A new term has imposed itself on the conversation regarding the impending presidency of US President-elect, Joe Biden: “The Total Reset”. Many headlines have already promised that the Biden Presidency is ready to ‘reset’ US foreign policy across the globe, as if the matter is dependent solely on an American desire and decision.
While a ‘total reset’ is, perhaps, possible in some aspects of US policies – for example, a reversal of the Donald Trump Administration’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement on climate change – it is highly unlikely that the US can simply reclaim its position in many other geopolitical battles around the globe.
President Trump was often accused of leading an ‘isolationist’ foreign policy, a misleading term that, according to Stephen Wertheim’s Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy, was deliberately coined to silence those who dared challenge the advocates of military adventurism and interventionism in the first half of the twentieth century.
Trump was hardly an ‘isolationist’ in that sense, for he merely invested more in economic warfare than firepower. However, traditional US foreign policy makers felt that an American ‘retreat’ from crucial geopolitical fights, especially in the Middle East, has undermined US influence and emboldened regional and international contenders to fill in the political vacancy resulting from that alleged retreat.
Even if that were true and that a Biden Administration is keen on reclaiming the US position in the Middle East and within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), such a task will not be easy.
It is convenient to assume that US foreign policy is entirely dictated by a single administration. While, indeed, each American president is often affiliated with a particular ‘doctrine’ that serves the purpose of defining him and his presidency, the truth, backed by historical facts, is rather different.
For example, President George W. Bush launched a war on Iraq in 2003, which associated him with the ‘preemptive war’ doctrine. Yet, it was also Bush who ordered the final ‘military surge’ in Iraq as a prelude to a subsequent withdrawal, a process that continued during Barack Obama’s two terms in office and, again, under Trump. In other words, US behavior in Iraq followed a blueprint that, despite the seemingly contradicting rhetoric, was adhered to by different administrations.
In 2012, Obama declared his own version of the ‘total reset’ by announcing the ‘Pivot to Asia’ plan. This seismic move was meant to illustrate a growing belief that America’s real geopolitical challenge lies in the Pacific region, not in the Middle East. Obama’s ‘doctrine’ at the time was, itself, an outcome of burgeoning discourse championed by US foreign policy think-tanks with allegiances to both Democratic and Republican policymakers.
While Trump is often ridiculed for his over-emphasis on China as America’s greatest threat, Obama, too, made the trade war with China a centerpiece in his foreign policy agenda, especially during his second term at the White House. Obama’s frequent visits to Asia and many decisive speeches at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conferences were largely meant to solidify an American-led Asia-Pacific alliance with the single aim of torpedoing China’s perceived military and economic expansionism in the region.
Trump’s economic war on China was, undoubtedly, an American escalation which translated growing frustration among Washington’s elites into practical steps, however hasty and, at times, self-defeating. Still, the anti-China policy was hardly the brainchild of President Trump or his administration.
With that in mind, one wonders how would Biden be able to achieve a ‘total reset’ when US foreign policy is but the total aggregation of previous policies under past administrations? Even if one is to assume that Biden intends to author a whole new doctrine independent from those of his predecessors, such a task is still too daunting.
Indeed, the world is vastly changing, leaving the US with the opportunity to merely renegotiate its positions as a central global power – but, certainly not as the world’s only hegemon.
Just look at the Middle East region of the last few years to appreciate the US dichotomy. What started as a political feud between Turkey and Russia in Syria and almost escalated into an all-out military confrontation, eventually subsided, bringing Ankara and Moscow closer together.
While Turkey has, for years, charted a whole new political course, cautiously walking away from the declining NATO alliance, while looking to create its own zones of influence in Syria, Libya, Eastern Mediterranean and, finally, in the New Caucasus region, Russia too was asserting itself as a global power in these same regions and beyond.
Certainly, Turkey and Russia still stand at different ends of the spectrum regarding various geopolitical conflicts. However, they have learned that they must coordinate to fill the vacuum created by the US-NATO absence. Their cooperation has, indeed, already delivered concrete results and allowed both countries to claim victories by relatively stabilizing the situation in Syria, largely marginalizing NATO in Libya and, finally, achieving a ceasefire in the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh.
If Biden is to reinsert the US back into these conflicts, his administration will find itself in the position of fighting on multiple fronts, against friends and foes alike.
While it is too early to determine the nature of Biden’s foreign policy doctrine, it behooves the new administration to alter its perception of itself and the world at large, and to understand that sheer military power is no longer a guarantor of political and economic influence.
Instead of advancing such wishful thinking as a ‘total reset’, it is far more practical and beneficial to consider an alternative that is predicated on dialogue and a multilateral approach to political and economic conflicts.
The election is now over and Joe Biden is the President-elect. What is likely to happen after Biden is inaugurated? The incoming Biden administration will face numerous huge problems left behind by the Trump administration. It is likely that Covid-19 will still be a major concern here and in many other nations around the world. President Biden will also have to deal with high levels of unemployment, of homelessness, of hunger, of people under-insured or without health insurance, of income and wealth inequality as well as an angry and divided people. In addition, the Biden administration will have to deal with the appalling systemic discrimination against minorities, women and the poor.
The Trump administration also took steps that will likely increase the severity of the climate catastrophe scientists have been warning about for decades. We are already seeing devastation caused by the rapidly changing climate and the risk of ever greater devastation continues to grow. This situation requires an urgent worldwide campaign larger than anything humans have ever done. To achieve this necessary international cooperation also requires a huge change in the criminal and barbaric US militaristic and sanctions-based foreign policy. The US must rely on diplomacy and, among other things, respect the sovereignty of other nations. This change will thus allow a huge reduction in the corporate welfare given to the military-industrial complex.
However, if we accept politics as usual under the Biden presidency, that is, politics directed and controlled by Wall Street and large corporate interests, the human rights of a large portion of the US population will continue to be ignored. When government fails to address the needs of its people, its legitimacy can be questioned and there is a risk of society falling apart. The low level of voter participation in our elections, particularly in non-presidential years, is already a concern. Do people not vote because they have given up on the system? Even this year with a hotly contested election, roughly 1/3 of the eligible electorate failed to vote. Making matters worse, the blatant politicization of the Supreme Court has weakened its already tenuous claims to legitimacy as a non-partisan and independent branch of government.
If we continue to allow the profit-driven corporate controlled media, including social media, to divide us from one another, we will be unable to overcome the huge problems mentioned above. It is necessary for ‘we the people’ to unite, to overcome the left/right, Democratic/Republican partisan divide, in order to force the US political system to work on behalf of the people instead of on behalf of the special interests of the wealthy. Only constant and strong nonviolent pressure on Congress and the White House from ‘we the people’ can overcome the power of money, that is, the legalized bribery in our national political system.
If the Biden administration adopts positions that clearly benefit ‘we the people’ instead of the wealthy and powerful, there is a good chance of overcoming much of our dangerous division. People of all political persuasions will realize we finally have a president who represents their interests instead of those of the super wealthy.
Note what we demand are universally recognized human rights that people deserve wherever they are on the left/right political spectrum. These rights include decent housing, living wage jobs, good food, health care, education, fair and equal treatment before the law, voting and a clean and safe environment. These are not extreme positions and people in many other nations have had these rights for decades. Unfortunately, we still don’t have these rights, making the US exceptional in the sense of how few basic human rights we actually have.
