As the US continues to drift towards greater political division, the latest presidential election is a perfect example of what pathological denial can produce when it is utilized by those trying to avoid awkward political issues. Now that Joe Biden has been proclaimed as the winner of the heavily contested US presidential race and with what appears to be the formation of a coup attempt by Trump, the question on everyone’s lips is now what? Since his inauguration in 2016 Trump has long been bemoaned by proponents of the democratic party, labelling him as the quintessential renegade, whose political role represents that of the obligatory villain in a previously untrammeled story of US exceptionalism. And now after having witnessed what four years under a Trump presidency has delivered, the virtues that the US has long professed to espouse are being called into question as that same image of exceptionalism continues to wane.
Though certainly a loathsome political creature, Trump’s rise to prominence wasn’t accomplished within a vacuum nor is the US political climate he inherited to be considered a blank slate. The real problem with a figure like Trump is the fact that his election in 2016 has given voice to an issue slowly crystallizing within US society. His election and the resulting political schism has clearly left in tatters any claim that the US is a united nation or that it is “number one” in the case of Trump. They are now hollow declarations which don’t hold up to any scrutiny. That there now exists in the US a different kind of voter who now publicly cheers on blatant racism, the proliferation of dangerous conspiracy theories and a complete disbelief in climate change, all which had devastating consequences these last four years. The questions that Democrats have been aggressively manipulating is how could this have happened and whether it is any fault of their own?
For those in the liberal camp, history was supposed to tell a different tale. Hilary would emerge from 2016 and become the first female US president and the tasks related to fixing the economy and the problems of US foreign policy would all chart their regular course. Then along came Trump, a wild card, throwing a spanner in the works in what was in the eyes of the political class a well oiled machine geared towards imperialism abroad and privatisation and deprivation at home. The problem in Washington wasn’t what a Trump presidency might look like per se but rather that the wishes of that core political class in both the democratic and republican camps would go unfulfilled. That Trump wasn’t willing to play ball and tow the state department line was clear from the get go. Having a president that was answerable to no one also left many in the political establishment feeling uncomfortable as plans concerning US foreign policy appeared to be in jeopardy.
Running on an anti-war campaign Trump promised his voters that he would bring the troops home, a policy that even Obama failed to achieve increasing the number in Afghanistan towards the end of his term. The initial strength of Trump’s campaign was accomplished by presenting him as an outsider to the world of politics and as someone who was going to stick it to the Washington elites whose allegiance many felt was with enriching big corporations and Wall Street. For many voters, Trump wasn’t a politician, he was “one of us”. Even as Trump cut taxes for the wealthy (much like his predecessors) and failed to live up to his own promises like bringing back former industrial base to hard-hit rustbelt states, his campaign represented aspects of a new corporatism and the rise of far right populism. For the democrats the challenge confronting them was how to repackage such a catastrophic political failure and dismal mix-up into a strategy that they could use to undermine Trump’s presidency. One answer was to throw caution to the wind and to construct a scapegoat and to aggressively pursue it with any concerns for political stability ignored.
The irresponsible Russia-gate narrative quickly took center stage snowballing and then dying only to revive and snowball again. Described by the late Russian scholar Stephen Cohen who rightly called the whole affair “dangerous”, serving only to criminalise detente. The Democratic Party is still unwilling to accept Trump as a political phenomenon partly born from their own policies, so they continue to promulgate the election hacking narrative, further alienating a large portion of voters are who clearly disillusioned, sick of neoliberal reforms and tired of war. Trump’s nomination clearly epitomised the main failures of the US neo-liberal project and as Hillary Clinton and other political figures began to sow distrust in the electoral process this found itself matched with Trump pulling the US from important climate agreements and critical institutions like the WHO early into the pandemic while whipping up a frenzy over the frightening new boogeyman of terrorism, “Antifa”, with the left now presented as being devoted to tarnishing the sanctity of the American way of life in ways reminiscent of the red scares during the McCarthyite period. Paranoia over communists under the bed has infected both wings of the capitalist class and both of their parties – democratic and republican – are scrambling to denounce the others as too close to Marxism.
The decision to double down on their attacks was used to create an image of the Democratic party as the voice of sanity and the Trump phenomenon as some illegitimate circus show. It quickly proved itself to be an equally reckless strategy as the geo-political implications of repeatedly using the Russiagate narrative have accelerated tensions between the two states at a time when cooperation and diplomacy is needed. To suggest that Trump could only have been elected because of some outside interference has left a sour taste in many voters’ mouths as it implies that any grievances or problems not included in that framework didn’t exist. For the class of American voters who were left in poverty, now worried about a “hoard of immigrants” taking their jobs and suffering from a lack of healthcare services, it can only have enraged them even further and left their political imaginary to be painted by the far-right. While a neo-fascist is hopefully going to step down from the White House, the election of Joe Biden represents a pyrrhic victory for those on the left as Biden is firmly wedded to the ideology of the dominant oligarchical class who run America. Modern degenerative democracy under capitalism as Marx saw it only restricts real choice and with token gestures allows the “oppressed… to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them”.
Noted early on by those covering the elections was Biden’s unassuming appearance and how that has contrasted starkly with the arrogance of Trump’s own persona. A problem that emerged with this election, besides the ludicrous financial costs (with a billion dollars estimated to have been spent), has been the media coverage – specifically how the candidates have been presented to us. Rather than getting a real insight into what Joe Biden really represents, the media chose to help foster a cartoonish image of his campaign, referring to him as “uncle Joe” in many instances, suggesting a desire to associate him with a national unity in a time of crisis. More appropriately nicknamed “the sheriff” by Obama due to the ruthless methods he employed as Vice President when trying to flush out any tax cheats and “wasters”, Biden’s unassuming nature has clearly lulled some voters into a false sense of security. Meanwhile, the issues currently rocking US society after protracted wars in the Middle-East, monstrous reforms of the penal system which targeted black communities and years of imperialist neo-liberal policies in Latin America, are all problems that he has played a large part in creating.
