Great nations don’t bury the truth, they face up to it. We are a great nation.
* Joe Biden, January 6, 2022
“It’s Wrong. It’s Undemocratic”
On January 6, 2022, United States President Joe Biden marked the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s attempted fascist coup with remarks that combined some decent if obvious observations with a shit-ton of historical and political falsehood. On the proper and plus side, Biden noted that “For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” Biden rightly detailed some of the most horrific facts of January 6, 2021 – the attacks on Capitol police by people proclaiming love for law enforcement, the vandalization of the Capitol, the parading of the traitorous Confederate Flag, the calls to murder the Speaker of the House and the Vice President, the erection of gallows on the Capitol steps, the president who sparked and enjoyed the violent assault on the constitutional rule of law and refused to call the attack off for 187 minutes, the president who set the stage for the bloody events by spreading the ridiculous claims that the only we he could lose the election would be if it was rigged. Without naming his predecessor, as usual, Biden correctly detailed how Trump’s insane claim to have won the 2020 election is a “Big Lie.” Biden rightly called out the anonymous 45th President for refusing to admit his loss and the party of Trump for using the Big Lie to assault election integrity:
“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost…That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward. He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people. While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else….Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written — not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost. Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections…It’s wrong. It’s undemocratic.”
It’s hard to disagree with any of that.
False GOP Continuities
But now let’s have a look at some of the nonsense and – consistent with Biden’ history of deception and lying  – falsehood in Biden’s speech. We can start with some low-hanging fruit. “They seem,” Biden said of the Republicans, “no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.”
There’s a lot of bad historical conflation in that sentence. While it’s true that the fascist Amerikaner Party of Trump (the APoT) that the Republicans have become marks a step beyond the Reagan and Bush GOP, it’s also true that the Republican Party of Reagan and both Bushes represented an at once neoliberal and neoconservative GOP break from the New Deal era Republicanism of Eisenhower. It is equally true that the 20th Century corporate capitalist Republican Party of Theodore Roosevelts, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge represented a stark departure from the proprietary capitalist and anti-slavery party of John Fremont and Abe Lincoln, which was dedicated to the advance of modest freehold farmers, early industrialists, artisans, and supposedly temporary and upwardly mobile wage-earners under the banner of “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men.”
“To Work Together with Them”
“Whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man,” Biden said, “I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible. Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.”
Those are nice-sounding bipartisan sentiments that have nothing to do with the reality of a Republican Party that has become an authoritarian white nationalist organization seeking nothing less than the substantive end of previously normative bourgeois democracy. After some brief distancing over the failed effort to collapse the republic, the GOP ran back under the Dear Leader Trump umbrella within three weeks of the January 6th putsch attempt. The “instinctive fascist” Trump is still its cult leader, with his Big Hitlerian Lie taken as gospel by three in four Republicans. Even as the minority rule governance order inherited from the nation’s slave-owning Founders is already fixed well to the right of the populace, the APoT is ratcheting things farther starboard by purging the small number of its elected and election officials who dared oppose Trump’s assault on the 2020 election. The APoT is passing state-level measures to suppress what it sees as illegitimate and un-American minority and Democratic votes. It is working to cancel popular presidential votes and Electoral College slates that don’t align with its ethno-nationalist program. It is conducting state-level gerrymandering on racist and partisan steroids to further ensure the emergence of a US House of Representatives that will end serious legislative branch investigation of the coup attempt. It is blocking moderate White House and Democratic efforts to stem a deadly pandemic and otherwise serve the common good, absurdly and fascistically labelling anything the corporate Democrats try to accomplish as (supposedly horrible) socialism, communism, and Marxism. Lionizing the white supremacist killer teen Kyle Rittenhouse and the “martyred” fascist marauder Ashley Babbitt, the paranoid-style Republifascist Party is fueling an epidemic of real and threatened violence against election officials, public health officials, school officials, school boards, retail workers, airline employees, school nurses, vaccine-providers, and other supposed “deep state” agents of the alleged “radical liberal” Marxist-corporate-globalist “CRT”-feminist conspiracy to “jab,” mask, humiliate, shame, castrate, dismember, and disarm freedom-loving “true” – white – “Americans.” More than a third of APoT base believes it is legitimate to employ political violence – the rule of force and men over the rule of law – to save “the American way of life,” by which Republikaners mean white- and male-supremacist hierarchy and the holy, backstabbed nation’s intimately related right to extract and burn every last fossil fuel on a melting planet.
