US Politics since the Gaza crisis

President Joe Biden addresses UAW members at a picket line at the GM Willow Run Distribution Center in Belleville, Michigan. Credit: Flickr \ White House - Adam Schultz

Paul Garver looks at the condition of US politics

The MAGA Right

The largest hegemonic bloc in US politics remains the MAGA “Make America Great Again” Right, closely associated with its Maximum Leader Donald Trump.   Roughly 30% of the US electorate, including a solid majority of evangelical Protestants, appears to remain loyal to Trump, even as federal and state courts find him guilty of rape, tax evasion, and other financial crimes.   Even though President Trump helped to foment the attempted insurrection of January 6th 2021 intended to overturn his clear electoral defeat, and thereby should have made himself ineligible to serve in any federal office as a promoter of insurrection, he will surely win the Republican nomination for the presidency.  Most Republican leaders, some of whom fear that a Trump candidacy will alienate independent voters, fall into line with MAGA out of fear or expediency.

MAGA’s and Trump’s proclaimed intention is to seize political control of the nation, and to cement that control into the indefinite future. Republicans have no plan for governing the nation, leading to a “clown show” in Congress, in which the most extreme elements of the Right wreck any effort at reaching the basic compromises essential to preserve essential public services.   Government is to be discredited and disabled, so that constituencies who need its services for survival are discouraged from voting at all.  Congressional Republicans have rejected a tentative agreement with Biden that they had proposed linking continued aid to Ukraine for more border security.  

The leading strategist for deliberately sowing political chaos is Donald Trump himself, who believes that as President he will be able to pardon himself and not serve lengthy prison sentences or pay hefty fines for his numerous political and financial crimes. So far, each new indictment brings Trump a flood of cash from his admirers.  The most ruthless right-wing thinker for Trump is Steven Bannon, a neo-Fascist who openly courts the global Right and admires Putin, but he has numerous enablers, including former presidential candidates he is brushing aside in Republican primaries. The possibility of a second Trump administration poses a lethal threat to American democracy.  Trump has promised to wield Presidential power in a personal and vindictive way against all his perceived enemies.

The Centre

The Right faces a Centre, the majority faction of the Democratic Party, led by incumbent President Joe Biden. In 2020 the Democratic Centre demonstrated that it could win a narrow national electoral majority against an incompetent sitting President.  Biden carried most “purple” swing states by winning strong majorities among young people, women and people of colour, even as most white men, evangelical Christians, and rural and small-town voters opted for Trump.

Normally an incumbent President who managed to guide the nation through the pandemic crisis, and emerge with a relatively strong economy would be assured of re-election.  While the most optimistic hopes of young people crushed by student debt, environmentalists confronting the climate crisis, and immigrant communities were not realized, the Biden administration seemed to be trying hard enough, with setbacks attributed to obstinate resistance from Republicans and a few right-wing Democrats.

However, the mainstream Democratic Party has been hollowed out by decades of neo-liberal “triangulation” on major economic and social policies, including those crucial for winning and retaining the support of the working class, racial minority, women, and youth constituencies essential to a Democratic victory.  Rhetorically Biden Democrats talk a lot about the interests of these constituencies, but in reality they often cater to the whims of the wealthy individual and corporate donors that fund their campaigns.  Biden has chosen, or been forced, to take retrograde steps on immigration, student debt and the environment that may be justified by narrow political calculations but are likely to alienate activists from such crucial constituencies.

The Left and the Unions

The small democratic socialist grouping in Congress does not mirror the spoiler role of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) extremists.  Bernie Sanders and the Squad critically support many initiatives of the Biden administration, while promoting stronger progressive measures on student debt, climate, and workers’ rights. Recently Biden has voiced greater support for unions, by his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and even joining an autoworkers’ picket line. Here he is aligned with the broad Left and socialist movements.

A strong consensus has emerged on the Left around support for a diverse and inclusive workers’ movement based on grassroots organizing.  Rank-and-file reform caucuses in the UAW (United Autoworkers) and the Teamsters (Truck Drivers) have helped elected union leaderships mobilize their memberships for successful campaigns and strikes.

DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) members in the UAW, mainly in its growing division of academic workers, worked to elect the reforming leadership of Shawn Fain.   Eco-socialists in DSA have rallied to support the UAW’s campaign to organize a Just Transition to electric vehicle production and won a major campaign to require New York State’s public power authority to prioritize renewable power sources.

The revival of a militant labour movement in which DSA plays a constructive role bodes well for the future of democratic socialism. However, it is difficult for DSA to imagine joining in a united front with centrist Democrats to defeat a MAGA takeover that would preclude space for the development of democratic socialism. DSA and much of the US Left still focus too strongly on the evils of neo-liberalism and the shortcomings of the Biden administration, regardless of the MAGA threat.

Gaza Crisis

This has been even more challenging since the Gaza crisis strengthened the centrifugal forces within the Democratic Party.   The Biden administration intensified US military and diplomatic support for Israel despite the suffering of the civil population of Gaza. Despite widespread popular support for a ceasefire, including the majority of union members, progressives in Congress, led by the democratic socialist Squad members and Bernie Sanders, are suffering strong attacks from the mass media for expressions of solidarity and support for Palestinians.  Pro-Israel political action committee AIPAC is targeting democratic socialists supporting Palestine in Congress by funding right-wing opposition candidates in Democratic primaries and/or their Republican opponents.

