The Trump Agenda is now unmistakeable. It has five key components: 1) to smash labor unions and worker protections; 2) to cut taxes and lift environmental regulations on corporations, allowing them to make super-profits and pollute with abandon; 3) to accelerate the destruction of public education nationwide; 4) to carry out mass deportations of undocumented immigrants; and 5) to unleash a massive attack on women’s rights.
Trump will be personally invested in some of these causes more than others — he previously showed little interest in abortion rights, for instance. But the Trump Agenda is not just about Trump. The Trump Agenda is to represent a whole coalition of rightwing ruling-class interests.
The Trump Agenda is to return the United States to the most unrestrained form of capitalist rule — back to an era when the rich could do whatever they want, with nothing for the people, no protections for oppressed sectors and no regard for the environment.
Will he succeed? That will depend on the class struggle, the resistance from below. But it has become increasingly clear that major sections of the ruling class are now behind him.
As with Ronald Reagan, much of the ruling establishment initially opposed Trump because they thought he would spark mass protest, his right-wing politics were too reckless and aggressive to manage the U.S. Empire, and they were scared that he would drive the country into radicalization. Then, when he successfully launched his war on the working class, they made Reagan their icon.
Likewise, they now want Trump to succeed, after opposing him through most of the election season. His agenda, if imposed, would be extremely profitable for them. The elimination of environmental restrictions would open up billions of dollars in resource extraction. The same goes for the elimination labor regulations. The expansion of charter schools would open one of the largest public institutions to private profit-seekers.
During the campaign, some wondered whether Trump’s rhetoric — racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, bellicose, and in denial of climate change — would be translated into policy. His cabinet appointees have clarified that. Rather than “draining the swamp” and clearing out the hated political establishment, he has given the keys to the castle to a range of corporate lobbyists, Wall Street bankers, war hawks, far-right ideologues and a few of his eccentric ultra-rich buddies.
His intervention with the Carrier plant in Indiana is very telling. Trump and Pence delivered Carrier, an extremely profitable company, with $7 million in tax subsidies in order to retain 700 jobs in the state that were otherwise going to be relocated to Mexico. When a steelworkers’ union leader complained that Trump had inflated the number of jobs saved, that hundreds of his members were still going to lose their jobs, that Carrier did not deserve a tax break, and that 2,100 other jobs are going to be moved overseas in just the following two weeks, Trump personally attacked the unionist on Twitter and opened a tirade against union dues.
In the era since the New Deal, the White House has only led a national full-scale frontal charge against labor one time: in the 1981 PATCO strike, when Reagan fired 13,000 air traffic controllers. When Reagan won that battle, breaking the union (which incidentally had supported him in his 1980 campaign), he signaled the whole ruling class that it could do the same. Trump is gearing up to follow that example, possibly with a national law that would allow any employee to opt out of union dues, and forbid unions from automatically collecting them at the workplaces where they exist.
Trump’s Labor Secretary pick is a fast food executive who opposes any increases to the minimum wage and praises the replacement of workers by machines, which are “more polite.” The new Homeland Security leaders believe in an aggressive deportation policy against immigrant workers. This is a strategy to divide, confuse and intimidate the working class as a whole and must be opposed with every ounce of our collective effort.
Over decades, labor and social movements — women’s, LGBTQ, civil rights and environmental — have won important concessions and changes from the government, which have restrained the capitalist class and made life slightly more bearable for the vast majority of people. Those gains have been under attack with both Democratic and Republican administrations, but they are now at stake in an unprecedented way.
The Democratic Party leadership, including President Barack Obama, is working to make the transition to Trump’s rule as smooth as possible, promoting the dangerous lie that “if Trump succeeds, the country succeeds.” The Wall Street Journal recently explained how Obama is working hard so as not “to antagonize his successor.” This only empowers Trump’s team, and only sets up poor and working people to be steam-rolled.
Resistance, and ultimately revolution, is the only option. January 20th, Inauguration Day, Day One of the Trump Era, will be a critical day for all people of conscience. Beyond Inauguration Day, we know the years ahead will be intense, but Trump begins his presidency as the least popular candidate in U.S. history; there is a huge popular anger and willingness to struggle. All organizers must devote themselves to channeling that sentiment into a front of resistance so powerful that it can stop Trump’s capitalist agenda.