Congressional hearings on the January 6, 2021, right-wing mob attack on the U.S. Capitol are ongoing. The public debate around these hearings has made one fact clear: The number of Republican office holders and nominees for the upcoming midterm elections who embrace the outlandish lie of a “stolen election” in 2020 has grown in the last 18 months.
As recently as last month, the Republican Party of Texas — the second largest state — declared at its convention that President Joe Biden “was not legitimately elected.” Republican office holders across the country echo this falsehood.
While president, Donald Trump wove these conspiratorial claims out of whole cloth leading up to the 2020 presidential election. He then turned them into a full-fledged campaign to reverse the results after he lost the vote.
Trump’s campaign to hold on to power by subverting the long-established capitalist rule of law failed. In fact, its chances of success were always slim. That effort never came close to winning majority support within the ruling class or gaining any serious foothold in the military. But the extent of the “Stop the Steal” campaign then, and its ongoing support by millions today, including by politicians at every level of the U.S. government, reveal serious dangers to civil liberties and the interests of the working class.
The financiers of the ‘stolen election’ bandwagon
A week after the 2021 attack on the Capitol, World Outlook noted in its inaugural article that “a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes” backed Trump’s big lie aimed at subverting the popular vote and installing an anti-democratic regime. A few weeks later, we documented the extent of financial support among a number of wealthy ruling families for that fateful assault in an article we are republishing below.
That analysis still holds water today. In fact, recent news reports show that owners and executives of some of the wealthiest U.S. corporations continue to bankroll politicians riding the “stolen election” bandwagon.
By mid-January 2021, reports in the big-business media indicated companies from J.P. Morgan Chase to AT&T and Walmart were distancing themselves from the Republican Party and pledging to cut off financial support from politicians who publicly backed Trump’s campaign to overturn the November 2020 election.
Now, just one-and-a-half years later, the New York Times revealed how short-lived such decisions turned out to be. “Of the 249 companies that promised not to fund the 147 senators and representatives who voted against any of the [2020 election] results, fewer than half have stuck to their promise,” the Times noted on June 15, 2022.
In fact, the Times reported, corporations and industry groups have given almost $32 million to House and Senate members who voted to overturn the election and to GOP congressional campaign committees. According to the Times, the top 10 corporate donors are “Koch Industries, Boeing, Home Depot, Valero Energy, Lockheed Martin, UPS, Raytheon, Marathon Petroleum, General Motors and FedEx. All of those companies, with the exception of Koch Industries and FedEx, previously said they’d refrain from donating to politicians who voted to reject the election results.”
Another example is tech billionaire Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook, who stepped down from the social media company’s board in May. A June 19 Washington Post article, subtitled “Inside the billionaire investor’s journey from Facebook board member to architect of the new American right,” summed up Thiel’s political journey. “Reports at the time said that Thiel left the Facebook board to focus on politics, including a slate of 2022 congressional candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump,” the Post said.
A shift to the right and strain on the two-party system
The two-party system is a lynchpin of capitalist political rule in the United States. Individual capitalists and political action committees associated with the corporations they own often contribute to both parties and their candidates. These moneyed men and women reward both Republicans and Democrats in order to continue enriching themselves at the expense of the vast majority. They use the system to exercise a monopoly on electoral politics and block any break by the working class and its allies in the direction of political action independent from the parties of the wealthy.
The willingness of sections of big capital today to lend financial backing to politicians promoting an overt assault on democratic norms as a legitimate solution to the current social and economic turmoil signals both a shift to the right in bourgeois politics and growing strains on the two-party system.
In the Republican Party, far-right politicians advocating extralegal violence or espousing white supremacist views have gained a foothold.
One stark example is a recent campaign ad in Missouri. According to the June 20 Kansas City Star, former Governor Eric Greitens, released a video of himself carrying a shotgun and identifying himself as a Navy SEAL. Greitens is leading a group of men in tactical gear with guns going “RINO hunting,” a reference to so-called Republicans in Name Only — those who do not show adequate fealty to Trump. His entourage — outfitted in camouflage, helmets, and the U.S. flag — storms a house, throwing a smoke bomb. Greitens then walks in and asks people to “join the MAGA crew” — referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — and get their “RINO hunting permits.”
The ad was subsequently withdrawn, but Greitens had made his point. This is a former governor with a good chance of being elected to the U.S. Congress in November. He is a front-runner in Missouri’s August 2 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
Another example is Illinois congresswoman Mary E. Miller’s description of the Supreme Court repeal of the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion. Addressing a large crowd in Mendon, Illinois, on June 25, with Trump on the platform behind her, Miller told the former president: “On behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday” [emphasis added].
A spokesman later claimed Miller’s comment was a “mix-up of words.”
“Whether it was a slip or not,” tweeted Independent columnist Ahmed Baba, “the audience heard ‘white life’ and didn’t flinch. They applauded.” There were other reports, according to the Washington Post, that many in the crowd seemed unfazed by Miller’s remark.
Important information on the extent of Trump’s campaign to overturn the election results continues to emerge from the January 6 inquiry.
The hearings themselves are another sign of the strains on the two-party system. They are hardly bipartisan. The GOP leadership in the House of Representatives refused to participate when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected its choices for membership on the panel conducting the hearings. Nevertheless, Liz Cheney a conservative Republican who was once the number three leader of the GOP House caucus, and whose family has served the ruling class for decades, is co-chair of the committee. But Cheney has been expelled by her party in Wyoming, her home state, and censured by the Republican House caucus over her criticism of Trump.
The Democratic Party is trying to use the hearings to shore up its poor prospects in the upcoming midterm elections in November. Its leadership is fearful that the stability of capitalism can be shaken by the “chaos” of future mass struggles to defend women’s rights or in response to police violence, growing efforts to organize trade unions at Amazon and elsewhere, and an uptick in job actions by workers. The liberal establishment is trying once again to steer young workers and others to the dead-end strategy of voting for Democrats. They do so by waving the specter of Trump’s return in 2024.
Washington’s precipitous decline
One of the main reasons for this acrimony among the politicians of the two ruling parties is Washington’s precipitous decline from its previously unchallenged position as the world’s number one imperialist power. While the U.S. remains at the top, its military might and its economic prowess are slipping relative to its international rivals.
As the unfolding war in Ukraine has revealed, Washington and its allies face serious competition from Russia and China — two former workers states where capitalism has been restored and that are on the way to becoming imperialist powers themselves.
On the domestic front, neither the Republican and Democratic administrations have provided solutions to the effects of the more than two-year-old pandemic, runaway inflation, and other economic and social ills wreaking havoc in our lives. Both parties have failed to produce mainstream figures with compelling popular appeal.
The exception is Trump, whose insistence on the falsehood of a “stolen election” has not thus far significantly diminished his popularity.
Rightist forces feel some wind in their sails. They are encouraged by the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and are on the march to further criminalize a woman’s right to choose abortion. Right-wing politicians like Greitens and others promoting Trump — or someone like Trump — display more confidence in extreme expressions of their views. They know that many of their big-business backers are no longer hostile to the idea of using chicanery and force to change an election outcome that does not suit them.
As our February 2021 article explained, these wealthy families are open to “sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers.” Such a “Bonapartist regime,” a variant of dictatorial rule, would have at its head a “savior” anointed to “rescue the nation.”
In this context, readers may find that February 2021 article useful. For this reason, we are republishing it, in two parts due to its length, the first of which follows.
Two Months that Set New ‘Normal’ in U.S. Bourgeois Politics
(This is the first of a two-part series)
By Argiris Malapanis and Geoff Mirelowitz
Feb. 3, 2021 — In the article titled “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” published Jan. 13 by World-Outlook, we described the Jan. 6 rightist mob attack on the U.S. capitol as the culminating step in a series of developments that posed serious dangers to civil liberties and the working class.
These events, we said, “indicate that a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes at least considered sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers. One who would not act as a servant of the institutions of capitalist democracy, but who would instead be anointed to ‘rescue the nation,’ in order to finally ‘make America great again.’ ” This is what we mean by the term “Bonapartism.”
Enough evidence is now established to detail further the extent of financial support from some sections of big business for former U.S. president Donald Trump. That backing, widespread and essential to his re-election campaign, did not end after Trump’s defeat at the polls. It diminished when Trump and his closest allies over-reached with the failed violent assault on U.S. Congress.
