Notes from the front of 10-11-16
The mainstream Western media is spreading a dangerous myth that Trump won the US Presidential election on the back of a right wing populist surge. According to pundits and analysts the main factor for Trump’s win is down to white working class people switching from Democrat to Republican in ‘record numbers’ and Trump winning new support from those ‘left behind’ by neo-liberalism and globalisation.
This is not true. Trump won fewer votes than both the Democrat and Republican Presidential candidates in both 2008 and 2012 – and he lost the popular vote to Clinton.
Here is a list of the candidates from the last 3 Presidential elections, ranked in order of their total vote:
1. Obama 2008: 69.4 million
2. Obama 2012: 65.9 million
3. Romney 2012: 60.9 million
4. McCain 2008: 59.9 million
5. Clinton 2016: 59.9 million*
6. Trump 2016: 59.7 million*
* Total votes counted as of Thursday 10 November according to the New York Times – subject to change slightly once the last remaining votes are counted.
The main story of this election is the fact that Clinton, despite beating Trump in the popular vote, has lost approximately 6 million Democrat votes since 2012 and over 9 million votes since 2008. The defining feature of this election was Clinton’s inability to hold together the progressive alliance that Obama brought together in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2012. There is no evidence that people switched to Trump, instead the figures suggest they stayed at home. The failure to enthuse and motivate the progressive vote – particularly the loss of support among African Americans – can be explained as the fault of Clinton’s right wing politics and record over the past 30 years. Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful campaign to be the Democratic Presidential candidate showed the huge potential that exists to inspire young people, Black communities and progressives with a positive programme around defending living standards and ending wars – an agenda which would have defeated Trump.
Lowest recorded turnout in a US Presidential election
The Western mainstream media is also failing to report the fact that this Presidential election recorded the lowest turnout since 1828 (the earliest year for which turnout records are available). Turnout for this election dropped to 48.8 per cent*, which is an all-time recorded low. In contrast 2008 turnout was 57.1 per cent of the voting age population, in 2012 it was 54.9 per cent. To find a comparably low voter turnout one has to look back to the 1924 US Presidential election with a turnout of 48.9 per cent.
The electoral losers in this situation are the Democrats – the Democrat vote is falling significantly, whilst the Republican vote is dropping only slightly.
Defeating Trump: rebuild a progressive majority or chase the racist vote?
The right wing has an interest in presenting Donald Trump’s racist populism as more popular than it actually is. It helps disorientate the left into believing that the only way to win is to ‘win back’ people who have voted for Trump, by ‘listening to their concerns’ and conceding to their racism.
Such an approach is a political and electoral dead end. Electorally, Trump secured fewer votes than Romney or McCain – he mobilised less than 60 million people, largely the Republican, reactionary core. As the Exit Poll clearly demonstrated, winning over these voters to the left is somewhat of an uphill struggle, given 86 per cent of them support building a wall along the entire US border with Mexico and 84 per cent of them think illegal immigrants working in the US should be deported.
Instead the left should look to winning back the 9 million Democrat votes who have abandoned the Party since 2008. The politics of hope represented by Bernie Sanders is what is required to rebuild such a coalition.
*Based on an estimated 245,273 million voting age population and 119,615 million votes case, according to the New York Times.
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will meet on 22 November at an ‘Away Day’ and is likely to be confronted with proposals that would undermine the party’s democracy and facilitate another coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn. Having failed to oust Corbyn this summer, the right-wing want to change Labour’s rules so the next attempt can succeed. They want to alter the composition of the NEC so it is rigged against Corbyn, and change the rules for electing Labour’s leader. These manoeuvres must be opposed.
The right-wing tried to bounce the NEC into accepting a series of partisan changes five days before the start of Labour’s Annual Conference in September and they achieved a significant success. On 20 September a series of new rule change proposals were put before the NEC by Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson and the party staff’s trade union. Most of these had not been consulted on within the party – the usual practice when significant structural changes are being considered.