For example, in countries with these rights, people are not afraid of losing their health care if they lose their job or of going bankrupt due to high medical charges. There is not a loss of dignity or respect associated with receiving social benefits. Low and middle income students can go to college without a fear of graduating with huge debts.
Can we pressure President Biden enough for him to adopt this popular and winning approach? Can we put enough pressure on Congress to cause it to join in this campaign? Sí, se puede! This campaign requires that all of us across the political spectrum stand up for our legitimate rights. We have no other choice if we want to make the US live up to the lofty words that inspired millions here and around the world.
In January 2017, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Democracy Index downgraded the state of democracy in the United States from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy”.
The demotion of a country that has constantly prided itself, not only on being democratic but also on championing democracy throughout the world, took many by surprise. Some US pundits challenged the findings altogether.
However, judging by events that have transpired since, the accuracy of the EIU Index continues to demonstrate itself in the everyday reality of American politics: the extreme political and cultural polarization; growing influence of armed militias, police violence; mistreatment of undocumented immigrants, including children; marginalization of the country’s minorities in mainstream politics and so on.
The EIU’s Democracy Index has, finally, exposed the deteriorating state of democracy in the US because it is based on 60 different indicators which, aside from traditional categories – i.e. the function of government – also include other indicators such as gender equality, civil liberties and political culture.
Judging by the number, diversity and depth of the above indicators, it is safe to assume that the outcome of the US general elections this November will not have an immediate bearing on the state of American democracy. On the contrary, the outcome is likely to further fragment an already divided society and continue to turn the country’s state-run institutions – including the Supreme Court – into a battleground for political and ideological alliances.
While the buzzword throughout the election campaigns has been ‘saving American democracy’, the state of democracy in the US is likely to worsen in the foreseeable future. This is because America’s ruling elites, whether Republicans or Democrats, refuse to acknowledge the actual ailments that have afflicted American political culture for many years.
Sadly, when the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, former Democratic presidential nominee, insisted that massive structural adjustments were necessary at every level of government, he was dismissed by the Democratic establishment as ‘unrealistic’, and altogether ‘unelectable’.
Sanders was, of course, right, because the crisis in American democracy was not initiated by the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The latter event was a mere symptom of a larger, protracted problem.
These are some of the major issues that are unlikely to be effortlessly resolved by the outcome of the elections, thus will continue to downgrade the state of democracy in the US.
The Inequality Gap: Income inequality, which is the source of socio-political strife, is one of the US’ major challenges, spanning over 50 years. Inequality, now compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic, is worsening, affecting certain racial groups – African Americans, in particular – and women, more than others.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in February 2020, “income inequality in the US is the highest of all the G7 nations,” a major concern for 78 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans.
Political Polarization: The large gap between the wealthy few and the impoverished many is not the only schism creating a wedge in American society. Political polarization – although, interestingly, it does not always express itself based on rational class demarcation – is a major problem in the US.
Both Republicans and Democrats have succeeded in making their case to enlist the support of certain strata of American society, while doing very little to fulfill the many promises the ruling establishments of these two camps often make during election campaigns.
For example, Republicans use a populist political discourse to reach out to working-class white Americans, promising them economic prosperity; yet, there is no evidence that the lot of working-class white American families has improved under the Trump Administration.
The same is true with Democrats, who have, falsely, long situated themselves as the champions of racial justice and fairer treatment of undocumented immigrants.
Militarization of Society: With socio-economic inequality and political polarization at their worst, trust in democracy and the role of the state to fix a deeply flawed system is waning. This lack of trust in the central government spans hundreds of years, thus, the constant emphasis on the Second Amendment of the US Constitution regarding “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
Indeed, US society is one of the most militarized in the world. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), two-thirds of all local terrorism in the US is carried out by right-wing militias, who are now more emboldened and angrier than ever before. According to an October Southern Poverty Law Center report, there are about 180 active anti-government paramilitary groups in the US.
For the first time in many years, talks of another ‘American Civil War’ have become a daily mainstream media discussion.
It would be entirely unrealistic to imagine that democracy in the US will be restored as a result of any given elections. Without a fundamental shift in US politics that confronts the underlying problems behind the socio-economic inequality and political polarization, the future carries yet more fragmentation and, possibly, violence.
The coming weeks and months are critical in determining the future direction of American society. Alas, the current indicators are hardly promising.
As of today, America does not seem convinced by its democratic nature and its democratic process. One poll released yesterday claims that “less than half of the Americans believe Biden is the legitimate winner of election; a third say Trump won.” By now it is reasonable to admit that America is far from being confident about anything that is traditionally associated with its core ideological roots and its founders’ philosophy.
By now it is also clear beyond doubt that the predictions of a Democratic ‘landslide victory’ were either delusional or even consciously duplicitous. As of today, Republicans have gained seats in the House of Representatives, and look likely to retain control of the senate. If this is not enough, President Trump also increased his support base significantly. He even managed to expand his share of votes within marginal segments that until now were considered ‘democratic territory’ such as the Black and Latino communities.
America is divided in the middle. Some may wonder what is it that made so many American voters give their votes to a presidential candidate who seems to be past his best days and often appear confused and cognitively challenged. Others wonder how is it possible that such a significant number gave their vote for a second time to an eccentric real estate tycoon who proved to be totally foreign to some elementary knowledge of running a country, let alone the language of politics and diplomacy. How is it possible that more than 70 million Americans voted for a man who shakes his hands and ass to the music of YMCA at his rallies?
The truth of that matter can’t be denied: Trump’s electoral power is based on his wall-to-wall support amongst White uneducated males. It is America’s white working class that support a man who has never engaged in any form of manual work so to say, a man who was born into wealth.
I would expect every American political scientist to clear his or her table and concentrate on one question: what is it at the core of this bond between this demographic and this abrasive real estate oligarch? Seemingly the many Americans who do not approve of Trump prefer to go to bed in the night and wake up in a Trump-less universe. Bizarrely enough, this is exactly what happened on election night. America went to sleep accepting that Trump might very well make it again, that he might be here to stay for another four years. Yet miraculously, when America woke up, just a few hours later Trump looked likely to be on his way out. We may never know what really happened at the wee small hours in those ‘swing states.’ Yet, Trump’s bond with America’s white working class is, no doubt, a fascinating question and it remains a mystery.
Trump is not the first American tycoon to be loved and admired by the working masses. Henry Ford, the chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production, a man who made the USA into an industrial superpower, wasn’t exactly a ‘socialist’ by any means but he took great care of his workers and improved their lives by unimaginable proportions.
Ford was a pioneer of ‘welfare capitalism.’ He astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage, practically doubling the rate of most of his workers. Ford believed that paying employees more would enable them to afford the cars they were producing and thus boost the local economy. In practice, Ford offered a valid answer to Marx’ theory of ‘alienation.’ His workers bonded with their reality by means of consumption. Ford believed in manufacturing, nationalism and patriotism. He was against wars; he saw Wall Street and global capitalism as America’s prime enemy. This fact alone put him on an inevitable collision course with the wolves of Wall Street. Consequently Henry Ford went down in History as a “notorious anti-Semite” and Trump has been denounced more than once by the ADL and other Jewish organizations for “extolling” him and his achievements.
