I do hope to have some time to elaborate on this over the weekend but my expectations for the coming elections are significantly different from what I read every day in the online chatter. I mean that with regard to the local elections as well as the Presidential race. In each case I think we are going to see a very normal sort of event unfold.
Despite some excitement about insurgent movements like #FlipTheBench and #EraseTheBoard, the judicial and school board elections are still going to be determined by conventional power brokers making their usual endorsements and GOTV efforts. Some candidates associated with those movements will succeed. But only those who have strong support through establishment actors.
The Presidential election is going to Joe Biden. The polls have said so for months and months and have not fluctuated. People don't want to believe polls because DON'T YOU REMEMBER 2016? but that's a classic case of "fighting the last war." 2020 is a different election with different candidates in different roles. And the polls, even if they aren't perfect, tell you different information about different voters now than they did then. Read 2020 as 2020. Biden is doing far better than Hillary was. Voters have different feelings about him than they did about her.
Also, they have different feelings about Trump now than they did in 2016. Four years ago the world was on fire and millions of Americans were sinking further and further into precarity. The Democrats were the incumbent party running on a message that basically told people everything was going just great the way it was. Trump had just demolished one hated institution, the Republican Party, and, whatever else he may have promised, for a lot of disaffected voters he represented a vehicle for smashing things up even more. And here is the part where it is important to say, DO NOT GET ME WRONG, this is no defense of Donald Trump or even of people who would vote for Donald Trump. It is only to say that in 2016 a significant number of voters were looking at their diminishing prospects and a world on fire and said, "Well let's try something crazy. It can't get any worse than this." Four years later, it is worse.
And that is the problem now for Trump. In 2020 the world is on fire and millions of Americans are sinking further and further into precarity. Donald Trump is the incumbent running on a message that basically tells people an unchecked pandemic that has killed a quarter of a million people this year is going great the way it is. The incumbent President is not polling over 50 percent in any of the key battleground states he will need to win in order to be reelected. It's not going to happen for him.
Is there a cogent counter-narrative that tells us Trump could win anyway? Of course there is! But I don't believe it and will, briefly, explain why.
A Trump reelection story begins by asking not simply are things better than they were four years ago but specifically for whom are they better? If you are a part of the corporate-ruling class in this country, Trump has been one of the most effective Presidents for your agenda in living memory. Trump passed a gigantic tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. His administration has ruthlessly gutted federal environmental and worker protections. And, of course, there are all these judges.
Barrett, 48, was confirmed with Republican-only votes Monday night, cementing a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. She will be the 220th federal judge confirmed under the Trump presidency and the McConnell-led Senate — a figure that includes not only her and Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, but also 53 circuit court judges, 162 district court judges and two to the U.S. Court of International Trade.
For the first time in more than four decades, there were no vacancies on the circuit court level, where approximately 30 percent of those sitting on the bench have been nominated by Trump. (That changed Monday with the death of Judge Juan R. Torruella of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan.) Only President Jimmy Carter had more circuit court judges, as well as a larger share of the entire federal appellate bench, confirmed in his first term, and that was before the number of seats in the circuit courts was expanded.
Even the pandemic has worked out quite nicely for the upper classes.
The billionaire class has been an all-too-visible villain during our crisis year, having carted off an additional $434 billion during the pandemic while millions of others have lost everything. It is trivially easy for them to avoid the virus; they can hunker down in one of several mansions or compounds with armies of staff to bring them what they need. Critics on the left have, probably wisely, focused on these oligarchs as the source of our societal woes in recent years. It is easy to illustrate the problem of inequality by noting the incredible difference between a hundred thousand dollars and a hundred billion dollars. No one should have a billion dollars; those who do can use their wealth to disproportionately influence the political system to maintain the status quo.Whenever I worry that, despite all the polling evidence, Trump might still win this thing. I think that is the reason. Simply put, he's been very good for the oligarchs. Why wouldn't he be rewarded for that?
The answer comes down to whether you believe democracy is completely dead already or if you think we still need to pretend it sort of exists in order to let off steam. Maybe the former is true but the latter sure does sound easier. Trump has burned a lot of things down to the great advantage of the country's ruling classes but that could also mean they don't need him anymore. If Trump has, in fact, expended his usefulness, then the ratchet effect theory suggests now the billionaires would be better served by a calming figurehead who will send the anxious middle class "back to brunch." (The poor, as we all are well aware, are politically irrelevant.)
So, narratively, Trump could win because he has done everything possible to please the wealth class which determines who gets to hold power. But if he's at a point where he is more trouble than he is worth, then it's just as fine to dump him now and count up the winnings. Objectively the reason Trump won't win is because... well, he is losing.
This is not to say, of course, that it won't be messy. No one needs me to recite here the election week scenario every news organization and pundit has tried to game out in every publication this month. It will take a few days to count all the votes. Trump will complain that they should have stopped counting at some arbitrary point in time. Then the courts involved, etc. etc. And I'm sure Trump will do the complaining part of that. He will probably spend the rest of his life complaining about it, in fact. But it won't make a difference.
Biden's lead is too real and too large for this election result to validate any of the apocalyptic fantasies of the right... or the left. And thank goodness for that. Because this is definitely not something anyone should be hoping to try.
US unions have begun discussing the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump refuses to accept an election result showing a Joe Biden victory.
Such a move would be unprecedented in the modern era. There has not been a general strike in the United States since 1946 – and that was restricted to Oakland, California.
Just the phrase, "US unions have been discussing..." is doing a lot of work in that lede. The US union movement has never been particularly monolithic and today it has almost no cohesion whatsoever. There's nobody with the authority to call a "general strike," and certainly there is no organization with the capacity to successfully execute one. Not even, as this quote, however pessimistically, suggests the "established labor movement" which one figures must mean AFL-CIO leadership and infrastructure is in any shape to do that.
Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island and author of A History of America in Ten Strikes, said: “So much of the conversation on the left about general strikes in this country is kind of a romanticized, people are going to rise up.” But Loomis added: “If there is ever any general strike in this country, it’s probably going to come out of the established labor movement. The only group capable of running the thing is the established labor movement.” If there is a general strike, union leaders say, they hope college students, Blacks Lives Matter activists, women’s and environmental groups and many others will join in.
Welcome to General Strike 2021. What is it? Who is running it? We don't know but we hope a bunch of people from a scattered hodge podge of differently interested activist concerns just kind of join in. Can't wait to see how that goes. If it performs half as well as #FlipTheBench then maybe we'll get a solid two or three well argued letters to the editor out of it.