On 2 September, a few weeks before crucial midterm elections, Joe Biden, President of USA, launched a blistering critique on his predecessor, Donald Trump whose followers appear to have largely taken over the opposition, Republican Party.
“Donald Trump and Make America Great Again (MAGA) Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” Biden said. “As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favour to pretend otherwise.” He went on to note that with his anti-abortion and other similar stances, Trump and his followers are taking USA “backward in time,” and that even the democratic values of America are under assault.
Biden’s Critique Does Not Trump Capitalist Agenda
Biden was not unjustified in his attack. Many people, including some Republicans, will agree with him that Trump and his followers present a face of conservatism rarely seen in mainstream and national level US politics in recent decades. But despite that, Biden’s attack will be a total failure.
This is not because of any fault on Biden’s part. It is because Trump, despite his reactionary politics and dangerous populism, is no monster out of depth but rather the logical exaggeration of all capitalist neo-liberal policies that have been espoused by both Democrats and Republicans over the years.
Trump is the iron fist of capitalist neo-liberalism, with its silken gloves finally off.
The Rich Gets Richer With the US Government’s Aid
Biden’s critique will cut little ice in many quarters, because for decades most Americans and an increasing number of non-Americans have been taught to think like Trump. It is just that Trump does it so more blatantly, with greater selfishness and no remorse.
There is a basic intolerance in capitalism and more so in its neo-liberal version to any kind of perceived weakness. Profit is the only god, and a million human beings can be sacrificed without qualms at the altar of that god.
Governments and big business are not just hand in glove, as they have mostly been but now governments are supposed to exist mostly to facilitate big business.
This, they do by tweaking laws, policing dissidence and offering huge write-offs and bailouts, directly or indirectly through banks, to big business. If you fail to pay back your housing mortgage of a few thousands, you are out on the street, but if a billionaire fails to pay back his ‘business’ bank loans of hundreds of millions, governments step in to save him or her.
Cashing on Public Taxes for Profits
In most cases, and not just in USA, governments, elected democratically by “the people”, actually use the taxes they collect to sustain and even bail out big business. In the process, public welfare is neglected – except when it can be turned to profitable use by big business, as happens when a mega developmental project is launched, often with very little transparency or democratic scrutiny.
Governments intervene nationally and internationally often for the sake of the interests of large corporations and the moneyed classes. Money flows in from these businesses into favourable political parties. Favours are granted. Politicians shunt back and forth from parliaments to moneyed ‘think tanks’ on huge salaries, and influence democratic decisions in favour of various private agendas.
Playing the Devil’s Advocate
The Democrats play this game as much and as well as the Republicans do. People like Bernie Sanders are, however, an exception. It is just that Trump and many of his people seem to be absolutely blatant about such matters. They neither have any tolerance for anyone they cannot use – whether it is a refugee or a handicapped person or a fired worker.
They also see nothing wrong in twisting facts, provoking violence, using contacts, bestowing or seeking patronage. This is not because they are stupid. This is because they have grown up in this world, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, and can no longer see even the possibility of a different or better world.
Biden is right in suggesting that corruption and nepotism are blatant in Trump’s Republican world. But then they exist in a ‘civilized’ fashion in his Democrat world too. Biden is right that the assault of Trump’s supporters, at least initially encouraged by Trump, on Capitol Hill marked a particularly brutal attack on American democracy. But it is not as if many Democrats have not, in subdued and subtle ways, undermined aspects of American democracy, such as financial transparency and accountability to the public, over the years.
The jails of USA have been filling with the poor, mostly African Americans, often imprisoned extensively for minor crimes or on flimsy evidence, and this has happened under both the Democrats and Republicans.
Who's The Real Frankenstein?
Trump is not the monster. The monster was there before Trump. The monster was, and, is there in Democrats and Republicans. Trump just signals the mask ripped off the monster. Many Americans might not like to have the mask ripped up, but they also know, deep down, that the monster won’t disappear if the mask is put back on.
They suspect that Biden’s criticism will result, at best, on the mask being put back on. The iron fist will slink into silken gloves once again. And the monster will continue to grow under the mask, fed on the myths of selfishness, greed, lack of accountability, deviousness, relentless profit and 'success at any cost' on which capitalist neoliberalism rests in USA and elsewhere. Biden sincerely wants to toss some apples at the deprived, but does he have the guts to shake the apple cart?
(Tabish Khair, is PhD, DPhil, Associate Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark. He tweets @KhairTabish. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)