A frequently aired TV spot now shows a couple getting out of the driveway with their children in the back seat. As they approach the end of the driveway, we see a large truck driving by; a signal in the car causes the driver to brake in time to take evasive action. The man and woman then look at each other with shock and deep relief that they have been saved from crashing into the truck and possibly killing their children.
This is pretty much what just happened in America.
But that also ends the analogy. Because in the case of American politics, the truck was not there by chance, like a coincidence. Rather, it – or it, however we want to describe the threat – was a manifestation of social dysfunction that is almost inevitable when so many people are left behind in chronically desperate economic and social situations. Donald Trump did not create these situations; Donald Trump created these situations. And if the Biden administration reflexively falls back into the institutionalized patterns of soft injustice that caused the dysfunction from the beginning, rather than engaging in fundamental disruption of those patterns, then the next truck could be even bigger. It is also quite possible that next time no signal could save the car from hitting the truck.
Joe Biden’s victory is not a cure, it is a reprieve. Now, and not later, is the time to make this very clear to both ourselves and to him. The Democratic Party has no basis for self-congratulations at this time. If your opponent is a neo-fascist who has more in common with Mussolini than with Lincoln and who oversaw the death of nearly a quarter of a million Americans, and yet you can beat him only by a razor-thin margin, that is no sign that things are going well. It is a sign that a merciful force, which must be praised, came through at the last minute and saved you.
Biden will now be surrounded by the same old crowd of Clinton and Obama agents who will be dancing happily in the hallways when they return to the building. They will also be joined by a new gang of establishment Democrats who munch in anticipation of their day under the neoliberal sun.
But Joe, this is a time to be very, very careful. I know you will be told to stick to the corporatist line and make John Kasich happy. I know they will tell you not to worry, not to worry that we can blame Mitch McConnell for the fact that it’s just not possible to get Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren into the government. I know that you will be tempted to marginalize the progressives who are moving forward, just as you marginalized us during the campaign. Some people around you will even say that you won without the help of the progressives. But please hear me out, Joe. No, you did not.
If you simply ignore all calls for immediate direct cash aid and a universal basic income in the future, as well as universal health care, a serious reduction in business subsidies, an adjustment to the tax code to demand that businesses and the very rich pay their fair share, a property tax, serious and immediate efforts to convert to fossil fuels, a ban on dangerous pesticides and chemical additives, a real system change to eliminate racial differences in criminal convictions, Changes in police training and practice, debt relief for college loans, reparations for slavery, and a foreign policy that is more in line with the moral responsibility of a great nation – if these issues are simply ignored as if they are so far out there that the only way to deal with them is to pretend they don’t exist, so right-wing forces that would describe any policy that actually helps people as a path to the hammer and sickle will not be silent this time. Times have changed, and the progressive movement has proved itself. It has indeed proved to be the key to your victory in the White House. The neoliberal establishment has proved to be the key to the Democrats being thrown out of it from the very beginning.
There must be strong opposition to the corporatist moderates within the Democratic Party, smug show-offs that they are all too often and who would now gloss over the fact that the party has failed miserably in the end. The elections in year 2