Feb 15, 2021
The vote in Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial was 57–43 against him. Seven members of his own party joined 48 Democrats and two independents in condemning him. Other Republicans declared him factually and morally responsible for the actions of the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6—which is what the trial was about—even though they voted to let him off on a technicality.
It was no victory for Trump—only an escape from the consequences of his actions.
But it also was no victory for the ordinary population of this country. And we have not escaped the vicious consequences of what Donald Trump has wrought.
The members of Congress may have taken note of Trump’s words and actions—because he set a mob loose against them. But for years, Trump let loose a virulent stream of innuendo and lies whose purpose could only have been to stoke racial animosity and hatreds within the population—animosity that has always had murderous consequences. In 2015, a white supremacist shot up a black church in Charleston South Carolina, killing 9 people. In 2018, a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh was attacked by a Christian nationalist, and 11 people died. In 2019, a Walmart in El Paso was sprayed with gun fire by someone aiming to kill Mexicans, and 23 people died.
The capitalist class has always been conscious of the enormous advantages it gains when the working class is riven apart by racial and ethnic antagonism. It’s why, as much as individual members of the capitalist class may despise Donald Trump, they not only accepted him; through their media, they and their other politicians reinforced him.
Donald Trump has never tried to hide what he is, smirking as he peddles garbage.
Announcing his candidacy in 2015, he denounced Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists, and Muslims as terrorists. He bragged about his “exploits” with women. In 2017, he called the neo-Nazis, Christian nationalists and white supremacists who gathered at Charlottesville “very fine people.”
When a 17-year old self-declared “white supremacist” shot three men, killing two in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Kenosha, Trump tweeted, “self defense,” even though the killer had traveled 30 miles to confront the demonstrators.
He welcomed the “so-called” militias who paraded in state capitals with weapons, intent on intimidating people whose views on the virus they disagreed with. He saluted extreme right organizations parading through Portland, Oregon every day with guns in a show of force against Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Trump issued sharply honed calls for violence. He dredged up all the symbols through which deeply ingrained racist ideas are expressed.
Admittedly, the racism of this society did not start with Trump. It’s been a constant stain all through U.S. history that has infected the population. If it’s worse today, that’s not only because of Trump. It’s because the economy has been in a state of near collapse, because larger parts of the laboring population are desperate, searching for something or someone to blame.
But Trump gave racism currency, using the power of the U.S. presidency to do it.
Whether Trump stays around—as he promised to do right after the Senate voted—or whether he disappears down one of his ratholes, the racism he played around with will still be with us—as will all the white supremacists and Christian nationalists he encouraged.
The two-party system, with both of its parties working to keep the capitalist class in power, leaves no way to resolve these problems. For years, all we heard are sorry excuses for why nothing can be done. Both parties are responsible for policies that have benefitted the capitalist class at the expense of the working class.
Facing today’s disastrous economic situation and the racism that pervades this whole society, the working class has only one answer—and that is to carry out a fight for its own class interests, against the class that tries to divide us. And this is a fight that neither party has ever proposed, and does not propose now. The fight to make sure that everyone who wants to work can have a decent paying job will go a long way toward overcoming our divisions. It is also, in the current situation, the only struggle that gives us a chance to pull ourselves out of the muck of capitalism’s collapsing economy.