Biden Era Set to Begin in US: Clash of New & Old Economies Goes On
“Fear stalks the US. The comfort zone of ‘People Like Us’ has shrunk to the point of paranoia,” writes Rakesh Kaul.
It is a weary dawn in New York. The chilly winter wind gusts have a menacing whistle to them. Most of the battle fields across America have fallen silent, even though fiery skirmishes continue in certain areas. Helicopters showed the grim determination with which the mobilised populace lined up. Red and Blue played true to their colours, Valour versus Justice – but they have left White, the symbol of purity and innocence, in tatters. The Kings are alive. Long live the Kings. No tidal wave here, only a pyrrhic victory awaits the nation.
The tectonic plates of American society have ground against each other through the entire election season. It has thrown up a nation which has lost confidence in the markers of its shared cultural identity, and more importantly, its manifest destiny.
Irresistible tribal identities have clashed against immovable utopian visions. The election for the highest office will be over, but these uncompromising forces will continue to be arrayed against each other. The culture wars will only intensify. If there is a shared American way, it is riddled with wrecks.
An Internal Power Struggle
The first humbling realisation has been that there is a limit to American power. COVID-19 has devastated the country. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men have not been able to stop its rampage. For the Land of the Free to be shackled into the Land of Quarantine has been excruciatingly difficult. When I walked into a Starbucks store at 9 AM on Saturday in New York City, I was the only customer. It felt eerie as if I was in a ghost town. It is not over yet, and the next deadly uptick has started. Americans are trained in the principle of accountability, and President Trump found that the COVID debacle had been pinned on him.
The second perilous revelation has been that of an internal power struggle – that between a rising power and a declining power.
Since the time of the Mayflower landing, America had been ruled by the white male. This group is now ageing and declining. The coloured male is demographically in the ascendant. Congressman Jim Clyburn threw the Black support behind Vice President Biden’s campaign, and what was going nowhere suddenly became unstoppable.
Mr Clyburn trended as the kingmaker of America. But the legacy ruling group did not concede easily. They travelled (noisily) in convoys across the country, and this weekend, a flag-bearing motorcade of 6000 cars and vans brought the Garden State Parkway near me to a gridlock halt.
Why Communities Like White Muslims Supported Trump
The black community, which had been the saviour earlier of President Clinton, repeated its role for the Democrats. But then along came the Black Lives Matter movement, spurred by the rage of an oppressed community – and suddenly, the protest became the second big polariser after the pandemic.
The Muslim and Left community joined the anti-Trump protests as an expression of solidarity towards a ‘common enemy’. Whether protestor or anarchist, there were loaded guns being paraded on both sides.
The arms merchants could not keep up with the demand of first-time buyers who felt unsafe, and gun sales and prices shot up a record amount. Both sides winked at the votaries of violence within their midst.
But the white Muslims joined President Trump, not wanting to jeopardise their fragile relationships with law enforcement. Religion is private, but colour is public and determined as ‘identity’ here.
Toxic masculinity has been accompanied by the largest gender gap seen in election history. The future is feminine power, and it ran headlong into sexism. Witness the bizarre attempt by 13 men to kidnap the female governor of Michigan. Senator Kamala Harris, a woman, black and with Indian roots, now uncovered and in full display therefore fitted the Democratic bill for a Vice President candidate to the hilt.
The women struck back, turning out in larger numbers than the men, and favoured Biden.
Paradoxical Splits – Why Communities Like Conservative Latinos Are Supporting Trump
In the same vein, the Puerto Rican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had become a social media darling with her borderless promise to abolish the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and an extreme manifesto with guaranteed jobs, free health and a USD 2 trillion new Green Deal. She heads the Squad with three other Congresswomen including Ilhan Omar, all supporting the ‘Defund the Police’ movement.
But, surprisingly, in spite of incendiary rhetoric on immigration, Trump’s base amongst the conservative Latin community has gone up since the last election.
These paradoxical splits are best illustrated by the Jewish community which has traditionally supported the Democratic party candidates. The Israelites, the Hasidic Jews and the Orthodox community had nursed grievances against President Obama –and they see Trump as having delivered in moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and the recent peace accords with a few Mid-East nations. They were irked by the restrictions placed on their gatherings by the Democratic state leaders.
But Silicon Valley and High Tech had gone all in to get rid of President Trump even though the Democrats have stated they want to break up Big Tech. The nine Bay Area counties had donated nearly USD 200 million to the Biden campaign, and a paltry USD 22 million to the Trump campaign.
The Democratic state of California is mirrored on the East by New York State, with Presidential candidate, billionaire Mayor Bloomberg, committing to spend whatever it takes to defeat Trump. Opposing it is the fossil fuel industry, which does not have that kind of money, but employs four times the number of people that Silicon Valley does. People power ensured the worst Return On Investment (ROI) to financial power.
Clash Between Old & New Economies – And Trust Deficit
The clash between the old economy and the new economy could not be more head on. The bi-coastal new economy is all globalists; they want peace with China. By contrast, the mid states have been decimated by China. The billionaire globalists of course bet on both sides. They had their emergency post-election escape plans ready. Passports for other countries have been purchased through the Golden Passport scheme. When retailers across America boarded up their windows, it made sense. One could not miss the sound of the hammer on the nails on the streets of New York City. Never mind the hedged capitalists celebrated the dance macabre. Even as deaths rise, the Dow Jones skyrockets.
Any ruler needs to be anointed to be legitimate. Trustworthiness has dropped precipitously.
It is a horror show best exemplified by the signs one sees in front yards. There the political candidates’ photos are stuck on the ground alongside the Halloween witch, goblin and other scary creatures of the night.
Rupture Within The Indian American Community
But the biggest rupture has occurred within the Indian American community. It has gone from 93 percent reliably Democratic to surveys showing that it is now possibly Republican at 28 percent, and inching up maybe to 40 percent.
First generation Indian immigrants are divided from the next generation US-born Indian Americans.
For an otherwise tightly knit community this split has become personal and painful. Non-profits and other social organisations, where influential leaders within the community congregate, have become tense places. The community could provide the tipping factor in battle ground states, and hence, was courted assiduously. But there has been little progress made by the Indian bundlers on either side on getting hard benefits locked in for Indian Americans generally, and the majority Hindus specifically.
This election stripped America naked as never before. The war without has now become the war within.
‘Build the Wall’ has become the battle cry – not just on the border but on the streets. Forget multi-culturalism – even multi-dimensionality in individual identity cannot be allowed to exist. Every American has been reduced to a one-dimensional litmus test. You are with us or you are with them. If you are not part of a militia you better be part of a wolf pack. All the notable and noble quotes about democracy can now be given a lonely COVID burial.
America, Where Are You Headed?
Democracy has become A Million Mutinies Now as aptly described by author VS Naipaul. Fear and distrust stalk the land. The comfort zone of ‘People Like Us’ has shrunk to the point of paranoia. The contenders locked in mortal combat are at the edge of rolling off the precipice. There is no Election Commission in the US as there is in India.
Thousands of lawyers will now storm the courts and carry the battles of a house divided into the hallowed chambers. The conservative judges await them.
Recently-elected Supreme Court Judge Barrett will be among them. The judges know that the clock ticks for their world to upend also. This ‘Pandemic-Protest-Patriot-Power-Politics tsunami may not leave them unscathed too.
The winner will ultimately find a pathway to the White House. But Quo Vadis America?
(Rakesh K Kaul is the author of ‘The Last Queen of Kashmir: Kota Rani’ and ‘Dawn: The Warrior Princess of Kashmir’. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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