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Realistic Expectations for the 2020s in the U.S.

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

The article If Biden Wins by Ted Rall is a succinct list of what to expect from a Biden presidency. I’ve cited most of it and added some extra notes of my own.

  • Supreme Court: “[…] he’ll pick a conservative corporatist […] to placate the Republicans in the Senate.”
  • Immigration: “Kids will remain in cages at the border […because] he won’t want to appear weak on immigration.”
  • Medicare for all: “No change on healthcare.”
  • Debt relief: “No student loan forgiveness.”
  • Environment: “No Green New Deal.”
  • Foreign Policy: “War with Venezuela? Entirely possible.” Continued sanctions on and strife with Iran and Russia and China? Unavoidable.
  • Military Machine: No change from Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Trump
  • Privacy: “The dude was behind the Patriot Act.”
  • Progressive Agenda: “He will not appoint a single progressive to his cabinet. Obama didn’t either.”

“You’re on your own”

Together with the article The Senate Just Abandoned the Working Class Without a COVID-19 Relief Package by Meagan Day (Jacobin), Americans should face the realization that they are well- and truly fucked. There is no-one coming to help them. The American Dream is not a lie. They literally called it a “dream”; how much more honest can you get? It has always been a dream for all but those who inherit wealth and the lucky handful of winners in the Panem (Wikipedia) sweepstakes.

If Trump wins, we already know what we’re going to get: pretty much the same as Biden’s list, but executed even more incompetently. There are minor differences on how much lip service will be paid to an anti-racist agenda—Biden/Harris will pay lip service, whereas Trump/Pence won’t—but, in the end, it won’t make a lick of difference where it matters.

There is an argument to be made that executing an abhorrent agenda incompetently is better than doing so competently, but let’s assume that Biden/Harris will be less abhorrent than Trump/Pence.

They’re all committed to reducing rights for everyone—they just differ on whether certain groups should lose rights in greater proportion or more quickly. It’s a difference without distinction to the average citizen. O the lofty goals we have in 2020.

Identity takes a back seat in times of true crisis

The leaders in the U.S. are in agreement: they had a choice between funneling money to their elite and billionaire donors or to help their constituents. They elected to drop most Americans into a new Dark Age, regardless of race or gender.

In the past (up until the early 70s or so), certain groups’ lack of any of Maslow’s hierarchy was nearly purely due to discrimination, since nearly everyone else was actually having their collective boats lifted in a way that at least resembled a functioning society. Now, though, America’s inherent discriminatory policies mean that minorities and women will be overrepresented—but pretty much everyone’s invited to this poverty party.

With all current and potential leaders committed to policies that will see unprecedented numbers of Americans[1] unemployed, uninsured, and homeless, what good is it to have one’s “identity” (or “identities”) recognized? It won’t feed, house, or clothe them or their children. People with no home, no job, and no prospects don’t really care about whether society recognizes their “truth” or their particular “intersection of identities”. Their priorities have shifted. Until they shift back, they have bigger fish to fry.

No good will come of this

I’ve read people’s laundry lists of all of the cool goodies that Biden/Harris will bring. These are the purest fantasy. These fools with their laundry lists will be the same ones who won’t hold anyone accountable when absolutely nothing gets done over four years. Despite decades of disappointment, they think that when a politician says they’ll do something, that they’ll actually work on it. Get Biden in there and lean on him. Bullshit.

There is no reason to expect anything interesting or different or good from a Biden/Harris administration. I would love to be proven wrong, but we have already seen that administration—in eight years of Obama/Biden.

They did none of the things America needed. The military grew, belligerence increased, drone-bombing increased, Guantánamo remained open, Wall Street ruled the roost, mega-millionaires filled the cabinet and decided policy, even the nuclear-weapons program was refreshed and grew. Instead of doing anything significant on climate change, the Obama administration oversaw the fracking boom and the expansion of fossil-fuel production to unprecedented levels.

The Obama administration took a run at health care and the U.S. ended up with the ACA, which is, by all accounts, a disaster. It gives more Americans health-care coverage, but it’s ludicrously expensive and complicated and ends up not providing the promised coverage to many people that it ostensibly covers. You still have a populace wedded to employer-provided private/corporate health-care that is terrified to use their insurance because of prohibitive co-pays and deductibles.

