The 2024 Election Circus Starts in Iowa

The Iowa caucus has kicked off another presidential election. Once again, we are told by the billionaire media that it will be a “historic election” that will shape the future of the country and the world. Insofar as the campaign is already accelerating the instability of  bourgeois rule in the world’s most powerful country, they have a point.

But the reality is that, whoever wins, the working class will be the losers. The vast majority of problems facing the working class will not be solved by these elections, no matter who wins.

The US is a bourgeois democracy, which means it is a democracy for the capitalist class and nobody else. The richest 10% of the population own 70% of the wealth, while more than 120 million workers have no political party of their own to fight for their class interests. Marx explained that at election time, the workers simply pick who will rule over and exploit them. This will be the case until the workers build a mass communist party and establish a workers’ government that actually represents the vast majority.

To cut across the unity workers need to build such a party and to establish a workers’ government, the ruling class bends over backwards to divide the population into a vast array of “identities,” with the question of class de-emphasized—and for good reason. If the real class divisions in society were put front and center, it would be clear that the rich represent a tiny minority and that it makes no sense for them to continue ruling over the rest of us.

Decades of crisis have generated tremendous social and political instability. / Image: Joe Piette, Flickr

American capitalism in decline

Decades of crisis have generated tremendous social and political instability. In 2016, the ruling class lost control of the Republican Party to Donald Trump and his followers. Trump himself is a bourgeois, but he is also an erratic egoist who cannot be trusted to safeguard  the overall interests of the ruling class. The events of January 6, 2021 showed that the peaceful transfer of power can no longer be taken for granted. Last year, it took 15 ballots for Kevin McCarthy to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. After finally winning the post, he was ousted after just ten months. His successor, Mike Johnson won after days of contentious votes and his tenure may not even last the rest of this year.

The instability of US politics is a great example of dialectics. All the factors that kept the US relatively stable for so long—the Constitution with its “checks and balances” and a two-party system fused with the state apparatus—have now turned to their opposite. While some on the left fearmonger about supposed “fascism” on the horizon, the reality is that Trump is a symptom of the growing polarization. Along with the growth of Trumpism, huge opportunities are simultaneously opening up for the left and the labor movement.

The political instability is rooted in the inability for the capitalist system to continue developing the productive forces. Large parts of the population have seen a fall in their living standards, while others have seen decades of stagnation. No wonder a March, 2023 poll found that a supermajority of 78% of Americans do not feel confident that their children’s lives will be better than theirs. This strikes at the heart of US imperialist propaganda and the false idea of “American exceptionalism.”

As they attempt to manage their declining system, the ruling class desires a competent president at the helm. They wanted a “return to normality” by 1) Ensuring a successful and stable presidency for Joe Biden; 2) Launching a series of legal attacks against Donald Trump to discredit him and knock him out of politics; 3) On this basis, shaking Trump’s grip on the Republican Party to get it back in safe hands.

How has this worked out for them?

The ruling class wanted a “return to normality” by ensuring a successful and stable presidency for Joe Biden. / Image: Socialist Revolution

Biden’s presidency

Biden’s narrow victory over Trump in 2020 was supposed to signal a return to the status quo ante. But the prolongation of the pandemic, rising inflation, endless climate disasters, a refugee crisis, the Ukraine War, and now Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza have made it clear that this is the “new normal”—and millions of workers and youth are angry as hell.

The growing class anger  has been expressed in an increase in strikes and unionization efforts, along with huge demonstrations in recent months against US imperialism and the Zionist state of Israel. These struggles have the potential to take on an even wider character, but there is no mass communist party nor a class-struggle union leadership up to the task. To be sure, there have been some changes in the trade union leadership, including the election of Shawn Fain as president of the UAW, which reflects the anger of the working class and is creating interesting opportunities in the struggles ahead. But for the moment, no serious class-independent lead is being given.

As for Trump, he now faces a total of 91 indictments in federal and state courts. On top of this, there are efforts to remove him from the ballot in some states, based on 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and his role in the January 6, 2021 riots. The ruling class wants to punish Trump for his actions and send a warning to those who go beyond the acceptable limits of traditional capitalist politics. However, Trump is not retreating, and is fighting back against all charges. He has used these attacks to pose as a martyr and to raise funds for his campaign—and his strategy is clearly paying off.

