In American elections, there is little worse than the smear of socialism. Therefore, it is no surprise that when faced with a floundering economy, a mishandled pandemic and a crisis of inequality, the Republicans resorted to playground politics reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy: attempting to drag Joe Biden through the mud rather than engaging in debate.
However, to anyone with a basic understanding of political theory, President Trump’s outlandish claim that Biden is some sort of “puppet” for the “radical left” is absurd. In fact, he is quite the opposite. As a Senator, Biden endorsed massive cuts in government spending, including a freeze in social security; he supported NAFTA, resulting in American jobs being shipped abroad; and he helped deregulate Wall Street by voting to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, facilitating the disastrous 2008 financial crash. Furthermore, the Obama-Biden administration failed to make good on commitments to reform the financial system, instead serving as a continuation of Bush-era neoliberalism. Socialist? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Why then, has Biden finally decided to incorporate progressive policy proposals such as a public healthcare option and free community college?
The answer can be summed up in two words: Bernie Sanders.
In 2016, the Sanders campaign shifted the pendulum of civil discourse to the left, almost toppling the corporate democrat machine headed by Hillary Clinton. Support for social democracy was undoubtedly rising; polls following the election suggested the majority of Americans were in favour of Medicare-For-All while leftists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar were put on the fast-track to political superstardom. America was calling for change and Biden knew that in order to win, he had to listen.
Fast-forward almost a year and Biden is President-Elect. 79 million people voted for him – more than any presidential candidate in history. Evidently, Biden’s policy has garnered mass-approval. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether he will fulfil his promises and act as an ally to the left.
Firstly, there is the question of the Senate. At the time of writing the Republicans lead the Democrats 50-48 with the two Georgia runoffs still to come. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they need to win both seats and Georgia is a traditionally Republican state. As such, it seems highly likely that the Republicans hold the senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will revel in the opportunity to block any and all of Biden’s more progressive legislation.
It should be noted that Biden prides himself on his ability to reach across the aisle. Throughout the campaign he would often recall the good ol’ days in which the Senate would come together on the issues that matter. But Biden would have to be extremely naïve not to recognise that the Republican Party is a different beast now than in 2008. To gain the support of the Republicans would likely mean sacrificing the platform that he ran on. An extension of Obamacare, gun-control, free community college and a well-funded Covid-19 relief bill would be nothing but a pipe dream.
To make matters worse, the last week has shone a light on the kind of administration Biden intends to run. He has already backtracked on his commitment to forgive $50,000 of student loans per borrower (provided they work in the public or non-profit sector), effectively putting a middle finger up to the youth that elected him. Cedric Richmond – a notorious recipient of donations from the oil and gas industry – has been appointed to lead negotiations with climate activists while Biden has selected Steve Ricchetti – a former big-pharma lobbyist – as his councillor. Such appointments are indicative of a presidency of false promises. It appears that Biden intends to cater to the Establishment rather than the working American.
Let us not forget that lack of action from previous governments created the wave of discontent which Donald Trump rode to the White House. In order to prevent the same thing happening in 2024, Joe Biden must change his ways and fight tooth and nail for meaningful, progressive change.
Image via Wikimedia Commons