Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the lesser-known stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.

Election

Almost a fortnight after the election for the presidency and legislature two things are definite:

1 – arithmetically and legally Joe Biden (no ‘saint’, but surely an improvement on Donald Trump) won a majority both of the electoral college vote (which does determine the outcome) and the popular votes (which do not).

2 – denying this fact, Trump is doing a great deal to sabotage, frustrate – even prevent – any kind of transition. From continuing to maintain that he won, to denying Biden access to congratulatory messages from across the world. This would seem to give credence to the many assertions which have been made in recent months (and even before that, given Trump’s character and the way in which his allies invariably side with whatever absurdities he is guilty of) that Trump may indeed yet physically refuse ‘to go’ in January.

A week ago, Donald Trump Junior, the president’s son, called for “total war over this election”. At the same time two men were arrested in Philadelphia (the city in Pennsylvania which played a key role in aggregating electoral college votes for that state to push Biden over the 270 needed) after police received a tip-off. Two men armed with AR-15s were driving a Hummer up from Virginia to attack the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were still being counted. When stopped, the vehicle was displaying several stickers connected to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. There are, by the way, now several elected representatives in Congress who adhere to QAnon.

Steve Bannon was Trump’s former (2016) campaign manager. He is a far-right destroyer and racist. Commenting on Dr Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Bannon said during a podcast after the elections that he would like to see them both beheaded… “I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I’d put the heads on pikes. Right? I’d put them at the two corners of the White House, as a warning to federal bureaucrats: You either get with the program, or you’re gone”. That’s the kind of talk which many of the 72 million adults who voted for Trump like. That figure, by the way, is a record – second only to the 77 million who voted for Biden.

Two other salient and important conclusions for anarchists can also be drawn from this month’s events:

1 – The process and result have both proved, if proof were needed (which it ought not to be), that a (two) party ‘democracy’ can never serve the best interests of a country as diverse, huge, pluralist and in fact very dissatisfied, threatened, impoverished and oppressed as the United States. The elected representatives in the Democrat and Republican parties are mostly older white males effectively standing for two sides of the same capitalist, belligerent, materialist, destructive, elitist coin. The election fiddles around with this, swaps a few incumbents. But nothing significantly changes. This time Trump needs to go more than most. But we shouldn’t expect anything radically different in the long term from Joe Biden and his crew.

2 – Even though Trump lost, almost half the voting population still believes that Donald Trump and the party which has stuck by him for the last four years are appropriate people to have a decisive say in the lives of the rest of the country, the wider world. Here is a racist, misogynistic narcissistic bully; a boorish and foul-mouthed mendacious oaf who lacks judgement and insight; someone who espouses and encourages white supremacy; a stupid denier of science; an infantile insult-hurling, divisive incompetent slob; an impeached criminal with very little understanding of how the world works, of how relationships and the intricacies of a massive set of local, state, national and international economies can be used for the betterment of the greatest number of people. Trump is someone who – as just one small indication of his determination to force a corrupt electoral victory – himself tried to rig, fix and suppress the vote for months before 3 November. He is someone who supported the kidnapping and murder of at least two state governors because they promoted the wearing of masks in the face of Covid-19. He created concentration camps at the US-Mexican border and peopled them with children separated from their families because their skin was not the same colour as his and that of the majority of his party. Yet almost half of those who voted wanted more of him and more of this.

Yes – plots against governors. A group of far-right activists didn’t want to wait for the election. At the start of last month the FBI announced that charges had been brought against six men for plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan – one of three states about which Trump loudly and repeatedly tweeted ‘LIBERATE!’ earlier in the pandemic. Those arrested considered Whitmer’s concern for public health tyrannical and an infringement of their liberty. They believe(d) that they had a right to contract the virus and infect other people.

The kidnapping was planned over the summer, after Trump had spent weeks publicly insulting and criticising Whitmer for her quarantine and shutdown orders. He still does. The plot seems to have been tied to a militia group which was going to storm the state Capitol and ‘try’ (and presumably murder) Whitmer for ‘treason’.

