Biden’s Battle for the Soul of the Nation

Image by Element5.

The midterm congressional elections will soon be upon us. We are again told, as we are every two years, that the most important election of our lifetimes is impending. However, this year the stakes appear to be even higher.

President Biden instructs us, we are “in a battle for the soul of this nation…the breath, the life, and the essence of who we are.” He intones: “There is nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American. That’s our soul.”

Campaign rally from the gates of hell

Full of fire and brimstone, Biden’s “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” lecture on September 1 was made against a demonic background illuminated by a fiery red glow. “Burning inside each of us…[t]hat sacred flame still burns.”

He was dressed in an impeccably tailored midnight blue suit with the obligatory imperial flag pin in the lapel as is appropriate for the CEO of the capitalist world.

Behind the silhouetted leader stood a guard of two imperial stormtroopers. These are the brethren who visited the Halls of Montezuma and came back with over half of the sovereign territory of our neighbor to the south. These are the boys who occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933 and only left after they installed the murderous Somoza dictatorship to do their duty work.

These optics are not the image of what democracy looks like, I fear, but could be the foreshadowing of a far more authoritarian future.

Demonizing the opposition

Trump and those who voted for him, roughly half of the US electorate, are demonized. We are warned that these undesirables “…promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.”

The speaker, Joe Biden, allows that while some Republicans are “destroying American democracy,” not all “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” He gushes that he has been “able to work with these mainstream Republicans.”

In fact, on most matters of US imperialism and the surveillance state, there is little daylight between one side of the aisle. Both wings of the two-party duopoly connive and conspire against working people.

So why the demonization? The reason is that other than flaunting that he is not Trump, Mr. Biden has precious little to offer as his administration reaches its midpoint.

Living and dying with COVID

Despite having a trifecta (control of both houses of congress and the presidency) the Democrat’s campaign finds that it has to fall back twelve long years ago to crow about Obamacare. Glossed over is the scandal that even in the time of COVID, the richest nation in the world could not enact universal health care.

Speaking of which, Biden had the audacity to say: “But today, COVID no longer controls our lives.” Yes, under Biden, we have learned to live – or more accurately die – with COVID. Over a million Americas have perished from the disease compared to 15,000 in China. And the US death rate continues at about 400 per day.

As Jim Naureckas points out in FAIR, “life expectancy in the US has now dropped below that of China – 76.1 vs. 77.1 years” in part due to COVID mortalities. Yet despite the lockdowns in China, “China is expected to be 13.8% richer at the beginning of 2023 than it was when the pandemic began – whereas the US will be just 3.4% better off.”

Abortion rights

The last time that the Democrats enjoyed a trifecta was when Biden was first swept into the White House as Obama’s VP. Back then, the Democrats campaigned to pass the Freedom of Choice Act to prevent judicial obliteration of reproductive freedom.

Despite their promise to “codify Roe” the first thing in office, it never happened. It turns out that abortion rights was just too good an issue for the Democrats to make it safe. People who supported abortion rights were a captured constituency with nowhere else to go, so they could be betrayed.

As Jim Kavanagh explains in CounterPunch:

“The Democratic Party knows exactly what it’s doing when it repeatedly supports and promotes anti-abortion-rights candidates against abortion-rights supporters – like Tim Kaine in 2016, Henry Cuellar this year, and its current leader, Joe Biden, who for years said that Roe ‘went too far’ and supported a constitutional amendment to overturn it, because he did not ‘think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.’”

Democrats herald “Roe-vember” to rally the faithful, but abortion-rights advocates will be best served by relying on building the mass movement for reproductive choice.

Incredulous claims

Biden’s democracy lecture incredulously claimed: “This is a nation that respects free and fair elections.” He should have added the caveat that the people have to vote the right way.

As former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” Today, the US does not recognize the democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua precisely because the people irresponsibly elected socialists.

Biden sermonized: “We honor the will of the people. We do not deny it.” In practice, however, both Republicans and Democrats work from their respective partisan sinecures to suppress the vote.

Biden’s jibe against Trump’s allegation that the 2020 election was stolen should be put into the context of the everyday bickering of the two major parties. As the ultra-conservative Federalist reported, based on poll data: “More Democrats denied that former President Donald Trump won the 2016 election than the people who claimed President Joe Biden wasn’t legitimately elected in 2020.” See this video for ten minutes to Hillary Clinton and her co-partisans questioning the legitimacy of the US electoral process when their side loses.

Equally incredulous is the claim: “And this is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool.” This from the chief of state of the world’s largest military power with war expenditures greater than the next nine competitors. And from the only nation to have deployed nuclear weapons, not to mention from the party within that nation to have unapologetically perpetrated that abomination.

A follow-upper on the incredulity spectrum is: “We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country.” How about the daily murders by police? Or the existence of institutions such as the NSA, FBI, and CIA?

Rivaling that claim is Biden’s boast about climate action: “And I believed we could… save the planet, so we passed the most important climate initiative ever, ever, ever.” While US greenhouse gas emissions dropped under climate-skeptic Trump, they increased under Biden. With inflating fuel costs and especially since the heating up of the war in Ukraine, Biden has aggressively promoted boosting oil production domestically and abroad.

But the claim that really takes the cake is: “We’re going to end cancer as we know it.”

Prospects for change within the two-party system

Biden ended his lecture from the ironically named City of Brotherly Love: “I believe America is at an inflection point – one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after.”

But in reality, if past history is any guidance, the US body politic will experience no such inflection soon.

The Democrats will likely lose their congressional majorities but will gain the convenient excuse that they cannot meet their campaign promises such as ending cancer as we know it, because their “hands are tied” by the Republicans. The theatre of two-party politics will continue as both wings of the duopoly acrimoniously contend on social and lifestyle issues and enthusiastically collude on maintaining elite rule.

Roger Harris is on the board of the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization.