2022 elections yield political gridlock, heighten conflicts in capitalist parties

By Terry Evans
January 30, 2023

Congress opened in 2023 with a slim Republican majority in the House and a Democratic Senate and conflicts between and within both of the capitalist rulers’ parties. Neither looks to do much to pass legislation. Both have their eyes on using their thin majorities — and the Democrats’ hold on the presidency — to strengthen their hand in capturing the White House in 2024 and finding ways to go after their political opponents. As they do so, they’re dealing blows to constitutional freedoms working people need as we fight to defend the interests of our class and all those oppressed by capital.

The sharp divisions in the Republican Party exploded on the very first day in a rancorous and protracted fight over the election of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker. But Democrats are united over very little themselves, except using the FBI, Justice Department and courts to stop Donald Trump from ever holding office again. They’re also united in barring rail workers from striking to defend themselves from bosses’ assaults on working conditions, jobs, pay and life-sucking schedules, with bipartisan support from many Republicans. 

After unleashing the FBI in a widely televised armed raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home to cart off boxes of documents stored there, Attorney General Merrick Garland authorized an investigation into President Joseph Biden when he was found to have kept classified government files from when he was vice president. Such material turned up in his Delaware home, his office and in his garage. The papers concern Iran, Ukraine — where his son Hunter had financial interests — and the U.K. Determined to minimize the damage to Biden, Garland generously permitted him to have his own attorneys “search” his premises, keeping the FBI out of it. 

Last August’s FBI break-in at Mar-a-Lago was part of the Democrats’ yearslong drive to turn Trump into a criminal. It was accompanied by Biden’s smear of tens of millions of so-called MAGA Republicans as a “clear and present danger.” Garland appointed a “special counsel” to investigate Trump’s possession of the documents. 

After jumping to sic a special counsel on Trump, Garland felt compelled to appoint one to probe Biden as well. Now both candidates for president in 2024 are under investigation. 

Regardless of who is targeted, so-called special counsels like this deal a blow to the presumption of innocence and set a precedent to be used against the labor movement and opponents of capitalist rule.  

These probes are granted far-reaching powers to compel anyone they choose to face questioning, armed with contempt citations and the threat of jail if anyone tries to avoid testimony. They utilize plea bargaining to force “cooperation” and confessions. Facing seven felony charges in 2018, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort agreed to “cooperate” with the Democratic-appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, after prosecutors said they would reduce the charges against Manafort and limit the jail time he faced. 

Revelations that Biden and Trump kept government papers, classified or not, is of little concern for working people. Both presidents already had years of access to them — and much more about the capitalist rulers’ plans for wars abroad and attacks on workers at home. 

But the scandal is a reminder that the U.S. imperialist rulers are less and less able to openly proclaim the means they use to advance their interests. Classifying government papers aims at ensuring that what they want hidden stays that way. 

Republicans have pointed to the draconian treatment meted out by the Justice Department to Trump, and its light touch in dealing with Biden. His possession of classified material was uncovered before the midterm elections, but authorities made sure it was kept secret until well after the vote. 

Push to refurbish political police

House Leader McCarthy announced the Republicans had used their majority to set up a committee to investigate “the weaponization” of the government. Aimed at scrutinizing the FBI and its years of doing the bidding of the Democrats, McCarthy says the committee will get out the truth and take steps to ensure “we can now trust our law enforcement.” 

Both of the twin parties of capitalist rule — the Democrats and Republicans — seek to refurbish the FBI, their central political police agency. 

Ever since its founding over 100 years ago, the political police has led the rulers’ spying, disruption and harassment operations. During the notorious Palmer Raids after the first imperialist world war, the unions, newly formed Communist Party and immigrant workers were targeted 1919-20. 

Since the onset of World War II, the FBI has played a key role in assaulting free speech and assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and other critical constitutional liberties. The true class character of the FBI was clearly revealed through the Socialist Workers Party’s historic lawsuit launched in 1973 and won in 1986. That record can be found in Pathfinder’s 50 Years of Covert Operations in the US and FBI on Trial. 

The fight against government attacks on constitutional freedoms needed and used by workers, our unions and political organizations remains at the center of politics today.