by Whitney Maxey
The next few months are decision time for the left.
Either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be inaugurated President on January 20, 2021.
Millions of people, including the vast majority of voters of color and of workers of all backgrounds who reject bigotry and lies, will cast their ballots for Biden. Among them will be a large cohort who regard Trump as a unique danger and will go all-out to beat him.
Will we join them in that effort or not?
I believe if we throw down, and if we are successful, we create the best possible fighting conditions for working-class and people of color movements domestically and internationally.
And we will build a stronger and bigger left in the process.
BIDEN AND TRUMP ARE NOT THE SAME
We will shift the terrain because Biden and Trump are not the same.
There are major qualitative and quantitative differences between them. Trump heads a right-wing populist and authoritarian trend dripping with white supremacy. Biden is a neoliberal but is subject to pressure from the left to address at least some of our concerns. Denying those differences and choosing not to mobilize to beat Trump is turning our backs on multi-national working class and people of color communities and movements in their time of most need the world over.
Trump’s doubling down on neoliberal ideology to let government create the best circumstances and avenues for the market to do what it pleases to coordinate and direct national medical resources. He rejects the demand for government to step in to at least try and make the process more equitable. This literally means the difference between life and death for people who have contracted Covid-19, who are disproportionately working-class Black and other people of color.
Trump, along with European powers and the right-wing populist bloc he has been facilitating, have exacerbated the plight of many in the Global South. This bloc has repeatedly interfered to try and grossly undermine the various self-determination struggles. This has meant further destabilization and less of an ability to navigate the Covid19 multi-pronged crisis for so many of these countries. For example, since the start of the crisis, Trump has increased sanctions on countries like Venezuela and increased military presence throughout Latin America. The last thing these countries need is to be handcuffed as they struggle to see their country and the people in it through this crisis.
In contrast, Biden has called for lifting sanctions that prevent Iran from getting medical and other essential supplies, and condemned Trump pulling out of the JCPOA nuclear agreement (a.k.a. the Iran nuclear agreement).
Biden wouldn’t have pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord and would put us back into the agreement. Though the action itself is symbolic, it points to two very important things that our movements can build on: 1) A belief that Climate Change is real and something must be done about it on a global scale and 2) science and facts matter.
These are two major areas of departure between Trumpism and the moderate thrust of a Biden-led Democratic administration. Given part of the crisis we are facing is ecological our movements would be much better served with an administration led by someone who is already down the path of recognizing that there is a problem to be fixed (Biden) versus someone who thinks the whole thing is a “hoax”.
THE UPSIDE AND THE DOWNSIDE OF BIDEN
A Biden presidency creates more favorable conditions for our communities and movements to fight for the audacious ideas and demands that this crisis affords us the ability to do in a way that wasn’t possible even three months ago.
Biden would have to be more responsive to the political power that is being constructed by an increasingly galvanized and organized left wing of the Democratic Party social base. Approximately 25% of the Democratic Party electorate is progressive or left of progressive and thus Biden recognizes that he needs us to win. This is evident in his concessions to Bernie Sanders and statement that he needs Bernie not just to win the election but to govern. That means we can win more concessions as we go forward to include more of the things we want in his vision and plan for the US and abroad.
Additionally, we have a larger, though still relatively small but influential and loud progressive congressional leaders that are symbolized by “The Squad”. This provides more opportunities for our movements to center class, race, and gender into the narrative of the Democratic Party and inform more of its policies and programs.
Biden has and will continue to speak out, to the best of his ability, against white nationalism. He will not be beholden as Trump is to the Christian fundamentalist bloc which promotes a political program that hits hard at the multi-national working-class and people of color.
Will Biden be an avid defender of social democratic ideas that excited and energized so many within social movements? No. But he was never going to be. That’s not the ideology or world view that he represents and is fighting for. But he does have to be responsive to those ideals and the energized base that accompanies it.
We’ve already seen that around the expansion of healthcare debate which at its core is about human rights vs. the market. Will we allow the private market to effectively monopolize meeting our health care needs, or is health care a human right that must be insured by government action? Biden, and other moderate Democrats, have been forced by grassroots pressure to warm up to the idea of a public option for Healthcare. We should build on that shift and not thumb our nose at it, especially since any gains we are able to make on this front will necessarily mean greater access to health care for working-class and people of color. We have seen shifts in their political positions on the Hyde Amendment and how to center people in these Covid19 stimulus packages. These examples demonstrate our movements’ ability to influence those in Biden’s ideological lane, or close to it, that he represents.
NO QUICK FIX
We aren’t going to get everything we want in one fell swoop. We are fighting to build political power and fighting for hegemony amongst other competing forces who have started out much stronger than we are.
But the class struggle that centers race and gender is alive and well. Let’s not waste an opportunity to create more favorable conditions for the movements and communities we care about domestically and internationally by reducing Biden to be the equivalent of Trump.
We have to engage in the conditions we are presented with even if they are not to our liking. We need to be central to, not stand aside from, the actual ideological and on-the-ground struggle that is underway in this country. That means mobilize against Trumpism and the GOP in 2020 and beyond; expand the social bases that made up the Bernie coalition; develop independent political organizations and other statewide independent political power building formations that center people of color and the multi-national working-class; and continue to build tactical and strategic alliances with those that comprise the anti-Trump/anti-GOP front.
STEP BY STEP TOWARD OUR LONG-RANGE GOALS
Immersion in the battle at hand gives us a fighting chance to win, over time, things like:
- A response to the COVID-19 pandemic that gets closer to the approach outlined by the five principles of the Peoples Bailout, including Green New Deal policies and programs
- Healthcare for All
- Programs that center the needs of Black, Indigenous, and other POC communities in government responses and interventions
- A shift in how the Global North (and the US specifically) relates to the Global South (especially Africa which has been systematically underdeveloped and politically undermined for centuries) during the Covid19 pandemic, and in its aftermath
- Demonstrating that the working class is too big to fail by having policies and programs that promote the increase of its health, wealth, and relationship to work and industry
The outcomes of this 2020 electoral cycle matter from the presidency down to the city level. We have a role to play and an ability to flex some of the hard-earned independent political power we have built in the last several years. Let’s use that power responsibly to create circumstances and avenues that can make possible today and tomorrow what was impossible yesterday.
We can’t afford to let up now. The global multi-national working class and communities of color are counting on us.