If it was not tragic it would be funny. It is with a mixture of anguish and amusement that socialists watch the multi-million dollar campaigns to elect the world’s most important political leader. The media circus is in full flow with the Clinton Versus Trump contest. US workers, who are getting poorer and working longer, settle in for another edition of the great US presidential election show. The media love a good fight and will pounce on any juicy morsel, wringing it to death in the cause of democracy. However, it appears the aim is to keep the public’s eyes as far away from reality and the real issues as possible. Deflect their attention whilst hypnotising them into believing their vote will actually make a difference in any significant area of their lives. With policy differences between Democrats and Republicans negligible, a good conspiracy theory comes in handy at election time. Clinton is controlled by a cabal of international bankers. Trump is controlled by Putin. You sell your candidates and your programmes the way a business sells its products. Politics is about getting elected and this requires ‘brand differentiation’– setting oneself apart from the other candidate. Republicans and Democrats must exaggerate their policy differences. Precisely because the difference in policy is so thin, the campaign must also be seasoned heavily with personal attacks. The task is to convince voters that Trump is a terrible menace to society. The election is a farce.
The election will be the usual depressing affair. The American voters will give their verdict on all the familiar issues of reform and futility, ignoring the real issue—capitalism or socialism—which faces them all the time. When the fan-fare has ended and banners have been put away and when the next President is settled in the White House, capitalism will grind on, still spreading its confusion and despair on all sides. The simple explanation of the inability of politicians to deal with the situations confronting them and to keep their promises to the electors is that they are attempting the impossible. However, no politician can ever confess to the impossibility of the tasks he sets himself. The gap between promises and reality must be bridged by other means. The US Presidential contest is a sick, slick manipulation of what is declared to be a democratic election. To begin with, only millionaires or those backed by millionaires can afford to run televised, mass-appeal campaigns. Most US states have laws designed to prevent small parties from even being on the ballot paper: tens of thousands of nominations must be collected before you can even appeal to voters as an electoral contender. The TV networks and the press are subsumed by the petty irrelevancies.
The occasional exposures of political shenanigans ignore the fact that behind the politicians stands a mass of accepting and condoning voters, members of the working class who suffer under the social system they expect the politicians to modify to acceptable human standards. In many ways, this is the root of the problem. American workers, like workers throughout the capitalist world, support a society which must impoverish and degrade them. At present it is painful for them to face the reality of their support for capitalism — to face their own responsibility for Iraq and Syria, for Black Lives Matters, for the city slums and the rural destitution. Yet to face reality, and to live up to our responsibility, is all that it needs. The world has everything now to make it a place of peace and abundance except the political will to make it so. As Clinton and Trump refuse to address the real problems facing America, and continue to look to solutions that have already been tried and failed in the past, American wage-slaves can expect a tough time ahead. All the advertising and all the money in the world may be sufficient to convince the electorate to vote for you, but they are no help when it comes down to the real nitty-gritty, putting the promises into action and curing economic ills.
For American workers and workers elsewhere, the solution to their problems lies not in choosing a new leader, but in collectively organising to get rid of capitalism and establish socialism. What American workers need to hear is the case for an alternative to the profit system: the case for production for use and not profit. If the World Socialist Party of the United States at some point in the future were to run a candidate for President and won, their mission would be to abolish the very office they were elected to. A socialist society would have no need for the United States of America or any other nation for that matter. Much less of a head of state.
When the new president takes the inauguration oath, we will hear a speech full of assurances about a new age, an end of the old outmoded ways of tackling problems, a new better world to be built. That kind of speech was made by every president to be elected and in each case it was followed by the inevitable disillusionment and an equally inevitable despair until a new candidate came along, to make the same promises, the same speech. The American people will be on course for an experience they have had many times before. After the elated hysteria of the inauguration, the reality will set in - that capitalism takes no account of politicians' promises. Our own hope lies in a greater participation by the American working class in the democratic process, to establish socialism.