DSA Labor Perspective, Part 2: The Far Right and the Working Class in the U.S.

By Joe Allen

Not matter who wins the 2020 presidential elections, millions of working class voters and unions households will vote for Donald Trump, despite his wide-ranging attacks on trade unions and working class living conditions. Teamster General President James P. Hoffa, for example, in a moment of rare honest, admitted in an interview last October that, “Teamsters are likely to vote for Trump again in 2020, regardless of who the Democratic nominee turns out to be.”

We could see a similar pattern in other industrial unions and the skilled trades, especially in the Midwest. A revealing Chicago Tribune story from last fall’s General Motors’ strike captured this, “As UAW strike against GM drags on, President Donald Trump has plenty of 2020 supporters on key Michigan picket line.” Nearly 30% of UAW members voted for Trump in 2016.

We have a serious political problem at the heart of working class politics in the United States. Yet, I’ve seen a real reluctance to deal straightforwardly with this issue. Part of our workplace perspectives for the next DSLC is formulating an approach to how to fight it. Union membership alone had proved to be a very porous wall for fighting xenophobia and racism in the industrial working class, historically and today.

While large numbers of union members have traditionally voted Republican, the growth of a populist racist politics since the late 1960’s beginning with George Wallace’s 1968 presidential campaign through Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 to Trump’s triumph in 2016, has resonated with working class people. This era corresponds with the deep, and on-going crisis and decline of industrial unionism and Democratic Party liberalism. This trend also mirrors the growth of the far right in Europe, who’ve draw support from working class voters.

I haven’t had time to write up a full length perspectives document on this issue — alas, work gets in the way — but I’m attaching two things I’ve written in the past and an older piece by Bob and Johanna Brenner on the Reagan era, to help comrades understand the issues involved. We can’t avoid this issue any longer.

Reagan, the Right, and the Working Class, by Johanna and Robert Brenner, available here.

When George Wallace Came to Town by Joe Allen, available here.

Labor’s Duty To Confront The Far Right by Joe Allen, available here.