CNN reported that the Sept. 26 debate between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., was the most watched ever. Some 84 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen ratings. Those figures exclude the millions who watched from other countries.
In one way, it is difficult to understand why any thoughtful individual with a sense of justice, equality and peace, would bother to watch the spectacle. The two candidates are among the most hated presidential candidates in U.S. history. Ever.
One is a racist misogynist buffoon who has galvanized white supremacists and anti-immigrant thugs. The other is a practiced warmonger whose history in politics has aligned her with the forces that created mass incarceration and increased poverty, especially among workers of color.
Clinton has the blood of Hondurans, Haitians and Syrians (and more) on her hands. Trump has lied, cheated, stolen and exploited thousands on his way to becoming a billionaire. Trump proves that you don’t have to be smart to get rich. You only have to be merciless and coldblooded.
Both are dangerous to the workers and oppressed, not only in the U.S. but around the world.
So why watch the debate? Frankly, this writer does not have the answer.
It is, however, important to tune into the public spectacle that is the 2016 presidential elections, no matter how painful, no matter how hard.
Put on your class-conscious glasses
Why? Because the elections give an important lesson for understanding the society we live in. More important, they are a glaring example of the need for the working class to put on its class-conscious glasses, break from both parties and fight like hell to build a movement that fights for fundamental revolutionary change.
The debate did, indeed, take up issues that are relevant to workers and people of color. Moderator Lester Holt asked about income inequality, police violence and so-called national security.
But the answers and the content of the debate were far from relevant to the reality that people face every day.
What follow-up, for example, arose from an earlier Democratic Party debate, the issue of the water in Flint, Mich.? None. Flint’s water crisis is now out of the headlines despite the problem still being dire.
Trump’s answer to police brutality was “law and order.” Those are code words for more repression, more militarization of the police and a thoroughly pro-cop orientation. Clinton, who has been forced to address the issue more, given the historical reliance of the Democratic Party on the Black vote, paid lip service to the issue.
But neither called for the jailing of killer cops, which would be the first just step in addressing the epidemic. Neither would ever call for what the Black Lives Matter movement is demanding, which is abolishing the police altogether, a righteous demand.
The debates are a good example of how the ruling class of this country has fine-tuned to the nth degree the ability to distort reality. Trump and Clinton argued about the Trans Pacific Partnership. Trump makes it sound as if he is against trade agreements that shut down factories in the U.S., lay off workers and allow companies to flee abroad for cheaper labor. Clinton flip flops on trade agreements depending on which way the wind is blowing.
No candidate mentions that it is these trade policies that have brought on the greatest forced migration of workers in history.
But the reality is that despite their rhetoric, neither would ever wage the necessary genuine fight to stop abusive capitalist trade policies, because both are loyal to capitalism. Both want the riches and plunder that come from the profit system. One wishes only to reduce the pain on the people; the other is just plain lying in order to attract disenfranchised white workers.
As one journalist, Max Ajl, wrote, “Which presidential candidate will be the more effective evil remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: no matter who is elected, U.S. voters lose.” (teleSUR, Sept. 27)
The candidates debated national security — but who is fighting for the security of the Syrian children? Not them. Instead, a Clinton presidency would mean more displacement, more bombs, more imperialist domination of Syria. A Trump presidency would mean, well, it would mean abundant chaos.
The pain of this election is real. It is painful for young people who had their hopes on an anti-Wall Street candidate; it is painful for every Black person whose communities are being ripped apart by police terror, whether they know the victims or not; it is painful for every Muslim who attempts to board a plane, for every immigrant child who fears their parent may not come home.
It is painful to read in the Sept. 24 New York Times, “And in Richardson, Tex., the Alamo Drafthouse had to switch to a bigger room after overwhelming interest in a screening [of the debate] with refreshments like a ‘build a wall around it’ taco salad.”
Imagine how the inevitable migrant worker in that restaurant felt that night.
A woman of color posted on Facebook recently the following: “As I picked up my coffee this morning and watched CNN on the screen, the hatred spewing from Trump’s spokesperson brought me to tears. Right there, in the coffee shop, in public while alone, I burst out crying.”
Her post ended with a call to her Facebook friends, to, despite the contradictions, hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton to assure that Trump would not get in.
She is not alone in this view.
Hold your nose?
Indeed, the sight of Trump and Clinton, their arrogance, their cynicism, their manipulation, can demoralize the senses. It can lead us all to tears any time anywhere.
But the pain of watching Donald Trump or the fear of warmonger Clinton should not lead to despair — or simply to voting for the “lesser evil” Democrats.
It must lead to building a revolutionary movement where the movement for Black Lives is central to the leadership, where Black and Brown people are in utmost solidarity, fighting for and defending the issues that matter to the vast majority of people, young and old, of every color and nationality, gender or gender nonconforming, abled bodied or not, etc.
This movement should be and is inspired by the heroic and momentous resistance at Standing Rock, N.D., by long-oppressed Indigenous people.
This movement must be class conscious. It must understand that it is the workers and the oppressed who have the real power in society. It must fight for a long-term solution: socialism.
This is the kind of program WWP candidates Monica Moorehead and Lamont Lilly are addressing as they travel the country on their campaign.
The revulsion aroused by the likes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has widened the opportunity for that kind of movement to develop.
Why class consciousness?
It is important to give an example of why class consciousness is important.
Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, who many millennials and others are turning to in growing numbers, spoke on Democracy Now! in the aftermath of the debate. In response to the issue of police violence, she said her platform calls for a truth and reconciliation commission to address police violence.
Sadly, this is a dead end. Class consciousness, Marxism and revolutionary thinking demonstrate that the oppressed, who are being brutally occupied by the police and have been for centuries, cannot reconcile with their oppressors.
The interests and needs of the workers and oppressed are irreconcilable with the bosses and oppressors. Understanding this truth will lead to a great revolutionary socialist movement in this country.
Gutierrez is manager for the 2016 WWP Presidential Campaign.