It is not difficult to point at some crucial similarities between Ford and Trump. Both are critical of military interventions. Both adhere to nationalist, patriotic and conservative values. Both believe in manufacturing. Both oppose globalism of any form and see globalist Wall Street as a prime enemy. But the bond between the struggling worker and the arch capitalist has deeper cultural, rational and psychological roots that go beyond the particular historicity of one industrialist or another.
The significance of the fantasy of bond between the oligarch and the oppressed is at the centre of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), one of the most important cinematic epics of the 20th century.
Metropolis was created in Germany during the era of the Weimar Republic. It is set in a futuristic ultra-capitalist dystopia that isn’t so removed from the reality we witness in the growing abyss between Americas’ seashore urban metropolises and the so-called ‘Fly Over’ States. It tells the story of Freder, the son of the city master, and Maria, an inspirational working class, Christian and saintly character. Together, Freder and Maria defeat social injustice and the class divide by means of unity. Against all odds, they manage to unite capital and labor. For this unity to occur, a mediator has to come forward to transform social clash into a harmonious future. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is two-and-a-half hours of horror, oppression, slavery, capitalist malevolence and class divide that resolves in the end into harmonious reconciliation of the Hegelian ‘end of history’ type. The cinematic epic exhausts itself when the workers’ leader and the city master are shaking hands and accepting their mutual fate and co-dependence. “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart,” is the inter title of the scene, emphasizing the ideological and metaphysical motto of the film. In the eyes of Trump supporters, Donald is such a ‘heart.’
It didn’t take me long to notice the similarities between Lang’s Freder and Donald Trump. It took me even less time to see a resemblance between Maria and Melania.
Looking at the Arte film it becomes clear that Melania’s role in Trump’s success is far greater than what the American compromised media may be willing to admit. The American press treats the current first lady as a meaningless decorative element planted in proximity to the ‘great evil’. But, as the Arte film reveals, for Trump’s supporting crowd, Melania is a loaded symbol of deep spiritual and cultural meaning.
Melania is practically the ultimate embodiment of the ‘American dream.’ Born in a remote village in Communist (former) Yugoslavia, she made it to the top of the world. She is literally the First Lady, married to the most powerful man in the world. She did it on her own. She had a wish, she dedicated herself and she accomplished her mission.
But it goes further, this ‘sleeping beauty’ character happens to ‘wake up’ in the most volatile moments and say the right things. Being a dedicated mother, she furnishes the turbulent presidency with a deep sense of family commitment. She fits like a glove with the conservative understanding of conventional gender relations. But she also enlightens the compatible and mutual relations between the male and the female couple:
She is ‘young and beautiful,’ he is ‘old and shrewd’ but when things ‘get out of hand,’ when the president, for instance, is caught on tape calling to “grab them by the p*ssy” the couple swap rolls immediately. Melania, out of the blue, becomes the big caring mother/wife, she forgives her naughty husband, however confirms that he is actually a very nice gentleman and qualified for presidency. It is, practically Melania who Gives Donald the kosher stamp when he really needs it.
It isn’t a coincidence that no one in the USA could produce such a documentary that delves into the true meaning of Trump and his Trumpina. Not one camera owner in the USA has the mental power to admit that the Trump project is actually way more sophisticated than what we are willing to admit. One filmmaker who apparently understands the Trump project is obviously Michael Moore who predicted Trump’s victory in 2016. He also tried to warn his fellow progressive friends that they are deluding themselves into believing the pollsters and their phantasmic landslide victory predictions.
Trumpism is ideologically motivated and strategically driven. Not many Americans in the Left have the guts to admit that if one political offering is pushing for non-binary gender, trans identiterianism, globalism and anti-patriotism, there would be enough people that push back on this message, clinging to the most obvious call for nationalism, family values, strict gender binaries, Christian ethos, etc.
In Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis the leader unites the under-city slaves with the Mammonites on top. I am not so sure that Trump can establish any kind of a bridge between Wall Street and his supporters in the ‘Fly over’ States. Wall Street does not see any reason to reach out to the so-called ‘deplorables.’ America is already divided on pretty much every possible front. Two days ago I asked a NY friend how does he feel about the current events in the USA. He corrected me immediately. “I live in NYC not in the USA… the USA” he said, “starts after the Hudson.”
It is hard to predict where America is going from here. But since Henry Ford predicted the current mess almost a century ago it may be good to remember that it was the same guy who cleverly pointed out that “when everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
Analysts are still grappling with the fallout from the US election. Trumpism proved a far more enduring and alluring phenomenon than most media pundits expected. Defying predictions, Trump improved his share of the overall vote compared to his 2016 win, and he surprised even his own team by increasing his share of minority voters and women.
But most significantly, he almost held his own against Democratic challenger Joe Biden at a time when the US economy – the incumbent’s “trump” card – was in dire straits after eight months of a pandemic. Had it not been for Covid-19, Trump – not Biden – would most likely be preparing for the next four years in the White House.
Of course, much of Trump’s appeal was that he is not Biden. The Democratic party decided to run pretty much the worst candidate imaginable: an old-school machine politician, one emphatically beholden to the corporate donor class and unsuited to the new, more populist political climate. His campaigning – on the rare occasions he appeared – suggested significant cognitive decline. Biden often looked more suited to a luxury retirement home than heading the most powerful nation on earth.
But then again, if Trump could lead the world’s only superpower for four years, how hard can it really be? He showed that those tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists might be right after all: maybe the president is largely a figurehead, while a permanent bureaucracy runs much of the show from behind the curtain. Were Ronald Reagan and George W Bush not enough to persuade us that any halfwit who can string together a few cliches from a teleprompter will suffice?
No return to ‘normal’
The narrowly averted Trump second term has at least prompted liberal pundits to draw one significant lesson that is being endlessly repeated: Biden must avoid returning to the old “normal”, the one that existed before Trump, because that version of “normal” was exactly what delivered Trump in the first place. These commentators fear that, if Biden doesn’t play his cards wisely, we will end up in 2024 with a Trump 2.0, or even a rerun from Trump himself, reinvigorated after four years of tweet-sniping from the sidelines. They are right to be worried.
But their analysis does not properly explain the political drama that is unfolding, or where it heads next. There is a two-fold problem with the “no return to normal” argument.
The first is that the liberal media and political class making this argument are doing so in entirely bad-faith. For four years they have turned US politics and its coverage into a simple-minded, ratings-grabbing horror show. A vile, narcissist businessman, in collusion with an evil Russian mastermind, usurped the title of most powerful person on the planet that should have been bestowed on Hillary Clinton. As Krystal Ball has rightly mocked, even now the media are whipping up fears that the “Orange Mussolini” may stage some kind of back-handed coup to block the handover to Biden.
These stories have been narrated to us by much of the corporate media over and over again – and precisely so that we do not think too hard about why Trump beat Clinton in 2016. The reality, far too troubling for most liberals to admit, is that Trump proved popular because a lot of the problems he identified were true, even if he raised them in bad faith himself and had no intention of doing anything meaningful to fix them.
