A cruel, cruel end to summer as the United States braces for angry election run-up

A cruel, cruel end to summer as the United States braces for angry election run-up
US President Joe Biden in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, DC on 2 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Michael Reynolds)

In the US, Labor Day is the date for the traditional start of election campaigns as citizens turn away from summer pursuits to the realities of jobs, schools — and elections. Although we can’t predict, yet, who is going to win, we can almost certainly say this is going to be one nasty election run-up.

I’m gonna take two weeks, gonna have a vacation
I’m gonna take my problem to the United Nations

Well I called my congressman and he said, quote
“I’d like to help you son, but you’re too young to vote”

Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do
’Cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues

Well, I’m a gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler
About workin’ all summer just to try an’ earn a dollar

Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do
’Cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues

Yeah, sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do
’Cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues
No, there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

— Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capeheart


For Americans this year, 5 September is the national holiday of Labor Day. This commemoration shifts in the calendar every year because it is officially designated to be a holiday on the first Monday in September. (America does not celebrate May Day, but Labor Day as a celebration of the value of workers and their labour had been a goal of the early leaders of the American Federation of Labor before it was finally enacted.)

Labor Day represents the quasi-official end of summer, the end of summer vacations, the traditional opening day for most schools, and — in election years — the traditional date when most citizens and would-be voters finally begin to pay more serious attention to all the heartfelt promises, blandishments, half-truths, outright lies, threats and screaming imprecations from the various candidates.

The symbolism of the holiday and its role as a delineator of seasonal change come as Americans begin to discern the first coolness of autumn. But, in most parts of the country, it is still T-shirt weather on Labor Day, as if to say, summer’s still here for a little while longer, even if the public pools are now closed.

By Labor Day, the baseball season’s pennant races have reached their penultimate stages, and American football is just beginning. Nowadays, stores already set out winter merchandise and gear up for the Christmas shopping rush. The frost is not yet on the pumpkin, but people know summer is about to be history and that, soon enough, there will be those autumn leaves to rake.

A couple of generations ago, at the peak of the strength and size of organised labour, and especially with the AFL-CIO (the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations — the national labour federation created by the merger of craft-specific unions and industry-wide unions), Labor Day featured massed rallies. Especially a traditional rally in Detroit that viscerally demonstrated the power and presence of organised labour. It represented a prime opportunity for Democratic candidates and incumbent office holders to make their appeals for electoral support in elections in a little more than two months’ time.

But those days are history. Labour unions now represent less than 15% of all full-time workers, and any growth in American labour unions now largely comes in limited parts of the service sector or among unions of government employees.

Regardless, Labor Day, still — symbolically at least — is the opening bell for the upcoming election, and there are still speeches to be given to gatherings of workers and union members. This year, US President Joe Biden appeared at rallies in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

For years now, members of labour unions — and, increasingly, individuals who used to belong to unions before so many manufacturing jobs vanished through a combination of automation, changes in supply chains and globalised competition from production in Mexico, China and other Asian nations. One result has been the shifting away of many from an automatic support of Democrats, support that had come out of the Great Depression and President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal economic policies.

Biden’s shift

Last week’s speech by Biden in Philadelphia, in the week before Labor Day, was unusually sharp for a president who had, heretofore, been preaching the values of bipartisanship and unifying politics. This time around, he vigorously targeted MAGA-Republicans (distinguishing them from the rest of Republicans and undecided voters) as semifascists, intent on pursuing unAmerican values and being a threat to democracy by refusing to accept the loss of an election without charging it had been stolen from the “rightful” winners.

Presumably, Biden’s speeches on Labor Day will focus much more on economic issues, such as this year’s various legislative victories, student debt forgiveness, the declining price of petrol, the continuing rise in job creation and the largely stable, low level of unemployment.

Given those achievements, he will stress the need to elect a Congress that can step up and take steps to protect women’s reproductive rights. Analysts say the number of women newly registering to vote in November is rising significantly — presumably in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion that voided the Roe v Wade decision of 49 years earlier.

Such messages, argue Democratic strategists, should play to Democratic candidates’ strengths, helping mitigate things such as lingering worries about the Covid pandemic and the continuing high rate of overall price inflation.

donald trump

Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, US, on 3 September 2022. (Photo: Michelle Gustafson / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump has been on the stump as well. His current trademark rhetorical flourish has been to call Biden and his fellow Democrats “enemies of the people”.

Inevitably, his speech on Saturday, 3 September — the first since the FBI searched his Florida resort for sensitive files — was a farrago of vicious, snide innuendoes, slurs, half-truths and full-on lies. It included the fascinating notion that the FBI and the Department of Justice (along with all the other usual Trumpian villains) are the unwitting — or even witting — tools of some vast leftwing conspiracy that is eager to lock up its political opponents (aka the insurrectionists of 6 January’s storming of the Capitol building), and to shut down the sacred right of free speech by its opponents.

trump mar-a-lago

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, US. (Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

If one were inside the hall with all that ranting and wild cheering, it would have been a great endorphin high, but more sombre Republican operatives are worrying whether such rages are going to attract or repel the kinds of voters who were not at that rally.

