The 2024 Presidential Elections and the Coming Storm

The beginning of the new year has been marked by a particularly acute lack of optimism and excitement for the future across all segments of American society. Long gone are the days of New Year’s optimism and excitement for what the coming months will bring. Chronic economic crisis, political polarization, and constant instability have characterized American life for several presidential cycles.

It is against this backdrop of crisis, disillusionment, and dissatisfaction that the 2024 elections will unfold. With the incumbent Joe Biden running for a second term, and Trump well in the lead for the GOP, we will likely see a rematch between the two least-liked presidential candidates in recent history.

Aside from the fearful New Year “warnings” by liberal editorial boards, the mood in society at large is still largely one of apathy and detachment from bourgeois politics. But in the weeks ahead, the election will begin in earnest, with upcoming caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. It will begin to dawn on growing numbers of people that yes,  indeed, they’ll be forced to “choose” yet again between these two candidates.

In some form or another, we can be sure that the pent-up class anger within American society will come roaring back to the surface. The communists must, therefore, gear up for another unprecedented roller coaster of a year. We will deal in future articles and podcasts with the many angles and inevitable twists and turns of the 2024 presidential campaign. But first, let us look at the backdrop.

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In some form or another, we can be sure that the pent-up class anger within American society will come roaring back to the surface. / Image: Lance Cheung, Flickr

How do communists approach elections?

As with all of our political work, communists analyze and intervene in bourgeois elections to draw out and clarify the shared, historical interests and urgent tasks of the working class. The fundamental principle in this regard is class independence. We do not lend support in any way, shape, or form to either the Democrats or Republicans, two bourgeois parties which prop up US capitalism and imperialism.

However, we also understand that due to nonstop media coverage and the lack of avenues for political expression, electoral cycles do get millions of people thinking about politics. Albeit in a distorted manner—since there is no working-class political outlet for the simmering class rage and frustration—elections can provide a partial snapshot of the mood in society. This is why, without losing sight of the big picture, communists take an interest in the goings on of bourgeois politics.

The events that will unfold this year can only be understood in their broader historical context. 2016 marked a watershed year for the unraveling of US bourgeois democracy. Until then, both bourgeois parties had been controlled by “safe hands” for generations. Buoyed by the post-World War II economic boom and its decades-long political aftermath, US politics was generally an extremely dry and boring affair.

But beneath the surface, the economic basis for that political stability had long evaporated. As is now very clear, US capitalism is in long-term decline. Across the country, wages and living standards have stagnated or fallen for decades. Trump, cynically tapping into the legitimate anger and discontent, made right-populist promises to “make America great again.” Bernie Sanders did something similar from a left-populist perspective, but ended up bending the knee to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment. In the end, Trump pulled off a historic upset, despite losing the popular vote.

The problem, from the point of view of the ruling class, is that Donald Trump is not a trusted career politician like Biden. Rather, he is a narcissistic sociopath who does not act in the interests of his own class. He is a symptom—and in turn also a cause—of the general instability of declining capitalism worldwide.

Trump is a symptom—and in turn also a cause—of the general instability of declining capitalism worldwide. / Image: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

War, inflation, and climate catastrophe

In 2020, Biden promised to right the ship and captain a return to “normalcy.” In a country exhausted by the chaos of Trump and covid, he succeeded in playing the card of “lesser evilism.” However, three years under Biden have done nothing to restore stability or confidence in the institutions of bourgeois rule. From inflation to student debt to the accelerating climate disaster to the US-backed nightmare in Gaza, life for millions under Biden is just as “evil” as it was under Trump.

Although the headlines try to paint a rosy picture and laud a lackluster economy, the reality is that life is extremely difficult for the American working class. 62% of adults in the United States report living paycheck to paycheck. Prices remain high and savings have been wiped out. According to a CNN poll, 48% of Americans report significantly cutting down on driving due to gas prices. Another poll reports that 70% of people think the economy is getting worse, not better.

Support for the imperialist proxy war in Ukraine, which was never particularly high in the first place, is waning. According to a recent poll, 41% of Americans think that the US is doing “too much” for Ukraine. Support for Israel is even lower, with only 32% of people believing the US should support Israel’s war on Gaza.

Biden’s approval rating at the end of the year was 39%, a historic low for a modern-day president at this point in his reelection campaign.

