Proposals for the 2020 US elections.

Policy proposals for the 2020 US elections.


Social-justice movement organizations must formulate a policy for the 2020 elections.



The broad left has been uniting behind the Democratic Party for the past four decades without having achieved much real progress for its base constituencies.  In fact, there has been considerable regress: increased inequality of wealth and income, diminished collective bargaining, increased homeless numbers, rising student debt burdens, reduced abortion access, increasingly unaffordable costs of healthcare, mass incarceration, new cold wars, new arms race, and so forth.  Longstanding abuses against the vulnerable remain, including: impunity for police violence; and abuses in the criminal justice system targeted against the poor and racial minorities, often under elected Democrats (prosecutors, mayors, legislators, and other officials).  Yet, many prominent “leftists” (including avowed “socialists”) are demanding unity behind the Democratic Party and whomever will be its Presidential standard-bearer.  Consequently, it is appropriate and past time to subject that practice to careful examination.

With respect to the 2020 elections, many prominent would-be strategists for the socialist left have been, in effect, saying:

  • that Trump, with his pandering to racism and other bigotries, is dangerously and uniquely different from previous Republican Presidents and nominees;
  • that Trump, with his reactionary populist demagoguery and authoritarian aspirations, is an authoritarian “fascist” threat to “our democracy”;
  • that Trump, with his climate denialism and his other antisocial policies, will be the fundamental cause of climate catastrophe and other horrors; and
  • that consequently, another four years of Trump would be such a “catastrophe” that, with respect to the 2020 elections, nothing is more important than ensuring that the Democrats prevail.

Proponents of the foregoing strategic viewpoint are many.  Recent advocates include:

  • a group of prominent leftist author-intellectuals with “An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy” castigating the Green Party for “helping the Republicans win the Presidency” in 2000 and 2016 thru not abandoning its Presidential campaigns in contested states [1]; and
  • Max Elbaum for Organization Upgrade with “Beating Trump: Absolutely Essential, Also Not Enough” asserting that “A second Trump term means racist authoritarianism”, “a drastic narrowing of the democratic space progressives and the left have utilized to resist”, “heightened danger of climate change-driven catastrophe”, “the erosion of democracy”, and accelerated “level of repression”. He goes on “a defeat of Trump by even the most moderate of Democrats … translates … into preservation of democratic space and … the possibility of the new American majority” [2].

It may be appropriate to ask whether they have elevated Trump far above his actual significance and mistaken the centrist Democrats for agents of progress and democracy.

What follows is simply an attempt to apply a rational fact-based strategic analysis, consistent with social-justice principles, to the current situation.

To begin, what are the relevant facts?


1st.  Regarding Trump differences from previous GOP Presidents. 

The unite-behind-the-Democrats strategists, in their portraying of Trump as radically different from his GOP predecessors, evade the decades of Republican pandering to bigotry.  In fact, his bigoted pandering and his embrace of antisocial policies is no departure from decades of past Republican Presidential candidates; remember: Goldwater’s embrace of “states’ rights” as he campaigned on his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Nixon’s “southern strategy”, Reagan’s campaigning against “welfare queens”, G H W Bush’s racist fearmongering “Willie Horton” campaign ads, Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights, their pandering to the religious right, their attacks on welfare programs which notably benefit the poor and minorities, etc.

Trump had posed as a populist; but he has, of course, embraced the longstanding antisocial policies of the Republican Party.  He has basically reneged on his promises to serve the working class; while he has, like most other Republicans, faithfully served the fossil-fuel, armaments, and other highly predatory industries.  Trump, has differed somewhat by campaigning as an isolationist who would end US military interventions in foreign lands; but he has (sometimes against his will) largely surrendered foreign policy to the bipartisan imperial foreign policy establishment.  Moreover, bully that he is, he has found that attacking vulnerable peripheral countries (Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba) bolsters his image as a tough commander-in-chief, a practice utilized by past Presidents of both Parties.

Nevertheless, from a revolutionary anti-capitalist and pro-social-justice perspective, there are some real, although unintended, positives in Trump’s Presidency.  These include: his undermining of the unity of the US-led imperial Western alliance; and his attacks on the intelligence agencies whereby he demoralizes their operatives and somewhat undermines their operations.  Moreover, the blatancy and transparent viciousness in his bigoted and antisocial actions has incited a growing popular movement in opposition to his odious policies, policies which, in some measure, he inherited from his predecessor.  But for Trump, this movement would not have risen to its current size and potency.


2nd.  Regarding domestic racism and other bigotries.

Trump differs from his Republican predecessors in that his pandering to bigotry lacks their sneaky subtlety and ambiguity; in fact, it is blatant, obsessive, absolutely transparent, and undeniable.  This transparency makes it much easier to organize against it; and that is a good thing.  Meanwhile, the unite-behind-the-Democrats strategists evade centrist Democrat pandering to racism and other bigotries whenever they found it to be politically expedient.  Examples.

In the 1970s, when under pressure from racist white constituents opposed to school desegregation, Senator Joe Biden switched his position from support to opposition on court-ordered busing to end school segregation.  Then, after having been a critic (in 1981) of Reagan’s push for tougher prison sentences, Biden discovered that being “tough on crime” was popular with much of the white electorate and spent a lot of effort from 1984 to 1994 pushing Congress, over opposition from the NAACP and the ACLU, to enact (with support from most Senate Democrats) a series of “tough on crime” bills.  Those enactments then contributed hugely to the disproportionately racial-minority mass incarceration (including: mandatory minimum sentences, the 100 times harsher penalty for crack as for powder cocaine, stripping inmates of appeal rights, and a big increase in the number of crimes subject to the death penalty).  [3]

Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill was a major contributor to the aforementioned mass incarceration of racial minorities.  Clinton pandered to bigotry again with his draconian so-called welfare reform which compels the most disadvantaged people (especially single-parent families) to work for poverty wages which leave them without the wherewithal to access basic needs (decent housing, affordable healthcare, quality education for their children, and other vital needs).  [4]

While Obama responded to pressure from his base constituents with his DACA order and proposed immigration reform, he also pandered to reactionary Republican xenophobia by deporting more undocumented immigrants in his first five years than G W Bush deported in eight, thereby earning the moniker “deporter-in-chief”.  Moreover, while Obama separated children from their immigrant parents (a total of 152,000 in 2012 alone), most Democrat politicians and the mainstream news media took little interest.  It is only now under Trump that such abuses (now, as then, somewhat limited by court order) have become a cause célèbre[5]


3rd.  Regarding climate catastrophe.  

Democrat actions to protect against climate catastrophe consist of: lip service (speeches); unenforceable aspirational goals (the Paris Agreement); regulatory enhancements (fuel efficiency “standards”, the “clean power plan”); market incentives (carbon tax, “cap and trade” schemes, subsidies for renewables); and fantasies (“clean coal”).

Those actions may appear to constitute progress toward cutting climate-destroying carbon pollution, but the meager 4.5% reduction in US CO2 emissions during Obama’s 8-year presidency actually depended largely upon independent market factors (especially cleaner alternative energy sources become cheaper than coal).   Meanwhile, Obama counteracted the effects of his grossly inadequate climate action program by actively promoting: huge increases in production of fossil fuels (with increased drilling permits, expanded offshore drilling, huge increase in fracking and production of natural gas, and a 13% increase in fossil-fuel pipelines from 2011 to 2015).  He also issued large new leases to coal producers.  Under Obama, US exports of coal, oil, and natural gas increased massively (1,000% in the case of oil); and Obama-approved Export-Import Bank loans and guarantees for fossil-fuel projects abroad nearly tripled from the level under G W Bush.  By 2017 (the year Obama left office) the US, with 15.3% of world oil production, had become the world’s top producer, well ahead of number-two Saudi Arabia’s 12.7%.  [6]

Meanwhile, California’s “climate champion” Governor Jerry Brown increased offshore drilling in state waters, eased restrictions on drilling and fracking, and fired regulators who stood firm against unsafe drilling practices.  [6]

Centrist Democrats are all for saving the climate, but only as long as so doing doesn’t include what is actually necessary, namely shutting down the profitable poisoning operations of the politically-powerful fossil-fuel companies.  Their grossly inadequate feel-good climate policies will no more save the planet from climate catastrophe than Trump’s denialism.


4th.  Regarding other antisocial policies in service to capital. 

Until the scheme was derailed by the Lewinski scandal, Bill Clinton plotted with Newt Gingrich on a nearly successful bipartisan plan to cut social security benefits and turn management of its trust fund over to Wall Street [7].  Clinton also backed the overwhelmingly bipartisan 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking reforms, repeal which unleashed the speculative and exploitative mortgage-lending practices which produced the great recession of 2008.

Obama posed as a progressive in the 2008 Presidential primaries.  Then as President his choices (in 2009) for Treasury Secretary and chief economic advisor were neoliberals US Treasury bureaucrat Timothy Geithner and World Bank vice-president Larry Summers.  The then-ruling Democrats’ response to the 2008 economic crisis was: to bail out, rather than nationalize, the big banks which had created the conditions which were its principal cause; and to provide minimal relief measures which nevertheless permitted some 5.3 million homeowners to lose their homes to the banks in Obama’s first six years, with many forced into bankruptcy while official unemployment doubled to 10%.  Under Obama, no bank CEOs were jailed for their mortgage lending frauds.  This was in contrast to the policy under President G H W Bush which sent many of the Savings & Loan CEOs to prison for bank frauds committed during the S&L Crisis.   [8]

Obama also supported the increasing privatization in K-to-12 schools (which robs already under-resourced public schools and students of desperately needed resources).  [9]

Although the Democrats routinely pose as allies of organized labor, on those occasions (1959..71, 1975..79, & 2009..11) when Democrats controlled both the Oval Office and the Congress with a filibuster-proof 60-vote super-majority in the Senate, they nevertheless did nothing to rescind the anti-union provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

With respect to healthcare, Obama and the Congressional Democrat leadership refused to permit consideration of the single-payer option and limited their healthcare “reform” (as centrist Democrats continue to do) so as to ensure the survival and continued profiteering of affected capitalist interest groups (in the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and service-provider industries), while still leaving tens of millions un- or under-insured and often without the means to access many of their often-vital healthcare needs.


5th.  Regarding Trump “fascism”. 

Is he about to achieve despotic power?  It is true that House Democrats, for lack of support in the Senate and/or in their own caucus, have been unable, in their occasional feeble attempts, to prevent some of Trump’s excessive assertions of Executive power.  However, Trump has been able to do thusly primarily because the Congress had ceded many of its Constitutional prerogatives to the Executive branch decades before Trump’s Presidency.  Nevertheless, Trump has been repeatedly stymied on particular issues: by the foreign-policy establishment; by Congress; by the courts; by obstruction within his own administration; by his own narcissism and incompetence; and sometimes even by overwhelming public disgust at some of his most abhorrent pronouncements.

Trump failed in his attempt to coerce the Congress into funding his anti-immigrant border wall, and he only obtained said funding subsequently when Congressional Democrats caved in return for modest funding for a few of their priorities.  He has been utterly unable to muzzle his critics: in the mainstream news media, in the Democratic Party, and on the left.  Despite his obsession to put an end to the Mueller investigation of his Presidential campaign, Trump was unable (or too fearful) to do so.  Finally, he failed to prevent House Democrats from impeaching him.

Certainly, if Trump were really a threat to the rights and capacities of his many critics to agitate and organize against the social evils of capitalism and the oppressive policies of the US government; then it would make sense for the socialist left to unite with the centrist liberals to protect those rights.  But there is currently no such real danger.  In fact, Trump, despite what he wants to believe, does not possess anywhere near the absolutist power of a fascist despot.  Moreover, with the persistence of broad and intense popular opposition to Trump, he is very unlikely to achieve such power.  The Trump Presidency, despite his abhorrent policies and authoritarian aspirations, is not an authoritarian state, nor will he make it into one.  Factually deficient assertions of portending “fascist authoritarianism” under Trump only serve to provide excuse for attempts to keep the broad left ensnared in its counterproductive allegiance to the centrist-dominated capital-serving Democratic Party.


6th.  Regarding American “democracy”.

What democracy?

Congressional Democrats and their apologists never miss any opportunity to vilify Russia for allegedly attacking “our democracy” by assisting the Trump campaign in the 2016 US Presidential election.  Completely absent from the discourse is any acknowledgement of the long bipartisan history (beginning with the 1948 Italian election) of US interventions in the national elections of numerous foreign countries (including the stealing of the 1996 Russian election for US favorite Boris Yeltsin).  Russian intervention in the 2016 US election pales in comparison with many of the US interferences in other countries’ elections.  Moreover, the Russian effort to sway the 2016 US Presidential election was the least significant factor in the outcome, far eclipsed by: the flawed Democrat candidate and her mismanaged election campaign, abstentions by many poor and working-class citizens on account of decades of Democrat failure to deliver for their base constituencies, and the electoral college system as well as other anti-democratic features of US elections.

In fact, US elections are rife with anti-democratic features in most of which both duopoly parties are complicit: political discourse dominated by capitalist funding, gerrymanders, voter suppression, party leaders rigging the nomination process to favor the establishment candidate, convention superdelegates, etc.  Moreover, the system is rigged in most states to maintain the 2-party duopoly which excludes and/or marginalizes all other parties (by giving the duopoly parties virtually automatic ballot access while imposing often insurmountable obstacles to such access for third parties); and the Democrats are complicit as they routinely act to block access for the Green Party.  In actual effect, voters usually choose between candidates of the duopoly parties who are selected, not by the people, but by big-money interest groups and allied establishment political insiders.

The US is no real democracy, it is a heavily corrupted plutocracy.  It will become a real democracy: only when there is popular participation and oversight over elected representatives, and only after a revolutionary movement for social justice has taken state power from the capital-subservient politicians of both duopoly parties.  The need is, not to ameliorate popular discontent by putting a Democrat in the White House, but to build the revolutionary movement with a social justice program which will be clearly distinct from the actual antisocial and anti-democratic policies of nearly all career politicians in the Democratic Party.


7th.  Regarding imperialism, human rights, and consistent anti-racism. 

The ”socialist” proponents of center-left alliance with the Democrats give lip-service opposition to imperialism and militarism; but then they abandon said opposition as they demand that all progressives back the candidacies of the worst perpetrators of imperial crimes against humanity.  Skipping over the crimes of Democrat Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson, which caused the deaths of millions and immense suffering to millions more, let us consider the millions of victims of US imperialism under the more recent Democrat Presidents and members of Congress.

Jimmy Carter: initiated the US funding and arming of the reactionary antisocial Islamist insurgency against the progressive modernist Soviet-aligned government in Afghanistan, joined apartheid South Africa in backing a (failed) coup plot (1979) against the anti-imperialist President of Seychelles, imposed sanctions (1979) on Grenada in an attempt to cripple its economy and thereby oust its progressive revolutionary government, and initiated (1980) the US backing for the Contra War (which Reagan later expanded) against the anti-imperialist government in Nicaragua.  [10]

Bill Clinton, knowing (and/or not caring) that the pretense that Iraq still had WMD [weapons of mass destruction] was false, imposed a murderous economic siege [sanctions] which impoverished the people and killed half a million Iraqis (mostly children), hoping thereby to provoke a coup to topple its President.  Clinton also joined Congress in enacting the 1996 Helms-Burton Act which punished Cuba for defending itself against invasions of its airspace by a rightwing exile gang with a history of terrorist attacks against targets in Cuba and elsewhere.  Further, Clinton laid the foundation for the current new cold war against Russia by beginning the provocative eastward expansion of NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries in violation of the US commitment given to Russia in return for the needed Soviet consent to the 1990 reunification of Germany.  [11]

“New Democrat” Presidential candidate Al Gore (in 2000) pandered to rightwing Cuban exiles by backing their attempt to prevent motherless 6-year-old Elián González from being reunited with his Cuban Communist father in Cuba.  [12]

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton [HRC] was an outspoken advocate for the Bush-Cheney “preemptive war” against Iraq, which killed another some 700,000 Iraqis.  [13]

In 2008 Democrat Presidential candidate Barack Obama: matched rival McCain in hawkishness on foreign policy as illustrated in the following quotes from Obama’s 2008 campaign web site.  “We must rebalance our capabilities to ensure that our forces have the agility and lethality to succeed in both conventional wars and in stabilization and counter-insurgency operations.”  “increase the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers and the Marines by 27,000 troops.”  “Preserve global reach in the air: We must preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces.  We need greater investment in advanced [weapons] technology …”.  “Maintain power projection at sea: We must recapitalize our naval forces”.  In the Presidential campaign debates, Obama mimicked McCain in denouncing popularly-elected Venezuelan President Chavez as a “tyrant”.  Further, he boasted (on his web site) of his Senate record: of “insisting that Israel not be pressured into a ceasefire” during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon; and of “cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria.”

John Kerry and HRC (the respective Democrat Presidential candidates in 2004 and 2016), as Secretaries of State under Obama, were proponents of his new cold war against Russia and backed his policy of support for the destructive Islamist-dominated insurgency in Syria.  HRC also advocated for the US-led military invasion which resulted in humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Libya.  Kerry, who had also backed the military intervention in Libya, was a proponent of Obama’s policy of encouraging and assisting the Saudi and UAE war of mass murder (from starvation and disease as well as aerial bombing) against the people of Yemen.  [14]

Obama: joined several allies in the invasion and destruction of Libya, abetted coups and coup attempts against popularly elected progressive and anti-imperialist governments in Honduras (2009) and Ecuador (2010), as well as against the duly elected neutralist government of Ukraine (2014).  Obama also armed and abetted the US-client regime in Colombia which gave rightwing death squads free rein to murder (as reported by Human Rights Watch) over 120 labor organizers and other nonviolent progressive social activists in 2011..15 alone (and more thereafter).  Meanwhile, he imposed the first of the crippling economic sanctions and persisted in other interventions to undermine the popularly elected leftist government in Venezuela.  [15]

Only 49 of 193 House Democrats voted against the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act [HR 5515] which greatly increased already massive military spending.  In the Senate it passed 87 to 10 with a mere 8 of 49 Democrat caucus members voting against.  [16]

The 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [HR 3364], which seeks to intensify Obama’s new cold war against Russia as well as to impose greater hardships on the peoples of Iran and North Korea, was adopted 419 to 3 in the House (each of the 3 no votes being from Republicans) and 98 to 2 in the Senate (the 2 being Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul).  [17]

Most high-level Democrat politicians are subservient to capital and firmly ensconced in the bipartisan imperialist foreign policy consensus.  In fact, Democrats have become staunch defenders: of the intelligence agencies, of Obama’s new cold wars, and of US aspirations for continued imperial world-domination.  They have impeached Trump, not for his many actual crimes against humanity, but on bogus assertions that his temporary suspension of military aid to the client state in Ukraine (which was installed by a US-backed coup and is a US pawn in its unjustified new cold war against Russia) was a betrayal of US national security.  None of the Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has clearly repudiated the falsehoods which are propounded and used to justify hostile US action against alleged “adversary” countries (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua).  (Note.  Although some of these countries maintain reactionary and/or oppressive domestic policies, not the reason for US hostility; all of them maintain foreign policies which are primarily defensive and in some measure anti-imperialist.  Russia and China are resisting Western imperial policies of hostile new-cold-war encirclement with US bases and military exercises in neighboring countries and/or adjacent seas.)

The “socialist” proponents of alignment with the Democratic Party have objectively embraced an objectively racist left version of America first.  They care that Democrats are marginally less antisocial on domestic issues (generally because they need the votes of women, minorities, and other affected constituencies); but, like said Democrats (even most of those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus), they acquiesce to the murderous oppressions of the millions of victims of US-led Western imperialism in other countries.


Ω.  Effects.

