Trump: utter reaction amidst the chaos

Trump’s chaotic, reactionary administration has had a busy couple of months bolstering reaction and trying to silence criticism and opposition as it staggers from one self-inflicted crisis to another. Trump’s lie count, since becoming President, is now more than 3,000. The White House personnel department’s revolving door continues to eject staffer after staffer excoriated for specious reasons. Palestine, international trade, migration, the Mueller investigation in to alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the US judiciary and media have all come under assault, even as personal and political scandals swirl around this President. STEVE PALMER reports.

Palestine

Trump has promised the ‘ultimate deal’ in the Middle East by negotiating an Israel-Palestinian peace deal, something which has eluded all his predecessors. Blatantly siding with the Zionists, Trump has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocated the US embassy there. He remained silent over Israel’s Nationality Law, which declares Israel a Jewish state and condemns Israel’s Arab population to the status of second-class citizen, and revokes Arabic as an official state language. Then he cut USAid funding to agencies operating mainly in Gaza. The next day he ended US funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency which supports millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. Then, on 10 September, the Trump administration announced that the Washington offices of the PLO would close on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

‘Trade reform’

The Trump administration spins its trade war as ‘trade reform’. As we discussed in the last issue of this paper, the trade war is a symptom of US imperialist decline and the accompanying desperation for a reversal at the expense of its imperialist competitors and potential future competitors. The most important of the latter is obviously China. The trade war with China began slowly, with the US imposing a 30% tariff on Chinese solar panels in January 2018. In July, 25% tariffs were slapped on $34bn of Chinese goods, which brought retaliation on US goods. In August, a further $16bn of Chinese goods was added to the list, followed by $200bn in September. Altogether tariffs have been added to more than $250bn of Chinese goods with Chinese retaliation on about $110bn of US goods. The US has also threatened to impose tariffs on a further $267bn of Chinese goods. It is true that, since China imports less from the US than it exports, its ability to retaliate with reciprocal tariffs is limited. However, the Chinese have other weapons in their economic armoury. US companies in China generate about $300bn in domestic sales, and are vulnerable to fiscal and bureaucratic retaliation – tying them up in red tape. The Chinese could allow the Yuan to weaken, cheapening Chinese goods to other countries and hope to compensate for losses from reduced US sales. China can accelerate its attempts to diversify away from the US market, and it has recently held trade talks with the European Union.

The Trump administration believes that China will blink first: ‘at the end of the day we have many more bullets than they do. They know it. We have a much stronger economy than they have’. The administration talks as if the tariffs on Chinese goods have no effect in the US. Yet a tariff is just a tax levied on imports. It will be paid for in the US, either by lowering workers’ living standards or diverting surplus-value from profits to the state. In some cases, such as semiconductors, the tariffs actually hit US firms directly, because their initial fabrication took place in the US before being exported to China and then being imported back to the US. The Trump theory is that tariffs will allow the substitution of US produced equivalents, since those items will be more expensive. But in many cases this would require establishing whole industries which have either never existed in the US, or became uncompetitive a couple of decades ago. A more likely outcome is that items previously imported from China will be imported from other countries, which will simply switch the geography of the US trade deficit, rather than eliminate it, which is the supposed purpose of the tariffs.

Trump and education

Trump’s ultra-reactionary Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, believes that education is a way of advancing ‘God’s Kingdom’, presumably rather than children’s futures. Advocating market-based schooling against ‘state monopoly’, DeVos supports school voucher programmes, where parents use tax money to buy private education. She supports ‘Charter schools’ – the equivalent of grant-maintained schools or Academies in Britain.

In place of sex-positive sexual education policies, the Trump administration is devoting funds to ‘sexual risk avoidance education’, in support of ‘projects that will implement sexual risk avoidance education to teach youth participants how to voluntarily refrain from non-marital sexual activity’. It emphasises that condoms are not 100% effective, and teaches that the purpose of sex is child procreation, that extra-marital sex is linked to drug culture and so on. This is despite the well-known fact that in the battle between hormones and hypocritical bourgeois morality, hormones win out. Instead of facing this reality, the Trump administration is threatening the mental and physical health of US youth.

Trump and the judiciary

Liberals have long relied on the courts to try to ensure that laws are given a progressive interpretation in line with a liberal agenda. Thus the legal cases Brown vs Board of Education (347 US 483 (1954)) struck down racial segregation in schools; Rowe vs Wade (410 US 113 (1973)) declared many state and federal restrictions on abortion unconstitutional. Conservatives call this ‘judicial activism’. Time may well be up for this liberal strategy as the Trump administration has set about ‘reforming’, conservatising, the US judiciary. The plan is to abandon bipartisan selection of judges and to populate the court system with judges who support a conservative, so-called ‘textualist’ or ‘originalist’ interpretation of the Constitution. This is going on at all levels of the court system, not just its most visible peak, the Supreme Court.

Trump’s nominee for the remaining Supreme Court position, Brett Kavanaugh, has run into difficulties after several women accused him of sexual assault and related offences. Kavanaugh is an extremely reactionary judge: he has anti-abortion views and has supported attempts to restrict abortion, is supportive of Presidential independence and immunity, has opposed environmental regulation and taken a host of reactionary positions. While Democrats have pounced on the accusations of sexual assault, they have completely avoided raising the most disgusting aspect of Kavanaugh’s record: his support for torture and oppression, which is well documented. He joined the opinion of the Washington DC Circuit of Appeals which prevented Iraqis who had been tortured at Abu Ghraib from suing the corporations responsible, and established sweeping immunity from liability for mercenaries, sorry, ‘private contractors’.

