Both capitalist parties, and members of the black misleadership class, intentionally play the game of racial politics in order to obscure and ignore issues of class and poverty.
“The Democrat's liberal anti-racism is that is completely detached from class and economic justice, and intentionally so.”
Right after Biden and Harris won the presidency by slim margins, hordes of “woke” progressives of all colors – the majority of whom had rejected Bernie Sanders’ broadly appealing economic redistributive platform – began expressing complete shock on social media about the state of America and outrage at how 73 million ‘backward and racist’ voters (the vast majority of whom were white, including millions of white workers, but also yes, an increasing percentage of workers of color) did not cast their vote for establishment Democrat Joe Biden and instead voted for Donald Trump.
Why would these self-righteous progressives (or liberal elites— depending on who you ask) expect rural working-class whites to vote for Joe Biden in the first place, a candidate who offered absolutely zero bold policies to improve their material lives or conditions? On the contrary, Biden was selling the status quo, corporate diversity and woke capitalism. He ran on a platform of "I'm a nice guy, and I'm not a racist like Trump." This seems akin to wondering why these rural voters didn't just go to their local Barnes and Noble to purchase a copy of “How to be an anti-racist” before the election. The fact that liberals and progressives believed Biden and Harris could be the great racial exorcists to convert the hearts and minds of racist white workers speaks both to their arrogant naivete and to their deep lack of understanding of how the economics of racism work.
“Biden was selling the status quo, corporate diversity and woke capitalism.”
This is not to let off the hook the white supremacists and quasi-fascist elements of Trump’s base. They certainly need to be isolated and crushed. But there are millions of other working-class people who have valid resentment towards the Democrat establishment due to decades of neoliberal policies, and corporate neglect of rural and working-class communities. Many people will vote for the wolf over the wolf in sheep's clothing.
In the aftermath of the George Floyd uprisings, we have seen the rise in the media, among politicians, non-profits and academics, of a liberal anti-racism which decouples racial justice from economic justice. This watered-down anti-racism of the Democratic Party looks all the more attractive when juxtaposed to the naked bigotry of Donald Trump. This translates into a false radicalism and ultimately the rise of a “woke capitalism” which liberal corporate elites from Jeff Bezos to Joe Biden have enthusiastically endorsed. In response to the crisis of police violence, this Jeff Bezos-endorsed doctrine of liberal anti-racism has been promoted by the Democrat establishment, the mainstream media, liberal policymakers, and academics precisely because this wing of the ruling class wants to quell the possibility of a true interracial working-class assault on the economic underpinnings of racism. Like the Obama administration was for the anti-war movement, the Biden administration may very well be the graveyard for the movement against racist police violence.
“We have seen the rise of a liberal anti-racism which decouples racial justice from economic justice.”
As Glen Ford explains in his insightful article, “Corporate Democrats Want to Run Against Trump-Like Republicans Forever,” race-based campaigns will always serve both corporate parties. That is, neoliberal Democrats want to keep playing identity politics ping-pong with Trump-like Republicans indefinitely, which allows them to avoid addressing inequality and poverty through a broad economic redistributive program, much like the kind that Bernie Sanders offered. As Ford explains:
“The Democrats wanted to run on race as much as Trump did, because only a race-based campaign allows them to avoid any commitment to bread and butter issues – universal free healthcare, job and income security, free public higher education – that threaten the bi-partisan austerity regime (the Race to the Bottom). Bernie Sanders, not Donald Trump, was seen as the near-existential threat to corporate governance. Therefore, the Democrats and their corporate media partners twice ruthlessly eliminated Sanders from the equation so that they could run against Trump on race, and virtually nothing else….”
While an alarming 140 million Americans are suffering from poverty or near-poverty conditions according to a report from the Poor People’s Campaign, both capitalist parties (and members of the black misleadership class) intentionally play the game of racial politics in order to obscure and ignore issues of class and poverty –Trump as the overt champion of the white man’s party, and Biden as the supposedly woke and tolerant capitalist who pays lip service to anti-racism and advocates for a more diverse face on US empire. Biden and Harris play a corporate identity politic and leverage the liberal anti-racism narrative simply to distinguish themselves from Trump who is overtly racist, and in order to provide cover for the Democratic Party's corporate program of austerity, mass incarceration, endless war, and pro-Wall street policies. A gentler, and more diverse war on the poor, draped in a Nancy Pelosi style Kinte cloth.
“Neoliberal Democrats want to keep playing identity politics ping-pong with Trump-like Republicans indefinitely.”
After all, over the last 40 years the Democrats have been the quintessential party of neoliberal capitalism, instrumental in the gutting of the welfare state, key architects of mass incarceration and the war on black people, champions of corporate free trade agreements that devastated working-class communities across the country, shameless servants of the Pentagon in their pursuit of endless imperial ventures (often more hawkish than Trump was), as well as the municipal managers overseeing racist police violence and gentrification in virtually all US cities.
Through their corporate neglect of the poor and working class, the Dems laid the very groundwork for the Tea Party and then Trump to come in and exploit people's economic despair. The compromising of progressive and union leadership to get a seat at the table under Obama was disgraceful and we are gearing up to repeat the same mistakes, make another deal with the devil, and drive more working-class folk into the arms of Trumpism in four years.
The poison pill of Democrat's liberal anti-racism is that is completely detached from class and economic justice, and intentionally so. Woke capitalism will never be anti-racist, nor will it relieve the suffering of poor and working-class people. Vast swaths of the working class will continue to reject the superficial political correctness of woke capitalism, and thus, the neoliberal Biden administration may very well swing the country back towards another Trump-like presidency in four years unless there is a serious multi-racial mass movement against capitalism that transcends liberal identity politics through multi-racial class unity.
Andrew King is a doctoral candidate in public policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has been involved in numerous social, racial and environmental justice movements.
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