By Nélida Tello and Jakob Stein
This week marked the first of three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, in Cleveland, Ohio. Both candidates sought to appeal to the most conservative sections of their respective bases, making it clear that their number one priority is to save US imperialism from deepening crisis with each making the case for why they are best fit to do so.
Event moderator, Chris Wallace of media monopoly Fox News, said at the beginning that the debate audience ‘agreed’ to not make noise, to boo, or make other interruptions so that viewers could “focus on what the candidates have to say,” but it was the candidates themselves who disrupted any focus, with both talking over each other, interrupting, and making side comments throughout the night.
While the ruling class media chose to focus on the near-constant interruptions throughout the debate, as well as Biden telling Trump to “shut up” in response, they glossed over the truly reactionary content from both candidates. As faithful servants of the ruling class, they prefer to characterize the debate as a clash of personalities and a lack of decorum rather than another spectacle of the imperialist electoral farce.
With respect to the recent Supreme Court vacancy, Biden stated that, in the middle of an election, people should have a say in who the nominee is by voting in the presidential election. He claimed that people’s well-being would be put at risk if Trump filled the vacancy, despite revealing that he had no issue with the Republican nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. It is made clear by statements such as Biden’s, that it makes little difference to him if the seat is filled by a Republican or Democrat—as long as people have the illusion of choice.
The ruling class has continued to use the coronavirus pandemic as a scapegoat for the deepening economic crisis, as both parties propose different methods to stimulate the economy. Trump focused on ‘reopening’ the economy on the state level, whereas Biden emphasized further aid for small businesses that are not recovering as quickly as other sectors.
Following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden invoked nationalist sentiment by proposing an initiative to ‘Buy American,’ and investing in US manufacturing and promising to create 7 million more jobs through this initiative. The reality is that US manufacturing is in shambles due to the inherent contradictions of US imperialism—it is constantly compelled to export capital to the Third World in the never-ending quest for super profits. Similarly, people buy products according to their incomes and market prices—hollow appeals to moral consumption are a meaningless exercise as workers’ incomes stagnate and an unprecedented number of people face unemployment.
When Trump was questioned about the amount of federal taxes he paid in 2016 and 2017, he cited bills passed by the Obama/Biden administration that allowed him to avoid taxes. While Democrats may pose as being ‘tough’ on the wealthiest sections of society, the truth is that their tax codes are always meant to serve the maintenance of US imperialism. Sometimes they cut taxes to support the ruling class and ‘reinvigorate investment,’ while at other times increasing taxes in an attempt to placate the masses of people with increased funding for social programs and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).
Biden denounced Trump for using ‘tax loopholes’ in his favor, while also decrying the handful of billionaires who collectively made over $300 billion during the most acute period of the economic crisis. By proposing to eliminate Trump’s tax cuts, Biden is utilizing a classic tactic to distract from the fundamental contradiction between the working class and the capitalists—and no amount of ‘progressive taxation’ can resolve this.
After 122 days of mass rebellion against the police, national guard, and federal agents, Trump and Biden both catered to the most reactionary sections of the US electorate by pushing ‘law and order’ throughout the debate.
Much like the Democratic National Convention, Biden continued to preach the narrative that the ‘majority of cops are good cops,’ and that the ‘few bad apples’ simply need to be held accountable. Trump proudly flaunted the claim that more than 250 police departments had endorsed him, while Biden defensively reminded his conservative base that he would not ‘defund the police’ and in fact wanted to increase their budget by $400 million.
During the same segment, when Trump was asked if he was willing to denounce white supremacy and fascist militias, he told his Proud Boy supporters to “stand back and stand by,” not only rallying his most reactionary base, but also furthering the Democrats’ call to ‘save democracy.’ This should be understood as yet another gesture toward fascism, anticipating mass upheaval following the election and giving a wink and nod to fascist groups to be ready for a battle.
The debate ended with a question regarding electoral integrity, a theme both Democrats and Republicans have taken up throughout the election. Trump has repeatedly made claims that mail-in votes are fraudulent, while Democrats have used these claims to say that they will be used to aid Republicans during the election by delaying mail and impeding mail-in votes from meeting deadlines.
To be clear, the elections are and have always been a sham, and no amount of ‘voter fraud’ or ‘voter suppression’ can change this. The electorate is given a false illusion of choice between two ruling class candidates, and they will always serve the ruling class regardless of party affiliation.
The electoral farce was in full display in the first round of the presidential debates as both ruling class candidates continue to demonstrate that they are different sides of the same coin. They are only the latest round of performers in the multi-billion dollar election show put on by the imperialists. The majority of the working class already passively abstains from election because, by and large, the masses of people see through the deceit and stunts used by politicians every four years to win elections. Voter abstention must be organized into an active political boycott, one that fights for revolution in service of the international proletarian revolution and exposes the US elections for what they truly are—a farce meant to uphold and reproduce US imperialism.
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