This is the insane, potentially genocidal party that “Weimar Joe” wants to work with “across the aisle.”
“You can’t obey the law,” Biden said, “only when it’s convenient.” Really? That’s worth at least one “Come on, man!” It happens all the time when “you” are rich and powerful in the capitalist United States. That’s the reason behind the old working-class aphorism (probably heard more than once on the hardscrabble streets of “Lunch Bucket Joe’s” beloved hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania) “Money Talks, Bullshit Walks.” The prisons are full of people serving long sentences for small drug crimes while plutocrats and managers who cash in from breaking and shredding tax, labor, consumer protection, environmental and countless other laws and regulations go free to suck up the world’s resources and poison the planet. Just to take one among countless examples, look at the longtime tax cheat, pandemicist, putschist, mass-murderer, and likely serial rapist Donald Trump, accurately described by Noam Chomsky in early 2020 as “the most dangerous criminal in human history.” Trump is no more going to be held accountable by Biden and the cardboard Attorney General Merrick Garland for January 6 (or for any of Trump’s other horrific crimes, like the assassination of Qasem Soleimani or the suffocation of tens of thousands of US-Americans sent to premature graves by his insane pandemicide) than George W. Bush and Dick Chenery were held accountable for torture and illegal war (the US invasion of Iraq, cheerlead by Senator Joe Biden, is still the greatest single crime of the 21st Century) by Barack Obama.
“You Can’t Be Patriotic When You Embrace Lies”
“You can’t be patriotic,” Biden yapped, “when you embrace and enable lies.” Really? How many lies have been cooked up, told, and sold in the name of patriotism? Here’s a bunch I can think of off the top of my head just from United States history: the infant US republic’s false claim to have broken off from England in pursuit and defense of human freedom and equality; the false claim that the US Constitution marked a great victory for the cause of popular sovereignty; the claim that Mexico invaded the United States, justifying the seizure of the American Southwest in the Mexican-American War; the false claim that “savage” and “primitive” Native Americans had no legitimate claim to North American soil; the dubious claim that Spanish forces sunk the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana; the false claim that American entered World War One to “make the world safe for democracy;” the false claims that Japan had no legitimate grievances with the US before it attacked Pearl Harbor and that the United States entered World War Two to defeat fascism and save European Jewry; the claim that the US “won” World War Two (the main fighters and victims by far were Soviets); the false claim that North Vietnam attacked US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in August of 1964; the false claims that the US enemy in Vietnam and Southeast Asia during the so-called Vietnam War was an international communist conspiracy (the real enemy was leftist Third World national independence and social revolution); the false claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was aligned with al Qaeda and linked to the 9/11 attacks; the false claim that the Saddam regime menaced the Middle East and the world with a big stock of “weapons of mass destruction;” the subsequent and also laughably false claim that the US invaded Iraq to spread “democracy” and “freedom;” the broad false claim that the giant, historically unmatched US Empire is a benevolent global force for freedom, humanitarianism, democracy, and the common good. (Uncle Sam has been yapp’n out one lie after another since the day he was let loose on the world.)
This list of lies linked to patriotism goes on and on, at home and abroad. Hitler was pretty patriotic, to say the least, when he told one lie after another leading the world into the greatest mass slaughter in human history.
Patriotism is itself a lie. It disastrously elevates the deadly and false community defined by the nation state above the real community of the human race as part of nature and all living things
(“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson said in 1775, meaning that patriotism had long provided an emotionally powerful shield of false justification for a long list of crimes both petty and grand.”)
“We are a Great Nation” That Doesn’t Lie and “Faces Up to the Truth”
Speaking of lies (and absurd patriotism), Joe told out another one (whether he knew it or not) when he said this in his January 6 anniversary address: “Great nations don’t bury the truth, they face up to it…They face up to it. We are a great nation.”
