choice for the political and business establishment. Building on her husband's two terms as US president, she had proved herself a faithful servant of big business, both as senator and as Obama's Secretary of State, by fully endorsing every US military intervention as well as the 2008 bank bailout.

In a country which has been ravaged by the financial crisis, with millions losing their jobs, being evicted from their homes and/or taking big pay cuts, Clinton was the symbol of a state which only cares about the rich and lets down the rest.

Trump's fake posturing

This was why Trump's campaign went to such lengths to present him as someone who was prepared to take on the establishment on behalf of the ordinary "guy" - and all those who had been "left behind".

This was just posturing, of course. Trump is so much part of the political establishment himself that he has been a supporter of both of the country's two main parties, Democrats and Republicans, in the past. Just as he is an integral part of the core of US "big business", a billionaire who inherited the real estate empire of his father.

So, Trump is as much a member of the establishment as Clinton. But to make up for this, he resorted to systematic provocation during his campaign. The more outrage he caused with his loud (and often foul)-mouthed rhetoric, the more he fed the illusion that he was, somehow, a "different" kind of politician who would throw a spanner in the works, if elected. Even his racist language and attacks against ethnic minorities, which he boastfully justified as his opposition to "political correctness", reinforced this anti-establishment image.

But Trump's rhetoric was as cynical and hypocritical as it was revolting. When he shed tears over the fate of evicted households, this was pure hypocrisy. As a real estate magnate himself, he had made fat profits out of the pre-2008 real estate speculative bubble and had a direct responsibility in the sub-prime mortgage crisis that followed, when the bubble burst!

He claimed to champion the cause of those workers who had been made redundant due to the crisis and pledged to "repatriate the jobs which have been lost to Mexico or China". But he forgot to mention that his own companies have been subcontracting their production to many poor countries across the world.

The cost of not having our own voice

In the end, Clinton failed to get enough voters to bring themselves to vote for her, even if only to block the way to Trump's victory. Maybe people realised it made no difference, because whoever won would be a voice for big business, implementing the same anti-working class, pro-boss policies: that it was no choice at all.

That said, Trump's high score means that he did manage to win the votes of a section of workers who felt let down by the system. They believed this was a way of voicing their discontent, or even of seeing some sort of change, rather than more of the same.

Either way it was an illusion. Workers can't express their anger at the establishment by voting for someone who represents the establishment! In this case, an obvious enemy of the working class. Nor could they expect a change of policies from a man who represents the same social interests as Clinton and Obama.

In fact this situation is a bit like the EU referendum in Britain. The "Remain" camp incarnated the continuation of Cameron's policies within the EU. The "Leave" camp piled up lie after lie, claiming that leaving the EU would bring about real changes. But in fact, both camps represented the same divisive anti-working class policies.

So we were asked to toss a coin between two bad options under a flood of lies, just as in the US election, where the only choice was between two candidates who represented the class interests of big business. Not that they say so. The biggest lie of all - and the one they need us to believe the most - is that they represent "all" the people.

But as long as society is controlled by this tiny capitalist minority, the ballots which they offer us will never bring any change.

Voting can, however, give workers the chance to express an opinion if we're able to vote for candidates and policies which genuinely represent our political interests. But for this, the working class needs to have its own party - a party whose aim is not to manage the affairs of the capitalist class in government, but to lead the struggles of the working class towards the overthrow of the class system itself!