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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
America boycott movement growing in spite of Democrats’ pro-AmeriKKKan disagreement with Trump
February 8, 2017
Trump has only been in office for a few weeks. Before that, there were eight years of Obama. That was a long time in which Democratic Americans’ opposition to the U.S. president might have helped the world. It might have at least ate into Obama’s slim to sub- majority support without uniting Republicans. Instead, liberal Democrats in countless numbers left or stayed out of the anti-war movement. They consistently gave Obama some of eir highest approval ratings (an average of about 88% since January 2009 and generally 95-97% between the recent Election Day and Inauguration Day). They were complicit in sanctions, drone strikes, invasions of multiple countries, the Syria refugee crisis, and continued colonial oppression of the Palestinian nation despite some verbal sympathy with Palestinians and some verbal support for the two-state solution.
Before Trump became the U.$. president, it had been a while since u.$. Democrats had a chance to oppose a Republican president. Millions of younger Democrats were never adults or politically active during George W. Bush’s terms so the situation has some newness for many different people. Others remember that much Democratic opposition to a president belonging to the other party changed little in foreign affairs (but made amerikans and Democrats look better undeservedly) and preceded the election of somebody (Obama) who continued and started wars, supported coups and failed coup attempts, expanded surveillance and drone murder, and opposed Middle East peace and promoted bloodshed, while making amerika look better in the eyes of many inside and outside the united $tates. Many people protesting on and after the day of Trump’s inauguration were oblivious, suggesting that helping Democrats with domestic policy was still more important than opposing war even after the whole Obama experience.
So, this may surprise many people and not be surprising to many others: most Democrats in their criticism of Trump are showing an inability or unwillingness to help the world in its struggles vis-à-vis the united $tates. Internationally, opposition to the Oval Office, whoever happens to occupy it, often coincides with opposition to the united $tates; unfavorable views of u.$. leaders are connected to unfavorable views of that country as a whole. Domestically, this is less the case. Much of the world doesn’t see much of a difference between u.$. leaders, but domestically in the u.$. a strong negative view of one u.$. leader could very easily involve a favorable attitude toward amerika and u.$. policy in general.
Take migration questions, for example. Many Democrats seem very focused on winning an argument or scoring some point against Trump on the seven-country Muslim travel ban and aren’t really worried that Trump might decrease legal migration of people, from both majority-Muslim and non-Muslim countries, who don’t already have visas and who haven’t started the refugee admissions or visa process. Some don’t know the relevant history and law or what many different amerikans have long been calling for, or haven’t been paying close attention to the news and how the travel ban is being justified or opposed and the numbers involved. Those amerikans include liberals and so-called working class advocates opposed to having temporary foreign workers in the u.$., particularly the nonunionized and those for whom getting u.$. citizenship isn’t a top priority. Polls still show majorities and near-majorities of amerikans with unfavorable attitudes on a variety of migration questions despite Internet/media bubbles and echo chambers, and news networks with international audiences, giving a false impression now. When one is ignorant about the past, polls, nuances that are openings for other orders, and about current dynamics involving amerikans’ priorities and concerns about jobs and the economy, it is hard to really address the possibility that Trump may retaliate by deporting or denying entry to more people who haven’t started any paperwork or background check yet. It also comes down to that some Democrats just don’t care. These Democrats never cared about sharing workplaces with Africans, Asians, Arabs and foreign Muslims if they had jobs amerikans wanted; in fact, they opposed it openly or secretly. They didn’t care enough to let more Muslim refugees in when they had a chance with Obama. They let Obama run out the clock and claim just enough resettled refugees to help establish eir legacy and contribute to Democrats’ political capital.
Some polls are now showing most u.$. registered voters and most u.$. adults oppose the travel ban after all of the media coverage.(1) (Although, 68% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats thought “countries who have been linked to the 9/11 terrorist attack, such as Saudi Arabia, should have been included on President Trump’s immigration order,” according to Quinnipiac University.) However, many migrants have seen the writing on the wall and understood that what’s going on is about much more than Muslims and refugees. It would be a mistake to assume a majority of amerikans may actually play some role in stopping Trump on other immigration orders. Many amerikans are sympathetic to refugees, view some legal immigration favorably, and have some problem with building an expensive wall, but support more repression of undocumented migrants and decreasing legal immigration. In early January, in the midst of increased partisan division on immigration topics, 15% of u.$. liberals still admitted to Gallup to wanting less immigration.(2) In June 2016, 20% of Democrats/Democratic leaners and 21% of liberals wanted immigration to be decreased.(3) About 66% of liberals didn’t think immigration should be increased.
Right now, it is financial capitalists and people responsible for amerikan workers’ retirement investment performance who are more concerned about the future of people they want work visas for – not shortsighted amerikan workers themselves, who are the vanguard of u.$. nationalism today and of restrictive immigration policies. Neither is it urban middle-class amerikans desiring careers in the tech industry who are particularly concerned about people who have or would have H1-B visas. There is a difference there between the tech company CEOs and many of the people wishing to work at Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc. Of course, the world’s oppressed is suffering under imperialism in general and there are still conflicts even between non-Russian financial capitalists, but right now many financial capitalists around the world are struggling against people in both the Republican and Democratic parties with more-local interests.
On the other hand, even with Trump as President, Democrats and liberals in the united $tates seem OK with war as long as they get to criticize a Republican for not treating the ensuing refugees better. They care about foreigners in that sense, as a way to criticize Trump for not letting in some refugees after eir predecessor ultimately let in fewer than 20,000 Syria war refugees – nothing in terms of relative country population sizes and resettlement figures.
In addition to having opportunistic attitudes toward various groups of migrants, Democrats and liberals also seem fine with war as long as they can portray Trump as disagreeing with the Pentagon and so-called military and foreign policy experts. Most are OK with Obama war crimes and most Trump war crimes if they can come up with non-war-related reasons to support Trump’s impeachment.
Expressions of disagreement with Trump hide potential to support restrictive immigration policy, hide support for u.$. foreign policy in general, and obscure support for the u.$. in international contexts. To be sure, the appearance of Democratic opposition to Trump is intense. Democrats have shown they can boycott Republican inauguration and confirmation hearings. They can say some words of outrage. They can support making the u.$. seem more welcoming to refugees whose countries they bombed. What most won’t support is a boycott of amerika.
On this front, the world is making moves. The Guardian’s Kevin Rushby raised the question, “Should travellers boycott the US over Trump’s policies?”(4) Many had canceled their travel plans for the united $tates, with some switching to other destinations.
Iran announced it was going to bar u.$. citizens from entering the country in response to the amerikans’ travel ban, as a matter of reciprocity in bilateral relations.(5) That would limit Iranian business with amerikans. Iran’s Press TV later discussed the possibility of an order for Boeing airliners not being delivered.(6) Boeing is a corporation with international investors, but if Iran were to cancel the order it might affect u.$. workers as well and send them a message about the cost of making one-sided relationships with other countries even worse. Iranians could buy more Airbus or Embraer jets instead, whether u.$. policy forces them to or not.
Starbuck’s CEO has criticized the travel ban and said eir company will hire refugees. Starbucks itself has a liberal image. However, Mexicans started boycotting u.$. companies and brands, particularly Starbucks, over the border wall plan.(7) There are alternative, non-amerikan companies for Mexicans to give business to. The internationally-owned, now-Canadian corporation Restaurant Brands International is seeing opportunities in Mexico for its Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts brand.(8)
Also in the café/restaurant arena, a Belgian establishment announced that it would not be selling amerikan products.(9) An owner told the top newspaper in Belgium: “American brands such as Coca-Cola, Lays potato chips and Chaudfontaine water could be replaced with Belgian alternatives like carbonated drinks from local breweries, Croky chips, and the water brand Val.”
There is also an important developing academic boycott.(10) Thousands have already signed a pledge to not participate in or attend international conferences in the united $tates.
Various academic boycotts of the united $tates would be worthy causes. Because of past and continuing sanctions, Iranians might have difficulty refusing u.$. foreign investment and trade (or might not have much in that regard for it to reject), but it might be easier to just not attend conferences far away in the united $tates while the travel ban is suspended and could be reinstated. This is one reason why academic boycotts of the united $tates must be supported. For Iranians to let in amerikan investment and goods and then not be able to visit the united $tates, legally or because of concerns related to anti-Iranian attitudes and travel ban reinstatement, would be an indication of old-type colonialism, not just neo-colonialism. People in countries not in Iran’s circumstances need to unite on some questions of u.$. travel to restore a degree of parity and make Iranians’ not traveling to the u.$. (potentially for various reasons now) easier to bear. Amerikans are still able to visit all seven of the countries whose citizens wouldn’t be able to enter the u.$. under the travel ban. This is unacceptable.
Palestinians still face obstacles leaving and returning to Palestine. That’s another reason to support a boycott of the united $tates, which opposes peace. The u.$. supports the worsening status quo. It benefits from and is complicit in colonial oppression, occupation and settlement of Palestine. It is a lot easier for some to support the neo-Nazi line that Jews control amerika or that Israel is a bigger enemy than the u.$., but the u.$. also needs a boycott.
Amerikans have supposedly advanced beyond colonialism like the rest of the world. It is time for so-educated, so-sophisticated liberals inside and outside the u.$. to show how serious they are about opposing the travel ban and stop attending academic conferences in that country even if it might affect their CVs, networking, etc. They shouldn’t wait for some court decision. If the travel ban goes to the Supreme Court, the whole process could take months. In the meantime, the amerikans might find other ways to make things difficult for Muslims and others to travel to the united $tates.
No doubt it is hard to boycott the hegemonic united $tates, but the signal already being sent is an important one and can grow in intensity. ◊
• “Oppose the United Snakes: Most ordinary Americans support the Muslim ban,” 2017 February. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-02-02-news-Muslim-ban-monopoly-capitalism.md
• “U.S. image and leader favorability in surveys: some underlying economic realities,” 2016 September. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-09-05-news-American-favorability-differences.md
• “Boycott the United Snakes: Amerika standing in the way of the two-state solution,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-15-news-Boycott-United-States.md
• “Women’s March lacked strong anti-war message,” 2017 January. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-01-26-news-Womens-March-antiwar.md
1. “February 7, 2017 - American voters oppose Trump immigration ban, Quinnipiac University national poll finds; big gender gap as voters disapprove of Trump.” https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2427
See: “January 12, 2017 - American voters want second opinion on Obamacare, Quinnipiac University national poll finds; voters support immigrants, but also back Muslim list.” https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2416
2. “US satisfaction with immigration levels reaches new high,” http://www.gallup.com/poll/202541/satisfaction-immigration-levels-reaches-new-high.aspx
3. “In U.S., support for decreasing immigration holds steady,” 2016 August 24. http://www.gallup.com/poll/194819/support-decreasing-immigration-holds-steady.aspx
4. “Should travellers boycott the US over Trump’s policies?” 2017 February 1. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/feb/01/should-travellers-boycott-the-us-trump-america
5. “Iran retaliates with US visitor ban,” 2017 January 29. http://www.news.com.au/world/breaking-news/iran-vows-to-reciprocate-us-travel-ban/news-story/92c1ad9d6ad3e23187b05aba6193afdf
6. “Boeing’s Iran deal in limbo after Trump ban,” 2017 February 1. http://presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/01/508660/Iran-Boeing-deal-aircraft-Trump-travel-ban
“Trump’s move on Iran could cost jobs at Boeing,” 2017 February 3. http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/03/news/companies/trump-iran-boeing-sale/index.html
7. “U.S. companies in crosshairs as Mexico boycott campaign simmers,” 2017 January 29. http://africa.tvcnews.tv/2017/01/29/u-s-companies-crosshairs-mexico-boycott-campaign-simmers/
8. “Tim Hortons targets Mexico as Trump stokes cross-border tensions,” 2017 January 27. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-27/tim-hortons-targets-mexico-as-trump-stokes-cross-border-tensions
9. “Don’t buy American: Belgian cafe boycotts U.S. goods to protest Donald Trump,” 2017 January 2. http://europe.newsweek.com/donald-trump-hln-belgium-newspaper-antwerp-cafe-trump-boycott-551334?rm=eu
10. “Academics debate boycott of U.S. conferences over Trump immigration ban,” 2017 January 31. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/academics-debate-boycott-of-us-conferences-over-trump-immigration-ban/article33854253/
“In solidarity with people affected by the ‘Muslim ban’: call for an academic boycott of international conferences held in the US.” https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeNN_2HHREt1h-dm_CgWpFHw8NDPGLCkOwB4lLRFtKFJqI25w/viewform?c=0&w=1