On Tuesday, November 15, speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, former US President Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential elections. This announcement comes at a time when the former right-wing president, whose policies championed the wealthiest, is actively being dropped by the wealthy, conservative leadership of the US.
Trump’s devastation of the working class
At many points in his announcement speech, Trump positioned himself as the candidate of the US working class. In reality, as a billionaire real estate mogul himself and a promoter of policies catered towards the ultra-rich, Trump could not be more out of touch with working people.
“We will fight with every measure of our strength and with every ounce of our energy,” Trump proclaimed. “To lift up the working men and working women of America and to restore the fabric of this nation.”
As president, Trump implemented massive tax cuts for the wealthy in 2017, allowing many billionaires and corporations to pay lower taxes than working people. These “reforms” effectively transferred $2 trillion from workers to the ultra-rich.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces labor law but has been historically skewed towards the bosses. Trump further weakened worker protections by overturning NLRB precedent to favor bosses, restricting where workers can organize and protest, among other policies.
Trump crusaded against raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour. He made over eight million workers ineligible for overtime pay, costing them a total of $1 billion in stolen wages per year. Trump’s wave of deregulation made it easier for corporations to pollute the water and air. Soon after taking office he signed an executive order mandating that for every one regulation implemented, two must be revoked. Trump also slashed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources, reducing the number of inspectors to an all-time low, depriving workers of needed job safety personnel.
“To every worker and family struggling to survive in the Biden economy with inflation destroying your family and your life, this campaign will be for you,” Trump said on Tuesday.
Trump’s presidency was also characterized by his genocidal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the United States the unquestionable leader in terms of COVID-19 deaths at over one million. Trump had allegedly been made aware of the pandemic’s deadly nature as early as February 2020. At the same time, Trump’s administration was pursuing public health budget cuts, including a 15% cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which equaled $1.2 billion. Under his presidency, the CDC could not even prepare a proper COVID-19 test kit two months into the pandemic. Trump’s abject failure in distributing tests and PPE and providing incentives for workers to stay home and protect themselves against the disease, among other measures, devastated the US economy as infections and deaths skyrocketed far beyond all other countries in the world. All while Trump himself downplayed the seriousness of the virus, fueling a nationwide anti-public health movement that continues to plague the country.
And yet, Trump opened his announcement on Tuesday by boasting about how well-off the people of the US were under his presidency. “Two years ago, when I left office, the United States stood ready for its golden age,” Trump speechified. “In four short years everybody was doing great, men, women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, everybody was thriving like never before.”
At the height of the pandemic in April 2020, the unemployment rate was 14.8%, the highest it has ever been since this statistic was first reported in 1948. Black and Latino people experienced even higher unemployment rates. Black, Latino, and Indigenous people also died of COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate as compared to white people in the US.
Ultra-wealthy dump Trump?
Despite the fact that Trump has been nothing if not a faithful champion of the wealthy and powerful through his policies, it seems that a subset of the wealthy Republican donor class no longer favors him as a candidate.
In the November 8 midterms, Trump’s own Republican Party performed below expectations and most Trump-endorsed candidates failed to get elected. Shortly afterwards, the Wall Street Journal, a conservative corporate media outlet owned by multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch, published an editorial advocating for an abandonment of Trump.
“Mr. Trump had policy successes as President, including tax cuts and deregulation, but he has led Republicans into one political fiasco after another,” wrote the Wall Street Journal editorial board. “Maybe by now Republicans are sick and tired of losing.”
Incumbent Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, once a staunch Trump ally, who has carried out extreme right anti-LGBT, anti-democracy, anti-immigrant, and racist policies, made one of the strongest showings during the midterm elections, winning by nearly 20 percentage points. As a result of his victory, many believe that he is favored to run against Trump in the 2024 Republican Party primary.
Trump slammed DeSantis post-midterms in a thread on Truth Social, an alternative social media site that Trump has been relegated to following his ban on Twitter.
“And now, Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games!” denounced Trump. “The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer.”
DeSantis responded to these comments on Tuesday. “All that’s just noise,” he said. “And you know, at the end of the day, I would just tell people to check out the scoreboard last Tuesday night,” he said, referring to his own win.
DeSantis also responded to the inadequate performance of many Republican candidates at the polls. In an implied reference to Trump’s endorsed candidates on Tuesday, DeSantis said, “There were a lot, a lot of disappointments…That’s just the reality. It was a hugely underwhelming, disappointing performance, especially given that Biden’s policies are overwhelmingly unpopular.”
Trump remains popular with Republican voters, with an 80% approval rating according to FiveThirtyEight, although this has declined from 91% since election day in 2020. According to Pew Research, Trump’s popularity has dropped among Republicans since 2016. Pew Research also found that while a majority of Republican voters want Trump to stay in politics, most do not want him to run for president.
Counting the 2018 midterms, the 2020 election against Biden, and now the 2022 midterms, some in the Republican leadership have soured on Trump, who has delivered them three bad elections in a row. Will divisions continue to form within the US ultra-right? Time will tell.