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Now Comes the Hard Part

Trump's defeat is just the very beginning of this battle for the future.

People gather not far from the White House as Joe Biden is declared the winner of the election and the next President of the United States on Saturday November 07, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

There will be two more months to celebrate the Biden/Harris election.  But we should have no illusions: the hard part begins now.

Disease is the most obvious problem we need to fix.  What was once a pandemic is on the verge of becoming a hyper-demic.  More than 100,000 new cases are being reported every day. In several Midwest and Great Plains states, positivity rates are approaching 50%, meaning that half of the population has Covid-19.

Predictably, the counties with the highest rates of infection are those that voted at the highest rates for Trump.  This will compound the difficulty of devising an effective national strategy to deal with the problem. But if it is not contained, it will end up killing millions of people and will devastate the economy.

Biden will need to strongly push a national mask-wearing mandate, perhaps imposing fiscal penalties on states that refuse and continue to inflict their disease on the rest of the nation.  We don’t tolerate drunk driving. Nor can we any longer tolerate diseased interactions by people who conflate personal freedom with threatening the health of others.

The economy is the next festering wound needing fixing. This has both short- and long-term dimensions. The immediate problem is that more than 20 million people are still out of work. More than 30 million face evictions. We need a large fiscal stimulus that sends money to those out of work, and not to billionaires, which is where most of it has gone to date. It’s not clear that Republicans will go along with this, but they must be shamed into it.

In the long-term, the economy needs profound restructuring. The de-industrialization that began under Reagan out-sourced tens of millions of high-paying jobs and hundreds of thousands of factories to Asia. The resulting downward mobility that was imposed on the white working class was the genesis of the rage that begat Trumpism.  This is not a bug, but a feature of the American economy.

The economy is doing exactly what it has been designed to do: funnel opportunity, income, and wealth, not to the working or middle classes, but to those who are already the most wealthy. That is why, year after year, decade after decade, crisis after crisis, through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the rich keep getting richer while everybody else keeps getting poorer. Trump may be gone, but until this is addressed, the fetid impetus for Trumpism will remain, and will grow.

Closely tethered to the economy, in a double helix of infection that has devastated the country, is racism. It is part of our national DNA, an integral element of American culture for more than 150 years before the country was even born! And though it’s been mitigated over the centuries since, it has never left us.

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Racism was always Trump’s main appeal to his base, long before he even ran for office. Execute the Central Park Five. Birtherism. Murderers and rapists. The Wall. The Muslim travel ban. Fine people on both sides. The Caravan. Immigrant children in cages. Stand back and stand by. Protecting your suburbs.  These villainies are seared into our culture as scars on the collective consciousness.

It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that the not-even-covert racism that this language heralds has been embraced by 49% of the electorate. Half of the country was willing to set aside democracy in favor of a crypto-fascist who openly advertised that he was not going to participate in a peaceful transfer of power. All they expected in exchange was the continuation of their beloved white supremacy.

This is the reason that fixing the economy is so important. Until those legions of humiliated working class whites have some of their dignity restored through meaningful work, they will continue to fester and infect any polity of the next 100 years. With Trump lurking in the shadows, desperate to be seen, and even more desperate for revenge, this has to be one of the highest priorities of a Biden administration.

Finally, none of this will be solved until the problem of the Democratic party is solved. We need to be brutally frank, here. The Democratic party has been one of the two institutional stewards that has devised and overseen the decades of deindustrialization and the massive upward transfer of wealth that gave rise to Trump and Trumpism.

Oh, it has donned a more polished veneer, a more genteel façade for its predations on the nation, but it serves its corporate masters just as well as did Trump. Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House of Representatives, third in line for the presidency, and the most consequential female in American politics precisely because she is so effective a defender of the interests of great wealth. That includes parrying, defanging, and neutering any reformer—think Bernie Sanders—or proposal for reform that intends to fundamentally alter the distribution of either wealth or power in the country.

This is the real obstacle Biden/Harris will face in delivering effective recovery for the American nation and the American people. The real resistance to change will come from within because, by the interests of great wealth, things are going exceedingly well. We are approaching feudal-levels of income and wealth inequality and oligarchic concentrations of political power.  Why rock the boat?  Just issue more platitudes, pablum, pontification, and pacification.

In the iconic comic strip of the 1970’s, Walt Kelly’s Pogo declared, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”  We can be thankful that Biden/Harris ousted the odious Trump.  And we should expect that Republicans, Trump, and Trumpism will be worthy adversaries in the forthcoming battle. But, far more insidious, and enervating, will be the enemy within.

Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman is the author of "The Best One Hour History" series which includes "World War I" (2013), "The InterWar Years" (2014), "The Vietnam War" (2013), and other titles. He is the founder of The Global Uplift Project which builds small-scale infrastructure projects in the developing world to improve humanity’s capacity for self-development.

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