That’s worth three “Keep yapp’n, mans”! Who does Joe think he’s kidding here? Somebody needs to get Biden a copy of my latest book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America. This volume’s sixth chapter is titled “America Was Never Great: On ‘The Soul of This Nation.’” It is a relentless but compact summation of savage British colonial North American and US crimes against humanity primarily within North America, from the founding genocide of indigenous first nations through the centuries of Black chattel slavery and Jim Crow terrorism and the brutal repression of left and labor activists and much more terrible to reflect upon. It is a response to Biden’s claim in his opening 2019 presidential campaign video that Trump’s embrace of the far right in Charlottesville was contrary to “the soul of this nation.” Biden should also review my 2018 Truthdig-Common Dreams essay “The World Will Not Mourn the Decline of US Hegemony” for a similar if briefer exercise regarding mass-murderous US crimes abroad – crimes in which he has played major roles (Biden didn’t just go along with George W. Bush’s monumentally mass-murderous, imperialist, and criminal invasion of Iraq, he led the charge for that epic transgression from the Democratic side of the US Senate).
Ly’n Biden might also want to have a look at Seth Ackerman’s recent bloodcurdling account of US crimes in Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump. Among many examples of post-9/11 US imperial sadism, Ackerman reports this horrific story from late 2002:
“CIA guards entered Gul Rahman’s cell in the predawn hours of November 2002 to discover that he had frozen to death during the night. The room in which he was being held was part of an unacknowledged prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. During the three weeks after Rahman had been seized in Peshawar on suspicion of knowing something about jihadis, the CIA contorted his body in painful ‘stress’ positions, kept him naked or diapered, and doused with cold water. His corpse was shackled to the wall and naked below the waist – retribution for what the CIA considered his obstinancy…Days earlier, Bruce Jessen, a [CIA] psychologist…had provided staff with instructions for interrogating Rahman. Along with a colleague, James Mitchell, Jessen had recently designed a regimen to reduce a human being to his biological essence. Now that regimen had killed a man.”
Ackerman notes that the torturer-psychologists Jessen and Mitchell received $81 million from the CIA for their “service” helping their “great nation” inflict physical and mental Hell on human beings in the Middle East and Southwest Asia over seven years.
The post-9/11 US war of (“on”) terror killed well more than a million people across the Muslim and Arab world, in various ways, including torture, targeted assassinations, drone missiles, helicopter assaults, sniper fire, artillery fire, starvation, radioactive ordnance, infrastructure destruction, cancerous “burn pits” (which caused the death of Biden’s favorite son Beau), and more.
The mind-boggling criminality of these actions – undertaken with Biden’s approval and continuing under his presidency – have never been remotely acknowledged by the reigning US political, intellectual, and media systems. The truth has never been faced in the USA outside the nation’s officially marginalized antiwar left.
“We”/the USA are so NOT “a great nation.” “We”/the USA are a great monument to savage racial conquest, empire, patriarchy, plutocracy, and soulless class rule. This is a truth that “we” (the USA) have never really “faced up to.”
“And frankly,” Biden said of the Big Stolen Election Lie, “it’s un-American.” Wrong, Esther! The United States has been taking a rusty pool chain upside the head of truth from day one – like when it launched a “revolution” meant to protect and expand chattel Black chattel slavery in the name of freedom and equality.
“The People Rule Through the Ballot” (False Claims of Constitutional Democracy)
Sleepy Joe perked up when he added these flowery words in his speech on the one-year anniversary of the Beer Hall Capitol Riot:
“One year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked — simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution — our Constitution — faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We the people endured. And we the people prevailed…Here’s the truth: The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country. More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history. Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day in a pandemic — some at great- — great risk to their lives. They should be applauded, not attacked.”
Yes and no, Joe. Yes, the US constitutional rule of law and electoral system were attacked by authoritarian enemies of democracy on January 6, 2021. Yes, a coup was prevented, thanks in great part to the courage of gendarmes who finally expelled the (to use Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin’s interesting description of the Capitol marauders) “fascist traitors.” (It’s a shame Biden couldn’t give a special shout-out to the US government employee of the year for 2021: Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, who answered the call of duty with necessary and highly effective deadly force when the maniacal military veteran and fascist putschist Ashli Babbitt tried to leap through a House chamber door while 80 to 100 Representatives were still present in the assembly.) Yes, the voter turnout to remove the demented wannabe dictator Trump was extraordinary, especially in light of the pandemic the orange-tinted monster did so much to fan.
