If past performance is any indicator of future outcomes, a brief look at past Democratic presidencies offers insights into what a Biden win could mean for America and the world.
As is patently obvious, the U.S. is in trouble. Climate-driven heat waves and fires grip the nation. An already faltering economy with deep contradictions can only tank given the shock of a pandemic that has necessitated varying degrees of sequestering. In fact, the downturn had already started before COVID-19 hit. An already largely privatized healthcare system run for-profit and a social ethic that rejects “socialized” public health measures could only have proven inadequate. Added to this mix, a historically racist nation was ripe for the righteous protests against overt injustices. These conditions predated Trump’s presidency and predetermined the current calamity.
The incumbent Trump card
Trump is screwing up royally, but the root causes were unavoidable. Rather than owning up to the inherent nature of capitalism, which puts profits before people as its operating principle, elite opinion needs to point a finger at an offending scapegoat. Someone must take a fall and the designated chump is Trump. Witness Republican establishment figures defecting to the Biden camp.
Trump, under normal circumstances, would have a formidable advantage as the incumbent president. Of the 13 U.S. presidents since 1933, all ran for re-election with the exception of JFK, who tragically did not have that choice. All but three won. These exceptions prove the rule that bad economic times doom the incumbent: Ford and Bush the Elder were defeated by recessions, and Carter by “stagflation.”
Today’s circumstances are not normal. Trump’s incumbency may be a fatal flaw, with conditions worse, in many respects, than they were during the Great Depression.
Added to that a collapsing economy and a nation aflame with racial justice protests, Trump has not improved his prospects by mishandling the COVID-19 contagion. A U.S. passport was once the most accepted in the world, now that the U.S. leads the world in total pandemic deaths and ranks a high eleventh in deaths by population, only eight countries in the world are fully open to U.S. tourists: Albania, Belarus, Brazil, Mexico, Serbia, Turkey, Zambia, and that most sought after destination of North Macedonia, whose national flower is the opium poppy.
The delusional fear that Trump will stage a coup to stay in power begs the question of what army and security apparatus would back him. Not the U.S. military, nor the security state agencies – FBI, NSA, CIA and other spooks. Those institutions of the permanent state are no more in favor of Trump than most of the active U.S. electorate, who will likely give him a boot this fall.
Enter the perilous next act
In the midst of the pandemic, when health insurance claims would be expected to be out of control, health insurers have been garnering obscene profits benefiting from the public health emergency. Amongst the superrich, Jeff Bezos of Amazon added $87.1 billion to his net worth since the beginning of the year and Elon Musk of Tesla accrued another $73.6 billion.
Thanks in large part to the habitual intervention by the Federal Reserve for the owners of finance capital, Market Insider predicts “2021 could be a boom year for stocks,” while prospects for working people look grim and ever grimmer. Yes, Bernie Sanders was right that the “system is rigged” for the capitalist class.
Will a Democratic victory in November change any of this? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the current highest-ranking Democrat, said it all: “we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.” Her net worth is $120 million.
Even major “liberal” Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, are doctrinaire “capitalist to the bone.” When asked to explain herself, the senator said: “I believe in markets and the benefits they can produce… for people.” True enough. The “people” who benefit from capitalism are the capitalists.
How about Democratic Party progressives like the “The Squad,” you ask? In the “graveyard of social movements” that is the Democratic Party, they are relegated to diversity window dressing with AOC getting only 90 seconds of fame at the Democratic National Convention.
Nominal independent Bernie Sanders tried an end-run for the presidential nomination but ran into the DNC’s “no progressives rule.” And if Biden wins in 2020 and Harris in 2024 and 2028, 2032 would be the first chance for a progressive Democrat to even try to run.
Speaking of the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders praised Uncle Joe for – of all things – his health care policies. Michelle Obama carried chutzpah to new heights, criticizing Trump for immigration practices inherited from her husband. Can’t the best speechwriters that money can buy come up with more convincing mendacities?
The enduring neoliberal project will continue with a likely change of guard from one party of capital to the other in January, though with a kinder face. We won’t have to contend with Prince of Darkness Pence and his buddy anymore.
