It looks like Biden has won, and that is a blessing. But the aftermath is not only not appealing. It is downright fearsome.
COVID is still rampant in the land and appears to be accelerating. Trump has two-and-a-half months to let it run unchecked, and has a health policy advisor in Scott Atlas who seems to believe that “herd immunity” is the way to solve the problem. Herd immunity means that millions more must eventually die.
The Senate remains in Republican hands. Recall Mitch McConnell’s commitment at the beginning of the Obama administration that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Obama was a one-term president. We can only expect more of the same.
The electoral results were the closest squeaker possible so there’s no way for Biden to declare a mandate. Biden’s campaign was mainly “I’m not Trump” so there are virtually no policies that he can claim as the electorate having demanded.
Indeed, during the campaign, Biden explicitly disavowed both the Green New Deal and Medicare for all. “I’m not Trump” is not going to last one day as a policy platform once he is sworn in, so it’s not clear what he will do once it comes time for governing.
The fiscal condition of the government has been grievously damaged under Trump who has borrowed more than $6 trillion, most of it ladled to his rich buddies. The solvency of the government is at risk. So, the means for an ambitious policy program is already straight-jacketed even before Biden takes office.
Trump was the most repellent politician in the history of the country and the most failed president ever, yet the right-wing media machine will resurrect him as some sort of fallen Messiah, and his minions will lap it up, baying for revenge.
Even if it weren’t, it was no less an authority than Nancy Pelosi who, when she ascended to power in 2017, declared her commitment to a “Pay-Go” principal that says all new initiatives have to be paid for as they go. This, too, rules out any possibility of an ambitious policy agenda.
The economy has not nearly recovered from the damage Trump inflicted on it. Without quick, substantial relief to the tens of millions still unemployed and to the millions of small businesses still afflicted by soft demand, it risks slipping into a second wave of collapse, perhaps even Depression.
The Supreme Court is tilted 6-3 toward a right-wing majority and will likely remain so for a generation. That means decades of rulings in favor of corporate interests, against activist government, against voting rights, against worker rights, against environmental protection. It will be an impenetrable brick wall for those seeking judicial remedies to societal injustices.
Trumpism has not been repudiated, not even close. Trumpism is a combination of resentment at “the system” for having failed vast swaths of the working population and a fealty to its namesake that borders on Messianic. Be certain that Trump, with his gargantuan ego, will fan the flames of Trumpism for as long as he is alive, and not in prison.
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Half of the country affirms the white nationalism that is the unspoken agenda of Trumpism. Race will become an even more toxic and contentious element of American culture as non-whites refuse to go back to the subordination of earlier decades.
Half of the country is willing to live in an alternative reality of victimhood and lurid conspiracies. After shunting trillions of dollars to the wealthiest people in the world, that is largely what Trump’s policy record came down to. And half of the country loves it, to its own detriment.
The right-wing media machine is as powerful as ever. Trump was the most repellent politician in the history of the country and the most failed president ever, yet the right-wing media machine will resurrect him as some sort of fallen Messiah, and his minions will lap it up, baying for revenge.
On really big matters, climate change is enveloping us, China is ascendant and working, more and more, with Russia, the U.S. economy as measured by the trade deficit is more uncompetitive in the world than it has ever been. The U.S. military literally has not won a war since 1945 yet demands a trillion dollars a year to feed the weapons-making parasites that live off of it. The U.S. health care system wastes $2 trillion a year, yet delivers catastrophically inferior results.
The corporatists, led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, remain in control of the Democratic party. At the end of the day, the failure to turn the country more convincingly against the leprous Trump and suicidal Trumpism must be laid at their feet. Except for “I’m not Trump,” they have failed the simplest burden of imagination for how we’re going to get this country out of the jam described above. This inures to the benefit of the corporate masters that they serve.
Because of the above—the absence of a mandate, a hostile Senate, fiscal constraints, a hostile court system, resurgent Trumpism, a right-wing media machine intent on destruction, and a Democratic party far more protective of corporate interests than of people’s interests—it will be all but impossible for a Biden administration to succeed.
Yet, it will be viciously blamed for every policy failure and the setback of every initiative sincerely intended to repair and heal the country. This will redound, inescapably, to the detriment of the Democratic party and any hopes for a progressive policy agenda for many, many years, likely for decades.
In 282 B.C., the Romans fought the Greeks for control of Tarentum at the heel of the boot of Italy. The Greeks technically won but their losses were so great that the Spartan king, Pyrrhus, quit the colony and returned to Greece, commenting, “Another such victory and we are lost.” Hence the origin of the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.”
This is not meant to be negative, but sober, and realistic. It’s not too early to wonder if Biden’s win might not prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. And it’s not too early, either, to begin working to remove the corporatists who prevent the Democratic party from being a more potent force for good in the world.