Biden’s brand of American exceptionalism has run up against the general crisis of the U.S. imperialist order.
“Celebrations of Kamala Harris and Llyod Austin never come with real policy proscriptions for the masses of Black people.”
Joe Biden’s administration can be more aptly characterized as the “expect nothing presidency.” After defeating Donald Trump last November, Biden has ruled on a platform of “Build Back Better.” This inherently implies that the United States is on the mend from the political turmoil of Donald Trump’s one-term rule.
A return to “pre-Trump” politics in the United States reinforces Biden’s assurance that nothing will fundamentally change for his wealthy donor base. With this assurance, an increasingly uninspiring yet emboldened American exceptionalism has replaced any attempt to analyze the current situation from a historical materialist lens. Biden’s mere presence in the White House is assumed to have cleared the racist, demagogic stain of Trumpism from the United State. The liberal class has reveled in its perceived victory over despotism and political treachery.
“An increasingly uninspiring yet emboldened American exceptionalism has replaced any attempt to analyze the current situation from a historical materialist lens.”
So shortsighted is this liberal class that it cannot (and wouldn’t if it could) acknowledge the obvious contradiction between a presidency that claims to represent the mythical exceptionalism of the United States and the material conditions of the historical moment—conditions that led directly to Trump’s rise in the first place. Biden’s brand of American exceptionalism, replete with “diverse” cabinet members and hollow promises to restore the “soul of the nation,” has run up against the general crisis of the U.S. imperialist order. The first month of Biden’s project of restoration has only further exposed the depths of imperial decay.
On the domestic front, an ongoing pandemic and economic depression has not prevented Joe Biden from strictly adhering to the dictates of austerity. Biden has rejected outright the cancellation of up to $50,000 of student loan debt for the millions of individuals currently paying interest or defaulting on a combined 1.5 trillion dollars’ worth of loans that their meagre wages cannot pay. His promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour has also been shelved. Biden also broke his promise to immediately send out $2000 stimulus checks by reducing the amount to $1400 and the delaying the release of the funds to a date to be determined in the Spring.
“An ongoing pandemic and economic depression has not prevented Joe Biden from strictly adhering to the dictates of austerity.”
Broken promises have real material consequences. Biden has already conceded that hundreds of thousands more will die from COVID-19, essentially confessing that his administration has no plans beyond a slow vaccine rollout to curtail the pandemic’s impact. The immense rise in poverty and the decline in life expectancy in the United States will continue unabated. Biden promised to throw out Trump’s immigration policies yet his administration has already built special prisons for migrant children and deported tens of thousandsfrom the United States.
Joe Biden’s foreign policy is perhaps more indicative of his “expect nothing” presidency than anything else. Peace negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan have ended. Biden has affirmed both sanctions on Venezuela and the illegitimate U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó as head of state. Haiti’s illegitimate U.S.-installed regime has received firm support from Biden and the administration has thus far refused to re-enter the JPCOA agreement also known as the “Iran nuclear deal.” Biden himself has promised Russia and China that hostility will remain an ongoing feature of U.S. policy toward the two countries. On February 25th, U.S. bombs rained over Syria in a clear signal that the Biden administration would be continuing its decade-long war of occupation and starvation of the Arab nation.
“The immense rise in poverty and the decline in life expectancy in the United States will continue unabated.”
The era of Biden is marked by a return to “business as usual” in Washington. Trump’s erratic rule interrupted the bipartisan consensus of war and austerity by stripping off the mask of American exceptionalism. Biden’s administration is desperately trying to place this mask back on to an increasingly unstable imperialist system. After four years of being repeatedly misinformed by the corporate media that Donald Trump was a Russian-sponsored fascist, the masses are now being gaslit into believing their lives are better off with Biden even as the crises engendered by “business as usual” politics continue to pile on.
The collective sigh of relief that came with the election of Joe Biden included the caveat that the masses would expect nothing from his administration whether promises were made or not. There is perhaps no better example of this than the Biden administration’s approach to Black America. The condition of Black America has always been reflective of the overall design of U.S. imperial rule. Biden has rightfully credited his victory to Black voters but has focused exclusively on the presence of administrative appointees like Kamala Harris to satisfy Black America’s hunger for social and political change. In fact, the mere acknowledgement of racism is being peddled by the Democratic Party as a political victory in and of itself.
“The masses are now being gaslit into believing their lives are better off with Biden even as the crises engendered by ‘business as usual’ politics continue to pile on.”
Yet as Malcolm X foretold, merely acknowledging racism without addressing capitalism is a political dead-end. Racial disparities in poverty, mass incarceration, and across all indicators of social being are the product of a form of class rule that cannot exist without the imposition of race-based exploitation. Biden and his allies in the Black misleadership class have predictably removed power from all political discussion surrounding race. This is why celebrations of Kamala Harris and Llyod Austin never come with real policy proscriptions for the masses of Black people and why Biden’s hostile guarantee not to use executive powers to aid Black America was met with zero opposition from so-called Black “civil rights organizations.” Removing power from popular debate greatly hinders the development of political expectations, and therefore mass movements armed with demands on power. What’s left is political opportunism and class collaboration.
Last November, tens of millions voted for Joe Biden to simply replace Donald Trump. The U.S. ruling class gave Biden and his administration free reign to normalize an “expect nothing” approach to politics among the masses of people. However, the first month of Biden’s administration demonstrates the continued relevance of the materialist conception of history and its emphasis on the struggle between opposing forces that shape political and economic realities. The absence of any expectation for Biden to alter the status quo has been coupled with a proven commitment from the Biden administration to strengthen the status quo’s violent imperialist regime. Only when this is understood can a mass debate about the development of politically Left alternatives to Joe Biden and the Democratic Party truly begin to take shape amid a period of intense crisis in all realms of U.S. imperial rule.
Danny Haiphong is a contributing editor to Black Agenda Report and co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” Follow his work on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present's: The Left Lens. You can support Danny at www.patreon.com/dannyhaiphong
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