Rising tide of trouble for Trump

In close races, that is what can make or break Republican hopes to gain control of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Republicans need a net gain of one Senate and a net five House seats to gain control of both halves of the legislature. Still, some Republican candidates in their Senate races are stumbling, despite stamps of approval from the former president.

Concurrently, that former president has his own rising tide of troubles. Besides all the other investigations and charges — the ongoing tax evasion investigation, the House Select Committee on the 6 January insurrection, and a grand jury investigation into the then president’s arm-twisting of Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to switch the election to Trump — the newest threat to him is the missing (and found) documents mess. 

As Axios online news service noted on Sunday, 4 September, Trump is “in real legal jeopardy for retaining scores of classified documents after leaving the White House — [and he] is using the investigation to instil a sense of shared persecution with his fans”.

us protester

A protester holds a sign outside Trump Tower in New York on 9 August 2022. (Photo: Jeenah Moon / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Trump is now facing serious charges that he kept thousands of government documents, including some bearing the highest levels of classification such as TS/SCI (top secret/sensitive compartmented information) and NoForn (no foreign dissemination). Most of these were seized from their rather lightly managed storage area, once a judge finally issued a search warrant. This followed more than a year’s efforts during which the National Archives and Records Agency had been trying to identify and retrieve those materials.

Presidential records are not private, personal property, a point of law that seems to have eluded the former president and his snivelling lackeys. Rather, in accordance with law, presidents are required to turn over all print and electronic records once they vacate the White House. 

Instead, however, Trump had them shipped to Florida after they were shoved in storage boxes along with lots of personal junk. The boxes were then stowed in a basement room of his Florida club and residence. There was a padlock on the door, an unfortunate spokesperson finally said. 

Needless to say, the standard protocols for secure storage were not followed. And, importantly, no one really knows or can say who, and how many people, had access to those boxes after 20 January 2021.

Accordingly, the charges coming out of this behaviour that are most likely to be a real threat to Trump’s circumstances are the obstruction (of government operations) charge, the failure to store government records properly, and even some provisions of the Espionage Act.

Manna for MAGAites

What is likely to happen — given the push by the Trump side to either pooh-pooh the seriousness of any of this; to blame that leftwing cabal; or to beg for a special independent master to judge whether these documents were problematic — is that this challenge to Trump’s circumstances will almost certainly continue through the upcoming election. While the faux-persecution of the former president will be manna from heaven for the MAGAites, this is unlikely to sway undecideds in various Senate and House races.

The former president’s focus on his own issues in each of his speeches that are ostensibly aimed at helping Republican candidates may even help drive some Republican voters away from the more unappealing candidates they have in their districts and states.

Although we can’t predict, yet, who is going to win, we can almost certainly say this is going to be one nasty and angry run-up to the election. And, if Republican candidates get spanked, you can be certain we shall get to hear, all over again, that the forces of leftwing darkness magically stole the election results — presumably with the aid of all the improbable actors so beloved of the MAGAites. It may get ugly. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    Since his MAGA speech, MAGA republicans are now ultra MAGA republicans. US voters are now more divided than ever. I would be very surprised if someone doesn’t attempt to assassinate this jerk. I can definitely see it coming.

  • Margaret Jensen says:

    It’s going to be interesting. I struggle to understand how anyone can believe what DT says. Surely it’s obvious that to him it’s all a TV show once again.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The most likely outcome is that the Trump faction wins in many nut case jurisdictions where the saner Republicans can’t get a candidate going. Saner Republicans will win most jurisdictions where Republicans have easy support. The really interesting cases will be elections in coin-toss wards if the Republican candidate is a Trump faction one and enough sane Republicans can get themselves to rather vote Democrat or Independent than vote for the crazy candidate. It is sad to see what Trump did to a great nation. It is also astounding that Trump and Biden are the best their parties can come up with. Where are the sharp young politicians?

  • Derek Taylor says:

    This article is one sided and Anti Trump. I am defiantly not a Trump supporter. In many instances the Republicans are to blame for their own undoing. But, what about the lies and underhand dealings of the Democrat’s. An example of this is the issue of having to show an ID to vote which the Democrat’s call discrimination or disenfranchising of certain voters. Also the secret transporting of immigrants, not to mention the Hunter Biden “laptop from hell”.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      I am still looking for information about Bidens arrest by the apartheid police in Soweto, when he was on his way to see Nelson Mandela on an island called Robin’s Island. He has repeated this story a few times. I wonder if he can actually point out South Africa on a global map. I wonder how many democrats believe this story, amongst his many fables and gaffes. He has to be the worst President USA has ever had. Certainly worse than the other cartoon character Donald.

      • Sydney Kaye says:

        Oh I see. So according to you Biden is the jerk. Not the compulsive liar who was prepared to overturn every law and norm to stay in power after losing an election. I look forward to your comments when the ANC try the same.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider