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Saturday, August 29, 2020

WHAT NEXT


Rather than get into an argument about the term “neo—liberal” I will just remark that I was alluding to a statement made by Joe Biden to a group of wealthy donors on June 19, 2019: “The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.”

Instead, I would like to spend a little time today talking about what I imagine will happen if, as I hope and pray, the Democrats win the White House and the Senate and hold the House in November. Until that time, all of us must do everything we can in our own way to bring that victory about but if Biden is elected president, what is he likely to do?

I think it is very probable that he will declare that in order to meet the challenge of the virus and of the economic devastation it has caused and in order at the same time to restore the norms of American democracy, he proposes to create a Government of National Unity. He will then appoint prominent anti-Trump Republicans to important positions in his cabinet and seek to mollify the left wing of the Democratic Party with a number of high profile proposals that do not in any serious way challenge the interests of Wall Street.

I would not view this as a betrayal. Quite to the contrary. It is exactly what everybody thought they would get when they supported him for the nomination and, what is more, it is the politically rational thing for him to do. Let me explain how I think things are likely to play out in the event of a Democratic sweep.

Trump will not go quietly, as I think everyone recognizes. I am not talking about whether he will get out of the White House – that is a red herring. He will go because he has no backing in the military to undo the results of the election and establish him as dictator. But after he goes, he will continue to be a major presence in American politics, mobilizing and weaponizing the 25 or 30% of the population that are his diehard supporters. His primary target will not be the Democrats but rather the Republicans. He will accuse the so-called never – Trumpers of betrayal, and he will focus his most virulent attacks on Republicans like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Nikki Haley who did not break with him during the campaign but, as soon as he has lost, start to claim that they can’t remember who he is and never supported him. This is going to create enormous strategic problems for the Republicans, problems that it will be in Joe Biden’s political interest to exacerbate by trying to stake out a position that welcomes into the Democratic Party a sizable portion of natural Republican voters.

The day after the election, an election in which we have done everything we possibly can to secure Biden’s victory, we will have to turn on a dime and start working as hard as we can to elect House members and Senators as far to the left as we can manage, and to elect as well governors and state legislators who are genuinely progressive. If we have any hope of translating our hopes and desires into legislation, we are somehow going to have to rebuild the multiracial coalition of workers and middle-class professionals that gave Roosevelt and the New Deal such power in the 30s and that continued to be the backbone of the Democratic Party until the 70s or 80s.

Because I am a natural optimist, ever alert to the sight of a dove with a twig in its mouth, I will confess that I take great hope from the actions in the past few days of the professional basketball players and those following their lead in baseball and hockey.

Now I will check into this website, as I do every day, and see what the latest polls have brought us.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, 538 is reporting that Biden voters are more likely to vote by mail:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bidens-supporters-appear-way-more-likely-to-vote-by-mail-than-trumps-that-could-make-for-a-weird-election-night/

At the Dem convention, it was interesting that Michelle Obama was encouraging Biden voters to vote in person if they could and vote by mail if not (not her exact words, but that was the gist).

R McD said...

It seems to me what you’re suggesting is that a quite massive party realignment is in the offing. What this would put in place, were it to occur, would surely be the enthronement of what has been called “the extreme centre” ( Tariq Ali’s phrase, I think). Were that to happen, say goodbye to any progressive gains, domestic or in terms of foreign policy, in the near or even in the longer term future. Sure, for many of us who live in the US it won’t be as bad as a continuation of Trumpery would be. I’m not so sure that it promises any benefits for the great majority of those who live outside the US, though the rulers and classes that benefitted from and exploited the Washington Consensus will look forward to a more secure enjoyment of their American defended privileges. I wish I could be an optimist.

s. wallerstein said...

R McD,

In 43 years living outside the U.S. trying to converse with the U.S., I've learned that 99% of those who inhabit the U.S. (I refuse to call them "Americans") have zero interest in the world outside their borders and that includes most of the U.S. left. Even those who have a bit of interest in the world outside their borders basically see that world as an object of history, never as a subject, the object of U.S. evil foreign policy.

That's not going to change and in any case, I don't believe that the liberation of what used to be called "the third world" is going to come from a benevolent anti-imperialist U.S. president. That liberation is only going to come from the ex-third world standing up for itself and resisting the Washington consensus, which has its costs of course. That has to be done well, rationally, but it's the only way.

What is interesting and what makes the probable return of the Washington consensus with Biden different than the heyday of said consensus under Clinton is that China is now a global actor, China for all its defects being the best example of a country which has stood up to the U.S. successfully. A lifelong friend from the U.S., who having lived many years in Latin America, has some sense of the world outside, writes me that having
taken stock of the U.S. 2020 election, of Biden and of Trump, he's rooting for China.
Maybe he's right.

R McD said...

Glad you mentioned China, s. w. Too many of us watching the trumpites stoking the animus against China forget that the Obama-Biden TransPacific trade deal had a decidedly anti-China aspect to it. At the same time, I can't look to today's China with any optimism.

s. wallerstein said...

I'm not claiming that China is a model for anyone and in any case, it can't be because Chinese culture is very unique, just that the rise of China as a global subject creates a space where other countries can liberate themselves from U.S. imperialism. That space hasn't existed since the 1970's when the Soviet Union was still a global rival for the U.S.

Ecrasez said...

Why assume Trump won’t have the backing of the military? Surely he is commander-in-chief until January even if he loses. Of course, it would be midway between extraordinary and insane for him to call on that If someone else is president-elect but we know he is capable of being both extraordinary and insane. That would put the military in a very difficult position, one which, if history is a good guide, they may not resolve wisely.

LFC said...

The best version of "anti-imperialism" to emerge from the Third World envisioned a revamped international order that would enable or help newly independent countries to flourish as egalitarian, democratic, prosperous polities. The failure of that vision to be generally realized was partly a result of actions by the richer countries (notably though not exclusively the U.S.) and partly a result of failings by the leadership of many postcolonial countries.

It's all v well to speak in broad terms about the rise of China creating a "space" for countries to "liberate" themselves from US imperialism, but the Chinese leadership is not esp interested in anyone's liberation. What will help more to improve individual lives is closer attention to the local circumstances that determine so much, as can be seen for example in the disastrous recent history of Lebanon or Libya, just to cite two obvious cases. Local circumstances interact w intl context but in ways that will often not be properly captured by anything except a fine-grained picture or analysis of the sort that experts in a particular region or country can provide (and said experts will probably be found as often if not more often in the regions themselves as in think tanks and universities of the first world).

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