Watson’s paper to the meeting called for Labour to expand its NEC. At the time the NEC consisted of 33 seats and he proposed adding: another seat for Labour Councillors (increasing their representation from two to three seats); a seat to represent Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioners and Combined Authority Mayors; seats to represent both the leader of the Scottish Labour Party and the leader of the Welsh Labour Party; and two more trade union seats (increasing their representation from 12 to 14). The paper put by the staff’s trade union proposed the creation of two NEC seats for the staff.
The right want to gerrymander the NEC’s composition so it less represents the views of Labour’s membership. Party membership has approximately trebled since the 2015 General Election, to around 600,000, so there is a clear case for the CLPs’ representation on the NEC, which is currently only six, to increase. That case for greater CLP representation was already strong before the influx of new members. At Labour’s national conference CLPs and affiliates are treated equally, each casting half of the vote. It is only at the NEC where CLPs are so under-represented, in comparison with the affiliates that have 14 seats (12 of which are held by trade unions).
Watson’s paper also proposed Labour change its leadership election rules, which would shift the result of an election sharply to the right. Under the current rules all of Labour’s members and supporters have an equal vote (one member one vote). The right-wing want to restore a previous system where MPs and MEPs cast one third of the total vote and to remove ‘registered supporters’ from having a say.
The right’s attempt in September to rush through the creation of eight new places to Labour’s NEC had some significant success. The proposal for seats controlled by the leaders of Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties was agreed by the NEC (16 votes to 15). This was then put to the vote at the Annual Conference as part of a package and agreed with 80 per cent of votes cast in favour (affiliates 92 per cent For; CLPs 68 per cent For). As a result, since conference, there have been two additional NEC seats, not representing members or affiliates in Scottish and Welsh Labour, but directly controlled by the respective parties’ leaders. This has shifted the political balance of the NEC against Corbyn, making it more difficult for the left to assemble a majority for its proposals and easier for the right.
The left is campaigning for the NEC’s composition to be democratised, by increasing the CLPs’ representation, about which further information can be received from here.
The right-wing’s rule changes that were not agreed at the 20 September NEC are due to be further discussed at the forthcoming ‘Away Day’ NEC and other proposals may also be put forward. The left must prioritise defeating these undemocratic proposals.
On Saturday 5 November both the NUT and ATL held special conferences. Both voted (with majorities of over 96 per cent) to agree a set of rules and procedures to amalgamate the two unions. If members of both unions agree in a ballot this spring, the National Education Union will be formed in September 2017, with full amalgamation with joint General Secretaries from January 2019. A single General Secretary will be elected in 2023.
This will be a union with upwards of 450,000 members, the fourth largest in the TUC.
A motion passed at the NUT special conference also called for further unity with the NAS/UWT to make one big teachers union.
With the current government set to make the biggest disinvestment in education in our lifetimes by 2020, effectively giving up on the future, this is an urgent and timely move.
The NUT/ATL interactive map spelling out the extent of the funding cuts in every school in the country can be seen here.
Details of rallies in London Manchester and Birmingham against these cuts can be found here.
The election of President Michel Aoun represents an important shift in Lebanese politics. Under the constitution, the post of President is reserved for a Christian Maronite, the post of Prime Minister for a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker in Parliament for a Shia Muslim. Aoun has been in an alliance with Hezbollah since 2006. His candidacy was supported as part of a deal which saw Sa’ad Hariri elected as Prime Minister. This broke a deadlock which has seen 45 previous attempts to assign these posts in the past two and a half years.
Clearly the shift in the balance of military forces inside Syria has led Hariri to the conclusion that a deal with Hezbollah is necessary. This is despite the fact that he blames Hezbollah for the assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri. His own position as leader of the Sunni majority Future Movement has been under threat after his supporters were defeated in their former stronghold of Tripoli in municipal elections in May. There were divisions amongst the MPs of his own party over the endorsement of Aoun. It is possible that there will be new coalitions inside the Sunni community for the parliamentary elections, due next year.
The President’s role in Lebanese politics is largely symbolic – any decisions made must be ratified by the Prime Minister, and Parliament. But symbols also matter in politics, and Aoun’s victory symbolises a further consolidation of anti-imperialist forces in the region.