So don’t try to sell me this hopeful bullshit of a rainbows-and-unicorns administration full of sensible, sane, and compassionate policy from Biden/Harris. We’ve been here before. We know how this movie ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

An Example: Medicare for All

Biden already said he won’t do Medicare for All. Harris at first supported something like it, but then backpedaled on it during her campaign.[2] The Democratic Party voted it out of the official platform by 4-1 just a few weeks ago. Hell, Trump is more likely to do it, purely on a whim, and by accident.

Were anyone at that level even interested, the Congress would never pass it. They don’t pass anything except for salary increases for themselves. Executive orders with no legal standing fly back and forth. None of it means anything for a social-safety net that would provide stability to people’s lives.

This is all without even discussing Biden’s dementia or Harris’s tendency to say whatever people want to hear while coincidentally always doing what her rich donors want.[3] Even were Biden able to stay at the helm, he’s been in politics for several decades and has been instrumental in starting wars, surveilling Americans, building up the military, and expanding the carceral state. It’s a marketing coup that most Americans consider the Democrats to be “left of center”.

Ruled by the Cabinet[4]

We know what we would get with Biden/Harris: rule by self-appointed unknowns with financial-company pedigrees (most likely Goldman Sachs). That’s what we got with Obama; Biden would be no more progressive than that and would likely be even worse—especially now that he’s having a harder time than ever hiding his real personality: a mean old man afraid of his own diminishing capacity.[5]

Would this council of philosopher kings (Wikipedia) be worse than Trump’s ship of fools? No. That’s almost impossible.

They would almost certainly have handled the pandemic better, but would also have—just like the Trump administration—ensured that the rich benefited from the crisis.[6] They would listen to experts more—but would take advice that helps the people only if it doesn’t conflict with their benefactors’ wishes. The response would perhaps have been more coherent and more organized and, if not more compassionate, then at least less casually stupid and brutal.[7]

Would they be more insidious because they’re less obviously corrupt? Yes. Biden/Harris would lull enough of America back to sleep just at a time when everyone should be wide awake and rowing like crazy to avoid the jagged rocks.[8]


A stunning feat, to be sure, since America already leads all wealthy nations by far in the number of people living in absolute or just plain-old regular poverty. It also leads the wealthy nations in hunger, malnutrition, and infant mortality, while trailing on nearly all health indicators, including life expectancy.

Those are averages, though. The privileged classes are doing fine; underprivileged minorities have it so bad that they drag the numbers down for everyone else.

[2] It doesn’t matter anyway, because she’ll be vice president—at least until Biden completely breaks down. The vice president’s only official function is to break ties in the Senate.
[3] They will be about as self-interested as the Small Council (Game Thrones Wiki) or the Curia Regis (Wikipedia).
[4] I believe that’s the OED definition of “politician”. This makes her no better or worse than Biden or Trump or Pence, but it means she’s of no use whatsoever in getting anything enacted that would actually benefit most Americans.
[5] Biden’s anger flares more and more quickly these days. He reminds me of George W. Bush: an affable and jocular exterior until you make him mad. Then he turns into a completely different person—the one he’s been all along.
[6] Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine (Wikipedia) comes home to roost.
[7] Lack of real leadership and cooperation in the face of crisis in the House, Senate, and the White House contributed to this. People blame the Trump administration exclusively, but Trump didn’t have to veto a single piece of COVID-response legislation that Congress passed but with which he disagreed. Not enough of them were willing to try very hard at all.
[8] In a political cartoon, those rocks would be labeled “Shocking Inequality”, “Climate Crisis”, “COVID-19”, “Racism”, “Neoliberalism”, “Neofeudalism”, “Unemployment” and “Poverty Crisis”.[9]
[9] H/T to Economic Update: Socialism vs. COVID-19: A Very Different Story by Richard Wolff (YouTube) or Global Capitalism: As US Capitalism Shakes, US Socialism Renews [July 2020] by Richard Wolff (YouTube), from which I got some of this list. (I can’t remember which of the two videos it was, though … they’re both good.)