Attempts to prevent Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination for president came apart with his win in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 15 by a big margin. Liberals cannot be sure Trump will lose the 2024 race to an unpopular incumbent, Joseph Biden, a fact that is sharpening the anti-Trump hysteria on the left of capitalist politics, as well as Democrats’ efforts to use the courts to jail their main rival for the White House.
In their search for a way to prevent people from being able to vote for the candidate of their choice, Democrats are dealing serious blows to constitutional freedoms that workers will need in labor and political battles to come.
While Trump attended hearings on the indictments against him, he won 51% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses, with a near 30-point margin over his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ronald DeSantis.
Biden had relaunched his failing campaign Jan. 5, insisting he must be reelected or Trump will use the White House to impose modern-day fascism.
Typical of the renewed bout of liberal hysteria is the cover of the Jan. 15 New Yorker magazine, which features a huge cartoon of a goose-stepping Trump looking like Italian fascist Benito Mussolini. The day after Biden’s speech, the New York Times editors wrote that a second Trump presidency would open “an all-out assault on the structures of American government.”
Whenever liberals vent their anti-Trump panic, vilification of the millions of workers who support him isn’t far away. Times columnist David French writes that for those backing the Republican frontrunner “vice is virtue and virtue is vice.” A Trump win will not be “the culmination of a short-lived reactionary movement, but rather the harbinger of a greater darkness,” he predicts. Underneath liberals’ contempt is a growing fear of the working class and a determination to prevent those they deem “deplorable” from having a say in the election.
But a second Trump term is no more likely to replace capitalist democracy with a fascist tyranny than the first did.
‘Democracy is on the ballot’
President Biden increasingly places blatant falsehoods about the Jan. 6, 2021, melee at the Capitol at the center of his reelection bid. “This is the first national election since the Jan. 6 insurrection placed a dagger at the throat of democracy,” he said in his speech. His pitch today is: “Democracy is on the ballot.”
More than three years after Jan. 6, not one of the partisan Democratic prosecutors going after Trump has tried to charge him with insurrection. In fact the only time he’s faced this charge was a Democratic Party-led impeachment effort at the end of his term — and he was acquitted.
The freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution weren’t a gift from the ruling classes. They were won through mighty class battles by working people over two and a half centuries. Defending and extending these rights today falls to the class that has the most need for these freedoms — to workers confronting deepening attacks from the capitalist rulers.
Claims by Democrats and Republicans that their efforts are aimed at uniting all the people to “protect democracy” are a fraud. The capitalist rulers and their two parties claim “we’re all in this together” whenever they’re trying to win support for military intervention wars abroad, or when they want to force sacrifices on workers to protect their own profit-driven interests.
“Democracy is still a sacred cause, and there’s no country in the world better positioned to lead the world than America,” Biden said in his speech. But the real record of Washington and all the other “democratic” imperialist powers is not one of fighting the rise of fascism, but of creating the conditions that lead to its rise.
In the 1930s, the depth of the capitalist crisis and the rise of powerful working-class struggles led sections of the capitalist class in Germany and elsewhere to turn to fascist forces to inflict crushing defeats on the working class in order to safeguard their rule.
In the name of “fighting fascism,” the “democratic” imperialist powers launched attacks on basic freedoms as they prepared to enter World War II, a war they fought to protect their own economic and political interests. The U.S. rulers jailed leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and the Teamsters union, pushed a no-strike pledge on the unions and unleashed the FBI to target fighters for Black rights.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties pretend that what happens at the ballot box in November will alter the fundamental course of capitalist politics. But whoever is in the White House, the bosses will use the government to defend their profits and power at workers’ expense. The deepening crisis of this blood-sucking system will breed growing instability and head toward sharper class battles and more wars. It is these conditions that breed the rulers’ desire to curtail constitutionally protected rights as they try to quell working-class resistance.
Defense of freedoms workers need
For workers today there are high stakes in defending free speech and other rights from Democrats’ attacks.
During Trump’s New York trial on alleged business fraud, Judge Arthur Engoron initially blocked Trump from making a closing statement. Then the judge relented, allowing him to speak Jan. 11, only after imposing wide-ranging restrictions on what he could say.
But when Trump told the court the case was “a political witch hunt,” Engoron interrupted, saying he wasn’t allowed to express that opinion.
“You have your own agenda,” Trump replied.
At the request of Democratic Party prosecutors, Engoron ruled that Trump was guilty before the trial even started, threatening to seize Trump’s New York businesses. At issue today is the extent of the damages imposed on Trump.
In a further attack on free speech, Trump went on trial Jan. 15 for the second time, facing a new financial penalty for protesting claims by writer E. Jean Carroll that he raped her sometime in the 1990s, a quarter of a century ago. Last year a jury found Trump not guilty of the rape charge that Carroll made in a 2019 lawsuit, but convicted him of “sexual abuse.” Each time Trump speaks out against these rulings, it becomes a new “crime” and Carroll seeks more money. In 2023 she was awarded $5 million.
Whenever Democrats try to silence Trump, they strike at constitutional freedoms, creating a precedent that will be turned against workers in the future.