By Arun Gupta (October, 11, 2016)
It’s over for Trump, so what happens next?
No modern presidential candidate has overcome a 4-point gap in October, and that was the margin before the tapes. The latest poll, NBC/WSJ, has him 11 points down in a four-way match, 14 points in a two-way match. There is noise in the data as it shows much of the drop is with self-identified Republicans. Some will likely return to the fold, but it appears college-educated whites and white women are now turning decisively against him.
If a double-digit gap holds then things get interesting. If Trump draws less than 40%, then that would likely flip both chambers to the Democrats because ticket-splitting is relatively rare. This would give Clinton a rare two-year opportunity to push through some modestly reformist legislation.
If the Democrats take back Congress, we will likely see an increase in the minimum wage. The battle will be over $12 or $15 an hour, with the Clintonistas and their “progressive” allies trying to block the $15 push, as The Intercept reported today. The other key issues around the minimum wage will be the schedule of increases, and exemptions, particularly for tipped workers, teenagers, disabled, agricultural workers, and immigrants.
A Democratic majority Congress would provide another opportunity for big labor to push for card-check legislation, but the neoliberal Clintonistas would fight it tooth and nail. The last big item on labor’s agenda would be an infrastructure program, and this is where it gets interesting. There would be a lot of conflict and horse-trading between labor, big environmental groups and sectors of capital over a mini-Green New Deal that might halt the accelerating rate of climate change if we are fortunate, but certainly not take the necessary steps to begin to reverse it.
Then there is immigration reform. This is even more complex, but there would be a push to legalize everyone covered by DACA and DAPA, but that covers only about 4.5 million undocumented immigrants. That leaves 6.5 million without legal status.The Clintonista M.O. is for complex half-assed reforms with a guest-worker program, an arduous “path to citizenship,” and increased enforcement and border militarization.
Some plan for student-debt relief and debt-free higher education is also likely. With Bernie Sanders going all out for Clinton, there is little doubt this was promised to him as was indicated at the DNC. Sanders will emerge as one of the most powerful figures in the Senate’s Democratic caucus, but I imagine any student-debt plan will also be complicated rather than a simple comprehensive fix. There was reports from a few months ago that Elizabeth Warren went all in for Clinton with the apparent understanding Warren would get some veto power over Wall Street executives being put in charge of financial regulation. Warren will also likely demand tougher regulation of Wall Street and more stringent rule-making around consumer financial issues, particularly debt, which is not a minor thing.
The most complex question of all is healthcare: Public option? Medicare for all? Or just patchwork fixes? Once again, the cautiousness of Clinton and deference to the ruling class makes any comprehensive and simple solution unlikely.
Obviously, there are many other important issues from policing, drug policy, and criminal justice reform to trade and foreign policy. Clinton is an enthusiastic supporter of U.S.-backed wars, coups, and interventions. But stopping this is pretty much up to the left. Unless activists can strengthen and revive solidarity, anti-interventionist, and anti-imperialist movements that can bring large numbers of people into the streets and creatively cause nonviolent disruptions, there is unlikely to be any attempt to rein in Clinton’s fondness for drones and despots.”
These are some of the battles that would break out if the Democrats take back both houses of Congress, and which the left might, *might* be able to intervene in and push leftward if organizations can figure out where the fault lines are, who to mobilize, where and when to mobilize, and how to create the type of disruptions that would force elite interests to offer bigger concessions.
And, yeah, I would love to see far more radical actions and policies implemented. But the left is far too weak and fragmented. It needs years of base and capacity-building before it could really flex muscle on a national scale beyond episodic outbursts.