The FBI still accounts the threat from the far right, which Trump supports, to be greater than any other in the US at the moment. And documents released by the FBI detail that this was an elaborate plot with training in the use of firearms, improvised bombs and a secret meeting location accessed by a trap door hidden under a rug. Seven other militia members are accused of similarly wanting to kill police and foment civil war.

Last week, the Supreme Court indicated that it will not reverse the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s legacy legislation designed to extend health care to those not covered by (employer-sponsored) ‘insurance’ schemes. Now it may now be that the Court will be put in a position of having to ‘decide’ the final outcome of the recent presidential election. Indeed, in the days following the election one of the legal advisers to Trump’s campaign, Harmeet Dhillon, said on Fox Business that (as Trump lost) that the campaign is hoping that the newly-appointed Amy Coney Barrett will help Trump win the presidency: “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court, which – of which [sic] the president has nominated three justices, to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.” Barrett’s nomination was unethically and illogically rushed through last month so as to pack the Supreme Court in the Republicans’ favour. Compare this with their refusal to approve a nominee of Obama’s in 2016 – because the election was too close at nine months; Barrett’s nomination took place fewer than nine weeks before this election. Barrett said that she would “keep an open mind” when asked how she would rule if Trump subverted the electoral process as he is now doing.

But voter irregularities there are: before the election on 3 November, far-right hoaxers and conspiracy theorists, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, were charged in Michigan with sending robocalls (otherwise illegal anyway, under current communications law) to black voters in Detroit and other cities falsely claiming that voting by mail would lead to their arrest, debt collection and forced vaccination.

Environment

We have to stay with Trump, alas. Recently the Guardian published a useful and succinct summary of 75 ways in which Trump has contributed to the destruction of our planet. Again, these don’t seem to have mattered to many voters.

In early October it emerged from leaked internal documents that Exxon-Mobil has been planning to significantly increase annual carbon dioxide emissions – despite everything which is known and happening to degrade the atmosphere.

As previously outlined in ‘Notes from the US’, Trump plans to remove protection from the country’s largest national forest, Tongass – in Alaska. Less than a week before the election, the finalised plan was published. It will cause irreparable ecological destruction through massive clear-cut logging over 9.3 million acres (almost three times the size of all of Yorkshire) of the wild public lands which are home to the planet’s largest in tact temperate rainforest. The move does come in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Last month Freedom reported on the severe, widespread, long-lasting and highly destructive wildfires which burned (and in some cases are still burning) in California. These are exacerbated by – if not in part directly the result of – the climate catastrophe, which Trump denies. Since the beginning of this year’s ‘fire season’, there have been over 8,500 wildfires; they have burned well over four million acres of land in California and cost the lives of more than 30 people and destroying over 9,000 structures. These are records. When a state asks for federal assistance and a declaration of a disaster in circumstances much less serious than these fires, the request is almost always met. Trump, though, hating California because its voters will not vote for him, actually initially denied (but later agreed to) the request in the middle of last month.

Oppression

At a mask-less super-spreader rally which Trump held in Greenville, North Carolina on 15 October, Trump boasted that he ordered the extra-judicial murder of a protester. Freedom reported last month how, on 3 September, anti-Fascist activist Michael Reinoehl was killed in Washington state by police. At this rally Trump used the following words to celebrate the murder: “We sent in the US Marshals. Took 15 minutes. It was over. Fifteen minutes, it was over. We got him. They knew who he was. They didn’t want to arrest him. And 15 minutes, that ended”. In September Trump had bragged about the same event in an interview with Fox ‘News’, saying, “There has to be retribution”.

