Global Independent Analytics
Danny Haiphong
Danny Haiphong

Location: USA

Specialization: War, Racism, Capitalist exploitation, Civil rights

Working Class Misery is Behind the Rise of Trump and Sanders

The crisis of capitalism has eroded the material base of white supremacy. Middle age White Americans’ death rate has increased more than any other sector of the population due to suicide and addiction.

Much has been said about the 2016 Presidential elections up to this point. Hillary Clinton's email scandal, Donald Trump's bigotry, and Bernie Sanders' "democratic socialism" have all been discussed and analyzed non-stop by the corporate media. However, the corporate media has covered these topics for the benefit of those in power in US society, the capitalist class. It is clear to anyone paying attention that Trump and Sanders represent a greater danger to the capitalist class than Hillary Clinton. The capitalist class sees the Trump and Sanders phenomena as a threat because it has become an expression of working class misery in the US.

This was not always the case. Trump flirted with running for President in the past but few took such attempts seriously. Sanders, on the other hand, came into the elections with the reputation of being an independent Senator who has historically aligned with the Democratic Party on issues of foreign policy and veered slightly to the left on domestic issues such as healthcare. Going into the 2016 election, the capitalist class had grand plans for both Trump and Sanders. Trump would provide a dose of fear while Sanders a dose of hope into the masses and sandwich them into voting for Hilary Clinton once both left the race. However, this plan has fallen through under the weight of capitalism's principal contradiction: working class misery.

Neither Sanders nor Trump have faded from the scene because the condition of the vast majority of the US population is in steep decline. US capitalism remains mired in crisis. One wouldn't know this from the corporate economists who continue to peddle the lie that the system has recovered. The lives of the working class say something entirely different. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have emerged to give expression to the growing antagonism between corporate media deception and working class experience.

Of course, this development has been a bumpy ride and is by no means without contradiction. Sanders early on in the race appeared to be a sheepdog for the Democratic Party, ready to vote for Hillary Clinton on demand once he was through channeling radical energy back into the establishment. Trump comes from the bourgeois class that controls Washington. Yet despite these contradictions, the respective campaigns of Trump and Sanders have taken on an independent character. The crisis conditions which face the entirety of the working class has pierced through the fog of Washington's corporate duopoly.

Just a year prior to the 2016 elections, economists concluded that the US capitalist system was experiencing a significant recovery. Unemployment dropped to 5.3 percent. Yet the low unemployment number was nothing but a well-disguised lie. The labor participation rate in the US is at all time low at just around 60 percent. Hundreds of thousands of workers have stopped looking for jobs. The so-called recovery was of a low-wage, jobless variety.

And for those in the working class who do have jobs, the situation is no less bleak. Many are paying off their share of a national student debt total of a trillion USD. Since 1999, the working class has seen a 16.5 percent drop in income. This drop has coincided with a growing concentration of wealth for the ruling class. Housing, healthcare, and food costs have all increased over this period. The basic necessities of life are such a burden workers that most cannot afford an emergency repair or bill of 500 USD.

Because the US is a society built from a foundation of racism, the Native, Black, and Latino populations face economic and social conditions from this crisis that are worse than whites. Many Black and Native workers are no longer useful for a deindustrialized and technologically outstretched capitalist society. Their surplus labor fills the cells of the largest prison population in the world. Many Latinos are stuck in low-wage occupations or chronically unemployed. These populations also face a level of state terror still unknown to whites in the form of police murders and deportations. Yet while levels of state violence remain high for working class non-whites, the crisis of capitalism has generalized the economic condition of scarcity to all sectors of the population.

The crisis of capitalism has eroded the material base of white supremacy. Middle age White Americans’ death rate has increased more than any other sector of the population due to suicide and addiction. White workers no longer enjoy the security of industrial unions that provided decent wages and benefits. The majority of industrial jobs have disappeared and union density in the US is in single digits. The white working class thus has a reason to be pessimistic about their prospects and have passed this pessimism on to the next generation. In a recent study, the vast majority of millennials reported the belief that they will be less economically secure than their parents. 

The despair, misery, and disaffection of the US working class has led to the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The task is to engage with Sanders and Trump supporters and move them away from the corporate duopoly and toward organized resistance. We must amass whoever is willing to stand up now to confront the race and class contradictions that plague the working class in the US. The Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump campaigns have faced numerous attacks that have polarized their supporters against the two-party establishment. This will surely continue as the primaries conclude, giving ample opportunity for a genuine resistance movement to emerge onto the political scene of US capitalism’s swan song.  

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