But no, the United States was not really a democratic nation before January 6, 2021. It had no functioning democracy to attack in the first place. It was and remains a corporate-financial and imperialist state groaning under the disastrous ownership and control of a capitalist ruling class that possesses the preponderant majority of the nation’s wealth along with its key production, investment, distribution, communication, transportation, political and policy functions. This underlying de facto class dictatorship and the giant military empire this dictatorship has hatched are what and Biden and most of his fellow US politicians and policy have always served, not “democracy.”
Joes thinks his election was “the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country.” Seriously? That’s worth ten “Come on, Mans”! The abolitionist resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, the flight of slaves from southern plantations into the Union Army, the Great Labor Upheaval of 1877, the Eight Hour Movement of 1886, the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the 1934 strike wave, the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37, the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956, the Freedom Rides and lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s, the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s — these and other grassroots movements and rebellions were greater and more exemplary and instructive expressions of democracy than the 2020 voter turnout for a conservative corporate and imperial candidate – Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden – who voters backed not out of any strong attachment to his personality or agenda but because he wasn’t the malevolent pandemicist and white supremacist narcissist Trump. Voting is just two minutes making marks next to names selected in advance for us by the ruling class once every two or four years. What matters much more is what we the people do before and after those two minutes beneath and beyond the “quadrennial electoral extravaganzas: (Chomsky’s excellent phrase) that are sold to us as “politics” – the only politics that matters.
And, no, Joe, it’s not “our” Constitution. It’s an 18th Century Minority Rule charter designed by and for slaveowners, merchant capitalists, and publicists for whom democracy was the ultimate nightmare. Under the nation’s absurdly venerated charter’s incredibly durable rule, Trump lost the 2020 election by 7 million votes and yet came within just 44,000 votes (his combined margin of loss in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin) of an Electoral College tie that would have been resolved in his favor under the ancient 12th Amendment (1804). The horse and buggy-era parchment is a big part of why the rightmost of the nation’s two major parties, now essentially fascist, is vastly more powerful than it could ever be in an actual one-person, one vote democracy. As Columbia University constitutional law professor Jedediah Burton-Purday recently argued in New York Times opinion piece titled “The Republican Party is Succeeding Because We are Not a True Democracy” – and were never intended to be by “our” Framers:
‘The Jan. 6 attack would not have happened in a genuine democracy. The attack was the most acute symptom — so far — of the political crisis that Donald Trump incited by refusing to admit defeat in the 2020 election. But the roots of the crisis run deep into the undemocratic features of our constitutional system. The arcane scheme that Mr. Trump’s lawyers hatched to disrupt congressional certification of the vote and perhaps persuade Republican state legislatures to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in states like Pennsylvania was conceivable only because the Electoral College splinters presidential elections into separate contests in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and skews the totals toward small states. In a simple system of majority rule, Mr. Biden’s thumping margin of more than seven million votes would have been the last word. For that matter, so would Hillary Clinton’s national margin of nearly three million votes in 2016: Mr. Trump would not have had a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address in which to barricade himself in 2020.
Would Mr. Trump’s big lie about election fraud have sent the rioters to the Capitol anyway, even without his lawyers and fixers trying to overturn the results? Maybe. But there would have been no constitutional machinery to jam. And even the big lie received a huge constitutional assist. Thanks to the Electoral College, Mr. Trump could have tied Mr. Biden and forced the election into the House of Representatives by flipping just 43,000 votes in three close states, a gap narrow enough that any number of toxic fables can claim to bridge it…At a more basic level, today’s Republican Party succeeds only because the Electoral College, the Senate and the Supreme Court all tilt in its favor. That system has handed conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, despite the fact that only one Republican has won the presidential popular vote after 1988. A party doesn’t have to persuade majorities that it has the best vision for the country. It only has to persuade a selective minority that the other side is a mortal threat. Its grasp on power may be too tenuous for the party to govern effectively, but it has offered conservatives a fine perch to weaken economic and environmental regulation, appoint conservative judges and launch attacks on the democratic system itself.
