Democrats have treated the Biden presidency’s first 100 days as the calm after the Trumpian storm. Yet the real storm of U.S. corporate rule continues, this time without the partisan opposition that existed under Donald J. Trump.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asserted that Biden has exceeded her expectations while Pramila Jayapal gave Biden an “A” grade for his performance thus far. Long before these overtures, The Washington Post declared Biden’s bid to "tame” the left a smashing success.
No actual definition of “left” politics would include the Democratic Party as it exists today. True leftists oppose endless war, racism, austerity, and environmental destruction. They build organizations and movements that enhance the capacity of workers and oppressed people to challenge the rule of the exploiter class. In the United States, this class primarily refers to the capitalist owners of giant corporations and their servants who administer the state.
The Democratic Party does not meet any of the most basic criteria of left politics. This poses the following questions: How has Biden’s presidency helped facilitate a more peaceful world, a cleaner environment, and a more egalitarian economic order? Has Biden’s rule offered more political space for mass movements to increase their power over society?
How has Biden’s presidency helped facilitate a more peaceful world, a cleaner environment, and a more egalitarian economic order?
The answer to each of these questions is simply, no. Coming to this conclusion, however, is a difficult task for those who remain loyal to the notion that the Democratic Party can be pushed to the “left.” Complicating the picture is that Joe Biden was confronted with the unprecedented circumstances of entering the Oval Office amid an economic crisis and a global pandemic. Just as moments of crisis and trauma lead to forgetfulness among individuals, so too have they proven to facilitate historical memory loss on a mass scale.
The enormity of the global health and economic crisis places the first few months of Biden’s presidency in proper context. Biden’s policies thus far represent the bare minimum response of a social order mired in total decay. More than a half million people have died of COVID-19 and tens of millions of people have experienced unemployment or underemployment in the United States since the economic collapse began in March of 2020. These numbers do not take into account that the U.S. capitalist economy had still not recovered from the 2007-08 economic crisis .
Biden’s immediate COVID-19 relief plan provided one-time $1400 checks (down from the promised $2000), an extension of unemployment benefits at a lower amount than Trump’s CARES Act, and tax credits in the form of monthly checks to families with children. His “American Families Plan” places several trillion dollars aside for infrastructure repair and development to be paid for through increased taxes on the wealthy. On paper, this would be the largest federal-driven public spending plan since the 1960s.
But this is 2021, and Biden’s policies fall well short of deserving celebration. Biden’s investments in electric vehicles, for example , won’t make this form of transportation a mainstream option for majorities of people. Lofty hopes that the U.S. will reduce carbon emissions by fifty percent in the next decade are met with the reality that Biden has already shown himself to be more than happy to allow environmentally destructive oil and gas drilling so long as it isn’t on federal lands.
Perhaps most important to Biden’s presidential legacy thus far is what his administration hasn’t done to mitigate the suffering of the working class. Biden remains firmly opposed to Medicare-for-All even though one in four Americans avoid necessary medical care due to cost.
He has already provided nearly three times more in military weaponry to police departments in the first quarter of his presidency than Donald Trump’s last quarter in office and has rejected use of the DOJ or executive powers to investigate the murders of Black Americans by police.
Biden has no plans on fighting his own party’s opposition to a $15 per hour minimum wage even though the policy is supported by broad majorities of the U.S. population. Far from reversing Trump’s immigration policies, Biden has deported more people in one quarter than Donald Trump’s administration deported in four years.
Furthermore, anyone who grades Joe Biden glowingly is explicitly endorsing U.S. militarism and imperialism. Biden has delayed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by four months, bombed Syria, supported Haiti’s neocolonial dictatorship, maintained starvation sanctions on dozens of countries, and intensified the U.S.-led New Cold War against Russia and China. To fund these and other imperial ventures, Biden has proposed an even larger military budget than his predecessor . The U.S. military is one of the largest polluters in the world and its treasure trove of funds render any kind of real public investment in human need both domestically and abroad impossible.
Anyone who grades Joe Biden glowingly is explicitly endorsing U.S. militarism and imperialism.
Biden’s job is not to improve the lives of “American Families.” His job is to stabilize the U.S. imperialist system. The promises Biden has made in his “American Families Plan” mirror those made during the first three months of Barack Obama’s administration. Many of these promises were broken, and there is nothing to indicate that Biden will not follow the same path. How quickly it is forgotten that Obama ostracized the movement for single-payer healthcare, abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act, and worked to strike a Grand Bargain with Republicans on endless austerity and war.
Joe Biden doesn’t deserve an “A” grade from the Left. In fact, the very act of grading Biden sends a clear message that much of what calls itself the left still lacks a clear vision and roadmap for victory. Corporate Democrats remain the gauge of “progress” rather than its anti-thesis. Entirely negated is the fact that Biden is nothing more than a placeholder presidency for the ruling class. His administration’s primary purpose is to get the United States back to the normal operations of capitalist exploitation, racism, and imperialism.
Yet the normal operations of the United States only lead to the very crises that gave us Donald Trump in 2016. Optimism over Joe Biden inevitably fails to consider the reality facing the United States’ social system. This system, imperialism, has little left to offer but destructive wars and a world mired in poverty and climate disaster.
Biden’s attempts to pander to the Democratic Party base does nothing to change the overall trajectory of the United States, but it does cement the Democratic Party’s status as the most effective evil in the arsenal of the ruling class.