The election of Joseph R. Biden to be the 46th President of the United States marks an end to the disastrous, dangerous, and destructive tenure of Donald J. Trump. But, unless a course correction is made quickly, that is all it will mark. In another election where the Democrat was expected to crush Trump, they did not; razor-thin margins in key battleground states show how close this country was to re-electing the most dangerous president in modern history. Down-ballot, Democrats failed spectacularly. This was not a blowout, but a nail-biter. If an impeached president who is directly responsible for the deaths of well over 200,000 Americans, gave a platform to deeply racist rhetoric and policy, and generally did not even fulfill all of the responsibilities of his office won the support of almost half of the country, what does that say of how people view Biden and the Democrats?
It says that once we scrape away the personality of Trump, a large portion of Americans fundamentally agree with Trump’s right-wing populism. It says that Americans do not see a compelling reason to support Democrats, like they once did especially under Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Hope and Change” was a message that resonated because it offered something different, a challenge to the status quo (albeit, Obama did not follow through with this vision).
Biden’s campaign was a “Battle for the Soul of a Nation” without vision of how a better America would challenge the root causes of our nation’s woes: unchecked wealth accumulation by the top 1%, increasing corporate control of the economy, and a vast and intricate system of oppression against Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, womxn, and the working class. Democrats would rather negotiate with the root causes of our society’s problems than to confront them, which is why Biden told wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” for them under his administration and in turn Wall Street overwhelmingly backed his campaign. In other words, Biden sought a return to a “normal” which few even wanted, and gave rise to Trump in the first place.
So, where does this leave us with the over 70 million people who voted for Trump? They will not suddenly return to the (relatively) docile Republican politics of 2012. Trumpism, a very close sibling of fascism, is here to stay. Gone are the days of George Bush and John McCain; there is now a movement in the GOP to maintain and expand a politics explicitly advocating for the imprisonment and separation of refugee families, calling for increased violence against protesters by police, demonizing the free press and political rivals not only as opposition but as treasonous. Far-right militias boast increased membership as instances of hate crimes and politically-motivated murder become more and more common. The conspiracy cult QAnon is sending its first member to congress.
When in 2024 a Republican candidate with more tact, slower to tweet and faster to kiss babies, comes to the national limelight, we will not be as lucky as we were this year. Someone like Senator Tom Cotton, who this summer advocated for killing protesters with leftist politics. Someone like Senator Josh Hawley, who once wrote that, “Government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose.” Someone like Tucker Carlson, who has used his nightly program to spread disinformation and racist ideas about “demographic changes.” Someone who is intelligent, well-spoken, and calculating. They will be a far greater threat than Trump ever could be.
Trump is not the first racist white man to win the support of millions of Americans. The Republicans will work hard to ensure he is not the last.
Democrats are repeatedly failing to confront these forces. As brunch reservations skyrocket, so too does the threat of a more dangerous, more serious threat to democracy, lurking in the distance. Fascism cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be solved by repeating the socioeconomic conditions which caused its rise in popularity: a moderate set of neoliberal policies which only give token benefits to the average person, while cementing the power of corporations like Amazon, Google, Walmart, UnitedHealthcare, and their owners.
While fascism identifies the issues of corporate power, wealth accumulation, disempowerment of the white working class, and so on, it answers these questions by blaming immigrants, Black people, other countries, the media, “the radical left”, and utilizing other divide-and-conquer strategies. These strategies will only become more prominent when climate change is too hard to deny. Fascism does not solve these issues, but it gives a simple answer to create the appearance that it does. And that is more than Biden and the Democrats are doing. Instead, they grab a bucket to remove water from the sinking Titanic of American Capitalism.
There is another way. Socialism answers these problems with concrete solutions: higher wages, guaranteed healthcare, guaranteed employment, massive infrastructure projects, worker ownership, and more. Policies championed by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, while not fully socialist, are first steps on a path forward not only because they are the good and correct ones, but also because they are our last electoral hope to defeat fascism. They are the anti-Trump, offering an alternative and far more enticing version of America where eveyone’s needs are genuinely met.
To build an alternative to fascism, Biden needs to change course quickly. Progressive organizations are investing heavily in pressuring Biden to do so, starting with cabinet picks. It is also looking like, luckily, the progressive left has not lost its adversarial touch. Just this week, members of the Sunrise Movement protested at Biden’s campaign office in Philadelphia demanding bold climate action as a part of a push for the “Climate Mandate”, a collaboration with Justice Democrats.
Such pressure will continue to be necessary. We will need to fight for every inch so that in 2024, when the question is posed in its truest form, the people choose justice over inequality, freedom oppression, socialism over barbarism.