Trump was right about the need for the US to stop interfering in the affairs of the rest of the world under the pretence of humanitarian concern and a supposed desire to spread democracy at the end of the barrel of a gun. In practice, however, lumbered with that permanent bureaucracy, delegating his authority to the usual war hawks like John Bolton, and eager to please the Christian evangelical and Israel lobbies, Trump did little to stop such destructive meddling. But at least he was correct rhetorically.
The Guardian declares: 'A new start', with a 'Free 16-page Joe Biden souvenir supplement inside'.
Equally, Trump looked all too right in berating the establishment media for promoting “fake news”, especially as coverage of his presidency was dominated by an evidence-free narrative claiming he had colluded with Russia to steal the election. Those now bleating about how dangerous his current assertions of election fraud are should remember they were the ones who smashed that particular glass house with their own volley of stones back in 2016.
Yes, Trump has been equally culpable with his Twitter barrages of fake news. And yes, he cultivated rather than spurned support from one of those major corporate outlets: the reliably right wing Fox News. But what matters most is that swaths of the American public – unable to decide who to believe, or maybe not caring – preferred to side with a self-styled maverick, Washington outsider, the supposed “underdog”, against a class of self-satisfied, overpaid media professionals transparently prostituting themselves to the billionaire owners of the corporate media.
Once voters had decided the system was rigged – and it is rigged towards the maintenance of elite power – anyone decrying the system, whether honestly or duplicitously, was going to prove popular.
Indebted to donors
Trump’s appeal was further bolstered by styling himself a self-made man, as his campaign riffed on the long-standing myths of the American Dream. The US public was encouraged to see Trump as a rich man prepared to gamble part of his own fortune on a run for the presidency so he could bring his business acumen to USA Ltd. That contrasted starkly with Democratic party leaders like Clinton and Biden who gave every appearance of having abjectly sold their principles – and their souls – to the highest-bidding corporate “donors”.
And again, that perception – at least in relation to Clinton and Biden – wasn’t entirely wrong.
How can Biden not end up trying to resurrect the Obama years that he was so very much part of during his two terms as vice-president and that led directly to Trump? That was why corporate donors backed his campaign. They desire the kind of neoliberal “normal” that leaves them free to continue making lots more money and ensures the wealth gap grows.
It is why they and the media worked so hard to pave Biden’s path to the presidency, even doing their best to bury political stories embarrassing to the Biden campaign. Maintaining that “normal” is the very reason the modern Democratic party exists.
Even if Biden wanted to radically overhaul the existing, corporate-bonded US political system – and he doesn’t – he would be incapable of doing so. He operates within institutional, structural constraints – donors, Congress, the media, the supreme court – all there to ensure his room for manoeuvre is tightly delimited.
Had his main rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, been allowed to run instead and won the presidency, it would have been much the same. The important difference is that the existence of a President Sanders would have risked exposing the fact that the “world’s most powerful leader” is not really so powerful.
Sanders would have lost his battles trying to defy these structural constraints, but in the process he would have made those constraints far more visible. They would have been all too obvious had someone like Sanders been constantly hitting his head against them. That was precisely why the corporate class and the technocratic leadership of the Democratic party worked so strenuously to make sure Sanders got nowhere near the presidential race.
Biden will do his best to achieve what his donors want: a return to the neoliberal “normal” under Obama. He will offer a sprinkling of initiatives to ensure progressive liberals can put to rest their resistance posturing with a clear conscience. There will be some “woke” identity politics to prevent any focus on class politics and the struggle for real economic justice, as well as some weak, corporation-friendly Green New Deal projects, if Biden can sneak past them past a Republican-controlled Senate.
And if he can’t manage even that … well that’s the beauty of a system tailor-made to follow the path of least financial resistance, to uphold the corporate status quo, the “normal”.
But there is a second, bigger problem. A fly in the ointment. Whatever Biden and the Democratic party do to resurrect the neoliberal consensus, the old “normal”, it isn’t coming back. The smug, technocratic class that has dominated western politics for decades on behalf of the corporate elite is under serious threat. Biden looks more like a hiccough, a last burp provoked by the unexpected pandemic.
The neoliberal “normal” isn’t coming back because the economic circumstances that generated it – the post-war boom of seemingly endless growth – have disappeared.
A quarter of a century ago, the Cassandras of their day – those dismissed as peddlers of false conspiracy theories – warned of “peak oil”. That was the idea that the fuel on which the global economy ran either had peaked or soon would do. As the oil ran out, or became more expensive to extract, economic growth would slow, wages would fall, and inequality between rich and poor would increase.
This was likely to have dramatic political consequences too: resource wars abroad (inevitably camouflaged as “humanitarian intervention”); more polarised domestic politics; greater popular dissatisfaction; the return of charismatic, even fascist, leaders; and a resort to violence to solve political problems.
The arguments about peak oil continue. Judged by some standards, the production peak arrived in the 1970s. Others say, with the aid of fracking and other harmful technologies, the turning-point is due about now. But the kind of world predicted by peak oil theory looks to have been unfolding since at least the 1980s. The crisis in neoliberal economics was underscored by the 2008 global economic crash, whose shockwaves are still with us.
On top of all this, there are looming ecological and climate catastrophes intimately tied to the fossil-fuel economy on which the global corporations have grown fat. This Gordian knot of globe-spanning self-harm urgently needs unpicking.
Biden has neither the temperament nor the political manoeuvre room to take on these mammoth challenges and solve them. Inequality is going to increase during his term. The technocrats are again going to be exposed once again as impotent – or complicit – as plutocracy entrenches. The ecological crisis is not going to be dealt with beyond largely empty promises and posturing.
There will be lots of talk in the media about the need to give Biden more time to show what he can do and demands that we keep quiet for fear of ushering back Trumpism. This will be designed to lose us yet more valuable months and years to address urgent problems that threaten the future of our species.
The age of populism
The ability of the technocratic class to manage growth – wealth accumulation for the rich, tempered by a little “trickle down” to stop the masses rising up – is coming to an end. Growth is over and the technocrat’s toolbox is empty.
We are now in the age of political populism – a natural response to burgeoning inequality.
On one side is the populism of the Trumpers. They are the small-minded nationalists who want to blame everyone but the real villains – the corporate elite – for the west’s declining fortunes. As ever, they will search out the easiest targets: foreigners and “immigrants”. In the US, the Republican party has been as good as taken over by the Tea party. The US right is not going to repudiate Trump for his defeat, they are going to totemise him because they understand his style of politics is the future.
There are now Trumps everywhere: Boris Johnson in the UK (and waiting in the wings, Nigel Farage); Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil; the Le Pen dynasty in France; Viktor Orban in Hungary. They are seeding the return of xenophobic, corporate fascism.
The corporate media would have us believe that this is the only kind of populism that exists. But there is a rival populism, that of the left, and one that espouses cooperation and solidarity within nations and between them.
Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Sanders in the US are the first shoots of a global reawakening of class-conscious politics based on solidarity with the poor and oppressed; of renewed pressure for a social contract, in contrast to the worship of survival-of-the-fittest economics; of a reclaiming of the commons, communal resources that belong to us all, not just the strongmen who seized them for their own benefit; and, most importantly, of an understanding, lost sight of in our industrialised, consumption-obsessed societies, that we must find a sustainable accommodation with the rest of the living world.
My latest: The increasingly desperate task of capitalism's perception managers is to dissociate our economic system from the emerging environmental crisis – to break our understanding of the causal link between the two https://t.co/S4Aby314FX
This kind of left wing populism has a long pedigree that dates back nearly 150 years. It flourished in the inter-war years in Europe; it defined the political battle-lines in Iran immediately after the Second World War; and it has been a continual feature of Latin American politics.
As ever, the populism of the nationalists and bigots has the upper hand. And that is no accident.
Today’s globalised wealth elite prefer neoliberal, technocratic politics that keep borders open for trade; that treat the labouring poor as human chattel, to be moved around on a global chess board as a way to force wages down; and that ensure the elite can stash its ill-gotten gains away on island sanctuaries far from the tax man.
But when technocratic politics is on its death bed, as it is now, the corporate elite will always settle for the populism of a Trump or a Farage over the populism of the left. They will do so even if right wing populism risks constraining their financial empires, because left wing populism does much worse: it upends the warped logic on which the corporate elite’s entire hoarded wealth depends, threatening to wipe it out.
If the corporate elite can no longer find a way to foist a neoliberal technocrat like Biden on the public, they will choose the populism of a Trump over the populism of a Sanders every time. And as they own the media, they can craft the stories we hear: about who we are, what is possible and where we are heading. If we allow it, our imaginations will be twisted and deformed in the image of the deranged totem they choose.
We can reclaim politics – a politics that cares about the future, about our species, about our planet – but to do so we must first reclaim our minds.
Yeah, like [in] a church. Church of the Good Hustler.
— Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) in The Hustler, 1961
At the end of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, A Doll’s House, Nora, the aggrieved wife, leaves her husband’s house and all the illusions that sustained its marriage of lies. She chooses freedom over fantasy. She will no longer be played with like a doll but will try to become a free woman – a singular one. “There is another task I must undertake first. I must try and educate myself,” she tells her husband Torvald, a man completely incapable of understanding the social programming that has made him society’s slave.
When Nora closes the doll’s house door behind her, the sound is like a hammer blow of freedom. For anyone who has seen the play, even when knowing the outcome in advance, that sound is profound. It keeps echoing. It interrogates one’s conscience.
The echo asks: Do you live inside America’s doll house where a vast tapestry of lies, bad faith, and cheap grace keep you caged in comfort, as you repeat the habits that have been drilled into you?
In this doll’s house of propaganda into which America has been converted, a great many of our basic assumptions are totally illusory.
Americans who voted for either Trump or Biden in the 2020 election are like Torvald clones. They refuse to open that door so they might close it behind them. They live in the doll’s house – all 146+ million of them. Like Torvald, they are comforted. They are programmed and propagandized, embracing the illusion that the electoral system is not structured and controlled to make sure no significant change can occur, no matter who is president. It is a sad reality promoted as democracy.
They will prattle on and give all sorts of reasons why they voted, and for whom, and how if you don’t vote you have no right to bitch, and how it’s this sacred right to vote that makes democracy great, blah blah blah. It’s all sheer nonsense. For the U.S.A. is not a democracy; it is an oligarchy run by the wealthy for the wealthy.
This is not a big secret. Everybody knows this is true; knows the electoral system is sheer show business with the presidential extravaganza drawing the big money from corporate lobbyists, investment bankers, credit card companies, lawyers, business and hedge fund executives, Silicon Valley honchos, think tanks, Wall Street gamblers, millionaires, billionaires, et al. Biden and Trump spent over 3 billion dollars on the election. They are owned by the money people.
Both are old men with long, shameful histories. A quick inquiry will show how the rich have profited immensely from their tenures in office. There is not one hint that they could change and have a miraculous conversion while in future office, like JFK. Neither has the guts or the intelligence. They are nowhere men who fear the fate that John Kennedy faced squarely when he turned against the CIA and the war machine. They join the craven company of Johnson, Ford, Carter, Reagan G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. They all got the message that was sent from the streets of Dallas in 1963: You don’t want to die, do you?
Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks, its vast intelligence apparatus, increased or decreased in the past half century? Who is winning the battle, the people or the ruling elites? The answer is obvious.
It matters not at all whether the president has been Trump or Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Barack Obama or George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, or Jimmy Carter. The power of the national security state has grown under them all and everyone is left to moan and groan and wonder why.
All the while, the doll’s house has become more and more sophisticated and powerful. It is now essentially an electronic prison that is being “Built Back Better.” The new Cold War now being waged against Russia and China is a bi-partisan affair, as is the confidence game played by the secret government intended to create a fractured consciousness in the population through their corporate mass-media stenographers. Trump and his followers on one side of the coin; liberal Democrats on the other.
Only those backed by the wealthy power brokers get elected in the U.S.A. Then when elected, it’s payback time. Palms are greased. Everybody knows this is true. It’s called corruption. So why would anyone, who opposes a corrupt political oligarchy, vote, unless they were casting a vote of conscience for a doomed third-party candidate?
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
And yet everybody who voted for the two men backed by the super-rich owners of the country knew what they were doing, unless they live under a rock and come out every four years to vote. Perhaps they were out buying stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey, so they can give thanks for the farce (stuffing: Latin: farcire).
They have their reasons. Now the Biden people celebrate, just as Trump’s supporters did in 2016. I can hear fireworks going off as I write here in a town where 90% + voted for Biden and hate Trump with a passion more intense than what they ever could work up for a spurned lover or spouse. This is mass psychosis. It’s almost funny.
At least we have gotten rid of Trump, they say. No one can be worse. They think this is logic. Like Torvald, they cannot begin to understand why anyone would want to leave the doll’s house, how anyone could refuse to play a game in which the dice are loaded. They will deny they are in the doll’s house while knowing the dice are loaded and still roll the die, not caring that their choice – whether it’s Tweedledee or Tweedledum – will result in the death and impoverishment of so many, that being the end result of oligarchic rule at home and imperialism abroad.
Orwell called this Doublethink:
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them…. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.
And while in Nineteen Eighty-Four Doublethink is learned by all the Party members “and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox,” today in the U.S.A., it has been mastered even by the so-called unintelligent.
To live in the U.S.A. is to live in the Church of the Good Hustler.
People often ask: What can we do to make the country better? What is your alternative?
A child could answer that one: Don’t vote if you know that both contenders are backed by the super-rich elites, what some call the Deep State. Which, of course, they are. Everybody knows.
The so-called left and right argue constantly about whom to support. It’s a pseudo-debate constructed to allow people to think their vote counts; that the game isn’t rigged. It’s hammered into kids’ heads from an early age. Be grateful, give thanks that you live in a democracy where voting is allowed and your choice is as important as a billionaire’s such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Charles Koch. In the voting booth we are all equal.
Myths die hard. This one never does:
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
— Inaugural Address, President Donald Trump, January 20, 2017.
With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal.
— President Elect, Joe Biden, November 7, 2020.
Above all else, the time has come for us to renew our faith in ourselves and in America. In recent years, that faith has been challenged.
— President Richard Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1973.
Ask the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Syrians, the Afghanis, the Libyans, the Palestinians, et al. They sing a different tune, one not heard In the Church of the Good Hustler.