In effect, the avowedly leftist and “socialist” unite-behind-the-Democrats “electoral strategists” have jettisoned their anti-imperialism and limited their anti-racism to victims in the US, and then primarily to victims of governing Republicans.  They purport that the Democrats, even those like Joe Biden, will be saviors in the face: of Trump-incited racist abuses of immigrants and asylum-seekers (practices which actually pre-date the Trump Presidency), of Trump-abetted climate catastrophe, and of a Trump-led displacement of “our democracy” by an authoritarian “fascism”.  While it is true that government policies under Trump, as under previous Republican Presidents, are somewhat more antisocial than under Democrats; nevertheless, their portrayals of Trump, as a dire threat to progressive and socialist activism, and of the Democrats as the savior for progress, decency, and “democracy”, are essentially contra-factual.  They elevate Trump far above his actual significance by ignoring the many other factors (including the Democrats’ routine perfidy and subservience to capital) which are responsible for the capitalist and governmental abuses in the US.  Their position is rooted in their addiction to the failed policy of giving allegiance to the centrist-dominated Democratic Party which has been seducing and betraying the progressive movements for decades.  Finally, it is a betrayal of internationalist social-justice solidarity principles.




A socialist electoral policy needs to take shape based on: (1) evaluations of the key players (Trump, the Republicans, the centrist Democrats, and the progressive Democrats); (2) social justice principles; and (3) appropriate strategy and tactics.


1st.  Regarding the Republicans.

Almost all Republican politicians, some happily and others reluctantly, are overwhelmingly backing Trump as he persists in his bigoted rightwing populist demagoguery and his racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and other antisocial policies.


2nd.  Regarding the Democrats.

Responding to widespread popular discontent, the few social-liberal reformer politicians in the Democratic Party have rejected neoliberal economic policy and are advocating widely-popular new-deal type reforms (healthcare as a human right, Green New Deal, restoration of collective bargaining rights, and other social-justice reforms) which would increase people power and put much-needed constraints on capital.  Their contenders for the Presidency (Sanders, Warren, and Gabbard) have also expressed some opposition to overt military interventions to achieve regime change, but their records on imperialism and militarism are decidedly mixed.

Bernie Sanders has the best record of seeking cuts in military spending, but he backs the $1.5 trillion Lockheed-Martin F-35 stealth fighter plane.  He branded Libya’s Gaddafi as a “thug and murderer” shortly before US-backed thugs proceeded to oust and murder the Libyan ruler and plunge their country into chaos; and, while disapproving Trump’s economic siege and threatened military intervention, he has sided rhetorically with the US-imperialist-backed rightwing coup-seeking opposition to the Bolivarian government of Venezuela by misrepresenting that said government is “undemocratic”.  [18]

Tulsi Gabbard is the one explicit opponent of regime-change interventions, but she voted for the majority of military spending bills and against repeal of the intervention-promoting 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which effectively authorizes such regime-change operations.  [18]

Elizabeth Warren advocates cutting the “bloated defense budget”, but she voted for 2/3 of the military spending bills since she has been in the Senate.  She expresses a preference for more emphasis on diplomacy in foreign affairs, but she vocally backed Israel’s 2014 so-called “war” (actually mass murder) against Gaza.  While her rhetoric has subsequently moved away from the aggressive stance of her centrist Democrat rivals, she has not clearly repudiated the imperial bipartisan foreign policy consensus.  [18]

The centrists, including the Presidential contender (Biden) and ex-contenders (Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Harris, Booker, Castro, O’Rourke, Steyer, Bloomberg, etc.) have acquiesced to much of the neoliberal policy thru their subservience to capital and are mostly in opposition to more than marginal reforms.  These centrists also: join the bipartisan new-cold-war anti-Russia and anti-China consensus; condemn Trump for undermining the imperialistic alliances; are firmly committed to the bipartisan imperial foreign policy agenda; and mostly insist upon essentially blank-check backing for the Zionist state as it continues to perpetrate its crimes against the Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese Arabs.  [18]


3rd.  Relevant distinctions among Democrats.

The parties and candidates.  Obviously, the left must oppose Trump and the Republicans, but that does not necessarily mean supporting the Democrats.  Given the unwillingness of any of the Democrat candidates (and ex-candidates) for President to make a complete break from the deep-rooted bipartisan imperial foreign-policy consensus, and given their unwillingness, with the exception of the social liberal reformers, to make much of a break from neoliberal economic policy, there will undoubtedly be negatives in whichever contender the Democrats choose to run for President.  Nevertheless, the Democrats fall into two categories.

  • Any of the centrist candidates (now reduced to Biden) for commander-in-chief would be less blatantly odious than Trump; but, given their records and despite their promises, they could not be relied upon to be more than marginally better substantively, on social-justice reforms especially with respect to the many issues (environmental policy, healthcare as a right, collective bargaining, regulation of capitalist enterprise, social programs, etc.) where the need conflicts with capitalist domination and profiteering.  They would be less bad than Trump on some aspects of foreign policy, but worse on some others.   Most importantly, they would induce most of the popular anti-Trump movement to continue giving its allegiance to the centrist-dominated Democratic Party, which remains overwhelmingly subservient to capital and firmly committed to the militarist and imperialist foreign policy consensus.  Finally, beholden as they are to their capitalist campaign-funders, they would obstruct, as much as possible, efforts to empower the people or to constrain capital or to deal effectively with global warming.
  • The relative progressives (now reduced to one, namely Sanders) do not oppose private-enterprise capitalism; but they appear to genuinely want: a more dovish and less interventionist foreign policy; and real people-power and capital-constraining reforms, as well as stronger defense of human rights.


4th.  Strategic objectives. 

