Will Biden Be The Solution To America’s Problems? | No, He’s The Continuation
Thirty days into his presidency, it’s time to evaluate whether Biden represents the change America desperately needs (spoiler: he does not)
After a narrow victory over Trump and a scaled back inauguration ceremony, Biden inherits the COVID-19 pandemic, a fragile economy, strained geopolitical relationships, and a nation deeply divided. Despite relatively high approval ratings so far, the honeymoon period will soon be over for the new administration.
The result of Georgia’s razor thin runoff election, in which Jon Ossoff & Reverend Raphael Warnock both defeated their GOP challengers, clinched control of the senate for Democrats. With control over both chambers of congress, the Republicans finally lose a significant grip on the legislative process. However, the weakening of this reactionary roadblock doesn’t guarantee an influx of progressive policies any time soon.
While it’s comforting to see ghoulish republicans lose important senate races, the fact remains that democrats are lacking when it comes to maintaining popularity. Previous Democrat administrations are littered with broken promises, woefully inadequate legislation, hawkish foreign policy and a perpetual disenfranchisement of the working class. There’s no reason to suggest Biden will be any different. However, before focusing on Biden, it’s important to reflect on the legacy of all American presidents.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” has never been more relevant than it is today, with the United States Presidency being one of the most blatantly corrupt seats of power on Earth. In a political system suffocated by capitalism, great power will always exist symbiotically with great corruption and exploitation. Power is not created out of thin air — it always has been, and will forever be, a balancing act between the freedom of the people and the brutal, omnipresent strength of the capitalist state. Financial corruption throughout the political landscape is often under the spotlight in the United States, with scandals such as the Panama Papers, Monsanto’s limitless lobbying power, or just plain old bribery solicited by elected officials. These types of corruption are forever being uncovered, reported on, tweeted about, and inevitably forgotten & swept under the rug. What isn’t often mentioned, however, is moral corruption — the ability to permanently alter peoples lives, domestically and internationally, from the flick of a pen, sometimes on a whim. A sitting US president can order a drone strike, killing countless civilians, and then continue their day like nothing happened. Murder is as mundane as a coffee break if you’re the most powerful person in the world. When Obama ordered a strike on a Yemeni wedding procession, killing 12 civilians and wounding 15, did he have any remorse? did he ever face consequences? did he face a trial? The answer is always ‘no’. In the rare instance a President attempts to acknowledge a war crime they willed into existence, you can bet the confession was a political decision and not a moral obligation.
Donald Trump was no exception to the trend of corrupt presidents; really, he was the opposite. Loud, obnoxious, impulsive — his biggest crime in the eyes of the American political establishment was his lack of grace & decorum. In many ways, he came as a blessing to the left as he revealed that the ‘sanctity’ of presidency is a sham. The phrase “anyone can be president!” may sound inspiring at first, however, when that “anyone” turns out to be a failed New York businessman with no filter & shit for brains, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the inviolability of the Oval Office. It goes without saying that the incredibly low bar set by Trump also came as a blessing for Democrats; specifically Joe Biden. The 2020 election was closer than anticipated but, unsurprisingly, Biden eventually came out on top, despite initially losing Texas and Florida. Democrats won the White House, the senate, and maintained their lead in the house of representatives. A blue trifecta can only mean one thing — zero excuses.
Of course, with Democrat leadership, there will occasionally be good policies brought forward, especially in regards to cultural issues. For example, Biden is not hesitant to stand in support of the LGBTQ community. Extending federal protections, fair housing legislation, and reversing the transgender military ban are all welcome policies that will undoubtedly make life a little easier for many people across the states. His open support for trans rights goes as far as to outflank, from the left, certain members of the UK’s Labour Party despite the Democrats being a party far more entrenched in neoliberal ideology. The American left will have to accept that the Democrats can produce perfectly fine, agreeable legislation sometimes. If not, they will begin to lose credibility at a time when credibility is key. The left will need to present itself as a fresh alternative to the current American political system without letting dogmatism drag the movement down to the system’s current level. Democrats and Republicans alike have spent decades pissing away their integrity, resorting to tribalism and reducing politics to a sport — a perpetual Super Bowl where no matter who wins, America loses. The half time show is, predictably, sponsored by whatever the next big, flashy capitalist megaproject is. Whatever replaces this system, it mustn’t repeat the mistakes of the last.
For anyone serious about substantial, institutional change, it will come as no surprise that Joe Biden is not the man to bring it forward. He is a proud neoliberal. The policies he proposes are intended to preserve the system, not usher in a radical transformation. American capitalism produced men like Trump and it will continue to produce men like Trump as long as both parties uphold it with undying devotion. While Trump handed Biden a win in 2020, he equally defeated Hilary Clinton with relative ease in 2016. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the neoliberal approach will continue to uphold a system in which truly dangerous people can win. Why? Norms? Bipartisanship? A monumental shift away from capitalism wont be easy but surely it’s a hell of an improvement on a system where fascism can, and eventually will at this rate, prevail.
Nobody is better at opposing reactionary politics than socialists. It’s a historical reality. Unfortunately, socialism has been excluded from American political discourse for decades. The Red Scare, much like the Cold War, never ended. With this in mind, it’s no wonder the American right is so dauntingly strong.
A prime example of the middle-of-the-road politics Joe Biden represents is a policy he enacted shortly after inauguration, in which 12 million of the lowest-income food stamp recipients are eligible to apply for an emergency benefits increase of 15% per month. Is this a bad policy? No, of course not. Will it help those in need? Yes, it most likely will. What’s the big deal? Well, the issue is that it’s simply patchwork. Policies like this exist to plug leaks on the sinking ship that is Capitalism. Economic liberalism cannot offer a viable solution to poverty, hunger, homelessness or the inevitable climate crisis. These are all issues that economic liberalism has helped create. The only political ideology willing to tackle these issues at the root is socialism. While it’s important to not completely dismiss patchwork legislation, as it will often make life a little easier for the vulnerable, we can’t afford to fall into the trap of accepting bare minimum. We must always demand a long lasting, equitable solution to the problems capitalism has imposed on us; before it’s too late.
Since Donald Trump lost the election, socialists have lost what little liberal support they once had. There is no longer a ‘common enemy’. Liberals eventually won. Their idols now take up the position their enemies once held, and criticising the structure of power in the United States is no longer politically convenient for them. An unfortunate consequence of Biden running on a platform that largely consisted of “look, at least I'm not Trump” is that his base can now ‘switch off’ from politics altogether. Despite injustice still existing in every corner of the United States, their fight is now over. They never cared about confronting inequality, they just wanted their preferred team to win. They wanted power, nothing more.
In many ways, neoliberalism could be seen as a more formidable enemy to the left than the right ever has been. The right won’t stab you in the back. They’ll tell you their callous intentions outright. Neoliberalism leaves you questioning. Every policy, no matter how benevolent it sounds on the surface, may have a blade hidden below ready to spill blood for capitalism at any given moment. The left has to remain vigilant, and sceptical.
Malcom X realised this decades ago, when comparing conservatives and liberals:
It’s no surprise that Trump’s successor is Barack Obama’s Vice President. The Democrats sold Biden as a ‘much needed return to normal’, despite ‘normal’ being the conditions that led to the rise of Trump, and other right-wing demagogues. Although, it’s not just that aspect that should be noted. Normal is 38 million people in poverty. Normal is over 550,000 people homeless. Normal is 14 million households facing hunger. Normal is 137 million Americans struggling with medical debt. Normal is imperialism. Normal is exploitation. Normal is injustice.
Liberals are switching off at a crucial moment, where millions of families are reeling from the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic desperately waiting for government assistance; predominantly the promise of a $1400 direct payment. There are plenty of well meaning individuals out there demanding the Biden administration pass survival checks that are much larger than what’s currently being proposed. It’s no surprise that America’s COVID response has been less than adequate, and people are well within their right to demand more relief from the government. Sadly, their collective frustration likely won’t be enough to sway the decisions of the neoliberal Democrat establishment. It’s $1400 checks or nothing, evidently.
After thirty days of Biden, it’s become clear that meaningful change is unlikely, from the top-down. While he’s undoubtedly better than Trump; that no longer means anything significant. Trump is firmly out of the picture — for now. What’s crucial to realise is that nothing will change on a grassroots level if people ‘check out’ of politics in favour of ‘returning to normalcy’. Accepting bare minimum, patchwork policies combined with an overall complacency in the face of power will lead to atrocities. Suffering will continue unquestioned. Democrats would need to adopt a platform based in anti-capitalism if they were serious about changing America for the better. If not, they are simply keeping alive a deeply flawed system. Unfortunately, knowing Democrats, it’s a foregone conclusion the path they will take.