Trump is a huge admirer and supporter of (other) Fascist leaders worldwide. He showed this endorsement of (mass) murder, kidnappings and torture by inviting the ‘defence’ minister of Indonesia, General Prabowo Subianto, to the Pentagon in mid-October. This breaks laws passed – and still in force in the United States – to disallow the entry into the country of those accused of major human rights abuses. Subianto is allegedly involved in mass killings in East Timor, Papua and Aceh; and of kidnapping and torturing activists in Jakarta. Previously, his entry to the US was banned under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The rich, though, continue to get richer: a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness found the collective wealth of billionaires in the US has grown by US$931 (£702) billion since mid-March. The report also found 22 million US adults reported not having enough food to eat. Over half of those adults had children in their households. Nearly 62 million US residents lost work between mid-March and mid-November.

Racism

“Stick and stones…” Playground stuff, name-calling? Not in Trump’s world. David Perdue, a sitting United States Republican Senator from Georgia put on a little performance in his ‘warm-up’ session before Trump’s rally on 16 October there. Perdue deliberately mispronounced the name of vice-presidential candidate and colleague Kamala Harris derisively referring to her as “…Ka-AL-a, Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I don’t know. Whatever…” provoking laughter from Trump supporters.

Vice News reported last month that police in Texas authorised the presence of federal agents (Border Patrol Snipers) at the funeral of George Floyd in June. They were told to use lethal force if necessary. There was not even a hint of ‘unrest’ at the funeral.

During the protests earlier this summer in response to the murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis police force, Trump and the fascists’ propaganda channels like Fox and OAN made a great fuss about the violence which they attributed exclusively to the Black Lives Matter movement and its followers. In late October, however, federal prosecutors arrested a leader of the far right ‘Boogaloo’ movement. Its declared attention is to provoke ‘civil war’ against what its adherents see as excessive ‘liberalisation’ of American society. The Minnesota US Attorney’s Office said that 26-year-old Ivan Harrison Hunter fired 13 rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle into the third Precinct during those protests.

The Los Angeles Times and Reveal reported earlier this month that the administrations of Obama and Trump detained tens of thousands of migrant children for much lengthier periods than has ever been admitted. More than 25,000 children have been held for 100 days or more in the past six years; almost 1,000 of those were kept in shelters for more than a year.

More recently, the New York Times reports, the US has been deporting unaccompanied children from other countries in Central America to Mexico. This is in contravention of a diplomatic agreement obliging the US to repatriate children to their families in their own countries of origin.

Pandemic

A good description of Donald Trump, of course, is sadistic. And narcissistic. These two qualities are shown starkly in a study published by Stanford University at the very end of October. As the total number of cases in the US headed for ten million and deaths towards a quarter of a million, the study found that rallies held by Trump between 20 June and 30 September alone probably caused more than 700 deaths (and 30,000 new cases) from Covid-19. It’s not hard to see why: mocking masks, no masks, no social distancing, tightly packed crowds in known pandemic hot spots. He and his officials also made it clear during the past few weeks that they regard the pandemic as ‘over’ (new cases topped 100,000 daily in election week; there will likely be a quarter of a million dead by the end of November), that it was a non-issue exaggerated by the ‘fake news’ media, and that he intended to let it rip killing as many people as necessary until herd immunity was reached. Shortly before the election, for instance, the White House (which is now surrounded by an – apparently unscalable – fenced barricade) blocked an order by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to order the wearing of face masks on public transport.

An analysis from Cornell’s Alliance for Science of nearly 40 million articles published in English between January and May this year found that Trump alone was responsible for almost 40% of all misinformation about the pandemic.

This report coincided with the at least three times that Trump falsely said: “But then you see CDC comes out with a statement that 85% of the people wearing masks catch it”. Late last week a new Gallup poll unsurprisingly finds that fewer than half of those surveyed would comply with a stay-at-home order if Biden, listening to public health experts, were to put one in place. At the time ‘Notes from the US’ appears this month, almost one million people are now becoming infected with Covid-19 each week. The next two months are going to be rough.

Louis Further


Photo by Dan Nevill, published under CC BY 2.0