By Kumar David –
Cities across the US erupted in joy to celebrate Trump’s defeat but before you open your best Single Malt and launch out on a spell of revelry take a breath and consider the following. Though that pig-headed, oral-peat splurging, loathsome man has been booted out the picture remains murky. He polled the second highest number of votes (72 million) by any US presidential candidate – let that sink in, the second highest ever! He lost because Bidden with 76 million polled higher. He won three big states Texas, Florida, Ohio. A majority hate him but his admirers stay loyal. Let me pour cold water if you imagine America has come in from the cold (sorry, lousy pun). The Democrats despite strenuous efforts did not seize a single state governorship or state legislature from incumbent Republicans. Most states, in a hugely devolved federal system, remain locked in Republican hands. More bad news, the GOP retains a majority in the Senate till two runoffs are decided in Georgia on 5 Jan 2021. Democrats just managed to retain control of the House of Representatives but the upper house is more powerful in Congress (Congress is both Houses together). The Senate can block appointments to Cabinet other key positions and the Supreme Court and it can be a thorn in the flesh as Congress controls the purse strings – that is financial allocations and the budget.
Trump lost, but the transition is hazardous. His vote-base did not collapse; it held up, his poll rising from 63 million in 2016 against Hilary Clinton to 72 million in 2020. More disturbing, about half of that belongs to the Trump Base which inhabits an alternative universe presided over by their boss from which he refuses to return to earth. Trump and his looney fringe make false allegations of voter fraud that never occurred. He is inciting his thugs to violence; don’t underestimate what they may do in the transition. This man has no human empathy, he has a Frankenstein streak which is why many doubt his sanity. Extremists are on TV brandishing guns, threatening violence and “civil war”; they demand that the election results be annulled. He is hated for his lies and indecency but he has turned the Republican Party into a Trump Party; the entire GOP melts before his obnoxious persona. This makes the transition, the next 70 days, fraught and the next few years contentious.
The Biden Presidency is not going to be a walk in the park. The Trump adoring GOP is determined to undermine climate policy, but Bidden cannot go back on a compact with a Task Force headed by John Kerry and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and endorsed by Bernie Sanders. A 110-page plan drafted by six task forces appointed by Biden and Sanders lays out a roadmap that Biden is committed to despite the declaration of war by Republicans. Healthcare, on which there is a tenuous agreement between the Biden-Harris and the Sanders-Elizabeth Warren-AOC factions will lead to a compromise, but Biden’s wish to be “president for all” will be rejected by Trump’s Base. A bitter defeated Trumpist who introduces himself as Brian C. Joondeph, M.D says “Trump needs our support and prayers as he is the last line between America the Beautiful and the Peoples’ Republic of Biden”; any treachery is ok for the spurned! Biden’s call for calm is wise but make no mistake it will be spurned and America needs to prepare itself for no-holds-barred conflict. ‘Success goes to those who dare and act, it seldom goes to the timid’; will the Biden-Harris leadership measure up? Will Biden mobilise people, the ultimate guardian of their own freedoms?
Never discount the fundamental reason underlying the rise of Trumpism; blue collar workers fear job and income loss in the face of advances in technology and globalisation. Poor whites in the Midwest and across the country are losing out, getting poorer and falling behind. The lower-three income quartiles know that power, income and wealth are in the hands of the top 10%. The Productivity Pay Tracker shows that the fruits of technology, productivity advance and wealth creation have gone to the top. The Democrats are seen as the party of the middleclass gentry, climate change, racial equality and the home of culture-elites, removed from the hardships of the poor. My fear is that the Biden-Harris Administration will stay institutionally conservative and in the pockets of Wall Street.
If so, they will miss the boat as yahapalana did. Even when driven out of the White House, Trump like the Rajapaksas is not going away and who knows he may storm back on the backs of the working class, poor whites and maybe blacks and Latinos if the Bidden-Harris team fails to deliver. Kamala Harris is a more troubling than Biden unless she is balanced in the Cabinet by the inclusion of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders like figures, and unless people like AOC keep up mobilisation and hold Biden to his promises. A big mistake would be to imagine that America can return to business as usual; that is business as in the Clinton and Obama eras. Trump and Republican leaders are methodically undermining the transition of power, even refusing the de facto President Elect access to national security briefings. This is dangerous; it is an attempt at a palace coup; it is the road to a Banana Republic. This time it will fail but it is the last warning before the triumph of American neo-fascism, more dangerous than Nazim and inter-war fascism because of US world dominance and hence potentially it can be world transformative. If America goes neo-fascist there will be nowhere for the world to hide; Trump was the last warning.
In Lanka liberal-capitalism replaced Mahinda’s semi-autocracy only to be trounced at democratic elections by a very non-liberal alternative. The reasons in hindsight were twofold; initially, an inexplicable failure to prosecute powerful politicos of the Rajapaksa regime who were waist deep in corruption, and second, neglect by a regime chasing the non-sequitur of a liberal-capitalist road to prosperity of mass demands for better living conditions. Biden must not inhibit prosecution of Trump’s financial wrong doings, and needs like a minimum wage and better healthcare must be funded by higher taxes on the wealthy. Circumstances and opportunities are good, the tasks are clear; control Corona, invest in health and education and live up to the promise of a ‘new green revolution’. The tough one is restructuring the economy; Trump’s base will wither if the problems that created it are addressed. The need is leadership; here too prospects are better than SL since the Biden-Harris team is not corrupt, nor incompetent and bickering like the Sirisena-Ranil circus. Biden’s Corona Task Force is not led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff! It is stuffed with respected and experienced professionals.
Foreign policy is where some things will change, others will not. The US will return to the Paris Climate Accord an Obama centrepiece and the WHO. The Iran Nuclear deal negotiated by John Kerry will be resuscitated in some form. China policy will not change because return of the Mandate of Heaven to the Middle Kingdom terrifies Democrats and Republicans alike. Continuing Sino-American tension is bad for Lanka. The US electoral system held up in 2020 despite ‘technical’ complications (huge mail in ballots, provisional ballots, court orders and recounts) and appalling intervention by none other than the depraved incumbent to undermine electoral processes. Am I applauding liberal democracy of which I am no great champion? Yes, I would have been more dismayed if American electoral democracy had been trashed than by even a Trump victory. Unbelievably, the Republican Party is doing just that! It is amazing that it is standing on its heads equating “a corrupt American electoral process” to a banana republic! “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Social democracy starts with common or garden justice, decency and truthfulness and adds on social equality, mass living standards and people’s control of state and economy. It’s liberal-democracy plus, not a denial of Enlightenment Values. As a leftist I applaud the resilience of US electoral democracy. Lanka too upheld it in November 2019 and August 2020. My quarrel is not with our exemplary electoral authorities; my quarrel is with the people of Lanka who were foolish in the exercise of their ballot.