AS a “big tent” organization, DSA is often divided on international issues. This is less so on Palestine, where DSA conventions previously endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  After initially muddled rhetorical responses that alienated some members who felt its statements were too pro-Hamas, DSA settled into support for less rhetorical but more effective actions. Younger DSA activists, especially Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans and other members of colour have particularly engaged in this issue, joining mass demonstrations, lobbying legislators, and organizing labour unions in support for de-escalation and a cease-fire. DSA leaders joined a hunger strike, while spokespersons for major US unions supporting de-escalation were DSA members, including a Regional Director of the UAW.

While DSA seems to pass the “stress test” of Gaza by better alignment with the democratic socialist members of Congress, and collaboration among its national leadership, its National Labor Commission, International Committee and Elections Committee, that cannot be said of the Democratic Congressional leaders. Rather than respond positively to the significant bloc in Congress calling for de-escalation and a ceasefire in Gaza, to the majority of Democratic voters appalled by the carnage in Gaza, and to growing street demonstrations supporting Palestinian civilians, Democratic congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi falsely accused the demonstrators of being influenced by Putin.  Many Democrats voted with Republicans to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib for her advocacy of Palestinian rights.

Biden is hampered by his apparent frailty of old age and his lack of charismatic speaking ability to campaign effectively.  Polls indicate that almost any other Democrat would defeat Trump more easily.   Trump is nearly as old as Biden, but has the energy and demeanour of a spoiled two-year-old brat throwing temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.  This endears him to a sector of the electorate (predominantly male) that misinterprets Trump’s behaviour as “manly” and strong.

I personally hope that “Good old” President Joe Biden has the wisdom to allow someone else to run against Trump in 2024.  I fear that (his nickname) “Genocide Joe” could lead the Democrats to defeat. But maybe women facing the annihilation of their reproductive rights, and unionized workers hoping to consolidate their reviving labour rights will vote in sufficient numbers in key states like Michigan to balance the defection of Arab-American voters.

Shawn Fain, the energetic new President of the UAW, provides a good model for creating a Centre-Left United Front. Following its impressive strike victory against the Big Three auto companies, the UAW both endorsed a Gaza ceasefire and the Biden candidacy, citing his support for workers’ rights. Turning back the danger of a disastrous MAGA seizure of power will require such a sophisticated approach.

Super Tuesday Update: March 7

On “Super Tuesday” March 5, primary elections are held in many major states.  Not surprisingly the results confirmed Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President in November, knocking out his last challenger Nikki Haley. Joe Biden also easily dispatched his remaining challengers Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson.

However, proponents of a ceasefire in Gaza and ending the Biden administration’s blank check for Netanyahu hastily mobilized campaigns to vote “uncommitted” or “no preference” on the Democratic Party’s presidential ballots. A week previously 101,000 Democratic voters in Michigan (13.2%) had voted “uncommitted” following a campaign supported by Representative Rashida Tlaib, a DSA member who is the only Palestinian-American in Congress, and Andy Levin, a former Jewish-American congressmen, who had been unseated by a massively funded campaign by AIPAC.  

Since Michigan is a swing state that the Democrats must win in November, this worried Democratic Party leaders, but could be passed off as a local aberration. Within the following few days, ceasefire proponents in the peace movements and national and local progressive groups, hastily mobilized to win uncommitted votes in states holding Super Tuesday primaries. Most state Democratic Party primaries do not have an “uncommitted” or “no preference” option on the ballot but Minnesota, Colorado, and Massachusetts do.  DSA’s National Election Commission quickly endorsed that option in Colorado and Minnesota, while all four of the DSA chapters in Massachusetts, together with Our Revolution and Massachusetts Peace Action, mobilized for a “no preference” vote.

According to the most recent figures, the “no preference” or uncommitted vote in Massachusetts is 58,790 (9.3%), in Colorado 44,314 (8.2%), in Minnesota 45, 913 (18.9%), in North Carolina 88,021(12.7%).  The next target for DSA and Our Revolution will be Washington State on March 12.

Only the Minnesota results were boosted by a relatively large Muslim-American electorate. In Somali-American Congressperson Ilhan Omar’s Minneapolis-St. Paul district 25% voted uncommitted.  In Massachusetts the “no preference” vote was concentrated in strongly progressive cities and towns with universities (where DSA is also more present). But hundreds of volunteers, not only younger people, had joined the campaign in a few days.

In sheer numbers the 237,000 Democratic Party uncommitted voters in the three Super Tuesday states, even added to the 101,000 in Michigan, may not seem impressive. However, national elections in the USA turn on very slender pluralities in a few states.  The Democratic Party cannot ignore its need for hundreds of thousands of active campaigners to turn out younger and lower income urban voters in general elections.   US complicity in Gaza, above all else, imperils the enthusiasm and commitment needed to defeat MAGA.


  1. IMHO the Democratic Party has already shot itself in the foot and facilitated a GOP victory. They have failed to groom a more suitable candidate than Biden, who has enabled genocide. Worse, the Democratic administration has tried to back-pedal – their fig-leaf shipping of inadequate aid to the Palestinians is widely seen as the height of hypocrisy. Biden has also wasted billions to fund a losing proxy war which could have rebuilt our decaying infrastructure needed to support replacement of fossil fuel with electrification. He is antagonized China and reneging on established “One-China” pledge by encouraging separatist hotheads in Taiwan with brazen shows of force. The vaunted economy improvements have benefited mainly the rich and the stock market – the rest of us see galloping inflation. Biden could not do all this damage without support from the Democratic Party. The GOP is a bitter pill, but it may be time to throw the rascals out.

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