First emerging in 1973 Biden launched his political career as a staunch segregationist, infamously lending his support for a bus bill which prevented black students from travelling to white schools, stating that his kids would grow up “in a racial jungle”. Biden also maintained a hard anti-abortion line even going so far as to ensure that legislation in 1977 which would allow women access to federal support for abortion, including cases for rape and incest, would be shut down (he held these views up until as late as 2003 with the “partial-birth” ban). His 1994 crime bill led to a massive expansion of the prison population by detaining individuals for longer periods and denying parole along with the infamous 3 strike rule. And prior to the 1990s Biden teamed up with republican senator Strom Thurmond, known for raping his underage black housemaid in 1925 (Biden called him a “great man” at his funeral in 2003). They attacked both Reagan and Bush Senior, accusing them of being too soft on crime. Quoted in 1993 Biden stated “it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re victims of society, I don’t want to ask, ‘What made them do this?’ They must be taken off the street”. So even with the war on drugs already well under way, the conversion of the US into a prison state always seems to have been an ambition of his, and the irony of one of the architects of the prison-colonial stratification of American being framed as the resistance is not lost on us.
Combined with these are Biden’s Plan Colombia, signed into law in 2000 under president Bill Clinton’s administration, which has led many to flee their homes as Colombia was transformed into a militarized police state with a surge in state violence, an expansion of the exploitative coca trade and farmers fleeing due to dangerous crop spraying practices along with an increase in drug flow coming from Latin America. Later on his 2014, Alliance for Prosperity transformed Honduras into an investors paradise with foreign investment flowing in while then President Hernandez slashed public expenditures to pay for the newly US trained security forces who were armed and used to suppress dissent as indigenous people were forced to flee their homes and poverty and unemployment increased. From 1995 to the present day, Biden’s support for immigration reform have included attempts to deprive migrants of habeas corpus, access to welfare, medicare and a support for the fast track deportation system we see today. These all led to the massive expulsion of migrants seen under Obama and in one of the more sordid features of the Trump administration: the use of detention centers when holding migrants. These can all be traced back to Biden.
How should Biden be judged on foreign policy? He was an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq and served on the foreign relations committee which oversaw the use of depleted uranium, the looting of the country’s assets, the destruction of its public infrastructure and a typhoid breakout along with the 2011 US withdrawal which led to civil wars and the rise of ISIS. Under Obama he supported the targeted destruction of Libya by arming jihadists groups which all led to the creation of a failed state and helped foster the migration crisis which erupted in Europe as people fled religious persecution. All of this helped spur on the far right in many European countries. He pushed for the proxy war in Syria and gave support to arm the “moderate rebels”, who it turns out were also Islamic extremists left over from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and from the recent destruction of Libya. In 2012 a Wikileaks cable emerged where Jake Sullivan, then policy advisor to Hilary Clinton, emailed her exclaiming “Al-Qaeda is on our side”. And revealingly in 2009 when making an address to the House appropriations committee Hilary also stated “the people we are fighting today are the people we funded twenty years ago”.
Aside from his role in revoking the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (a tool which later spurred on increased financial deregulation) or his clear intention to destabilize Ukraine and aid funding the Saudi wars in Yemen through thinktanks like the Atlantic council, what does the future hold as we gear up for four years under Biden? If the names being tipped as the picks for the roles of secretary of state and secretary of defense are an indication, it’s clear Biden is assembling a war cabinet and ending the “forever wars” is not on the agenda. A recent In these Times article reported that one third of his pentagon transition team come from organisations that have received funding from the arms industry. If we look a, Lloyd Austin, who is purported to be the top pick for the defense secretary position, the military is clearly going to play a key role in how the Biden team plans to address issues like the climate crisis. Without downgrading the military and by pursuing policies of aggression against China, this is sure to lead the US further along the path to its own annihilation as the costs to the planet’s resources along with the political havoc it is sure to wreak will eventually prove too much to handle. The two party system has evidently reached an impasse as young voters are disillusioned with what they see as a class unto itself that serves the interest of the military industrial complex and big business. The chaos of the Trump administration will not be a flash in the pan – the system has learned nothing and is returning to the same status quo that has lit or fed all of the fires burning throughout the world, led on in the charge by liberal useful idiots.
Lenin described Imperialism as “moribund capitalism” and as the US refuses to accept a new multipolar world the US political establishment appears committed to sowing chaos to ensure it remains the global hegemon. Trump experienced this early on into his term as he used drone strikes in Syria which garnered praise from the political class and elite both in the US and EU. Eric Trump took to twitter to proclaim that his dad clearly wasn’t a Russian agent because he was bombing Syria. Trump was learning what was expected of him in order to be welcomed into the halls of power. The democrats have in some ways gifted Trump the playbook he is now using against them. A Trump presidency would undoubtedly have been a scary one but so too will be the next four years of Joe Biden as a political monster whose aims will be to pursue financial policies that relentlessly devastate the working class, further wars in the middle east and endless ramping up of aggression against states such as China, Venezuela, Russia and Iran who are now forming an anti-imperialist bloc. This potential for US military aggression might be all that’s needed to initiate a conflict in a region like the Middle East with the results of such a conflict having the potential to be deadly on a global scale. While a smooth transition is definitely desired by some of the elite, there will be no smooth transition back to US international hegemony.