The 2020 Presidential election was a contest between the two Janus-like faces of American capitalism. On the one side was the angry, raging face of new right populism fueled by the money of extractive industries (coal and oil); state and local banks; hard industry (steel, copper, industrial machinery); and Chambers of Commerce. That rage was evidenced in the racist, misogynist, fundamentalist discourse of Trump and his lackeys. That discourse was enhanced by constant threats of violence. The election did not vanquish that form of incipient fascism. A right-wing Supreme Court, a deadlocked Senate, and the billions of dollars poured into media of all forms by the new Robber Barons ensure that the far-right can continue political deadlock and escalate authoritarian violence in the streets.
On the other hand, a Biden presidency offers the other face of Janus. A face that smiles and occasionally sheds a tear for the poor, for workers, for the “othered.” It will be the “I feel your pain” mantra of Bill Clinton which resulted in the creation of a draconian criminal justice system and the evisceration of the social safety net. We are already seeing the Biden administration backing off of the promises it made to get elected. The inhumane and racist immigration policies of the Trump administration, which Biden promised to end on day one are now the subject of gradual review so as not to incite a new immigration “crisis.” The promised repeal of Trump’s gift to the billionaires, tax cuts, is now postponed until we see economic “recovery” for Wall Street and the rich. Trump’s China policy, which cost U.S. consumers billions is not going to be rolled back, but rather is seen as a “negotiating” tool in further discussions with China. The old foreign policy apparatus of Bush and Obama, characterized by “drone diplomacy” will again be fully entrenched in Washington in the persons of Antony Blinken and Susan Rice. Tom Vilsack, Monsanto’s best friend, will strengthen corporate agriculture, not family farms. The simple fact is that the Biden campaign received a majority of the political contributions from Wall Street. Biden, the “moderate” is not inclined to advocate serious economic or political change.
The irony of all of this is that there were victories in the 2020 elections. There was a clear victory for big capital, venture capital, and the mechanisms of social control and aggressive militarism. Google, Microsoft, the FBI, the NSA and others of their ilk won in November. They got some return to normalcy in international trade. They got some return to political cooperation instead of the unpredictability of Trump’s policies. But they also have a Supreme Court and a divided Senate to blunt any “progressive” tendencies that might emerge. They won a check on the ravenous and disastrous policies of the rightwing populists, and the marginalization of the progressive left.
At best a Biden administration will be like the kindly, smiling uncle giving a recalcitrant and enraged child a time out while simultaneously giving the child a Ho Ho Bar and a pat on the head.
But, the danger to democracy and justice will be even greater in coming years. The Congressperson from the Bronx, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was right when she accused the Democratic Party leadership of “incompetence” and warned that if a progressive agenda was not advanced by Biden and Pelosi that the Democrats would be crushed in the 2022 mid-terms. She and others are entirely correct when they warn that Trump is not an aberration. His followers are still there and in big numbers. “Moderation” will bring the Trumpers back in 2024. Let’s face it, as abhorrent as it is Trump actually talked about real issues and real concerns of many people, albeit in obscene vulgarities. Appealing to old myths and stereotypes, Trump provided “excuses” for people’s lack of economic security, lack of health care, and fears of a changing demography. Trump was wrong and vile on everything. But he spoke in a language some people could understand. Does anyone seriously believe that Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Tony Blinken, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer speak that language? The closest the Democrats have to that clarity of voice is the, now 33% larger, Squad. Progressives picked up ten seats in the House. Moderates lost 13.
Trump was the grieving face of the American empire’s certain decline. The Biden administration is just a hospice to ease the pain of that decline. Trump was the angry drunk uncle grabbing his niece’s buttocks. Biden is more like the priest about to administer last rites. Neither can confront the inevitable result that the United States is no longer the world’s hegemon. The United States is now just another state in a globalized world, and a declining state as well. Not even happy, caring “Uncle Joe” can prevent that decline. The progressive policies which might mitigate the pain from that transition have been moved to the back of the bus by a corporate Democratic Party that cannot govern and likely will not survive.