In a more democratic system, the Republican Party’s extreme elements would have been sent packing long before they stormed the Capitol because they couldn’t muster enough votes to win a national election. Instead, they have perfected minority rule as a path to political success. An antidemocratic system has bred an antidemocratic party. The remedy is to democratize our so-called democracy.
James Madison boasted that the Constitution achieved “the total exclusion of the people, in their collective capacity.” Its elaborate political mechanics reflect the elite dislike and mistrust of majority rule that Madison voiced when he wrote, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Madison’s condescension has never gone away. Walter Lippmann, perhaps the most prominent intellectual of the short American Century, reckoned that citizens were ignorant, confused and emotional. Democracy brought “an intensification of feeling and a degradation of significance” to whatever it touched. If Madison and Lippmann could have seen the “QAnon Shaman” break into the Capitol, then meander around like a tourist whose phone has lost its signal, they would have muttered, “This is what democracy looks like.”’
It’s worse than what Burton-Purday had space to write about in the Times. The malevolent fossil capitalist criminal Sen. Joe Manchin ($-WV) can hold voting reform, child tax credits, climate legislation, and more at bay because the Constitution violates the core democratic principle of one person, one vote by granting every US state two representatives in an extremely powerful upper body of Congress regardless of the fifty states’ wildly different population sizes (liberal California would have 134 US Senators if it enjoyed the same population-to-US Senator ratio as right-wing Wyoming). “Coal Mine Manchins veto power is further underwritten by the all-too constitutional Supreme Court, an explicitly undemocratic body that is appointed for life by presidents who aren’t popularly elected and approved by an absurdly malapportioned Senate. The Simon Says Supremes have ruled that no serious limits can be placed on what Raskin and his fellow Harvard Law student John Bonifaz called “the wealth primary” – the right of wealthy campaign funders to shape election and policy outcomes by investing in the electoral process. The “wealth primary,” just the tip of the iceberg of the many ways in which the ruling class rules, is a significant part of why the US is only a “so-called democracy” and why the dismal Biden Democrats don’t and won’t seriously fight to do things the Constitution allows (like expanding the size the Supreme Court and ending the Senate filibuster) to help themselves overcome the Republicans’ minority rule advantages.
It’s worse than Burton-Purday says also because he does not mention the harsh limits imposed on bourgeois democracy (constitutions aside) by capital’s ownership and control of society’s underlying class-ruled material base. Constitutional reforms at the level of what Marxists called the superstructure would be great but, as the great US-American philosopher (and the designer of my elementary school) John Dewey noted in 1932, “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business.” Dewey presciently observed that U.S. politics would stay that way for as long as power resided in “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by commend of the press, press agents, and other means of publicity and propaganda.” Nearly half a century into the neoliberal era, the moneyed elite’s domination of the nation’s political and policy processes has reached a level that almost defies belief. Noam Chomsky put it well during the first Obama administration: “Since the 1970s, [Dewey’s] shadow has become a dark cloud enveloping society and the political system. Corporate power, by now largely financial capital, has reached the point that both political organizations, which now barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.” Thus it is that the neoliberal Democrats, too, and not just the Republifascists, are “an antidemocratic party” – an antidemocratic party that discredits both itself and supposed democracy through its subordination to “business for private profit.”
“The Bible,” Biden said, “tells us that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth.” Well, this is the harsh truth about the American “system of governance” that Biden absurdly called “the envy of the world more than 240 years” one day after he was tentatively elected in 2020: it’s not a democracy and it was never supposed to be. Scripture aside, knowing this basic truth does not set us free: the only thing that can do that is an actual popular revolution, picking up and going way beyond where abolitionism, Reconstruction, the Populist and Debs Socialist parties, the industrial workers movement, the, Civil Rights, anti-war, feminist, environmentalist, and immigrant rights movements and the Occupy and George Floyd Rebellions left off.
“Are we going to be a nation,” Biden asked, “that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?” Perhaps we should begin seeking the “light of truth” by dropping great lies like the claims that the US is a great and exceptionally wonderful nation and that it is a democracy. It is neither.