Between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, plenty of bankers, merchants, industrialists, and other capitalists kept up their donations to Trump as he peddled outlandish and conspiratorial claims of a “fraudulent vote” and instigated street actions aimed at overturning the popular vote and holding on to power.
The ruling class does not gather together and take a vote on such issues. Members of individual billionaire families, acting on their own or in concert with others, offer substantial funds to back particular political figures and a political course. That is in part how Trump came to dominate the Republican Party in 2016 and since. Some continued that course despite Trump’s defeat at the polls on Nov. 3, 2020. That included billionaires who are newer to the ruling class, who do not have the long history of super-rich families such as the Rockefellers, Mellons, or DuPonts.
In the two months between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, a series of events occurred, which, if not all unprecedented, were highly unusual in bourgeois politics. It is these developments that indicated the danger of Bonapartism even before a large and resolute section of the privileged classes supports imposing such an anti-democratic regime. Let’s walk through them.
The events between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6
Prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election, “Trump repeatedly explained there could be only two outcomes,” we reported in the Jan. 13 article. “First, he would win. Second, he would be denied a second term through fraud and conspiracy. Echoing his assertion he had been the victim of ‘the greatest witch-hunt in history’ while in office, he claimed that could extend to the election outcome. He publicly insinuated there was no chance he wouldn’t be the choice of the majority.” Trump thus laid the groundwork for the post-election, “Stop the Steal” campaign that then garnered substantial public support.
Trump loudly and repeatedly refused to concede that Joe Biden won the election. Moreover, most members of the Republican caucus in U.S. Congress refused to recognize Biden’s victory, either, by publicly acknowledging him as President-elect. Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate Majority Leader at the time, did not do so until Dec. 15, six weeks after the election.
Another sign was that the vast majority of Republican State Attorneys General — 17 — backed a “dead-on-arrival Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to discount 20 million votes,” as the New York Times put it. It added that the lawsuit “was secretly drafted by lawyers close to the White House.”
The still-sitting U.S. president and his supporters filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to overturn the election results in six states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They were not deterred from pressing their claims of a “rigged” vote even after these legal challenges were rejected one after another.
As Trump’s legal objections kept falling like dominos, most House Republicans joined the former U.S. president’s effort to overturn the November election. By Dec. 11, 126 House Republicans and the 17 state attorneys general had signed amicus briefs sent to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a petition by Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general. Paxton argued that election results in four states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — were fraudulent based on unsubstantiated claims of mail-ballot-rule violations. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently dismissed the case.
At the same time, Trump used the weight of the White House to pressure governors and other state officials, including state legislatures, to alter election results in the six “swing” states where the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris campaign had been declared the winner by state election authorities. He got nowhere in the six states in dispute. Officials in other states did respond positively, as the Texas lawsuit showed. Other Republican state officials, however, recoiled. The apex of this bullying from the Oval Office occurred in Georgia.
On Jan. 2, 2021, during an hour-long conference call, Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” more than 11,000 votes needed to overturn Biden’s win in that state and threatened him with “criminal charges” if he declined. The Georgia Republican refused to buckle. Raffensperger’s office subsequently publicized the transcript of that call, which made headlines across the country. Trump was in no way apologetic or deterred when it became public. To the contrary.
Next in this unprecedented campaign was Trump’s demand that U.S. Congress mandate state legislatures to decide election results in states where he disputed his defeat at the polls. Congressional approval of individual state Electoral College votes has been a ritual in bourgeois politics for almost 150 years. Trump insisted that Congress could refuse to accept those results, even though Congress lacks such constitutional authority. He demanded that his supporters take such a stand on Jan. 6, when Congress would convene for that purpose. More than 25% of members of U.S. Congress, including the large majority of House Republicans, pledged publicly to do so.
Jan. 6 can only be evaluated in light of previous two months
On Jan. 6, Trump — still the sitting president and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces — addressed a crowd of tens of thousands at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., demanding they act to “Stop the Steal.” In particular, he accused his own long obsequious vice-president Mike Pence of being “too weak” to exert the authority Trump falsely claimed Pence had to deny congressional recognition of the Biden/Harris victory.