Then there’s Joe Biden, who is accurately perceived as a weak and bumbling octogenarian. His inability to deliver the goods on the economy, climate change, abortion rights or anything else has alienated millions who supported him to get rid of Trump in 2020. For many, Biden’s staunch support for Netanyahu’s criminal war on Gaza was the last straw. Any remaining illusions they may have had in the Democrats have been eradicated by watching the US-backed bombing campaigns in the Middle East, not only in Gaza, but also in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Any remaining illusions in Biden and the Democrats have been eradicated by the US-backed atrocities in the Middle East, not only in Gaza, but also in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. / Image: Socialist Revolution

Iowa and the battle for the Republican Party

In theory, there will be a full schedule of primaries and caucuses to choose delegates to the Republican and Democratic conventions. But with the Democrats running their incumbent, only the Republicans are engaged in a “real” nomination contest this year. And after Iowa, it would seem that the writing is already on the wall for the GOP.

Iowa is one of fifty states, but it has just 3.2 million people—less than 1% of the nation’s population—and most of it is rural. It is hardly a bellwether for the country as a whole. Nonetheless, much is made of the first contest in a presidential election year, and the opinion of this traditionally conservative state is used by the media to set the tone for the entire campaign.

In 2016, the Iowa Republican Caucus attracted 187,000 participants. In 2024, turnout was just around 110,000, just 15% of the state’s registered Republicans. An entrance poll of Caucus participants found that almost half of them claim to be part of Trump’s MAGA movement. 64% of these identify as Evangelical Christians. Trump is the clear favorite of this crowd, despite his secular lifestyle. Again, this is hardly representative of the state or the country as a whole.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis launched his presidential bid with big expectations and donors to match. His schtick was to run as the “Trumpism without Trump” candidate. But the GOP ranks don’t seem to like him much, so the ruling class—including JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon and the Koch brothers—switched their money to Trump’s former ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

With the New Hampshire Republican Primary fast-approaching on January 23, the establishment clearly hoped Haley could place in a dominant second in Iowa, force out DeSantis, and hold Trump to below 50%. Then, if she could win or perform even better in New Hampshire—where she is currently polling relatively well—the next big contest would be South Carolina, her home state, and she might be able to build momentum and win some of the more pragmatic Trump supporters.

The GOP ranks don’t seem to like DeSantis much, so the ruling class—including JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon and the Koch brothers—switched their money to Haley. / Image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Needless to say, that’s not what happened. Trump ended up getting 51% in Iowa, with a 30-point lead over DeSantis and 32 points over Haley. Trump won 98 of 99 counties, with Haley winning a single county by a single vote. DeSantis claims he’s in it for the long haul, but his bravado will likely run out sooner rather than later. He has no momentum and will continue to have more problems raising money.

As for Vivek Ramaswamy, he dropped out of the race and enthusiastically endorsed Trump after a poor showing in Iowa; he clearly has his eye on a top position in a second Trump administration.

Unless Trump is convicted and in prison ahead of the party convention, it’s hard to see how anyone in the Republican Party can stop the Trump train—which doesn’t bode well for the deeply unpopular incumbent.

A week is a long time in politics. The election is in November, and any number of twists and turns can upend the race between now and then. However, it is abundantly clear that if the election becomes a simple referendum for or against Biden, the Republicans will win. Biden’s path to victory is to transform it into a referendum on Trump, assuming he’s the GOP’s candidate.

All of this is a reminder of the epoch of class struggle and revolution which we are entering. Yes, we must fight Trumpism, but we have no illusions in the farce of bourgeois democracy or the parties of the ruling class. Only a bold communist program emphasizing the shared class issues facing the vast majority of Americans can destroy Trumpism. Our immediate task is to organize the tens and hundreds of thousands of as-yet-unorganized communists who will bring an end to the nightmare of capitalism in the coming historic period. Stay tuned for ongoing analysis of the 2024 elections, and if you’re not yet organized in the ranks of the IMT, join the communists today!

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