Donald Trump Won’t “Make America Great Again”


“I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones… I am going to bring our jobs back to Ohio and to America – and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences”.  Donald J. Trump 

Polls showing Donald Trump running neck in neck here in Pennsylvania clearly indicate that his campaign and it’s promise to bring back jobs and improve living standards can’t be dismissed.   If Trump is to be stopped we will have to make the argument that Trump will not deliver on these promises and represents a step backwards.   We will need to take this argument to workers who are attracted to his movement in a way that respects their concerns and seeks to move them based on concrete analysis.   As a labor and community activist who supported Bernie Sanders, here’s an attempt to begin to do that.

There are two big problems with Trump as the guy who is going to get trade agreements that improve the lives of U.S. workers.     We are asked to take it on faith that 1) he is genuinely committed to improving the living standards of working people and 2) that his skills as a negotiator are so powerful that they can overcome all the obstacles.

Let’s look at both these claims.

First, there is the matter of his track record as a sleazy, real estate developer who has taken advantage of every law and policy developed by a business friendly government to enrich himself at the expense of his workers, his creditors and the tax paying public.   Just a couple of examples show what kind of friend he has been to workers.

The politician billionaire, who has risen on the basis of hostility towards foreign and immigrant labor, did the demolition to pave the way for the Trump tower using undocumented Polish workers, paying them below union scale and  cheating the union pension fund.   Nor is this ancient history.   The Washington Post reported  that a current hotel project in Washington D.C. is using undocumented workers.   Trump’s  Mar a Lago Florida luxury resort uses a temporary visa program to employ foreign workers, having rejected upwards of 94% of applications from American residents.   Ironically the temporary worker program brings in mostly Mexican men.

In Las Vegas, while most casinos have learned to live with the union, the Trump organization continues to resist.  Culinary local #226 recently filed charges with the NLRB accusing his casino of employing coercion to prevent workers from voting for the union.   The union won the election but still have no contract.   It is not only bad trade deals that have driven down our living standards; It is also a relentless drive by corporate America to weaken unions.   Trump is hardly an exception.

Trump, who never fails to talk about China “stealing” American jobs, oversees a branding operation that outsources manufacturing all over the globe.   The Trump suits and ties that he markets and wears at every campaign stop are made in Mexico and China.

Trump actually tries to make a virtue of his bad corporate behavior.   “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens…,” he said in his acceptance speech.

Is it plausible that Trump, having spent his whole life feeding at the trough of crony capitalism, can now become a staunch advocate for the working class?

We have the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a wealthy patrician who, as President, presided over far reaching reforms that benefited workers and earned the hostility of much of Wall Street.   But Roosevelt was pushed by a huge labor upsurge that played a major role in shaping the depression era Democratic Party.   Trump, by way of contrast, is the candidate of a Party that has systematically advocated polices that have benefitted monopoly corporations and the rich at the expense of working people.   Even if we assume Trump is sincere in his new political commitments, there is little indication he could do what he claims he will do.

And this gets to the second, and most fundamental point.   We don’t need a movement that puts its faith in a savior.  We need a movement that trusts in the collective power of working people and holds it’s leaders accountable in a democratic fashion.   Apart from the clear political differences, this is something that sets apart the Trump movement from that of Bernie Sanders.  Sanders always emphasized his political revolution was about the political engagement of those who have been disenfranchised and ignored.   For Trump the message is just get me in the White House and it will be done.

Challenging globalization in the form it has taken over the last half century will require a powerful and international mass movement that can credibly challenge corporate power.   In the United States, where we have a diverse, multi-racial working class, it can only come about when we build unity and mutual trust across the lines of race and ethnicity.   It can only come about when we recognize that “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”   Trump, who has employed the most divisive rhetoric in modern political history and has fueled his campaign based on pitting workers against each other, will set us back in the quest for that unity and the fight to reverse the shift of wealth to the corporate elites at our expense.

The movements for racial equality are not a threat to white working people.   On the contrary they help lay the foundation for all of us moving forward.   That is the lesson of our history.   (More on this in future posts)