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Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The excitement has gone out of the primary season now that I know how it will end five months from now.  Come the end of July, we shall have a Clinton/Trump contest.  I have written about this before, but let me bring up to date my reasons for this apparently precipitous judgment.  Democrats first.

Bernie will fall short because he is unable to draw substantial support from the African-American and Latino voting blocs, despite his remarkable generational appeal to young voters.  White people tend to mistake the historic courageous, sustained commitment to racial justice in the Black community with a progressive political orientation.  In fact, taken as a whole, the African-American community is politically  moderate, and on some issues [such as LGBT rights], genuinely  conservative.  There are of course dramatic exceptions, such as the great W. E. B. DuBois, whose transformational work, Black Reconstruction, is built on Marxist principles.  But as I observed recently in this space, the Civil Rights, Women's and LGBT movements all sought the perfection, not the overthrow, of capitalism.  Bernie really is unlike any serious candidate for the American presidency in many generations.  Speaking objectively, the Clintons have been godawful for Black men and women, but their centrist politics fit perfectly with the mainstream of the African-American community.  About the Latino community I cannot speak with confidence, from a lack of knowledge.  In a two-person race, there is no room for complex bank shots and clever tactics.  If you get fewer votes, you lose.  Bernie will get fewer votes. He will lose.

The Republican race is rather more complex.  My original calculations underestimated the number of delegates Trump would win because of my failure to notice that many of the so-called Super-delegates are committed by state regulations to vote on the first Convention ballot for the candidate who gets the most votes in their state primary.  That is why  Trump got 50 delegates in South Carolina, not 45.  But Trump is pulling about 35% of the vote, and even though that will increase as one or two more candidates drop out, why can the Republican Establishment not coalesce around Rubio and put him above 50%?  There are three reasons:

First, the rules are written so that even in the non-winner-take -all states [which is most of them], only the first and second place vote getters win many delegates.  Rubio will win some of those second place delegates, Cruz will win others, Kasich may win a few.  So no one non-Trump candidate will accumulate a significant pile of delegates during the multi-candidate phase.

Second, Cruz, as they used to say in pre-school, does not work and play well with others.  He will not drop out in deference to Rubio.  Even if he did, many of his voters would gravitate to Trump, but that is idle speculation, because he will not drop out.  This will keep Rubio from overtaking Trump's vote totals.

Third, Kasich will stay in the race until March 15th, when Ohio's winner-take-all primary will earn him, he hopes, 69 delegates.  By staying in that long, he pretty well sinks Rubio's hopes of forging a winning Establishment-backed coalition.  Even if Kasich does in fact win Ohio, his delegate total will be too small to deny Trump a first-ballot win at the Convention.

Who will win the presidency?  Early head-to-head match-ups between Clinton and Trump or Sanders and Trump show Clinton beating Trump by 3%, Sanders beating Trump by 6%.  Considering what an appalling candidate Trump is, those numbers are not reassuring.  Clinton should crush Trump with Latinos, African-Americans, and women, and should do reasonably well with white working class men, all of which ought to be reassuring. 

If Trump wins the presidency, it will make no lasting difference to me because I will kill myself.


s. wallerstein said...

Professor Wolff,

I sincerely hope that you're being facetious about threatening to kill yourself if Trump is elected.

If not, better to load a truck with explosives and drive it into some place where Trump is speaking to his fellow billionaires. There none of them be missed, as the song says.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I love the Gilbert and Sullivan reference. No, I shall keep fighting as long as I have a breath in me. But the future does not look rosy. Then again, the past was not too rosy either.

I'll always have Paris.

Tom Cathcart said...

When (mostly white) people talk about how "godawful" the Clintons were for African Americans, they usually cite welfare "reform" and the crime bill. First of all, these were policies signed into law by Hillary's husband, not by Hillary, and, yes, one can find some quotes that indicate she was on board. But Sanders voted for the crime bill too, and now he Hillary, and Bill all say it went too far and needs to be undone. We have forgotten that welfare "reform" happened when jobs were plentiful, and at first many analysts thought it had actually helped to reduce poverty. The pity is that it wasn't modified when that was no longer the case. I think Hillary gets way too harsh a rap on civil rights, and black voters seem to agree. Tom

David Auerbach said...

not "some quotes" lots of quotes. Does phrase "super predator" ring a bell? No, she's far to the right of Sanders on issues that affect black communities.
The best thing about the Sanders candidacy is that it is exposing the real ideological differences between the Republican wing of the Democratic Part and the recently moribund New Deal wing. And waking up a constituency for that wing. That's a good thing. Shining a light on Clinton's neoliberal commitments (banking, trade, welfare, social security, taxes, etc.) is a good thing.
BTW, here's a weird scenario that isn't unimaginable: Trump wants to win, of course and perform but he doesn't actually want to govern. He's a deal-maker not an executive and he's probably smart enough to know that. So, before or at the convention he'll make a deal to not run.

Tom Cathcart said...

I think Charles Blow had it right. It's condescending to think that African Americans like John Lewis don't know what's good for them. Love your last thought, though. I, like many others, have wondered if he really wants to govern. It hadn't occurred to me that what's in it for him is a deal.

David Auerbach said...

I think Charles Blow has it exactly wrong. John Lewis knows what's good for *him*. I'm happy to correct his views (though of course I think he actually knows better). That's not condescension to some vague population.

Simon said...