“Here in America,” Biden said, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.” That is a complete and abject LIE, discredited by oceans of empirical research. The U.S. is an essentially oligarchic nation in which capital rules. Even some conservative elites like the veteran federal jurist and economist Richard Posner have long conceded this basic reality. As the distinguished liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton) showed in their expertly researched 2017 book Democracy in America? :
“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have had little or no impact on the making of federal government policy. Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout. When they are taken into account, it becomes apparent that the general public has been virtually powerless…The will of majorities is often thwarted by the affluent and the well-organized, who block popular policy proposals and enact special favors for themselves…Majorities of Americans favor…programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes. Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs] (emphasis added).”
Again and again, on one issue after another, popular majority opinion is not honored in the making of US-American policy. The people do NOT rule through the ballot. Their will does NOT prevail.
“An Inflection Point in History”: On Magical Thinking and Passive Resistance
“Make no mistake about it,” Biden said: “We’re living at an inflection point in history.” That’s 100 percent true: the more institutionally and constitutionally empowered of the nation’s two ruling class parties (the GOP/APoT) is determined to stamp out the last embers of US bourgeois democracy and rule of law in favor of white-supremacist nationalism, untruth, political violence, Christian fundamentalism, and patriarchal, pandemicist, and ecocidal, fossil-capitalist neofascism. Mainstreamed far-right “civil war” and consolidation under triple-branch GOP/APoT hegemony looms like an authoritarian grim reaper over the next two US-American election cycles. (There’s no point in calling warnings about this very real, potentially terminal menace “hysteria” and “wolf-crying” anymore. It was a bad enough to be sticking one’s head in the fascism-denying sand in the years 2016-21. If you are still doing that in 2022, one year out from Jan. 6, and if you still think acknowledging this makes one a collaborator with the Weimar Dems, then you are truly hopeless. This is just an honest, elementarily accurate description of the “existential crisis” that liberal pundits now regularly see as imperiling “democracy” as the Sleepy Interregnum limps along.)
So what is to be done? “Philosophers,” the young Marx wrote, “have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change the world.” What Biden – occupant of the most powerful office on Earth – and the nation’s dithering dollar Democrats intend to do about the “existential threat” that menaces the nation? Nothing much, really, except apparently to call for people to vote harder – this even as voting rights are being stripped with sadistic and racialized glee by the other “conservative” major party, which has gone radical right. As the Republicans build ever taller voting and election count barriers, the Dems tell people to jump higher when they vote – this while failing to make themselves attractive to voters by fighting seriously for measures and policies that are urgently needed and widely supported in a time of mass inequality, disease, and environmental catastrophe. There are no rusty pool chains to be found anywhere in their toolbox when it comes to fighting fascism.
As during the (first?) Trump administration, the Dems are still playing their Weimar role, discrediting both themselves and “democracy” (such as it is in its late-stage bourgeois cloak) while reddening the political waters with blood for Republifascist sharks. Now as before (please see my 2010 book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power), even with nominal power atop the executive branch and Congress, “The Democratic Party will not stop this nightmare. Trump, fascist Fox News, and the Republifascist Party have branded them as enemies and ‘traitors.’ Yet,” Refuse Fascism notes, “the Democratic Party will consistently pull to try to work with, conciliate with and collaborate with them.” Further:
“Biden and the Democratic Party have not stopped or slowed the advance of these fascists. Trump roams free to cement his hold over the GOP and run for president in 2024, while across the country, we are losing the right to abortion, voting, protest, history education, and free speech. Death threats against public officials have become routine, and Christian fascists on the Supreme Court openly dehumanize women with Roe v. Wade in their crosshairs…This past year has been marked not by healing and hope after the Trump years but by the continued aggression and achievements of an embittered fascist movement, without any accountability for the damage they’ve done….[But] The Democratic Party has largely led people into inaction, passivity, and conciliation with fascism. This is a reality that must be confronted: Fascism can, and is, happening here and it cannot simply be voted away [especially when fascists are passing voter suppression measures, conducting partisan and racist gerrymandering on steroids, and scheming to cancel presidential votes that don’t line up with their candidate].”
