What Is This Preoccupation with Russia?

By Thomas Bias, National Secretary, Labor Fightback Network

Make no mistake about it: Donald John Trump is a bad president, one of the worst in the history of this republic. If it should come to pass that the House of Representatives votes to impeach him, and the Senate in a two-thirds majority votes to remove him from office, the first thing I would do is go down to the local wine shop here in Flanders, New Jersey, and buy a bottle of champagne. My wife, my daughter, and I would have our own little celebration!

And the next morning, all of the problems that we face as working people—and which Donald John Trump’s policies have made worse—would still be with us.

Is it possible that “the Donald” will be removed from office short of serving a full four-year term? The short answer is, “yes,” and indeed, liberal Democratic members of Congress, commentators in the news media, and leaders of the labor and social justice movements have been agitating for it. The grounds on which they argue for impeachment is an accusation that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with a foreign power—Russia—to influence the 2016 presidential election by releasing electronic mail messages hacked from Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s file server. If the charge were true, it would constitute treason, and it would not only be considered a “high crime and misdemeanor,” for which impeachment would be justified, it would be punishable by a long prison term. In fact, if a declaration of war were in effect, the crime of treason would be punishable by death.

How could it be that before even six months of Donald John Trump’s presidency has elapsed, the news media and members of Congress are in full “Watergate mode,” raising many of the same questions that were raised after five years of Richard Nixon’s presidency in the early 1970s?

There are two answers, both of which are true: first, Trump’s policies, reflected in his executive orders, legislation which he has proposed, and cabinet and court appointments, are consistent with the most overtly racist, sexist, labor-hating, and war-mongering attitudes ever expressed in U.S. political life, and that says a lot. Second, Trump is completely unqualified for the most powerful political office on earth. He has never before held elective office, and he clearly does not understand how things work in Washington. Indeed, some respected psychiatrists are suggesting that he may be mentally unstable. Trump’s erratic behavior, his intemperate posts on social media, his disregard of delicately negotiated international agreements, as well as the cloud of a potential treason charge over his head, have all caused great concern in capitals throughout the world and has greatly diminished Washington’s respect and authority as a world leader.

Impeachment and removal of Trump from office does nothing to address the first problem. Presumably his successor would be Vice President Michael Pence, whose reactionary and hateful political agenda is what has guided the Trump administration up to now. The Republican majorities in both houses of Congress are guided by the same political program.

However, the removal of Trump from office solves the issue of a president who is unqualified to hold the office. The corporate elite, whom the president serves, needs an experienced and reliable chief executive, someone who knows what is job is and knows how to do it. Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was just such a president, and for that reason he was able to withstand everything that the reactionaries threw at him and serve two terms. Vice President Pence is also experienced and reliable, though, unlike Obama, he makes no pretense of espousing policies that favor the interests of working people. Pence wears his pro-war, pro–big business, antilabor program like a badge of honor.

So, in the context of an assault on working people’s standards of living, right to organize, and civil liberties, in the context of wholesale attacks on the rights of immigrants, of women, of African-Americans, and in the context of a complete gutting of regulations to defend the quality of our air, water, and food supply, what is it that the Democratic Party politicians want to talk about?

Russia. Why?

Their argument is that Russia—which they define as an “adversary nation” to the United States (hasn’t Russia been a friend and ally since 1991, when “Communism” fell?)—hacked into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server and released private messages to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. They contend that the e-mail release tipped the balance in the election and gave Donald John Trump the victory. Journalist Chris Hedges, writing in Truthdig, explained it this way: “The charge of Russian interference essentially boils down to the absurd premise that perhaps hundreds of thousands of Clinton supporters suddenly decided to switch their votes to Trump when they read the leaked e-mails of [Clinton campaign manager John] Podesta.” To accept such a conclusion requires what is called in theatre a “willing suspension of disbelief.” The Democratic politicians simply can’t admit that working people distrusted Hillary Clinton long before any e-mails were released; they can’t admit that the Democrats’ performance in office has been nothing but one disappointment after another to the working people whose leaders insist that they vote for them.

To be sure, investigation into Trump’s Russian connections has shone a light on his and his family’s business dealings with Russian oligarchs—who are world-renowned for being corrupt and unscrupulous—as well as business dealings in other parts of the world, Sa’udi Arabia (also well known for corruption) being high on the list. A thorough investigation of Trump’s—and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s—financial maneuvers would almost certainly turn up enough evidence of illegal activity to warrant impeachment and subsequent prosecution. (The law requires that a sitting president be impeached and removed from office before he or she can be prosecuted for a crime.)

If it can be proven that Trump either colluded himself with Russians to influence the presidential campaign or allowed members of his campaign staff to do it, then even the Republican majorities in the House and Senate would have a difficult time keeping him in office, especially if evidence of illegal business dealings were added to the Articles of Impeachment. The result would be that the Wall Street elite would remove the loose cannon from the Oval Office and replace him with someone who knows how to “preserve, protect, and defend” their interests and can be relied upon to do so.

Working people and students—men and women, young and old, of all races, religions, sexual orientations and gender identifications—have not hesitated to go into the streets in mass action against the Trump administration’s reactionary agenda. The women’s march of January 21, 2017, brought more people into action than any mass demonstration in the history of the United States. In the weeks and months since then, hundreds of thousands have demonstrated in defense of the planet, to stop Trump’s travel ban and deportations, and in favor of healthcare as a human right. In spite of the politicians, the “talking heads” on television, and even our elected trade-union officials, people have had little interest in taking to the streets about the Russian e-mail hacking—though many understandably see the scandal as a way of getting this odious president out of office. Working people must and will continue their mass actions against the Trump administration’s reactionary and destructive policies, especially since the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election will have no effect on them. If his fellow billionaires decide to remove “the Donald” from office, we’ll put the champagne on ice—and continue the struggle with redoubled energy.

If you wish to participate in a discussion about strategies for continuing the struggle and directing working people’s anger and energy into effective action, please attend the Labor Fightback Conference, which will be held at Cleveland State University, July 21–23, 2017. Click here for more information.

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About elnwebmaster

This is the discussion blog of the Labor Fightback Network, an auxiliary to the laborfightback.org website. It is designed to facilitate discussion among labor activists concerning the critical issues facing working people in the current economic crisis. Readers’ comments are welcome, but flaming is not. Any comments which are racist, sexist/homophobic, or disrespectful on a personal level will not get past moderation.
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