Like you, I am a Marxist in economics, and on much else as well, and I think that your feelings on a Trump presidency are deeply mistaken. Trump opposes the free trade agreements that have increased the power of multinational corporations over labor. Trump favors universal health care, and has even expressed admiration for single payer systems. And he said all of those things while running for the Republican nomination. He has said that our ears in the Middle East have been a very harmful failure, and that we should work with Putin rather than start another Cold War. On all these issues, Trump is to the left of Hillary Clinton. But most importantly of all, a Trump victory would finally break the back of the Clintonite wing of the Democratic Party, which has sold the Party to the ruling class in this country. That is the most important thing that could happen in this election. Why? Do I really have to tell you? NAFTA, GATT, the repeal of AFDC, the repeal of Glass-Steagal,the complete disenfranchisement of African-Americans who are convicted of drug offenses, and then the Obama continuation of the Wall Street sellout, with TARP, and on and on. That machine has to be broken, since it is the main obstacle to any meaningful change. Moreover, Trump's policies, on the whole, will not be nearly as damaging as what Hillary the warmongering Corporate servant would do. I guarantee it. The only reason that intellectuals and the media don't get that is that they cannot translate a working class revolt when they see one. And that is what this political cycle is, on both sides of the aisle. Donald Trump is tearing working class Republicans away from the Corporate Republican establishment. In rural northern South Carolina, Trump voters talked about the empty textile mills where they used to work. That is what is really driving his campaign. The xenophobia, repulsive as it is, is not what is really driving his campaign. This is a revolt against the political class for selling out the working class, and that is something that any good Marxist should celebrate. You just have to remember that the real working class doesn't sip tea or drink Sherry like you and I do.

Seth said...

I'm glad your self-destructive threat is so implausible. Even Trump won't turn Tigger into Eeyore!

I've been enjoying your lectures on Ideological Critique. It occurred to me this morning when Obama spoke of closing Gitmo as being "on the right side of history", that when politicians use that phrase they are gesturing towards a wan sort of ideological critique. To unpack the phrase a bit: it involves an assertion that anyone who disagrees will turn out to be in a tiny minority in some future period when no one still has an ideological "dog in the fight". Dispassionate observers just would not be taken in by the opposing view point. It's similar to saying "just listen to yourself for a minute. How can you possibly believe that? Don't you realize how silly it sounds?" I don't know that it has ever persuaded anyone, though. The effect is mostly to encourage those who agree to feel "safe" in speaking out about the issue.

Tom Cathcart said...

Re Simon's post: Bob's tongue-in-cheek suicide is closer to the mark. After Trump tears up the Iran deal, causes Iran to restart its nuclear program, has a reporter ejected from his news conference because she's not nice to him, makes fun of the disabled, alienates our allies, makes ISIS recruitment easier, builds a wall along our southern border, tries to deport 12 million undocumented workers, tries to replace Obamacare with "something great," nominates wild cards to Supreme Court vacancies, etc., etc., it's going to be hard to remember that we voted for him because he broke the back of the Clintonite wing of the Democratic party. Tom

s. wallerstein said...

Simon, Marine Le Pen is to the left of Francoise Hollande on many economic issues and I bet that Hitler was to the left of German liberals on many economic issues (I use the word "liberal" in the classic European sense), but I would have voted for Hollande rather than Le Pen, just as I'd vote for Clinton over Trump. Here's Trump in action: a lot closer to Le Pen or to any other fascist demagogue than to what the left as a political project stands for.

Simon said...

Having a reporter ejected from a news conference is one of the great calamities on your list? How would you compare that harm to the harm of the Iraq war or the ffinancial meltdown, both of which were overseen by the present establishment? That is exactly why elites, including intellectual elites will never lead a genuine working class movement. "Their language is so rough and uncouth and they don't act like us". The rest of your predictions are based on the false assumption that Trump cannot distinguish between campaigning for the Republican nomination and governing the country. The truth is that Trump is much smarter than the elites have given him credit for, which is why he's beating them, and he will probably beat Hillary too.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

Yes, I understand what you mean, but now let's step back and reflect on this picture. If Le Pen is to the left of Hollande, but you vote for Hollande in order to avoid Le Pen, then you have been manipulated into supporting economic policies that you don't really support. And in the next election they will do the very same thing all over again. And now congratulations, because you are officially another brick in the wall.

s. wallerstein said...

Simon, My impression is that you are trying to provoke, but I'll attempt a serious answer anyway.

Whether or not Trump (or Le Pen) is the left of the establishment Democrat (or French socialist) on trade policies or interest rates seems less important to me than that they represent a culture of bullying, of scorn for intellectual reflection, of prejudice against immigrants, blacks, and probably Jews that will poison the life of a society, since who the president is (as well as his or her specific policies) has a huge influence on the political ( on the life of the polis qua polis) and the spiritual development of a society.

Let's not forget, as an example, that the German Communist, being scornful of the reformist and sell-out Social Democratic Party, refused to ally itself with them against Hitler and we got Nazism as a result.

Tom Cathcart said...

Mr. Wallerstein and Bob are far more articulate than I on the danger of Trump, but I would like to respond to the scoffing at my concern about ejecting journalists. Megyn Fox is one case; a Latino questioning mass deportation or someone who challenges climate change denial at a press conference is another.

Tom Cathcart said...

Make that Megyn Kelly of Fox, not Megyn Fox.