Thursday, November 12, 2020

Joe Biden & Kamala Harris Have Won

President-Elect Joe Biden Jr.
& Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

This has been a nightmarish year on so many levels, from the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, to the Ahmed Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor murders, as well as many others, at the hands of police and extrajudicial forces, to the current economic crisis (the second major one in less than two decades, yet again under an inept Republican administration) and ballooning wealth and resource inequality, to the devastating effects of climate change (hurricanes and tropical storms, wildfires, etc.), and on and on, but if I can identify one possible ray of light, troubled though it may be, it would be the Joe Biden's and Kamala Harris's historical and groundbreaking defeat of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the recent presidential election. Four years of malign incompetence, brazen criminality, incoherent domestic and external policies all keyed to and driven by the narcissistically warped vision thankfully met with a major NO MORE from US voters, and now Biden and Harris are the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect of the US, and will, attempted coups by Trump and the GOP notwithstanding, assume office on January 20, 2021.

They defeated Trump despite the Covid-19 pandemic (or, more likely, as a result of his catastrophically horrendous response to it), which meant markedly reduced in person campaigning and canvassing by Democrats; evident and relentless voter suppression across the US; threats of continued Russian interference; Trump's seeming attempts to destroy the United States Post Office by appointing as Postmaster General his supporter Louis DeJoy, who gutted branches all over the US by removing sorting machines and reducing hours; and a steady drumbeat of disinformation, misinformation, and anti-voting rhetoric from the President, his supporters, various other agents of disruption, and at times the legacy media, which amplified--rather than countering--Trump's message of a "rigged election" and "voter fraud." (We very well may look back and find that in fact he was, as usual, projecting about his own attempts to steal the election this year.)

In the end, Biden and Harris received more than 80+ million total votes, the most ever, 7 million more than Trump and Pence's 73+ million, and 306 electoral votes, the exact total Trump received in 2016, when, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, he labeled his victory a "landslide." The Biden-Harris combo won back three states-Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania--that Barack Obama had won in 2008 and 2012, but which Clinton lost in 2016 by slender margins, while also winning two more, Arizona and Georgia, that a Democratic presidential candidate had not won since Bill Clinton in the 1990s. They make history with Harris becoming the first woman Vice President, first Black woman VP, and the first Asian American VP.  She also is the first graduate of an Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to serve as VP, and the first member of a Black sorority to hold that office as well. She will be the second VP not to be White (Charles Curtis was the first) and the second in an interracial marriage. Biden will be the oldest man elected to the presidency, and the second Roman Catholic president, and a decidedly devout one, after JFK. 

The next President and Vice President
of the United States of America

Ideologically Biden has tended to be a conservative to moderate Democrat, with a problematic legislative history, especially during his Senate tenure, of support for racist, pro-corporate policies, while Harris, at least in the US Senate, is considered one of the most liberal US Senators based on her voting record, though her records while California's and San Francisco's Attorneys General were more mixed, sometimes quite progressive and at other times conservative (pro-police). (I should note that in the Democratic Presidential primary I again voted for Bernie Sanders, but have contributed the campaigns of both Harris and Biden.) Both have expressed support for and voted for neoliberal economic and social policies in the past, and during the primary campaign, neither would consistently commit to programs that progressive and Democratic Socialist branches of the party endorsed, like Medicare for All or Single Payer health insurance, or the comprehensive Green New Deal. That does not mean, however, that they cannot be pushed towards more comprehensive, popular, paradigm-shifting policies, but their political backgrounds, especially Biden's suggest moderate rather than radical changes. But I am going into the next four years with clear eyes, and have set my expectations low. The first tests of this will be how they deal with this pandemic, which has worsened as Trump's malignant time in office winds toward its close.

Whatever they do achieve will depend in significant part on which party controls the US Senate, whose fate hangs in the balance as Georgia's two Senate seats head to runoffs, but also will hinge on the Democrats' ability to retain their control of the House, where their margins for error plummeted as Republicans regained a number of the seats they lost in the 2018 midtarms. How Biden will govern given the challenges, which mount daily, facing the country and his administration, remains to be seen, but if he can take any lessons from Trump's four years, and the eight Biden served as VP under Obama, they might include grasping the nature of the contemporary zombie Republican Party and its overriding goal of nihilistically holding power; the appeal of economically populist policies and politics and the effect of government largess for the 99% (remember 2012?) vs. the abject failure of neoliberal capitalist orthodoxy and libertarianism, especially amidst a pandemic and its aftermath; the importance of transparency, openness and regular communication with the nation; liberal interventionism in foreign policy should be a dead letter from now on; and the absolutely fundamental concept of not forgetting and ignoring your base voters, as Obama frequently seemed to and Trump never did, which, in Biden's case, comprises Black and other BIPOC voters, especially Black women, young people (Gen Z and millennials), seniors, urbanites and many suburbanites, educated middle class voters, and working-class and poor voters, even if and as he works to expand his coalition. 

It is one thing to clean house when it comes to Trump's lawlessness, recklessness and incompetence, but replicating the worst aspects of the Obama years will imperil not only Biden's tenure and doom Democrats but the nation and the globe. I cannot predict how the next four years will turn out, but it will be refreshing to have Trump out of the White House, whatever damage he attempts as a private citizen, and, as when Obama was president, we will have to press Biden and Harris, as FDR said, to do what is needed; in fact, echoing FDR, we will need to make him (them) do it.