The primary objective for revolutionaries is not ameliorative reforms, but the building of the revolutionary movement.  The objective of that movement as stated by Marx and Engels [in the Manifesto (1848)] must be to “raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.”  It is only after the progressive working class with its allies has conquered the state power, that it can then: effectuate the socialist reconstruction of the civil society; and thereby replace the predatory capitalist social imperative (the selfish pursuits of private profit and private accumulation of wealth) with the socialist imperative (the satisfaction of human and social needs).

In order to build that revolutionary movement, revolutionaries must engage with the people in their struggles for reforms, but revolutionaries must not permit the reform agenda to be confined to palliatives bestowed upon passive beneficiaries by paternalistic agents of the reformist faction of the ruling capitalist class in order to temporarily ameliorate immediate popular discontents.  Rather, insofar as possible, activists must: demand reforms which empower the people.  People empowerment includes: collective bargaining, litigation rights, citizen initiatives, public participation and oversight, FOIA access, voting rights, civil liberties, human rights enforcement, etc.  Revolutionaries must also demand measures which reduce and constrain the powers of the ruling capitalist class: effective public-interest regulation of for-profit businesses, ending and reversing privatizations, expanded public services and social welfare programs, bans on corporate money in election campaigns, restraints upon the powers and reach of the repressive state apparatus, etc.

An assessment, that progressive candidates, if elected, may be unable to deliver on their progressive reforms, should not be taken as excuse to oppose or abstain from advocating for their election.  Elections, like all reform struggles, are a venue in which revolutionaries seek to influence the populace and recruit activists to the revolutionary movement.  Revolutionaries must educate and organize, which they can do only if they connect with people thru engagement in struggles for social justice (which include election campaigns for advocates of transformative progressive change, as advocated by Sanders, but opposed by Biden).  Such education must include: the need for solidarity with all victims of social injustice including foreign victims of US imperialism; and also the need for reforms which increase people power and/or reduce the powers of capital.  In pursuit of these objectives, revolutionaries should organize a Social Justice Solidarity Voters [SJSV] bloc with a comprehensive program of social justice demands (with respect to issues of: economic justice, environmental justice, racist and sexist and all other violations of human rights, civil liberties, militarism and imperialism) and proceed as described (in 5th) below.

(For a fuller explanation of revolutionary strategy, see referenced article [19]!)


5th.  Electoral tactics.

♦ In the Democratic caucuses and primaries.  Call upon participants: to demand support for the comprehensive social justice program (as noted in 4th above and including concrete opposition to militarism, imperialism, and neoliberalism); and to reject candidates whose policies will alienate those true progressives who are genuinely committed to that program.  The rationales being: principle (social justice); and pragmatic (the need to bring over leftist voters who justifiably will refuse to vote for another duplicitous imperial and capital-serving Democrat, as well as struggling workers who will not be motivated to vote without reason to believe that the outcome can positively affect the situations of people like themselves).

♦ In the general election for President.  If the Democrats were to select a social liberal (e.g. Sanders) for commander-in-chief; and if that candidate could credibly be expected to seriously push for people-power and capital-constraining reforms, and also for significant curtailment of the current militarism and imperial interventionism [⁑]; it would be appropriate to back said candidate provided that this were done tactically, independently, and with appropriate criticisms.  (For example, an apt slogan would be “Sanders – not perfect, but clearly progressive”.)

So, what if the Democrats nominate an imperial corporate Democrat (Joe Biden)?  From the standpoint of ameliorative reformism, the primary objective will, as always, be to defeat the Republicans and put the center-left (actually centrist-dominated) Democrats in control of the federal government.  Contrarywise, from the standpoint of genuine social revolutionaries, the primary objective remains to build the revolutionary movement.  Thus, a policy seeking to defeat Trump at all costs (even including abandonment of social-justice principles and of solidarity with the multitudes of victims of US imperialism) cannot be justified, although this will undoubtedly be disputed by those who mistake the Democratic Party as a savior of “democracy” and social progress.  (If the “socialist” proponents of supporting Biden were to campaign with an honest slogan, it would have to be something like “Biden – duplicitous flip-flopper, staunch imperialist, candidate for big business, but not as blatant as Trump”.)

Can backing a neoliberal imperialist Democrat for commander-in-chief be formulated in a way which is consistent with the revolutionary socialist objective and not perpetuate the failed policy of reliance upon lesser-evil Democrats?  Given how blatantly vicious Trump is, revolutionary socialists may prove unable to achieve consensus on this question.  However, his viciousness should not be the deciding factor.  If revolutionaries are to back a neoliberal imperial Democrat (such as Biden) for commander-in-chief, they need to be able to make the case that so doing will facilitate building the revolutionary movement and not perpetuate reactive lesser-evil-ism (along with the extreme viciousness in the reality of militarism and imperialism).

