Contributed by Joe Montero
It’s only days away from the United States election. Why should this matter for us, who live a world away from the land of the stars and stripes?
Two good reasons.
Economically and politically, Australia is thoroughly integrated as a dependency of this superpower’s empire, and while this continues, we cannot escape its ramifications.
Australia is not immune to what effects the rest of the world. The developing global economic and political situation, in which the United Sates figures highly, draws Australia into it.
Consequently, the lead up and the voting are big news here. Whatever the result is, it will have an impact.
Although it is impossible to claim expertise from thousands of kilometres away, and lacking intimacy with the culture, and day to day aspiration of those who inhabit this land, or the fine details of the political machinery, enough is out there on the public record to see some telling developments.
We know those in power have always declared the United States as the bastion of and protector of democracy, coupled with the self-given right to be the arbiter for the whole planet.
Although the American War of Independence against the British Crown justifiably inspired the world in its day, the darker side is, the United States grew out of dispossession of its First Peoples and as an African slave economy. Further territorial expansion came about through wars of conquest.
The idea of democracy has always been democracy for some and not for others. There is a history of denying people the right to vote. First by limiting this right to those with property. When this came to an end, applying other means were used to achieve a similar end The outcome remained in the hands of the wealthiest.
From the founding of the new nation, on top of other restriction, the popular vote was checked by the inclusion of the electoral college system. Each state has a committee of appointees, with the power to have the final word on who wins an election. Although in theory these people are appointed in proportion to the vote split between the parties, the reality is, they are appointees of the political machine
American history has shown that more than once, the electoral college system decided in opposition to the popular vote. The last cases involved George W Bush and Donald Trump in 2016.
In 2013, the Supreme Court removed measures to block the practice of racial discrimination, and barring from voter registration because of a police record or failing a literacy test. Ending federal jurisdiction allowed the states to enact ID rules that effectively blocked many non-white and working class Americans registering and accessing ballots. Poll taxes that disadvantaged the poorest could be imposed again, and the closing of polling stations made legal.
Even more importantly, the United States has perfected the connection between big money and these electoral machines of the two-party system, and this is decisive, not only in who ends up in the electoral colleges and who they vote for. It is decisive in who gets to stand for president and other top political positions. The American political system is therefore seriously corrupted.
In 2020, the situation is somewhat different than it has been for a long time. The economic and political divide in the nation has widened. Covid-19 is taking a massive toll, and the nation is saddled with a presidency that threatens a turn further towards what in other times would have been called fascism.
A continuation along the same road, will mean more erosion of rights, scapegoating sections of society, increasing poverty, and declining economic prospects for most. This will continue unless there is a change.
The pretence of economic growth in the last couple of years has really been about the destruction of jobs and their replacement by insecure work, so that the fattest shareholders can use the redistribution of income to swell their bank accounts.
Donald Trump is their man in the white House. They are in charge and the President can do little without their approval. It is how the political system works and bringing about change requires challenging this power.
The election is less about Donald Trump and Joe Biden, than it is about which of these factions comes out on top.
The pro-Trump one favours the give no quarters strategy, as the beat means to secure their interests. The pro-Biden contender prefers reaching some level of accommodation, to prevent the rise of support for a real alternative.
A great deal of effort and money were put into blocking Bernie Sanders and the movement that grew around him. The last word was always in the hands of the biggest donators to the Democrats. They chose Joe Bidden.
Despite everything, the best outcome remains the defeat of Trump. Not because Biden will lead to a major change. He won’t. But it will provide some respite from attack, and even a few minor concessions will provide some temporary relief to the suffering.
At best, the experience could provide an opening for something better.
There is even less difference when it comes to global politics. Both factions are for the imposition of American supremacy, at a time when this relies less on diplomacy and economic inducement, than it does on gunboat diplomacy and war.
Where they differ is that the Trump brand fascism is more erratic, and this adds a further element to instability, and the danger of heading towards world war.
With Joe Bidden, the United States will give itself more ground to manoeuvre and an opportunity to regain some diplomatic clout.
All of this is taking place in the context of crisis. Enough to prompt the pro-Trump faction into taking extra measures to try and secure the election result to its advantage.
Covid-19 has created a situation where many votes will be absentee, either sent in by mail or lodged at drop off boxes.
An administrative ruling ordered that each county in each state needs only a minimum of one drop box. This means that in some places they are few and far apart, and voters are forced to line up for hours.
Harris county in Texas, for example, gets one drop off box for 2.4 million registered voters, while Rhode Island in New York State, with slightly fewer voters, gets 47 of them. The difference is which party controls the state.
Four years have been spent on appointing compliant judges to the judiciary and friendly officials into sensitive positions. Millions are being removed from electoral roles and millions more prevented from registering. As if this is not enough, administrative delays on counting have been encouraged, which will create a climate of uncertainty on election day, and if delayed long enough, prevented ballots from being counted.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty
These restrictions are concentrated in constituencies that are not going to favour Trump and backed, by a strategy to use the judiciary to back the countering a popular vote if it goes the wrong way.
Much of this had been made possible by the redrawing of electoral boundaries in 210 and 2011, which cemented and advantage to the Republican Party. Most affected, were marginal key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
But the eruption of a new civil rights movement has now got in the way. This has sharpened division within American society and between the pro-Trump and Pro-Biden factions, which is adding to the sense of political crisis. In the end, the outcome will be determined by the faction with the upper hand.
There are signs that the pro-Trump camp is not relying of an electoral victory. If the manipulation of votes and counting do not do the trick, preparations have been made to block the result, through either or a combination of delay through legal process, and a declaration of a state of emergency and use of suppressive means.
The use of armed vigilante Trump supporting groups at the election, in addition to promoting a climate of fear and pressuring voters, is designed to incite violence to provide, which van be used as for a declaration of a state of emergency.
Whether this can be pulled off, is going to depend on the respective strengths of the factions and their willingness to fight it out.
Americans may no longer be prepared to tolerate the abuse of power, and this is the pro-Trump faction’s greatest potential weakness.
When the ballots come in in the next few days, the situation might become somewhat clearer. But there might still be a long way to go before the story completely unfolds.
The impact on Australia will be that the direction the United States moves will have a major influence on our political direction and future.
Scott Morrison has already gone a considerable way down the Trump road, and the continuation of the Trump presidency will nudge Australia still further down this road.
If Joe Biden succeeds, it will work against Morrison and weaken his position. This would be good news. Just don’t expect there to be any major changes.
Our best hope lies in the continuing growth of the new civil rights movement in the United States, and within it, the search for an alternative politics, which provides real answers for people.
Most of all, our hope lies in the growth of a similar movement in Australia, rooted in Australia’s conditions and needs, and one that leads towards disengagement form dependency on the United States and a better vision for Australia.