As we engage in the struggle to create a cohesive and revolutionary leftist movement in the United States, it is crucial to use all rhetorical tools at our disposal to aid our fellow workers in radicalization. The Biden Administration represents another tool in the toolbox to highlight the crises of capital and liberal democracy as well as the ineffectual nature of electoralism.
If the Trump Administration was the first inoculation for many Americans to the need for structural change, the Biden Administration can be seen as a vital second dose. Already, we have witnessed the term “kids in cages” which weaponized the horrors on our southern border to get people on the left to vote for Biden transformed by the Biden Administration to “overflow facility for migrant children” (Alvarez 2021). What was once a rallying cry against the cruel policy of a cruel administration has now been rebranded by the same administration that was meant to end it. As such, we can expect more of this rebranding from Biden and his imperialist administration: a continuation of the evils of previous administrations under softer language.
A second example of Biden’s failures to uphold promises of change is with his proposed pandemic relief bill. When the fate of the Senate was to be determined by two races in Georgia the Democratic Party hammered home the message of $2,000 in a single stimulus check (Kapur 2021). Once the races had been decided, however, and Democrats gained control of the Senate the message shifted. As they are wont to do, Democrat elites elongated and obfuscated the original simple message to something with more wiggle room. “We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to the people who need it most,” said Kamala Harris, the incoming Vice President on January 14, 2021 (Harris 2021). A mere nine days after the race in Georgia ended, the Democratic Party began to walk back its promise to Americans. The pandemic relief has been walked back even further still, with the ineffectual and spineless Party now negotiating itself down to providing fewer checks to a smaller group of people to appease a second party who neither holds majority power nor views the Democratic Administration as legitimate (Konish 2021).
We as Marxists can use these failures as tools for discussion with our fellow workers. Many of my coworkers and friends have realized through the Trump Administration that politics can indeed have a material effect on our lives, particularly through the catastrophic inability in our country to combat the deadly virus that has seeped into every facet of our lives. Now, we must strike while the iron is hot. We must impress upon our fellow workers that they cannot rely on the Democratic Party for salvation. It is vital that we do not allow the conversation to fall into the all too common “both parties are bad, therefore engaging in politics is pointless” cliché. While there is truth in that statement, it is only true insofar as engaging in liberal democratic electoralism cannot yield true change.
We as leftists can provide answers to the failures of both parties from an outside perspective. Much of the working class considers themselves outside politics, and we can stand outside with them and offer a new perspective. When we are met with exasperation by the working class as stimulus checks are delayed, vaccine rollouts are fumbled, and the change that was promised is not delivered, that is the moment to respond with our message of liberation. That yes, both parties are ineffectual at providing real positive change, but positive change is not impossible. There exists ways in which to create that positive change outside of what we have been taught to believe is the avenue for systemic change. We can engage in positive discussion with our fellow workers about progressive change. We can highlight how socialist countries such as Cuba, China, and Vietnam have been more successful in containing Covid-19 than imperialist Western nations. Against the harsh background of the Trump Administration, we can draw parallels to the Biden Administration, rather than softening the blows that the new regime will bring.
During the November elections, many Democrat voters were urging leftists to join them to elect Biden with the promise that he could be pushed to the left. This is of course an empty promise, and a man who has sat in power for decades and supported some of the most atrocious acts of imperialism in the world will not be pushed left by Twitter posters. Biden holds all the institutional power he needs and as such does not need to make concessions to any left movement in the United States. However, we can use his presidency to guide others towards the left. Rather than push or pull, we can guide a quickly awakening working class towards solidarity and empowerment through the inevitable failures and shortcomings of the Biden Administration. Biden’s previous eight years as an executive were brought on by a wave of populism and grassroots organizing that was pushed back out to sea as soon as he and President Obama were sworn in. The Obama Administration was a response by the people to eight years of war and austerity under Bush, but the people were not granted the policies they had elected. The Biden Administration finds itself in a similar, yet stronger position. The only mandate required of them is not to be the previous administration. Where President Obama stands alone in American history as the first black president, and when first elected was seen as bringing about a new coalition to power, Biden is much the mirror of Trump. He is an old, white, conservative egoist with an ever diminishing grasp on reality.
Within this weak mandate, there is room for the left to be critical and provide alternatives in the form of direct action and community organizing. We can take heart in the growing membership of the DSA, SRA, and other local organizations. In fact, the very existence of this blog should help strengthen our resolve and add to the growing proof that a worker’s movement is possible and rapidly approaching in our country. As the left movement in this country grows, we can grow out of the current paradigm of the two major parties engaged in distinctions without difference. We can grow our own institutions and infrastructures and point to them as serious and viable alternatives to our fellow workers. We can use the Biden Administration as a pivot point to guide our fellow workers towards our cause. There is much to hope for in the coming four years. Not because of any liberation from the Democratic Party, but by seizing the opportunity in front of us to create a better tomorrow.
Alvarez, Priscilla. (2021, February 3). “Biden Administration Prepares to Open Overflow Facility for Migrant Children.” CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/02/politics/migrant-children-facility-immigration/index.html (February 12, 2021).
KamalaHarris. (2021, January 14). “’We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most. The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough.’ –Your next president, @JoeBiden” [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/kamalaharris/status/1349900088299188225 (February 12, 2021).
Kapur, Sahil. (2021, January 5). “In Georgia, Democrats Close with Populist Pitch Vowing $2,000 Stimulus Checks.” NBCNews.com. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/georgia-democrats-close-populist-pitch-vowing-2-000-stimulus-checks-n1252805 (February 12, 2021).
Lorie, Konish. (2021, February 8) . “How Soon New $1,400 Stimulus Checks and Other Coronavirus Relief Could Arrive.” CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/08/how-soon-new-1400-stimulus-checks-and-other-covid-aid-could-arrive.html (February 12, 2021).
About the Author:
David Flora is a bartender living in the South with a bachelors in political science and is currently seeking a masters in public policy. Much of his organizational work and praxis involves fellow restaurant industry workers. He believes the restaurant industry in particular is an important part of a revolutionary workers movement.