Can they validly make that case?  Their assertion, that the Trump Presidency portends the coming of an “authoritarian fascist” state or the suppression of left activism, is clearly contrary to fact.  All that remains of their argument is the fact that centrist Democrats (with their grossly inadequate reforms) are, in the short-term, somewhat less bad for most people in the US than the Republicans.  They evade the facts: that Democrat policies (under Carter, Clinton, and Obama) have done little or nothing to improve the lives of women, minorities, and workers (with the exception of some in the educated middle class [20]); and that some of their policies have made things worse for millions of the most disadvantaged Americans.  Moreover, Democrats have been equally (with Republicans) committed to the militarism and imperial interventionism which: has subjected many millions of people in other countries to extreme privation and often murderous violence, and has produced the new cold wars which threaten nuclear Armageddon.  Finally, backing Biden or any other centrist is de facto support for the centrist program (which is militarist, imperialist, anti-people-power, subservient to capital, and opposed to the progressive reforms sought by Sanders and other social liberals).  In fact, the proponents of backing a centrist Democrat against Trump, as a “socialist” policy or one which saves “democratic space” for progressive activists, have no case.

Because the case for backing a centrist Democrat for President cannot be validly made, revolutionaries should organize a voter boycott of any such Presidential nominee, educate all who will listen as to the justification for so doing, and use the situation to continue building the organized revolutionary movement.  If it comes to this, it will obviously require patiently and respectfully swimming against a heavy adverse tide in the broad left which is deeply addicted to its long allegiance to the Democratic Party (either as savior or as lesser-evil).  Nevertheless, the appropriate policy often requires such.  The alternative, i.e. tailing after the masses when they are misled by agents of capital (i.e. centrist Democrat politicians and the mainstream media), is easy but counterproductive.  In any event this decision should be based on soundly reasoned fact-based analysis rather than emotion.  (Realistically, it will take time, likely years, to build the revolutionary movement to such strength that it can be much of a force in national elections; but putting off this essential task with whatever excuses means never achieving it.)

[⁑ Note.  A completely progressive foreign-policy program (which no current Democrat Presidential candidate can credibly be expected to embrace more than partially) would include the following.

  • Arms control. Return to the arms control treaties which the US quit (under Bush-Cheney and Trump), no development of new nuclear bombs; no militarization of space; restoration of the prohibition on use of land mines; massive cuts to military spending (especially of warships, expensive warplanes, etc.).
  • No new cold war. End containment policies (military alliances, war games, etc.) near the borders of Russia and China; end Western intervention in the civil war in Ukraine; accept the will of the Crimean populace for reunification with Russia; comply with the 1990 US-NATO commitment that NATO would not expand into any former Warsaw Pact countries nor engage in military operations on their territories; dissolve NATO and other imperial military alliances.
  • End economic sieges and regime-change operations against countries targeted because of their refusal to comply with Western imperial dictates. Return to the Iran nuclear agreement; negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea; close the Guantanamo base and prison and return the occupied territory to Cuba; stop the US-abetted Saudi and UAE war in Yemen.
  • Offer constructive assistance to help countries peacefully achieve just resolutions of their civil and international conflicts.
  • End the bogus “terrorist”-designation of anti-imperialist resistance organizations (including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad).
  • End all support (diplomatic, economic, and military) for the Zionist state; and demand that it: end its occupation of Syrian and Lebanese territory, end its military aggressions against its neighbors, end all of its violations of UN resolutions and international human rights conventions, transition to a democratic all-Palestine state which will fully respect the human rights (including fair compensation and right of return) of the Palestinian Arabs including those dispossessed by the nakba.]

♦ In the 2020 general election for Congress.  Tactically support Democrats (including the neoliberal imperialist types) to the extent necessary to obtain Democrat control of Congress, the rationale being as follows.  Although this will not end Congressional support for the imperial foreign policy consensus, it will NOT place commander-in-chief powers in their hands, and it will impose some needed constraints on Trump should he be reelected.  If the Democrats win the Presidency with a progressive (such as Sanders), a Democrat Congress will improve chances for some limited portion of the SJSV demands and people-empowering and capital-constraining reforms to be obtained.  Such backing will need to be accompanied by explanation as to the tactical rationale as well as all appropriate criticism of the endorsed candidates.  Provided that it is presented as tactical, this policy would serve the movement-building objectives stated above.

♦ State elections.  In states where governors and legislators control redistricting, and control of the process is in question; the SJSV bloc should tactically back the Democrat candidates for the offices which will make the redistricting decisions.  This is to prevent Democrats from being shut out of power by GOP gerrymandering; and that is desirable because Democrats are more dependent upon support from progressive voters and thusly more easily pressured by the left.  In other state and local races, the bloc should bring pressure to bear by generally withholding support from those Democrats who refuse to comply with reasonable demands for their adherence to the SJSV program.

♦ If the Democrats take the Presidency and Congress but refuse to make meaningful departures from the current foreign policy agenda and/or from neoliberal economic policy; then vigorously oppose those obstructers who face reelection come 2022.

Ω The objectives of the foregoing tactical policy are: that, in electoral activity, socialists must act independently of both capital-serving political parties; and that they should use the Democrat politicians and not allow the progressive left to be used by said Democrats.


Ω.  Principles.