After campaigning hard for the losing presidential candidate in 1972, I nearly choked when I heard Richard Nixon’s inaugural address in January 1973. Clinging to the American myth the previous year, I had campaigned for a genuine anti-war Democrat, Senator George McGovern. The war against Vietnam was still raging and Nixon, who had been first elected in 1968 as a “peace candidate,” succeeding the previous “peace candidate” Lyndon Baines Johnson, was nevertheless overwhelmingly elected, despite Watergate allegations appearing in the months preceding the election. Nixon won forty-nine states to McGovern’s one – Massachusetts, where I lived. It was a landslide. I felt sick, woke up, got up, and left the doll’s house.
“Propaganda is the true remedy for loneliness,” wrote the French sociologist Jacques Ellul in 1965 in Propaganda:
It corresponds to the need to share, to be a member of a community, to lose oneself in a group, to embrace a collective ideology that will end loneliness…. It also corresponds to deep and constant needs, more developed today, perhaps, than ever before: the need to believe and obey, to create and hear fables, to communicate in the language of myths.
In a country where loneliness is widespread, the will to believe and the power of positive thinking are far more powerful than the will to truth. Unlike Nora, who knew that when she left the doll’s house she was choosing the loneliness of the solitary soul, Americans prefer myths that induce them to act out of habit so they can lose themselves in the group.
This is so despite the fact that In the Church of the Good Hustler, when you play the game, you lose. We are all Americans and your vote counts and George Washington never told a lie.
When one is stuck in traffic with an old car, in my case a 1962 Mercedes diesel, with no power anything, and merely 45 bhp to deal with younger cars, there is no temptation to aggressive driving. Despite the fact that a Mercedes is a classic man’s car, there is no machismo with a vehicle that tops at 120 km/h. However, what driving such a car makes obvious is just how few good drivers there are on the road despite, or perhaps because of, the advances in automotive technology.
Today’s drivers take no note of safety intervals or speed limits because they do not know what a braking distance is. Modern technology has bred something like autism, not only through contaminated vaccines, as a state of culture. Dementia is also not confined to the aged but clearly is a kind of lifestyle now.
For the last four years people writing, also in these pages, have reiterated ad nauseum the chant that the reigning POTUS is “the worst ever” in addition to other insults disguised as political analysis. As I wrote in 2017, what these people truly mean is that Donald Trump says what they really think but would not dare to say. He also speaks the language of ordinary power — not his but the power that the Anglo-American ruling elite can muster from the heartland — with its killer Iowa farm boys — to the urban metropolises on either coast with their thousands of underpaid, overambitious scriveners serving every segment of the American Dream machine — from Right to farthest Right. The Left in the US was killed off, banned or exiled by 1974. Everything else under that banner is mere sentimentality.
As the so-called Left — in that sense Mr Trump was only using domestic terminology — set out to prove, together with the sponsorship of other government agencies, that indeed a coup d’etat was possible without a US Embassy, it became apparent — at least from RoW — why the US Empire will never be ended by Columbia’s progressives.
I could go into far greater detail but I have written enough over the past years to explain myself.
Here I would like to highlight the most grievous moments of dishonesty. As I noted above people who sit in modern motor vehicles and believe that their road travel is driving are deluded. They cannot even hear their engine. They do not feel the speed. They are not able to detect the differences between their own cocoon on wheels and the rest of the environment with its diversity.
Since the AP presumed to declare the victor in this year’s POTUS contest, everyone from the FT to the usual “leftie” writers that post here, blatantly disregards the US Constitution and the election laws in force. Even in the 19th century there was an instance where the Electoral College chose a candidate who had not obtained the majority of the popular vote.1 That is a legal risk of the fundamental law that the so-called “Left” has yet to change. The reigning POTUS has every right to remain in office and to exhaust every remedy to assert his claims — by no means irrational or unjustified given the four years of uninterrupted threats by his opponents to use any means to remove him — that what was no doubt the greatest single electoral fraud in US history is tried and duly adjudicated.
I find the word hypocrisy weak because it suggests that the people who say one thing and do another are engaged in a petty offense. I do not believe that the “Left” of which I write here is hypocritical. Rather they believe as little in law or democracy as those whom they oppose. The adamance with which on one hand Mr Trump’s charges are dismissed and on the other hand simultaneous apologies are given for the fascists who dominate the Democratic Party (personified in the Bush-Clinton gang) shows, or ought to show, that what presents itself as “Left” or “progressive” in the US (and among their foreign friends) is just the low budget imperialism with which German Social Democrats supported the slaughter of World War I.
I could name names. However, I just had lunch and that would only add to my dyspepsia.
If those who feel they have overtaken the “worst person” on the road that ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are already celebrating, they should recall that in the course of four years Mr Trump has survived even impeachment proceedings. The campaign against Mr Trump did not increase the number of Democratic Party hacks in Congress, but reduced it.
Perhaps I am too obsessed with slow moving vehicles and historical comparisons. However, it is worth recalling that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and Jim Crow. It was a Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, who extended Jim Crow to the federal civil service and assured its enforcement in the military. It took a war the US started in Korea and nearly lost (that war is also not yet over) to force an otherwise segregationist Democratic POTUS to order integration of the US military. It was the Democratic Party that dominated the corrupt urban political machines that suppressed Black and immigrant voters in the North and ran the Klan in the South. It was the Democratic Party that defeated Radical Republicans, ended Reconstruction and perpetuated the racist system in the US for another century.
So where these people who look to the Democratic Party get the nerve to claim any decency at all escapes me. Some poignant remarks from Malcolm X come to mind:
It isn’t a president who can help or hurt; it is the system. And this system is not only ruling us in America, it is ruling the world. Nowadays, when a man is running for president of the United States, he is not running for president of the United States alone; he has to be acceptable to other areas of the world where American influence rules. … the shrewd capitalists, the shrewd imperialists knew that the only way people would run toward a fox would be if you showed them a wolf.2
I can only conclude that those who revel in the supposed defeat of Donald Trump are like those drivers in new technology-saturated cocoons to which I initially referred. They have no sense of speed, or safety intervals, braking distances or even how the machine in which they sit actually operates. They do not understand the electoral mechanics and have no respect even for the formal legal structures — they have never been able to change and hence are equally obliged to accept.
They are irresponsible, reckless drivers who should never be trusted on the roads to democracy — anywhere.
Note: In the 1876 US Presidential election Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes was elected by the electoral college. In 1888 Democrat Grover Cleveland won the popular vote against Republican Benjamin Harrison but lost in the electoral college.
Meeting of the Pan-African magazine Présence Africaine, 23 November 1964.
Change doesn’t come from the top, especially within a manipulated ‘democracy’ as exists in the United States. When social transformation occurs, it follows years of educating, organizing and mobilizing at the grassroots. Elected leaders who represent that transformation ride on a wave created by social movements, not the other way around.
As many people around the country and the world celebrate the media’s announcement of the defeat of President Trump, those who advocate for transformational changes in the political, economic, legal and social systems are talking and writing about the challenges we’ll face under a Biden/Harris administration.
Democracy, literally ‘people power,’ is feared by the wealthy elites. Whether they are represented by Democrats or Republicans, they work to suppress it. Social movements can expect to face significant hurdles under a Biden administration in the next four years. However, if we know what to expect, we can use tactics to get past them and have some victories.