While billions of dollars in military aid are sent to fund Israel’s obliteration of hospitals, schools, and residential buildings, conditions worsen for the American working class. There are billions in the budget for Israel’s massacre of civilians, but issues such as the student debt crisis, homelessness, and access to healthcare remain unsolved. It wasn’t long ago that wildfire smoke clogged the air of several major cities in the country, a suffocating reminder of the continuous threat of climate catastrophe.

While billions are sent to fund Israel’s obliteration of hospitals, schools, and residential buildings, conditions worsen for the American working class. / Image: Ali Hamad, Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa)

Establishment panicking

The Republican Party establishment has attempted to muster up some challengers to Trump. But this has proved entirely unsuccessful. The Republican debates have been more like a trashy reality television show than an actual discussion of policy, with candidates attacking and falling over each other to squeeze in empty one-liners. Supremely confident in his grip on the party’s base, Trump has simply boycotted the debates. With Iowa and New Hampshire fast approaching, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis stand out as Trump’s main “rivals” for the nomination, but they lag well behind the former president. Unless the Republicans can pull a rabbit out of their hat—like the Democrats did in 2020 in South Carolina to block Sanders—his nomination seems all but assured.

This despite his vast array of legal problems, which actually serve to bolster his “cause” in the eyes of his supporters. The ruling class, anxious to keep him from a second term, is trying everything to remove him as a political factor, most recently by removing his ballot access in Colorado and Maine, on the basis of his role in the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. But he remains unmatched when it comes to tapping into the discontent and distorted class anger of an important layer of the American population.

Meanwhile, there are no real challengers to Biden’s anointment as the Democratic nominee, despite his terrible approval ratings and polling figures.

Recent polls show Biden and Trump running neck-and-neck, with several giving Trump the edge. In the last 80 years, only one other incumbent has trailed this badly at this point in the election cycle—Trump in 2020. This reflects the current impasse of the capitalist system; its convulsions and shockwaves felt across every corner of the globe in every area of life. The organic crisis of the system, which renders serious solutions from either party impossible, have resulted in this game of presidential ping-pong.

Most significantly, Trump leads Biden in five of the six key swing states, which, due to the undemocratic Electoral College, hold outsized significance. It’s not unreasonable to imagine a scenario in which the unpopular incumbent is ousted—despite winning the popular vote nationwide. Trump’s election would be like pouring gasoline into a dumpster fire, instantly accelerating the polarization and chaos, starting on election night.

The political bankruptcy of those who advocate voting for the “lesser evil” is on full display. The Democrats’ total impotence  and inaction in the face of all the problems facing the country has paved the way for Trump’s triumphant and vindictive return. Although he was “defeated” in 2020, nothing fundamentally changed for the American working class.

As we have seen, Biden has actually continued many of the same policies that Trump began, including the tariffs on China, the inhumane treatment of immigrants at the border, and the building of a border wall with Mexico. So-called “lesser evilism” inevitably leads to the return of the “greater evil” in the end.

There are a handful of third-party candidates, most notably Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who are polling higher than might normally be expected due to the “none of the above” outlook of millions. Some demoralized elements on the left are praying for a Cornel West turnaround, and his trajectory obviously remains to be seen. However, after betrayal and capitulation of the Bernie Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020, it is not guaranteed that West’s similarly lackluster right-reformist program will gain a real echo.

As for RFK Jr., his smashup of both left and right-populism appears to be winning support from across the political spectrum. So while neither of these candidates will be sworn in as president in January 2025, given the overall context, they could well be accused of playing “spoiler” come November.

RFK Jr.’s smashup of both left and right-populism appears to be winning support from across the political spectrum. / Image: Maxlovestoswim, Wikimedia Commons

The failure of “Bidenomics”

When everything else is equal, elections often come down to the old adage “it’s the economy, stupid.” A healthy economy is good for the party in power and bad for the opposition. This is why Trump is on record saying he hopes the economy crashes before the end of Biden’s term—so he can then make it great again.

But everything else is not equal, and there are countless variables that could tip things one way or another come election day. Nonetheless, the state of the economy consistently tops voter’s concerns in electoral polls. In a recent poll, 57% of respondents said “economic issues would be the most important factor in their vote.” In another, 82% of respondents said price increases were their biggest financial stress.

But no president really has control over the rhythms of the anarchic capitalist economy. The crisis of world capitalism continually throws monkey wrenches into Biden’s attempts to restore political stability, worsening the living conditions for working people and the youth. The US economy is limping along, not yet technically in a full-blown recession, but interest rates and prices are still high as workers are forced to further tighten their belts.

The liberal press constantly argues that the economy is doing fantastic. According to them, so-called Bidenomics is transforming the lives of Americans everywhere, but “Biden just isn’t publicizing his wins enough!” But as is well known, “lies, damned lies, and statistics” can be used to “prove” just about anything.

For instance, Biden proudly proclaimed that “workers’ wages and household wealth are higher now than they were before the pandemic, adjusted for inflation.” But median household income, adjusted for inflation, has fallen nearly 5% in the past four years.

The bourgeois media likewise praises the unemployment rate, now below 4%. But this doesn’t tell the whole story.  An estimated 16 million people are working two jobs to make ends meet, while 40% of recent college graduates are underemployed. High interest rates—which the Federal Reserve was forced into to compensate for the capitalists’ inflationary policies at the beginning of the pandemic—are also impacting workers’ economic situation.

Another poll found that just 14% of voters think they are better off economically under Biden, with nearly 70% feeling that “Biden’s economic policies had either hurt the US economy or had no impact.” Swing state voters said “they trust Trump over Biden with the economy” by a 22-point margin, 50% to 37%.

And yet, despite polls showing the unpopularity of “Bidenomics,” the Democrats are leaning into Biden’s economic record as they make their case for reelection.

Despite polls showing the unpopularity of “Bidenomics,” the Democrats are leaning into Biden’s economic record. / Image: The White House, Wikimedia Commons

“Genocide Joe” exposed

It was in the context of an already failing presidency that the US-backed war on Gaza began. This has only served to intensify the hatred of imperialism around the world—including among workers and youth in the major imperialist countries.

Biden’s naked support of Israel’s savage demolition of Gaza has laid bare the crimes of US imperialism, especially in the eyes of the youth. This has meant a collapse of support from certain layers of the population that were key to getting Biden elected in 2020, for instance Arab Americans. Arab American support for Biden—which was around 59% in 2020, a comfortable majority—has plunged to just 17% according to recent polls. Although Arab Americans make up less than 1% of the population, they make up a big section of the population in key swing states like Michigan.

But the single most decisive political shift is the collapse in Biden’s polling amongst young people, when compared to 2020.

Virtually every single poll right now shows Biden’s support among young people plummeting. 70% of voters aged 18 to 34 “disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war.” He is so unpopular among the youth that a recent New York Times poll showed Trump leading among 18–29 year olds! In 2020, 65% of young people voted for Biden. The latest figures are a stunning reversal, mostly attributable to young people who refuse to vote for either reactionary party.

Several other polls indicate a similar shift against Biden, with Trump now leading in many. Some young voters may shift from Biden to Trump, as a consequence of the lack of a working-class political alternative to the two capitalist parties. However, the more likely outcome is that millions of young people will simply sit the election out altogether. Indeed, just 49% of 18–29 year olds say they “definitely” plan to vote—down from 57% at the equivalent point in 2020.

NBC News quoted a 23-year-old Starbucks worker and union organizer, who explained, “I genuinely could not live with myself if I voted for someone who’s made the decisions that Biden has.”

Another sign of the growing disillusionment with the two capitalist parties is shown by trends in party affiliation. A record 49% of Americans now see themselves as politically independent. This trend in party affiliation doesn’t represent the mythical center that the two parties are always trying to capture, but rather, serious dissatisfaction with both capitalist parties.

Biden’s naked support of Israel’s savage demolition of Gaza has laid bare the crimes of US imperialism, especially in the eyes of the youth. / Image: US Embassy Jerusalem, Flickr

The tasks of the communists

No matter what happens in November, the next historical period will be one of crisis, class struggle, and tremendous opportunities to build the forces of communism. This is the perspective we must prepare for.

The sitting president perfectly personifies the dead end of capitalism, senile and barely managing to stumble along. Trump is a racist megalomaniac, a capitalist individualist to the core, who was only able to fill the vacuum of class rage due to the impotence of the left and the class collaboration of the union leadership. As election day approaches, the widespread passive opposition to both of these candidates will become increasingly activated.

The experience of the past few years has radicalized a huge layer of society. Millions of young people have concluded that we need, not merely a new president or party, but an entirely new system. In fact, one in five young people now consider themselves communists!

Among those who refuse to vote for either Biden or Trump, there are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands who are open to immediately joining the fight for socialist revolution. Communists must hit the ground running for an intense year of systematic public activity to win as many of these class fighters as possible to our ranks. In every city, on every campus, and in every working-class neighborhood, we must boldly proclaim our watchword: “Are you a communist? Then get organized!”

Are you a communist?
Then apply to join your party!