The new feel-good Democratic couple will be spreading the love. And no one is feeling the “good” more than the capitalist class, rewarding the Democrats with donations of $48 million in the 48 hours after the announcement of Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential candidate. Just about every mainstream media article gushed about her amazing “qualifications,” the foremost being fund-raising. In plain English, her biggest asset is she is understood as serving the capitalist class.
The record of Democratic presidencies
It may be too soon to exhale with a Biden White House. If past performance is any indicator of future outcomes, a brief look at recently past Democratic presidencies is advised.
Under the watch of New Democrat Bill Clinton, the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, which was a factor leading to the Great Recession. NAFTA exported U.S. union jobs while destroying small-scale Mexican agriculture. He dismantled Yugoslavia and bombed Iraq, contributing to the now perpetual destabilization of that part of the world. “Welfare as we know it” was abolished and mass incarceration instituted. Clinton was on a roll, with Social Security next on the chopping block, only to be stopped by the Monica Lewinski scandal.
While these were pet projects of the Republican wing of the U.S. two-party duopoly, it took a Democrat to foist it on the populace. Notably, no major progressive legislation came out of Clinton’s watch. He adroitly felt “your pain” while inflicting it on the Democrat’s captured working class and minority constituencies, much to the pleasure of the class he served.
The next Democratic president, Barack Obama, had not even completed a term in the Senate before his meteoric rise to the Oval Office. Obama had the wiring, but part of his remarkable upward mobility came from being groomed and vetted by the ruling class to carry their water. He came out of the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project, which successfully sought to make the Democrats the favored party of Wall Street.
After promising peace, Obama led the U.S. into wars in at least seven countries. Although no major progressive legislation came out of the Obama presidency, his many handouts to the ruling elites include bailing out the banks with no one prosecuted for wrongdoing. He gifted Obamacare to the insurance industry while killing single-payer. He more than doubled fossil fuel production for which he proudly took credit.
The lesson is that it is often more difficult to mount an organized resistance to regressive policies when promoted by Democrats than Republicans. Recall the massive resistance to Bush’s war in Iraq that instantly vanished the moment Obama inherited that war and brazenly took Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates into his cabinet. Similarly, we have seen Democrats sabotaging Medicare for All, with Biden already pledging to veto it if it came before him.
Campaign promises Biden will keep
The only thing preventing Trump from self-destructing come November 3 is none other than the Democratic Party. Of all the potential candidates that could have walked over Trump – particularly Sanders with universal healthcare in a time of pandemic or even Warren with taxing corporations in a time of record profits amidst a recession – they chose the one candidate who could lose.
The former senator from Mastercard has already assured Wall Street that their privileged position will be protected on his watch. The warmongers have been assuaged with the promise that the military budget can only go up. The insurance parasites know that government-imposed private health policies are set in stone. The Zionists needn’t fret about the U.S. recognizing Palestinian rights or of reversing recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Worse than the climate deniers, Biden believes in the science of global warming and knows its catastrophic consequences. Yet he will do little about it and has already opposed a fracking ban. Fossil fuel subsidies will continue under the Democrats.
Note that these dubious promises were made on the campaign trail while trying to attract votes.
Enter the Biden presidency
Pelosi set the stage for a Biden presidency. The first thing the Democrats pushed through after “taking back” the House in 2018 was the “pay-go rule,” a fiscally conservative measure virtually guaranteeing that no progressive legislation can be funded. Then in March of this year the Democrats unanimously, and without any debate, helped pass the CARES Act, the largest single transfer of wealth from workers to the wealthy in the history of the world.
Democrats, with the Obama-Biden administration and since, have leap-frogged Republicans to the right on foreign policy issues in important respects regarding Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, etc. Democrats even oppose drawing down U.S. troops abroad.
Trump has been all over the map, ineptly and inconsistently pursuing détente with Putin and while threatening Xi Jinping. With a Democratic administration, we can be assured of a more consistent, skillful, and lethal U.S. imperialism, pursuing “full spectrum dominance” over the rest of the world.
Those who complain about Trump’s bungling should understand that the Biden alternative will be a more deadly and efficient rule of capital. We should be careful about what we wish for.
Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden talks with reporters at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, in Avoca, Pa., after a CNN town hall, Sept. 17, 2020. Carolyn Kaster | AP
Roger D. Harris is on the state central committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot qualified socialist party in California.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.