If conditions don’t improve, then there will be greater polarization and conflict within the country. This will give the state more justification for repression. If we succeed, and win victories for the poor and working class while building democracy at the grassroots level, we will be on a path towards the transformation we seek.
Red or blue team, they both play for the power elites (Paul J. Richards/ AFP/Getty Images)
Reflections on where we are
When the media called the election on Saturday, there were celebrations by Biden-supporters in the streets. People popped champagne corks and honked their horns. Some people see the election of Biden/Harris as a huge victory and hope it will mean changes that impact their lives positively.
Glenn Greenwald brings things back into perspective in his article comparing the Trump administration to the past two presidencies. Even though Trump was portrayed, especially by liberals, as some sort of monster, Greenwald writes:
There is nothing done by the Trump administration that can be rationally characterized as a radical aberration, some dramatic break, from U.S. tradition. Quite the contrary: none of Trump’s actions and policies are in some new universe of savagery, lawlessness, or radicalism when compared to those who preceded him in power.
Although Trump was very open about it, neoliberalism, militarism, racism and imperialism will continue under a Biden presidency. Biden did not even feign progressivism during the campaign. As Caitlin Johnstone points out in “US Murder Machine Now under Competent Management,” “Trump ran on a platform of scaling back US interventionism, as did Obama, as did even Bush, but Biden did the opposite. He is beginning from a much more hawkish position than he [sic] predecessors right off the bat.” The big question is whether or not Biden will be as competent as Obama was at getting away with it.
During the Obama administration, the peace movement struggled to survive even while Obama militarized Africa, surrounded China, destroyed Libya, increased drone attacks and more. Note that these are countries with majority non-white populations. People were reluctant to criticize the first black president and funding for the peace movement disappeared.
The Black Alliance for Peace and other groups have been working to rebuild an anti-imperialist peace movement over the past four years. In their recent statement, the Black Alliance for Peace reminds us that the situation does not change for colonized and oppressed people no matter who sits in the “white people’s house.”
Jonathan Cook explains the difference between Democratic and Republican administrations. While neither party takes action to address the many crises we face and the wealth divide continues to grow, people rightly become angry at the impacts this has on their lives. Republicans use this anger to mobilize their base. Democrats work to suppress that anger and put their base to sleep.
Overcoming the obstacles
There are a variety of tactics used to weaken social movements and throw them off track. To recognize them, it helps to understand the concept of pillars of power – the institutions and groups that support the power structure. Chris Hedges outlines a number of them in his latest article, American Requiem:
There were many actors that killed America’s open society. The corporate oligarchs who bought the electoral process, the courts and the media, and whose lobbyists write the legislation to impoverish us and allow them to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth and unchecked power. The militarists and war industry that drained the national treasury to mount futile and endless wars that have squandered some $7 trillion and turned us into an international pariah. The CEOs, raking in bonuses and compensation packages in the tens of millions of dollars, that shipped jobs overseas and left our cities in ruins and our workers in misery and despair without a sustainable income or hope for the future. The fossil fuel industry that made war on science and chose profits over the looming extinction of the human species. The press that turned news into mindless entertainment and partisan cheerleading. The intellectuals who retreated into the universities to preach the moral absolutism of identity politics and multiculturalism while turning their backs on the economic warfare being waged on the working class and the unrelenting assault on civil liberties. And, of course, the feckless and hypocritical liberal class that does nothing but talk, talk, talk.
Each of these – the lobbyists, courts, military, CEOs, media, academics and liberals – is a pillar that supports the ruling class. There are others such as police, non-profits, churches, workers and youth. Social movements need to understand how these pillars operate and what can be done to weaken them by causing divisions within them and drawing people within those institutions to the movement’s side. This is discussed in more depth in the first class of the Popular Resistance School.
The media is a critical pillar for the power holders. It is used to control the narrative by keeping debate (“both sides”) squarely within the limits deemed acceptable by the elites. Voices that offer ideas outside that narrow framework are kept out. The media also uses distraction to take attention off the crises we face and the failures to address them.
As access to information has become more democratized through social media, internet news websites and podcasts, Big Tech, with the support of liberals and Democrats, has started clamping down and censoring content. Websites were first suppressed through manipulation of algorithms that kept them out of search tools and social media feeds. Then platforms such as YouTube cancelled monetization of certain content, which was necessary so those outlets could exist. Now, social media corporations such as Facebook and Twitter are disabling accounts, and recently the Department of Justice took 27 websites down. Of course, the prosecution of Julian Assange and others under the Espionage Act is another tactic meant to prevent journalists and publishers from revealing truths.
Social movements need to defend those like Assange who challenge the power structure. We must also push back against these attacks on our press freedom and demand our right to know what is being done by the government and corporations.
Other tactics used to throw movements off track are making excuses for why what the movement is demanding is too much or why now is not the time to make those demands. If that doesn’t work, power holders will use delay tactics such as pretending to work on the issue. This could include creating a committee to look into the issue or commissioning a study.
A common tactic is to present a false solution – something that sounds like it is going to solve the crisis but that falls short and preserves the status quo. The Affordable Care Act was a false solution used to undermine the demand for national improved Medicare for all and enrich the medical industrial complex.
Non-profit organizations and other pillars such as unions and community groups play an important role in promoting false solutions. This happens when the groups are closely allied with a political party or rely on access to power holders or money that causes them to compromise. These forms of co-optation, a widely used tactic, are described in depth in class six.
Another tactic is to create demons such as “socialism” that are used to frighten people away from supporting solutions. Hand in hand with creating demons is to vilify and marginalize those who are effectively challenging the power structure.
And if none of these tactics work and people persist in making their demands and building their campaigns, then the power holders use repression through the police and courts. One could also argue that maintaining economic insecurity through low wages, expensive housing and health care are also tools of oppression meant to keep people under control and focused on their basic survival and not on the work of organizing.
The ways we overcome these obstacles are by being aware of these tactics and countering them. We should not allow excuses or false solutions to weaken our demands for what we require. We need to recognize false demons and find ways to reassure people they will be better off with the changes we are championing. We need to show solidarity when members of the movement are under attack. And we need to build networks of support for each other, whether it is mutual aid or self defense.
We need to continue building power from the bottom up through organizing, political education and community assemblies where people can meet to discuss the crises and concrete ways to solve them. Then we can mobilize in our communities to build structures that empower us by meeting our needs and that model the society we envision. Social movements have always been the engine that drives transformational changes.
The coming years will be a challenge for social movements to remain independent, clear and uncompromising (ICU) in our demands. It is possible. Through the years, social movements in the United States have been growing and maturing. From the massive actions against unfair trade to the Occupy Movement to movements for worker and immigrant rights, housing, education, health care and more, people are learning how social transformation occurs. Our task now is to keep that going and growing while the power holders work to convince people that their problems are solved with the election of a Democrat.
The extraordinary amount of cover in the Australian mainstream media of the results of the United States election is quite unparalleled and in any other political event. The bias of the media is readily apparent: they expect a Democratic party victory and no alternative is given much space. The result is not, in fact, as clear cut as they would like us to believe. Certainly, on the claimed results Joe Biden has a convincing lead, and the local media happily endorse that, referring in unfailing deprecatory terms to Trump’s refusal to concede defeat.