Trump came to office with 107 judicial vacancies, far more than any previous President. In 2017, the Senate confirmed 12 of Trump’s appeal court picks and this year already has confirmed another 14. They have also confirmed 41 judges for the US District courts. Another 73 judges, at various Federal court levels have been nominated and are awaiting decision by the Senate. Conservatives have succeeded in flipping two circuits: the Sixth and Seventh; the Eighth and the Eleventh are on the verge of tipping. These appointments will shape the US judiciary for the next 30-40 years and probably mean the end of the long run of judicial rulings which have supported the liberal agenda.

Trump: law suits and investigations

Although the Mueller investigation is the best known, several other investigations into Trump and his activities are under way. Using techniques reminiscent of the assault on the Mafia and other criminal organisations, the Federal Prosecutor for the Southern District of New York is investigating Federal election contributions, tax evasion and bank fraud. The investigation has been expanded to examine the Trump Organization’s role in violating campaign finance laws. The chief financial officer has been granted immunity, as has Trump’s personal lawyer who implicated Trump in criminal activities. The New York State tax department is investigating possible tax fraud committed by the organisation.

The Attorney-Generals for Maryland and Washington DC have sued Trump over emoluments (pay for services) which violate the Constitution’s provisions to prevent corruption and foreign influence. Trump, unlike previous Presidents, never divested himself from his organisation, in particular the Trump International Hotel, which receives payments from foreign governments.

The porn star Stormy Daniels who signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) about her 2006 fling with Donald Trump is suing to have the NDA voided and also alleging defamation by Trump. Summer Zervos, a 2005 contestant on Trump’s ‘reality’ show, The Apprentice, has alleged sexual assault and is filing suit for defamation after he called her a liar.

The Mueller/Special Counsel Investigation is the most wide-ranging legal challenge Trump faces. Investigating Russian interference in Federal elections and possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign with the Russian government, it is reportedly also investigating potential obstruction of justice by Trump and others. Liberals are hoping that the investigation will lead to the indictment and conviction of Trump, as well as impeachment. Given the present Republican domination and their slavish adoration of Trump, there is no evidence at this stage that the Republicans would support full criminal proceedings against Trump.

Revelations about Trump

Three books have triggered fear and loathing in the White House. Omarosa Manigault’s Unhinged was published in mid-August (her previous oeuvre includes the self-help book The Bitch Switch); Bob Woodward, chronicler of the Watergate events in the 1970s, published Fear: Trump in the White House; and Stormy Daniels has published her own memoirs. 

Omarosa, as she is popularly known following her performance on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice a decade ago, is kind of a female version of Trump. The Trump campaign and then the White House employed her to perform outreach to the African-American community, and it seems they got what they deserved. Omarosa’s book, as the title implies, suggests that Trump is in mental decline. She also serves up vignettes of the organisation, or rather disorganisation, in the Trump White House. Omarosa claims to have some 200 recordings of conversations in the White House, including Trump using the N-word, of which four have been released so far.

If Omarosa’s book gives the tabloid-style view of the administration, Woodward’s book is extraordinary, quoting members of Trump’s own inner circle on his unfitness to be President. Shortly after its publication, an opinion piece ran in The New York Times, purporting to be written by a leading staffer in the Trump White House, describing how the ‘resistance from within’ is fighting to save ‘the country’ from the consequences of Trump’s idiosyncrasies, errors and disorganisation. What this really means is that there are members of the Trump White House struggling to maintain the best interests of US imperialism through Trump’s blunders and bluffs.

Trump and immigration

At the end of July, Trump threatened a government shutdown if the Democrats did not vote for ‘Border Security which includes the Wall!’ In late July, the deadline passed for reuniting migrant families split up by the Trump administration, with 711 children still in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A week later the Justice Department file a suit against the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been pursuing the issue of divided families through the courts, claiming, absurdly that it was the responsibility of the ACLU, not the government to find the deported parents of separated children. The Judge criticised the slow pace of reunification as unacceptable and totally rejected the attempt to make the ACLU responsible for reuniting families. In mid-September it emerged that the Health and Human Services Department cannot locate 1,488 children who were placed with sponsors after being separated from their families at the border. The pain, suffering and trauma experienced by these families is completely the responsibility of the Trump administration. 

Real resistance

What we clearly have is reaction all along the line. What is to be done? The ‘mid-term’ elections are approaching and the Democrats are hopeful that they will win and be able to put a brake on Trump. But, quite apart from the Democrats own pro-imperialist agenda, Republicans have increasingly gerrymandered election districts and enacted voter intimidation, sorry ‘voter ID’, laws intended to minimise voting by blacks and other minorities. So voting is no guarantee against the Trump assault.

The tide of reaction must be resisted. But resistance will not be successful if it relies on the ‘resistance from within’, which only has the interests of US imperialism at heart. Nor will it be successful by trying to fight Trump exclusively through the court system or the ballot box or by waiting for the Mueller and other investigations to plod their way to an indictment of Trump. The only sure resistance is mass mobilisation for mass action against every aspect of Trump’s reactionary policies.

 

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