United States: A presidential race to the bottom between a misogynist and a corporate puppet

Apparently, the universe does have a sense of humour.

After blaming his poor showing in the first presidential debate on problems with his microphone, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy is swirling around the toilet bowl due to comments that a different microphone did pick up.

Trump went into the second debate on October 9 with Hillary Clinton needing the impossible — for millions of people to forget the revulsion they felt when they learned about his casual misogyny unearthed in a 2005 recording.

As a spoiled child of wealth who became famous as a reality TV bully, Trump reacted in character: He tried to turn every accusation back onto Clinton, Barack Obama or the news media — or, better yet, at some defenceless scapegoat who won’t be able to answer back.

As loathsome as it was to watch, Trump may have succeeded in shoring up his core support among right-wingers and blunting attacks on him from Republicans worried that he will endanger the party’s electoral standing in general.

Almost as incredible as Trump’s persistence in lying and conning was Clinton’s inability to respond effectively to an opponent who was already the most unpopular major-party presidential candidate in modern history.

Clinton’s ‘not-Trump’ strategy

Clinton is the political representative of a status quo that has made millions of people bitter about their declining living standards. She celebrates as a badge of honour her long career in a political system those millions view as corrupt.

And her strategy to become president is not to stand for something people want, but to not be what they don't want: she is the not-Trump.

Clinton’s opposition to Trump’s reactionary obsessions is as narrow as possible. This is so she won’t have to commit herself to taxing the rich, protecting people from the health care profiteers or welcoming refugees from the violence US wars have caused.

With an opponent as disgusting as Trump, that strategy may win Clinton the White House. But it will not stop the political discontent that Trump exploits and channels toward the right — and it sure won’t accomplish anything positive in a society that needs social change badly.

Sexual assault

By now, everyone has heard the story, if not the stomach-turning audio itself. In 2005, a live microphone picked up Trump’s sickening comments to Access Hollywood “reporter” Billy Bush — and yes, he’s one of those Bushes, a cousin of George and Jeb.

Trump bragged that he committed sexual assault whenever he felt like it, because “when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Trump claims this was all just “locker room banter” and the media response, at least at first, was to call his comments “lewd” or “tawdry.” The real problem is that Trump described himself committing sexual assault.

And once the dam broke, there was a tidal wave of sleaze to follow. But the question many asked was: Why is this outrage upending the Trump campaign when there have been so many others?

Trump’s despicable misogyny cannot come as much of a surprise after the toxic spew that has come out of his mouth throughout the campaign: racist comments about Mexican immigrants; calls for banning Muslims from entering the US; attacks on the parents of a Muslim US soldier killed in Iraq; sexist rants about any number of women.

The unapologetic sexism, racism and Islamophobia — not to mention smug sense of entitlement — are all part of the amalgamation of repulsive qualities that is Donald Trump.

After the Washington Post article about the tape appeared, Republicans began distancing themselves from Trump and some un-endorsed him. The Republican National Committee placed a moratorium on any spending to help the campaign.

Though stopping short of un-endorsing Trump, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a joint campaign appearance and castigated him in a statement, saying: “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”

But paternalistic language about “revering” women is the flip side of Trump's ugly sexism — another way of denying women their rights and objectifying them, if in less vulgar language.

Ryan is certainly no friend of women’s rights. He voted against paid parental leave and equal pay for women. He has backed harsh restrictions on abortion, including legislation that would have allowed hospitals to deny women abortions in emergency situations, even if their life was in immediate danger.

His female constituents must feel very “championed”.

Political establishment

Among the political establishment in Washington, it seems that Trump’s vulgarity is the real problem — because it shows that he lacks “presidential character”. But what do they say about the “character” of the dozen US presidents who owned slaves, including eight while in office?

Other US presidents can only be described as genocidal in their pursuit of the American empire. For example, there was Andrew Jackson’s lengthy list of crimes against Native Americans, Theodore Roosevelt’s slaughter in the Philippines, and plenty more.

Anyone who thinks Trump-style sexual abuse is unknown in the political arena needs to be reminded about the treatment of Anita Hill when she testified before Congress about the degrading sexual harassment she suffered at the hands of Clarence Thomas. Hill was put through the wringer — and Thomas was confirmed to become a Supreme Court justice.

Part of Trump’s diversion tactics has been raising the many scandals involving Bill Clinton. During his “apology” over the leaked audio, Trump declared: “I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people.

“Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”

There is no reason to believe that Trump only “said some foolish things”. But at the same time, Bill Clinton should not be let off the hook because Trump is a serial sexual abuser himself.

In recent weeks, Trump has slung mud at the former president for having consensual affairs — a 12-year relationship with Gennifer Flowers and his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to the Republicans’ impeachment circus.

But hours before the debate, Trump appeared at a press conference with three women — Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones — who accused Clinton of sexual harassment and assault.

The attitude of most Democrats — including Hillary Clinton — toward these allegations has been to slander the women who came forward.

Goldman Sachs speeches exposed

Among the many news stories that got drowned out in the tidal wave of attention directed at Trump was what should have been a debilitating scandal for Hillary Clinton.

On the same day that the Post article about the Trump video appeared, WikiLeaks released transcripts of speeches that Clinton, then recently resigned as secretary of state, gave to Wall Street banks and investment firms in 2013 and 2014. The speeches carried a price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars for each appearance.

The transcripts reveal everything that Clinton critics like Bernie Sanders and many others knew they would: the already odds-on favourite for the Democratic presidential nomination promised the banksters they’d have a friend in the Oval Office if she was elected.

Specifically, Clinton promised to give Wall Street veto power over any further financial reform. Because after all, she told the no-doubt-delighted audience at Goldman Sachs, “[t]he people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry”.

During the Democratic primaries, Sanders demanded that Clinton at least acknowledge what she said during her six-figure conversations with the casino capitalists of Wall Street.

But Sanders has been silent now that he has proof of what he guessed all along — because the self-declared socialist and scourge of Wall Street is not interested in criticising Clinton now that defeating Trump is priority number one. Trump’s sickening sexism is providing cover for Sanders as much as Clinton.

In another leaked recording, Clinton, while speaking at a Virginia fundraiser, downplayed the kind of progressive goals that Sanders put forward in his primary campaign, like “free college” and “free health care”.

“I am occupying from the centre-left to the centre-right,” she said. “And I don’t have much company there.

“Because it is difficult when you’re running to be president, and you understand how hard the job is — I don’t want to overpromise. I don’t want to tell people things that I know we cannot do.”

But the problem is not what we “cannot do” — the problem is the political priorities of people like Clinton and others at the top of the system.

Clinton may excoriate the Republicans over Trump’s words and actions today. But as president, she will uphold a status quo that enables the Republicans’ shift to the right and caters to the interests of the 1% — unless a left-wing movement rises from below to challenge the whole two-party system.

[Abridged from US Socialist Worker.]

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