During this last week’s Democratic presidential primary contests, all of the familiar types of oligarchic electoral manipulations appeared. Voter suppression plagued the elections, with the GOP’s actions in Texas having led to many young people being forced to wait hours in voting booth lines. Mirroring the statistically impossible vote count discrepancies that happened in Clinton’s favor throughout the 2016 primaries, in Massachusetts the discrepancies between the vote count and exit poll for Biden and Sanders was 8.2%, which is double the 4% margin of error for exit poll discrepancies. The sudden decisions by Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to drop out, as well as Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to drop out before Super Tuesday despite having been hopelessly behind, worked to shift the voting demographic advantage away from Sanders and towards the DNC favorite Biden.
In the months before this debacle, the Iowa caucus was defined by irregularities and deliberately inadequate voting systems, the preparation process for the California primary was filled with deliberate voting hurdles that have no doubt blunted Sanders’ Super Tuesday victory in the state, and millions of voters across the country were purged from the rolls. There have also been many instances of oligarchic election meddling throughout the primary, such as when CNN worked with Elizabeth Warren to smear Sanders with a baseless rumor about a sexist comment he supposedly made years ago. There have even been underhanded attempts from America’s intelligence agencies to interfere in the primary; last month, intelligence officials got the media to repeat an unsubstantiated claim that Sanders is being aided by Russia.
Digitized vote flipping, attacks on voters’ rights, strategic efforts to confuse and misinform the voters-these are all of the tactics the American political establishment has used to manipulate elections for decades now. Ours is a system of inverted totalitarianism, where corporate oligarchs use propaganda and technological tools to keep disfavored individuals from gaining power electorally. The establishment of computerized voting has made it easy to hack the vote count, and social media has enabled powerful corporations and intelligence agencies to determine which information most people are exposed to.
In a system like this, an outsider candidate like Sanders can expect to be met with election rigging on every level. During the Democratic National Convention, we’ll no doubt see this reality demonstrated in the bluntest way possible when the DNC refuses to nominate Sanders. It’s been settled in court that as a private corporation, the DNC has the right to pick the candidate it prefers regardless of what the voters want. When America’s legal system decided in the 2010 Citizens United case that corporations have the rights of people, this applied to the corporate state’s self-appointed right to disregard the democratic process.
What comes next after this latest instance of systemic electoral fraud concludes itself? Will Sanders supporters protest their disenfranchisement, and then for the most part fall back into political apathy like was the case in 2016? Will they and the country’s other poor and working people let the ruling class commit this crime against democracy without any sustained or effective backlash?
It won’t be like what happened after the Democratic Party rigged the primary in 2016, because in the last four years America’s class conflict has escalated considerably. In the aftermath of July 2016’s Wikileaks revelations about the DNC’s bias towards Clinton, and amid the declarations from many Sanders supporters that their candidate had been cheated, the Democratic establishment was able to shift the narrative back in its favor fairly quickly. Media rhetoric vilified the Green Party in order to corral Sanders supporters to vote for Clinton, and all discontent from the left was painted as a symptom of supposed Russian interference. Russia became the scapegoat for the Democratic Party’s failure to defeat Trump, and sensationalism around Russian bots and Russia-related Trump scandals dominated the conversation about 2016 for years.
Yet beneath this noise, the post-recession proletarian backlash to neoliberalism has been developing since 2016. In the last year, labor strikes in America have reached their highest levels since the 1980s, following a global trend of teacher strikes and a Trump era growth in American pro-socialist sentiment. There’s been a rise in anti-war organizing. Class conflict has continued to become more pronounced, to the concern of the elites who fear a rise of populism and discord.
The big question, one which these elites have likely been discussing in private, is how soon all the signs of dissension will give way to a wave of American social unrest. Anti-capitalist protest movements have broken out in Chile, Ecuador, Iraq, Lebanon, Argentina, Haiti, and Honduras, and France has become the first core imperialist country to experience unrest on the same level. The United States is waiting for a catalyst event, a rallying point or an incident of outrage that will get millions of people to take to the streets.
Will the theft of the 2020 Democratic primary be what does this? Likely not, but it will be one of the things that helps people commit to fighting their government. It’s bad timing for the ruling class that they have to suppress the campaign of a populist insurgent candidate at the same time when factors are converging for an economic downturn. If the current market upsets continue to worsen, long-standing recession risk factors like the new housing bubble will finally be set off, and the Fed won’t be able to stop a crash. While a timeline for recession is unclear, it’s more likely than not that the chain reaction for one has started, and other neoliberal countries like Australia and South Africa have already entered into recessions.
As the threat of an American revolt against capitalism looms larger in the coming months and years, the ruling class will respond by trying to leverage the narrative as usual. Iran, Russia, and China will continue to be blamed for America’s broken electoral system, and China will become the likely scapegoat for the economic crash. The anti-capitalist protests will go unreported or be painted as weapons of America’s adversaries. But at that point, events will have gotten beyond the control of the system, and a battle between the revolutionaries and the capitalist state will follow.
With the rigging of this primary, the country is moving closer to such a confrontation. More of Sanders’ supporters are getting disillusioned with the idea that they can change the system electorally, and the option of overthrowing and replacing the capitalist state is looking more appealing.
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