Socialists must be pragmatic and must make appropriate compromises, but never sacrifice social justice principles.  Rank-and-file Democrats, who are uneducated as to the multifarious ways in which most Democrat politicians betray the progressive principles which they avow, can be forgiven for giving allegiance to such Democrats.  However, avowed socialists and progressive activists, who know or should know the facts but nevertheless give allegiance to such antisocial Democrat politicians, betray their avowed anti-racist, anti-imperialist, and progressive pretentions.  The obligation of socialists is to educate the rank-and-file progressives and separate them from their duplicitous politicians.


Noted sources.

[1] Noam Chomsky & 8 others: An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy” (2020 Jan 24) @

[2] Max Elbaum: Beating Trump: Absolutely Essential, Also Not Enough” (2020 Jan 25) @

[3] P R Lockhart: Joe Biden’s record on school desegregation busing, explained (2019 Jun 28) @  Branko Marcetic: Joe Biden, Mass Incarceration Zealot (2018 Aug 09) @

[4] Wikipedia: Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (2020 Feb 14) ~ § 4 Consequences, § 5 Criticism.

[5] Carol Dansereau: Whose Moral Stain? Hold Democrats Accountable on Immigration Too (2018 Oct 02) @  Miles Culpepper: Why Democrats Keep Caving on Immigration (2019 Jul 07) @

[6] Carol Dansereau: Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity (2018 Nov 13) @  Statista: Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption in the U.S. from 1975 and 2017 (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide) (© 2018) @  Investopedia:  The World’s Top Oil Producers of 2017 (2018 Feb 18) @

[7] Alan Nasser: The Coming Plague of Poverty Among the Elderly: Clinton’s Plan for Gutting Social Security (2016 Nov 04) @

[8] CoreLogic: United States Residential Foreclosure Crisis: Ten Years Later (2017 Mar) ~ pp 4..5 @  Bureau of Labor Statistics: Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (accessed 2019 May) @

[9] Diane Ravitch: Flunking Arne Duncan (2012 Mar 07) @

[10] Stephen Kinzer: Overthrow (© 2006) ~ chapter 12 They Will Have Flies Walking Across Their Eyeballs.   William Blum: Killing Hope (© 2004) ~ Chapter 53 Afghanistan 1979-1992 America’s jihad; Chapter 44 Seychelles 1979-1984 – Yet another area of great strategic importance; Chapter 49 Nicaraguan 1978-1990: Destabilization in slow motion; Chapter 45 Grenada 1979-1984: Lying – one of the few growth industries in Washington.  Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow, chapter 10 Our Days of Weakness Are Over.  Stephen Zunes: The US Invasion of Grenada – Foreign Policy in Focus (2003 Oct) @

[11] Wikipedia: Sanctions against Iraq (2015 Nov 14); Lead-up to the Iraq War (2015 Nov 11); Helms-Burton Act (2020 Jan 12); José Basulto (2019 Nov 18).

[12] PBS: a chronology of the Elian Gonzalez saga (accessed 2020 Feb) @

[13] On the Issues: Hillary Clinton on War & Peace (2018 Sep 08) @

[14] Wikipedia: Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War (2019 May 03) ~ § 2.1 Support for the Syrian opposition # United States; US domestic reactions to the 2011 military intervention in Libya (2018 Oct 11).  Nika Knight: Saudi-led Bombing Kills 11 Civilians in Yemen, While Kerry Ignores US ‘Complicity’ (2016 Aug 26) @

[15] Wikipedia: 2009 Honduran coup d’état (2018 Oct 07); 2010 Ecuador crisis (2018 Oct 01).  Robert Parry: Cheering a “Democratic” Coup in Ukraine (2014 Feb 26) @  Renee Parsons: Chronology of the Ukrainian Coup (2014 Mar 05) @  Medium: US Staged a Coup in Ukraine – Brief History and Facts (2017 Dec 18) @  Dan Kovalik: Death Squads Continue to Reign in Colombia (2014 May 24) @  Telesur: Tracking US Intervention in Venezuela Since 2002 (2015 Nov 18) @

[16] govtrack: H.R. 5515: John S McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 ~ House vote (2018 Jul 26) @ & Senate vote (2018 Aug 01) @

[17] govtrack: H.R. 3364: Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act ~ House vote (2017 Jul 25) @ & Senate vote (2017 Jul 27) @

[18] Medea Benjamin & Nicolas J S Davies: War and Peace and the 2020 Presidential Candidates (2019 Mar 27) @  Bernie Sanders: Sanders Statement on Venezuela (2019 Jan 24) @  Doug Enaa Greene: Not on our side: On Bernie Sanders and imperialism (2019 Jun 27) @  Norman Solomon: Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality (2019 Apr 25) @  Norman Solomon: Corporate Team of Rivals: Biden and Harris (2019 Jul 10) @

[19] Charles Pierce: Why ameliorative reformism and lesser-evil-ism is failed strategy and what is the winning alternative! (2020 Feb 16) @ ~ post 7.

[20] Indigo Olivier: A Feminism for the Working Class (2020 Mar 05) @  Sara Rimer & Karen W Arenson: Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but Which Ones? (2004 Jun 24) @


Author: Charles Pierce.               Date: 2020 Feb 24, updated 2020 Mar 18.


Charles Pierce is: a working-class retiree, a past union steward and local union officer, and currently a researcher and writer on history and politics.  Other articles by Charles Pierce can be accessed by google search at  Reader comments are welcome.


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