Some other observers do not see such a clear-cut result. They point to a number of anomalies in key states where an apparent Trump lead in the polls literally vanished overnight. The reason was attributed by those doing the counting as “discovering” – at 3 am and 4 am, tens of thousands of votes that had somehow been missed. By an amazing coincidence, nearly all of those votes turned out to be for Biden.
Such a result is theoretically possible, but it is so unlikely that the chances of actually being the case, in five or six States which recounted similar experiences, but one can safely say that the results have been rigged. Trump has announced his intention to take his challenge to their electoral veracity all the way to the Supreme Court. Whether they will agree to hear his case, and if they do will they declare Trump the winner is at this point simply unknown.
Electoral shenanigans are not, of course, a rare or even recent event. The 2000 election between George W Bush and Al Gore had a controversy over who won Florida. The Supreme Court refused to intervene and Bush was declared the winner, a result somewhat surprisingly accepted by Gore.
The controversy this year however, is not likely to be lightly considered by either party and we can expect a bitter fight all the way to 20 January 2021 when the winner is due to be sworn in for the next four-year term.
The big question for Australia is: does it matter? It is possible to ascertain some differences in domestic policy but those are largely irrelevant to most Australians. The key issues for this country will be in United States foreign policy and here the differences are much harder to ascertain.
The key issue will be the relationship of the United States to both Russia and China. Trump has certainly blown hot and cold on both countries, largely ignoring the advice given to him by Henry Kissinger at the start of his presidency in 2017 to develop a good relationship with Russia at China’s expense.
Kissinger saw a division between Russia and China as being in the United States’ interest. Trump largely ignored that advice, preferring to wage quasi war; i.e., of the non-shooting variety, against both countries.
The United States could not expect to win an actual hot war against either country, let alone both, so the warfare has been waged by a variety of other means. In Russia’s case the attack has had a number of key elements. The first has been to allege “Russian interference” in the United States electoral system. That there was never a shred of convincing evidence to support this claim did not stop its endless repetition. The Australian media has been only too happy to repeat this fiction.
A second line of attack has been to accuse Russia of endless misdeeds, both internally and among its European neighbours. The endless distortion about the factual situation in Ukraine from Russia’s alleged “annexation” of Crimea to the shooting down of MH 17 over Ukraine are but two examples of this endless economic and political warfare. The latest has been the alleged Russian poisoning of Alexi Navalny, a story so full of holes and improbable assumptions one might have thought that western leaders would be too embarrassed to repeat it. Apparently not.
The American led attacks on Russia have multiple aims. Economic self-interest is not the least of these, with the open assertions of Russian misdeeds designed to encourage the Europeans to cancel the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 project and buy the significantly more expensive American alternative instead.
Similar tactics can be seen in the economic and political warfare being waged by the United States on China. These include, but are not limited to, the ongoing campaign to disrupt Hong Kong’s return to China after 170 years of British domination. That the residents of Hong Kong never even had the vote during this long period of United Kingdom control is carefully left out of the discussion. Instead, Hong Kong was ruled from London.
China’s alleged ill-treatment of the Uighur population is another mode of attack. That persons in this part of western China that are being detained are Muslims recently returning from fighting on behalf of the United States in its multi-faceted Middle Eastern campaigns, particularly in Iraq and Syria, is never mentioned in the Western media.
The Chinese also see ever increasing contact between the United States and the province of Taiwan, including most recently an agreement between the US and Taiwan for the latter to buy billions of dollars of weapons from the former. It is difficult to perceive a Biden administration following a different pattern from that of the Trump administration.
The Australian government is not going to find a Biden administration assist in altering its deteriorating relationship with China. Biden has already indicated that he will not be any friendlier towards China than has been the case under Trump. Australia can expect a continuation of the process of squeezing of its economic and other ties to China. That this is a direct consequence of its adherence to the United States foreign policy towards China is irrefutable.
The Australian government has seemingly forgotten the old adage: as you sew, so shall you reap.
Nothing in the foreign policy statement of either Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Labor leader Anthony Albanese suggest that the result of the United States election will lead to any significant change in Australian foreign policy. The deterioration of the relationship with China is only one such trend that is unlikely to change, much to Australia’s damage.
The same is true of virtually all areas of Australian foreign policy. The recent belated revelations about the conduct of Australian troops in Afghanistan is symptomatic of a broader problem. Stories of Australian atrocities are not new to those of us who have followed this particular misadventure. What has been notably lacking from all the media accounts arising out of the latest revelations is that there has not been a single question raised about the obvious point: what are Australian troops doing in a foreign country 18 years after they first invaded on the basis of a colossal lie?
To return to the original questions posed above of the implications of a change of leadership in the United States next January. The short answer is that there will not be significant changes. Australia will continue to act as the United States’ junior partner; ventures in foreign wars will continue; and China will slowly but surely push Australia into being the poor man of Asia.
It is not too late to make a fundamental change in foreign policy. It would be unwise to count on it happening.
The long wait and frankly, the long nightmare will soon be over. At least for the Trump page of American history. If the news is true that Jared Kushner is trying to talk him into conceding, and if successful, we won’t have to worry much about what he might do to disrupt and interfere with the tally and a relatively smooth transition may take place.
Biden won with the largest number of votes than ever before. 74million +. Almost looks like democracy worked, except for all the voter suppression from both the Democrats and Republicans. But there’s a side to this that few are recognizing. Who voted for Biden and why? Who voted for Trump and why?
Biden’s supporters came in 2 groups. Vote Blue No Matter Who. This was anti-Trump as it wasn’t for any particular candidate. It could have been for any who ran in the primaries, except for Sanders. The Democratic party leadership would have been very lukewarm in its support for him, even though the voting public would have been ecstatic and a landslide all but guaranteed. As to this group of voters, they would have been the majority. A minority group of the overall voters would have been people who actually thought that Biden had what it took to take on Trump and supported his Republican-lite agenda. This may have been a minority of voters, but he was the preferred candidate for the party elite, the party establishment and those people who control the process. We see how the liberal media rallied around him, not so much as to praise his past accomplishments and propagandize over his ‘leadership’ skills but instead their job was to tear down Trump, a much easier, and likely for them, an enjoyable task.
There is a lot to fear from the final vote. A four million vote spread is impressive, if the numbers were like any normal election year. And people will start mimicking Trump in how Biden’s numbers and win was in Trumpian proportions, like his imaginary largest inauguration audience ever attended. But let’s be mindful of how Trump fared in this election. Even when hundreds of thousands are now dying from the virus that he pretty much unleashed on America, people by the thousands came out to his rallies and to the polls, to support and vote for him. His 70 million voters voted for him, not as much against Biden. The Trump cult had its inauguration on Election Day. Everything before then was the organizing aspect of it and its preparation for what is to come.
Even if Trump goes away, and hopefully to Rikers (NYC jail), he has unleashed on America what Sinclair Lewis allegedly said, ‘When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” A far more savvy, polished, intelligent, politically experienced individual will take the baton and run with it and he or she will have an army behind him or her. It won’t be 70 million to start as many will return to the usual American complacency and side with Republican-lite Biden or see a new face in Congress or the media to be the new party leader. It won’t be the idiotic and bombastic Senator Iselin from ‘The Manchurian Candidate” or the truly moronic Sen. Cotton of Arkansas but someone far superior in intellect and cunning like the Queen of Diamonds.