Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Donald Trump announced tonight that he is launching his third campaign for the presidency. In a rambling speech filled with outrageous falsehoods and demagogic promises, Trump presented himself as someone who had brought about incredible prosperity during his time in office, but is hounded by a corrupt elite. He promised a police state crackdown involving the death penalty for drug dealers, called to make early voting illegal, ridiculed efforts to save the environment, grossly misrepresented his catastrophic handling of the pandemic and much more.
A central feature of Trump’s false appeal is the notion that he is “pro-worker” and stands up for the rights of working people against the establishment. This is especially targeted to people who work or used to work in the manufacturing sector, an area of the economy that has been devastated by corporate greed and shrunken down to a shadow of its former self.
But a look at Trump’s real record while in office makes it clear that the opposite is true. Trump is nothing more than a tool for the millionaires and billionaires to grow even more disgustingly rich while workers’ rights are trampled on. Trump is an ultra-rich real estate mogul himself, and uses his power to enrich himself and the class of wealthy parasites he belongs to.
Implementing the billionaires’ wishlist
Perhaps the clearest example of this is the 2017 tax “reform” law, something Trump constantly touts as one of his proudest accomplishments. Totaling $2 trillion, this overhaul was effectively a massive transfer of wealth from workers to the rich. Outrageously, many billionaires and multinational corporations pay a lower effective tax rate than many working class families. Trump’s tax law slashed the corporate tax rate from 36 percent to 21 percent. Likewise, the income tax rate paid by those in the highest bracket was reduced from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. And Trump wanted to make sure that inequality would persist from generation to generation — he exempted people with up to $12 million from paying any taxes at all on the inheritance they leave to their children.
Regulations meant to protect the health, safety and other basic rights of workers — won thanks to the courage and persistent struggle of the labor movement and other people’s movements — were shredded by Trump. Less than two weeks after taking office, Trump issued an executive order referred to as “two for one” — a mandate that no new regulation can be introduced unless two existing regulations are eliminated. This wave of deregulation made it easier, for instance, for companies to dump coal ash into water supplies or spew mercury into the air. And Trump systematically deprived OSHA of the resources it needed to keep workers safe on the job, reducing the number of inspectors at the agency’s disposal to the lowest level ever in its 50-year history.
The National Labor Relations Board, which is supposed to be an institution to uphold workers’ rights, turned into yet another tool of corporate America under Trump. Trump’s NLRB made it easier for bosses to rig union certification elections by arbitrarily adding unrelated employees to a potential bargaining unit. It also gave bosses more leeway to make unilateral changes to workplace conditions and undermined workers’ right to exercise their free speech rights at their place of employment. Trump appointed Peter Robb to be the General Counsel of the NLRB — the board’s top lawyer. Robb is a long-standing opponent of labor and even worked with Ronald Reagan to crush the landmark PATCO strike in 1981, a defeat that set off decades of decline for unions.
The Trump administration pushed a rule that left over 8 million workers ineligible for overtime pay. He also promised to veto a bill that raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, something that would have raised standards across the board and improved the bargaining power of all workers.
Trump demagogically cites the tariffs he imposed as evidence of his commitment to the industrial working class, especially his trade war with China. But in reality, the number of manufacturing jobs in the country at the end of Trump’s term was 154,000 fewer than when he took office. There were modest gains registered in the first year and a half of Trump’s presidency, but by 2019 this stalled and then collapsed in 2020 as Trump stood by and refused to take the decisive action necessary to save people’s jobs as the pandemic broke out.
Democrats cannot lead people’s resistance to Trump
Considering this mountain of evidence, it is remarkable that Trump has managed to cultivate an image for himself as a fighter for working people. This notion could have been easily debunked by the Democrats, but they have never wanted the anti-Trump movement to become a pro-worker movement. They are beholden to the same class of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives that Trump serves.
Instead, throughout the Trump administration and beyond, the Democrats sought to organize opposition to him on the basis of nearly anything except class. The temperament of Trump — that he was a rash and self-interested decision maker who embarrassed the U.S. ruling class on the world stage — was their true objection. While Democrats would also correctly point out that Trump is a racist who subscribes to every form of bigotry imaginable, they obscured the roots of this oppression by presenting it as a matter of personal prejudice isolated from the broader social order dominated by a tiny elite.
After Trump’s upset election victory in 2016, spontaneous mass protests broke out like the dramatic airport demonstrations that challenged the Muslim ban. This independent anti-Trump movement was viewed as a major threat by the Democratic Party establishment, which had just crushed the first Bernie Sanders campaign that drew on much of the same grassroots energy. Also desperate for an explanation to excuse Hillary Clinton’s humiliating shock defeat to Trump, the Democratic Party along with their allies in the intelligence agencies created the “Russiagate” hysteria. Falsely claiming that Russian interference swung the election to Trump, they sought to rally people against his administration on the basis that he is insufficiently committed to the new Cold War policies that have now brought the world to the brink of all-out conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. A movement organized according to the priorities of the Pentagon cannot have a progressive character.
As Trump carries out his presidential campaign, he will posture as the underdog taking on a corrupt establishment that wants to take him down. This is beyond dishonest. Trump is a battering ram the ultra-rich want to use to demolish working people’s rights.
To the extent that sectors of the ruling class do stand against Trump — and coalesce around an alternative far-right figure like Ron DeSantis — it is an expression of their disdain for his practice of putting his own narrow interests ahead of the collective interests of the capitalist class. He is not a competent manager of their system. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal summed up this position on Nov. 9: “Mr. Trump had policy successes as President, including tax cuts and deregulation, but he has led Republicans into one political fiasco after another.”
The course of Trump’s new presidential campaign is completely unpredictable, as are the contours of the extremely volatile 2024 race overall. But one thing is a certainty: Trump is a sworn enemy of the working class.