He then called on his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol where Congress was convened to certify the Electoral College vote. “[W]e fight,” Trump said in his closing remarks. “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
About 5,000 Trump supporters soon surrounded the Capitol. Hundreds of them, led by well-known members of ultra-rightist groups such as the Proud Boys, white-supremacist organizations like the Maryland skinheads, and right-wing militias such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, many of them armed, clashed with police guarding the Capitol.
The rightist mob scaled walls and scaffolds and broke windows, forcing entry into the building and prompting officials to suspend for half a day the joint session of Congress that was under way. The storm troopers included at least 22 active-duty cops and current or retired members of the U.S. military.
Capitol police were initially ineffectual or stood by. Some of them helped the rioters, taking selfies with the mobsters and showing them around as they roamed the halls of Congress. According to subsequent reports by D.C. police officials, U.S. military authorities refused for hours repeated Capitol police requests to deploy the National Guard for back-up.
Five people died in the melee, including a woman, who was a U.S. Air Force veteran, shot by the cops and a police officer who succumbed to injuries suffered in the fighting. Two other cops, members of the Capitol police who were on duty that day, later committed suicide.
As the mob attack was unfolding, Trump refused for hours to condemn the assault or urge the rioters to leave the Capitol. Under pressure from Republican leaders, he later issued a tepid statement. After repeating his claims of a “fraudulent vote,” and showing his affection for participants in the day’s events, telling them, “We love you! You are special,” he urged an end to the violent attack. Later that evening, however, Trump tweeted another statement that basically condoned the riot.
On Jan. 12, in his first public appearance after the Capitol siege, Trump expressed no remorse for inciting the attack on Congress. He insisted his remarks at the Jan. 6 rally had been “totally appropriate,” adding that the effort by Congress to impeach him was “causing tremendous anger.”
The outline of these events is by no means exhaustive. It establishes, however, that Trump went well beyond the accepted norms of capitalist democracy, with substantial ruling-class support before Jan. 6.
Many Republican leaders took more distance from Trump as the rightist mob raged through the Capitol. More than a few, however, reversed course not long after. While accepting that the election results could not be altered, more and more in the GOP embraced Trump. As the New York Times reported on Jan. 27, “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky carefully nudged open the door for his party to kick Donald J. Trump to the curb, only to find it slammed shut.”
What happened on Jan. 6 can only be evaluated in light of what the former U.S. president and his supporters did in the two months leading up to it.
Big business backing for two-party system
We should note here that the politicians who jumped on Trump’s “Stop the Steal” bandwagon rely on financial support from wealthy capitalists when they run for office and seek to advance their political careers, as virtually all Democrats and Republicans elected to public office do. The idea they would act as they did without some backing from such moneyed families is not credible.
By mid-January, the New York Times and other big-business media were reporting that companies from J.P. Morgan Chase to AT&T and Walmart were distancing themselves from the Republican Party and pledging to cut off financial support from politicians who publicly backed Trump’s campaign to overturn the November elections.
What none of the big-business media reported is that historically, and up to this day, capitalists have financed and used the two-party system — individual capitalists often contribute to both parties — in order to continue enriching themselves at the expense of the vast majority. They also use it to exercise a stranglehold on U.S. electoral politics.
As we pointed out in the Jan. 13 article, “The propertied classes have used the Democratic and Republican parties to absorb all dissent, to conciliate the lower classes, and to deny the working class a chance for an independent political voice.” So, it is no surprise that billionaires donated heavily to both the Democratic and Republican campaigns leading up to last year’s election.
It is noteworthy, however, that big-business support for Trump did not substantially dip after his defeat at the polls and during the two months he pushed to overturn the election results.
In a Jan. 31 front-page article, titled, “77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election,” the New York Times noted: “As traditional Republican donors withdrew, a new class of Trump-era benefactors rose to finance data analysts and sleuths to come up with fodder for the stolen-election narrative.
“Their ranks included the founder of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, and the former Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne, who warned of ‘fake ballots’ and voting-machine manipulation from China on the One America News Network and Newsmax, which were finding ratings in their willingness to go further than Fox in embracing the fiction that Mr. Trump had won.”
(This was the first of a two-part series. To be continued.)
 For a thorough explanation of Bonapartism and its historic precedents, see “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” published Jan. 13, 2021, by World-Outlook.
Categories: US Politics