Debate exposes two enemies of the people

By John Catalinotto
July 3, 2024

If there were any doubts left, the June 27 debate between #45 and #46 showed that neither big capitalist party, Democrat or Republican, has anything positive to offer the working class within the United States, least of all anyone facing special oppression or discrimination. And the two candidates are both poisonous for the Global South.

The debate’s outcome has thrown the Democratic Party into a quandary as Joe Biden’s shaky performance has unleashed a discussion about replacing him as the Democratic candidate. It has also shone a spotlight on a political crisis at the apex of imperialism.

These are the two top competitors for the job of president of the United States, the chief executive officer of world imperialism. The president, whichever party they belong to, serves the imperialist ruling class. They only pretend to serve the rest of the U.S. population.

Atlanta protest outside the presidential candidates’ debate, June 27, 2024.

Neither before nor after the debate was there any reason that workers in the U.S. should rally behind either candidate. They are both enemies of the working class. That the debate showed neither candidate to be even minimally competent is a sign of the utter decadence of the capitalist system.

Biden’s value to the Democratic Party establishment is that he seemed capable of defeating Trump without arousing a mass struggle that might challenge the imperialist war drive or awaken a general working-class struggle for rights and benefits. In the debate, however, he was incapable of filling his allotted speaking time with coherent sentences.

Donald Trump, while he filled the time the debate rules allowed, answered none of the questions asked him. He simply attacked, insulted and vilified immigrants at every opportunity and declared life in the U.S. terrible since he left office. He said nothing even resembling the truth, lying every time he opened his mouth. His program could be summed up in his snarl.

One of CNN’s rules of the debate was that the moderators would do no fact-checking. Both candidates and both their parties accepted this rule. Yet despite a solid week of preparation with his team, Biden barely challenged Trump’s lies. It was excruciating to hear Trump slander migrants and get away with it.

Trump was never called the racist xenophobe he is, and if he was called a liar, it was not often enough.

Both candidates are militarists

It was telling, however, that for one issue Biden forcefully defended his foreign policy against Trump’s. That exception concerned NATO and the proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, which Biden backed 100%.

It was the only time in the debate that Biden seemed present, living in the moment. He defended the U.S. and the European powers’ role in prolonging the war. He attacked Vladimir Putin and Russia.

Biden skewered Trump for breaking with the European NATO powers and defended the hundreds of billions of dollars the U.S. — and the rest of NATO — has already spent in its aggressive war against Russia.

In other words, the one arena where Biden got energized and coherent was defending militarism. He pointed out that NATO countries were spending more for weapons. He even boasted that U.S. funds were not donated to Ukraine, but handed to U.S. arms manufacturers, spurring U.S. business and providing jobs.

Trump claimed credit for bullying the European NATO powers into spending more on war. And he bragged that the Pentagon generals loved him. He knows that U.S. intervention in the Ukraine war is unpopular among voters. That’s why he claimed, with no explanation, that under his administration there would have been no war in Ukraine.

Neither U.S.-dominated NATO nor a Pentagon superpower serves the interest of the working class — in the U.S. or worldwide. The Biden administration’s policies regarding NATO and Ukraine are based on strategies for maintaining U.S. hegemony globally. This means keeping the imperialist banks, trading currency, transportation and telecommunications under U.S. leadership — and profitable.

While Trump appeared more isolationist regarding Europe and Russia, there is no reason to believe his policies will be less aggressive. His goal is the same: U.S. domination.

Trump’s belligerence is more obvious regarding China, where he threatens 60% tariffs on imports, even though that would create a spike in inflation in the U.S. Remember, though, that the Biden administration has sought a military alliance with Australia, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan directed at China, something like a Pacific version of NATO.

Trump outdoes ‘Genocide Joe’

Concerning Palestine, Trump even outdid Biden’s rhetoric, attacking Biden for withholding the 2,000-pound superbombs from Israel. Trump chided Biden for hesitating to annihilate Hamas, while labeling Biden as being “Palestinian,” which Trump meant as a racist slur.

Fact check: There has been no break in the strategic alliance of the Israeli settler state with U.S. imperialism, whatever differences have appeared in rhetoric and diplomacy between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

There is a good reason that the movement to end the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza calls the president “Genocide Joe,” even if Trump calls him weak. Biden’s administration has continued to arm Israel despite the Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

There is no reason to believe a Trump presidency would alter Washington’s alliance with the Israeli state. Both candidates and their parties can be expected to pursue the aggressive stance of U.S. imperialism in West Asia and worldwide.

A new candidate?

Nearly all the corporate media, even those that have been pro-Biden or who consider Trump a train wreck waiting to happen, faulted Biden for his overall incoherence and inability to counter Trump’s lies. Many editorialists — for example, a half-dozen veteran New York Times writers and its editorial board — are urging the Democratic Party to somehow find and nominate a new and younger candidate.

They want someone who can arouse enough enthusiasm to beat Trump without arousing a mass struggle that can defend the rights of migrants, win back the right to abortion, challenge U.S. militarism, battle against U.S. aggression aimed at Russia and China and stop arming the Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Whether or not the Democratic Party finds such a candidate, and Biden agrees to step down, there will still be reason for workers to withhold support from both capitalist parties’ selections.