Running for president, I saw the inner workings of how the election game is played in America. The Democrat presidential primary campaign is more of a reality TV show than a democratic process, at this point hardly news to anyone who has cared to take a deeper look at it. The conversations that dominate the campaign season — and the participants in it — are pre-approved by a campaign-media-industrial complex which punishes harshly (usually through ridicule and disinformation) anyone who doesn’t toe the line. In the final analysis, no matter who raised what money or filled stadiums with how many thousands of people — not to mention, was bringing up the most critically important topics for our future — if the candidate wasn’t a chosen one by today’s equivalent of men with cigars in back rooms selecting who the nominee will be, he or she had little chance to proceed.
Thus, we ended up with a Democratic ticket that was not the result of organic passions arising from the collective aspirations of democratic voters, but rather the establishment’s pick masquerading as something else. In the case of Joe Biden, who the establishment chose is a good man; in many ways he has a personality that’s perfect for this moment, endowed with maturity and clearly good intentions for the country. My problem is not with Biden himself; my problem is with the sleight of hand that made him the Democratic candidate.
Yet I supported and voted for Joe Biden — choosing not to articulate some of the things I’m articulating now for the very reason that I didn’t want to fuel more cynicism than already existed in how the system had been played. I felt, and I still feel, that our first priority had to be the removal of a neo-fascist threat from the White House. Nothing, nothing, nothing compares to the danger of Trump’s malignancy to the safety of our democracy. Yet, as I said to many on the Left who questioned my support for Biden, I was voting for him and encouraging others to do so in order to interrupt the free fall of our democracy and give us a chance to regroup. Then, I said, we would need to do the work of re-imagining, re-orienting, and re-grouping.
And then is now.
In order to stave off the threat of the Trump phenomenon — a threat that will still be there regardless of what Trump does after January 20th — Biden needs to do a whole lot more than just reverse the crazy, chaotic disaster of the last four years. He needs to reverse the more polite yet no less crazy disaster of the last forty years. Trump was a symptom, not at a creator, of the entrenched economic injustices wrought by trickle-down economics.
Through brazen tax breaks for the richest corporations and individuals, absurd corporate subsidies, cozy deals with the corporate donor class created by Congress and the legalized bribery of Congress made possible by the Supreme Court, Washington gifted a massive transfer of wealth into the hands of America’s 1 per cent. It decimated our middle class. It created the largest income inequality since 1929. Washington over the last 40 years has perpetrated an insidiously disguised hoax, creating an economy of hopelessness for all but a few while claiming itself the harbinger of hope for masses of people who have no one from whom to seek redress except the perpetrators themselves. And yes, the situation got worse under Democrats as well as under Republicans.
Contrary to the opinion of many of our political elite, Americans are not fools. They knew the system was rigged against them and they were legitimately enraged. Among other things, they had been promised hope and change by someone who ultimately offered it only on the periphery. And they knew that too. In 2016, two candidates named their pain and legitimized their rage: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. When Bernie’s candidacy was denied them (by the same DNC shenanigans as mentioned above), they chose Trump rather than go for someone saying “Let’s continue the success of the last eight years.” They were desperate. And they voted their despair.
Large groups of desperate people have always been and should always be considered a national security risk, a petri dish full of citizens dangerously vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces. No one should be that shocked by the emergence of Donald Trump in 2016, and no one should be naïve about the danger that will still be lurking in 2021 and beyond if the Democrats don’t fundamentally alter the patterns of economic injustice that still plague our society. And incremental change does not represent a fundamental alteration. The fire is already in the kitchen.
Even before the pandemic, 40 per cent of Americans could not afford a $400 unexpected expenditure. 38 million Americans were already hungry. Millions were already without health care. 93 million were already living near poverty. And since the pandemic set in, more than ten million more have fallen into poverty and the number is increasing.
This is not just data. These are real human lives we’re talking about here. These are hungry children and desperate parents who cannot feed them. These are people left to die — please let me repeat that, in many cases literally left to die — by a Congress that doesn’t give a damn enough to provide another $1200 stimulus check at this moment of agonizing need.
Mr. President-elect, please don’t ignore the earthquake beneath your feet. You didn’t hear it during the Obama years because then it was just a distant rumble. Today, it’s nothing at all like a distant rumble — it’s already thunder in the hearts of many. Please don’t let their cries be drowned out by the sound of glasses clinking on K Street. Trump was a would-be dictator and look at the damage he did. God help us if another one comes along, committed to finishing what Trump started and more adept at doing so.
The only way to stave that off is to help the people — and help them now.
You can do it, President-elect Biden. You can choose to be our next FDR.You can do so much even without Mitch McConnell’s permission. You can use the power of the presidency to turn this country around, to avoid what could otherwise be a catastrophic storm ahead. You can provide an infusion of massive economic relief and opportunity into the life of the average American. But your political opponents will eat you alive if they sense even the tiniest tentativeness in your agenda moving forward. I’m praying for you and rooting for you, and so are tens of millions of others. This is the moment and you are the one. Be bold and brave and you will be blessed forever by generations not yet born.