Anticipating the coming shift of power and the likelihood of Trumped-up counter-impeachments and other harassment from a Republifascist House (and Senate?) in 2023-24, the Biden-their-time Dems are not about to rightly prosecute the Biggest Asshole of All Time and his cronies for launching a racial nationalist coup meant to overthrow what’s left of US bourgeois democracy in 2020 and January 2021. They are not about to criminally prosecute the orange fascist insect for, you know, trying to end the American republic and become a dictator, for sparking a putschist assault on the US Capitol to prevent the once normative “peaceful transition of power.”
In “democracy vigils” held across the country on the first-year anniversary of the Capital Riot, liberals and progressives could be heard responding to the deepening white nationalist cancellation of electoral democracy by telling people to vote harder and clinging to fantasies of the Senate passing the For the People Act. This is magical thinking. It is also a way for middle- and upper middle-class white people to cover their ass for not resisting the rise of fascism by pretending to resist fascism. It’s passive resistance of the kind that says “we tried” and “fought back” even after people didn’t really try and didn’t really fight back.
In a partly useful and chilling reflection on the nation’s descent into potential “civil war” pitting the populace against a white-nationalist party that has broken with “democracy,” the esteemed liberal editor of The New Yorker David Remnick writes this: “A few figures, including Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, know that [the GOP is becoming…] an authoritarian Party, but there is no sign of what is required to reverse the most worrying trends: a broad-based effort among Republican leaders to stand up and join Democrats and Independents in a coalition based on a reassertion of democratic values“(emphasis added).
That is Remnick’s idea of what is required -a broad-based efforts of the Party of Trump to stand up with Dems and Independents to stand up against Trumpism-fascism and for democracy? Seriously? To quote Joe Biden: “come on, man!” Perhaps this skilled historian of the racial politics of 1960s boxing needs a two-month retreat with the Zinn Education Project for some instruction on how real progressive change occurs: through mass action in the streets and public squares beneath and beyond the quadrennial bourgeois electoral spectacles and the political machinations and ideological manipulation of capitalist and imperialist operatives.
It’s a deception if not a pure lie to raise grave concerns about a crisis you have no intention of seriously confronting.
God Bless Our Eco-cidal Empire
More lies and confusion came in the last 46 words of Biden’s anniversary address:
“So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America. God bless you all. May God protect our troops. And may God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.”
What kind of cock-and-bull story was Joe trying to tell here? Where and what exactly is this God of which he spoke and why does he make repeated references to it and its supposed Bible when he stands atop a government sworn to maintain separation between church and state? Where is this great “democracy” whose purported guardians Biden wants “God” to bless? Why should we US Americans stand together and indivisible when we are oppressed by a parasitic US-American ruling class atop a capitalist system that has this country so savagely unequal that the top tenth of the upper One Percent has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, enjoying spectacular and obscene opulence while tens of millions of its children live in poverty? Why should we stand together and indivisible with a rough half of the nation’s electorate that has aligned itself with an authoritarian-white nationalist, sexist, ecocidal, pandemicist and neofascist party? Why should “God” bless a nation that has done more to ruin global livable ecology than any other nation in history and on Earth? Why should we take our hierarchical and imperial nation state (home to less than a twentieth of the human species) instead of humanity and the broader web of life as our proper reference group – as the true noble recipient of our concern and allegiance? And why should “God” bless “our” military personnel, who are enlisted in a giant, historically unmatched Empire that has killed tens of millions abroad and sucks up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending, accounting for more than a third of global war spending while possessing the single largest institutional carbon footprint on Earth? That spending needs to be diverted from militarism to the manufacture and distribution of medical masks, vaccines, and treatments and an urgent global transition off fossils fuels to renewable energy. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking like US-Americans and start thinking about humanity and livable ecology.
1. See my September 6, 2019 Counterpunch essay “No Joe: On Character, Quality, and Authenticity,” which reports on his fibs about his oratorical plagiarism, the death of his first wife (which he falsely blamed on a supposedly drunk truck driver), and his supposedly blue-collar working-class allegiance and values.
2. Thereby helping cause the death of his son Beau, who appears to have developed brain cancer from exposure to toxic US military “burn pits” in illegally invaded Iraq.