Things Have Changed

Photograph Source: U.S. Secretary of Defense – CC BY 2.0

The near octogenarian Joe Biden may well already be toast. He is on the economy and COVID-19 as the white supremacist Amerikaner Party of Trump (the APoT, formerly known as the Republican Party) moves to cancel and nullify nonwhite votes across much of the nation in the name of Donald “Save America” Trump’s big Hitlerian Stolen Election lie. Biden refuses to use the considerable power of the presidency to cancel student debt, block the right-wing attack on minority voting rights, or pass legislation that would relegalize serious union organizing and boost the pathetically inadequate minimum wage.

Biden prematurely proclaimed victory over the pandemic and holds back from aggressively advancing urgently needed vaccine mandates even though such mandates are supported by a strong majority of Americans. The fourth surge, likely to expand this fall and winter, is slowing the jobs recovery, giving the APoT economic ammunition with voters along with rising inflation. And Biden’s political stock price is falling further in the wake of his transparent bungling of the American exit from Afghanistan. It’s not clear he can even pass an early centrist pork-barrel infrastructure bill.

As the Democrat Biden dithers in the pathetic and despicable name of bipartisan cooperation with a party that crossed over to fascism years ago, the white-supremacist election-nullifiers “across the aisle” are licking their chops. They really expect to take back the U.S. House in 2022, an achievement that will position them to launch revenge impeachments (perhaps including one around “the betrayal of our troops and the people of Afghanistan”) and to pilfer a close presidential election on behalf of Donald “Perfect Call” Trump or the vicious covidiot Ron DeSantis in 2024-25. The APoT’s state-level machinations are likely to produce contested state Electoral College slates in the 2024 election, possibly throwing the outcome into the House, where Republicans will prevail under the Constitution’s rules even without holding a majority of the body’s members (the APoT only has to hold the majority of Representatives in more states than the Dems). It is difficult to imagine a Republican-controlled House agreeing to certify a Biden-re-election in January.

It is equally difficult to imagine the dismal Weimar Dems putting up much of a fight when the APoT takes back full power. Fighting for democracy (even its oxymoronic bourgeois variant) is not what the Democrats are about. Like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama before him, Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden is proof that Sheldon Wolin had it right in early 2008, as the fake-progressive Obama’s stealthily conservative star rose across the land. “Should Democrats somehow be elected,” Wolin wrote, they would not “alter significantly the direction of society” or “substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards. … The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts,” Wolin added, “points to the crucial fact that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf.” The nominally “in-power” corporatist Democrats would work to “marginalize any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”

Thirteen plus years later, the Republicans are clearly not just a “populist”-mimicking corporate party but a full-on white nationalist, eco-cidal, pandemicist, and eliminationist outfit. The APoT and its demented, Ashli Babbitt-trumpeting backers see the attempted putsch of January 6, 2021 as a rough draft prologue to a far more sophisticated campaign to stamp out the last embers of democracy. The white-power APoT is not F’ing around. It is engaged in what it considers a last-ditch “Save America” struggle to “take back our country” and preserve Caucasian white political and cultural hegemony in the “homeland.” Going for broke and ready to die on a cross of whiteness, its resolve is only intensified by the latest decennial US Census, which shows that people of color now make up 43% of the US population, up from 34% in 2010 (a significant jump). The Census data reinforce white supremacist Republicans’ determination to practice voter suppression in it various forms and to make the rollback of nonwhite voting rights the first order of business. They must ever more egregiously rig up the (already rigged-up) US elections system as their noxious ideas become more and more marginalized in the face of demographic decline.

Nothing is beyond the pale for this Nazified outfit, not even the partisan politicization and fanning of a deadly pandemic that increasingly targets small children.

And after it takes back full national power there will be no more “normal” bourgeois democratic elections.

“Come on, man,” a jaded, semi-political liberal acquaintance writes, “the Republicans are backed by just a quarter of the electorate. Relax. You’re hysterical.”

Sound familiar? Remember when one was accused of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome” for suggesting that the 45th POTUS would refuse to peacefully accept defeat in the 2020 election?

Consistent with the liberal’s comment, the latest Gallup poll shows that 26% of the US electorate identifies politically as Republicans. Yes, but so what? Just 27% identify as Democrats. Biden and the Dems are losing Independents, who make up 43% of the electorate. The nation’s electoral and governing system is tilted starboard even without the white supremacist voter suppression measures currently being advanced and passed at the state level. The system was already fixed rightward even before the latest and ongoing assault on voting rights in the states, the soft underbelly of what’s left of American “democracy.” The all-too constitutional mechanisms of Republican minority rule include the Electoral College, the mass over-representation of the nation’s most reactionary, rural and white states in the absurdly powerful US Senate, the rampant gerrymandering of House districts, the denial of voting rights to millions of Americans with felony records, the free reign given to dark campaign finance money, and the powerful appointed-for-life Supreme Court, whose right-wing super-majority stands far to the right of the citizenry.

To tip likely outcomes further rightward, the Republicans and their base are far more organized, strategic, passionate, zealous, determined, united, and generally ready to fight for what they believe in than are the more divided, flabby, and passive Democrats. They are far more armed and have far more allies in the nation’s giant police and military state, which may well come into play in suppressing popular resistance to the APoT’s theft of coming elections. They are far less squeamish about the use of political violence.

Add in the horrific state-level measures (including the insidious gerrymandering about to be decennially revised) that are being left intact by Biden’s refusal to challenge the arcane and racist Senate filibuster so as to pass major voting rights reform (the “For the People” Act) and it doesn’t look good, to say the least, for the bourgeois Democrats and whatever it is, exactly, that they believe in.

What to do? Telling people to vote defensively against a fascist party in general elections and for more progressive Democrats in primary elections seems to me pretty much on par with telling people to wipe their rear ends with toilet paper after defecation and to wear jackets and coats when the weather turns cold. Go ahead, liberals and progressives, I’ll probably join you (out of my quaint belief that it is easier to organize for socialism when you aren’t being thrown out of helicopters). But do so without the illusion that voting is close to the kind of political activism and human agency required in this moment. You can’t defeat dedicated white-nationalist authoritarianism with a definition of politics that’s about marking polyarchic/bourgeois-democratic ballots once every two or four years and about hoping for withered old national charters and politicians to save us from rising and dedicated American-style fascism. Come on, man: it’s going to take thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and then millions of people organized and ready to fight on multiple levels for a radical vision of democracy that goes far beyond major party politics and well past anything the dismal Democrats ( Wolin’s “inauthentic opposition”) entertain – and well past what’s possible under the nation’s absurdly venerated 18th Century Constitution (itself crafted by and for slaveowners and merchant capitalists for whom democracy was the ultimate nightmare.)

It needs to sink with liberals and progressives that a considerable portion of the American ruling class is quite alright with a shift to full-on authoritarian, white nationalist rule. If it wasn’t, a mass-murderous, truth-obliterating, pandemo-fascist white power monstrosity like Donald “Fight Like Hell” Trump wouldn’t still be free to hold hate rallies. The neo-Confederate RepubliNazis wouldn’t be free to repeal hard-won Black voting rights states across the country. The right-wing has already launched the “cival war” they promised if America didn’t follow the dictates of its declining white majority by giving the orange reptile a second term. This Amerikaner disease is a novel, unprecedentedly virulent strain of a horrible political virus that cannot be cured with the old electoral and reformist medicine. The ground has shifted. Things have changed. We figure out how to fight back in radical ways, dropping our fears of being accused of “alarmism” and “extremism,” and confronting the whole damn system thar birthed this madness, or its game over.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).