Monday, April 15, 2024

The Consequential President Biden

 I don't have time to watch this now but it is something I'm interested in and I want to be able to watch it later.  Perhaps any of my two or three readers might take a look at it as well.  It was the first entry in the weekend political-economy wrap-up at Ian Welsh's blog.

I don't follow things too closely anymore.  I know that Biden has passed things (even watered-down, unnecessarily expensive and inefficient because of the inclusion of private sector profiteers) that the Republicans wouldn't have even thought of doing.  But I also know that he has made stupid excuses for not doing things, like allowing the hitherto unknown entity of the Senate Parliamentarian to abandon raising the federal minimum wage.  The biggest thing that I've heard that Biden is doing though is appointing actually decent people to rule on corporate mergers and competition.  "Antitrust."

But, for the most part, Biden is just another right-wing, coporate Democrat, whose main claim to fame is his actual support of an actual genocide, which is the very worst thing a human being can do.  So he's scum and I'd never vote for him.  According to Tony Wikrent at Ian Welsh's blog though; 

[TW: 3:00 Two major things are occurring in USA, and they are closely tied to each other. One is what Trump is doing. The other is what the Republican Party is doing, which since 1981 has operated under the ideology that the way to make the country better is to concentrate wealth at the top of the economy, so the wisest and most business savvy cam invest it most efficiently to create growth and jobs.

5:30 Why the question “Is Trump a fascist?” is not really interesting or useful.

8:00 Even though the Founders were including only white wealthy males like themselves, the Declaration of Independence was radically revolutionary because it rejected the ideology that some people are better than others and should be the rulers. Trump and the people who support him have rejected this bedrock belief of American democracy; they believe some people are better than others, and they have the right to rule. They do not believe in human equality.

Trump is not running to win the popular vote. They realize they are a minority but believe they are correct and morally superior. They believe they are opposing the causes of USA decline.

Corporate leaders are seeking to protect their positions of privilege and the preferential tax treatment they have enjoyed under the Reagan, Bush and Trump tax cuts. They are determined to prevent Biden from upsetting their applecart.

25:30 The Republicans have only a minority of voters supporting them, and they recognize this. In 1986, they began their campaign of suppressing Democratic votes with their “ballot integrity” campaign. Then they began aggressive gerrymandering after the 2010 election which was the first election after the Citizens United decision allowed unlimited amounts of money into politics.

28:00 ? In 2007, Mitch McConnell became Senate leader, and he recognized that they did not have majority support. The clear majority of Americans liked Social Security, clean air and clear water, and business regulation. But, if Republicans could screw up Congress and prevent progressive legislation from being passed, they could pack the courts with people who believed like they did, and they could rewrite the laws by reinterpreting them, without passing any laws.

40:00 ? HCR lists Biden’s accomplishments, and concludes Biden is the most consequential President since LBJ and perhaps FDR. ]

So, I'm interested in watching it.  [Angry curmudgeon Paul Street would take issue with claim number two at 5:30 I'm sure.]


Purple library guy said...

I've seen it sort of sitting there in Youtube as a thing-I-might-want-to-watch, and I'm sorta interested in it. But probably not enough to watch it for an hour. So, I just had a look at the 5:30 bit. And, um, in a way I don't take serious issue with what she said, and yet I'm left curiously unimpressed.

She said a few things, but never really drew a conclusion, and then moved on to the created-equal stuff in a way that felt like where it was going was quite contradictory to the conclusions she didn't quite draw. And I didn't really agree with her interpretation of what "fascism" is. I mean the thing is her interpretation isn't illegitimate, but it feels like the interpretation of someone without a class analysis.

OK, what she actually said. At the very beginning she said fascism was a very particular thing that happened in Europe in the 20s and stuff--which might imply that the concept is just not applicable elsewhere, but she doesn't actually say that. She said fascism was all about uniting the power of government and business in a way that promoted an extreme nationalism. I don't actually think that is the core of fascism, but it's one way to approach it. And she noted that Hitler, when he went to start making laws against certain minorities, drew on what was already happening, had already for some time been happening in the United States to the blacks and First Nations and so on. And frankly, to me the obvious implication of that perspective is that there's no point in asking if Trump is fascist because the ongoing status quo of the United States is already fascist. I mean, government + business, military-everything complex, in the service of extreme nationalism, helped along by plenty of racism--if that's all fascism was, the US has been it for ages.

But she doesn't go there, she just . . . drops it and starts saying she's more interested in the ideas of equality advanced at the founding of the US. So I don't feel like the stuff she said really gets to why she doesn't think it's an interesting question.

My problem with her description of fascism is that, first, there have been plenty more fascists since Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. They've existed all over Latin America, and for that matter Franco stayed in power until the 70s. And fascist movements, quite clearly identified and even self-identified as such, are all over the place today. It's clearly NOT some very local phenomenon specific to western Europe in the 20s. It's a concept usefully applicable to a lot of governments and movements throughout the 20th and 21st-so-far centuries. And second, just having strong nationalism plus the government in cahoots with business does not fascism make. I'm not really a Marxist, but I agree with Marx that bourgeois governments are normally there to do what business wants. Despite what's often been said, that's obviously not a differentiator for fascism; the thing about fascism is, it gets together with business in a different way from how normal bourgeois democracies do it. IMO, her interpretation of what fascism is, is kind of shallow and liberal.

Purple library guy said...

(part 2)
Fascism is, in a way, less an ideology than a strategy. It's a way of keeping the goodies for the businessmen when stuff is going bad and the people are getting pissed off. It involves appeals to strong, negative emotions, and maintaining the appearance of radicalism by turning to drastic measures that ignore things like the rule of law. The idea is to get everyone pissed off at something easier to kick than the people in charge of society, and do big things that break stuff and feed people's hate, while ignoring consequences. Ignoring the rule of law and consequences is spun as strength. But fascism has no consistent programme, other than "somebody's going to get victimized", and tends to be drastically internally inconsistent, doing things like rhapsodizing about the high tech future one moment and about return to the past the next. Cults of personality are a plus for fascists but fascist movements seem quite capable of existing without one--take the AfD in Germany. But at the core, it's all about misdirecting anger at the system into hate of some scapegoat/s, not so that government collaboration with business can be achieved, but so it can be maintained against serious social pressure. By this interpretation of fascism, the US has NOT been fascist all along, although there's always been elements around.

The thing about fascism is that it does break things, and it's not invisible enough, and its tyrannical nature makes people upset. So the elites prefer bourgeois democracy with some ideology similar in effect to neoliberalism in charge. Some of them even prefer moderate welfare states. Fascism is along the lines of a fire alarm pull that starts the sprinklers going--you don't want those sprinklers soaking everything unless there really is a fire. So fascism sits there behind glass with a bright red sign saying "In case of the threat of socialism, break glass!"

Trump is a fascist and the movement behind him is fascist. He's succeeding because various top plutocrats have gotten worried about popular anger about inequality and/or their lives sucking, and about the movement to do something about climate change (oil companies are some of the biggest funders of fascist/alt-right movements). I think they're rather oversensitive, there's really nothing resembling a threat to capitalism happening in the US. But it seems like US capitalists have gotten so used to having things their own way all the time that the slightest challenge seems like a huge threat; you have billionaires squealing that the threat of having to pay some minor tax is just like Hitler victimizing the Jews (really, there was a massive rich guy that said that not long ago). These guys think Bernie Sanders and his supporters are the Red Commie Hordes come to get them. So they're overreacting and backing a fascist movement so they can keep spewing CO2 and strangle the new union movement in its crib.

zoombats said...

I don't know how I missed Welsh's week end post. Too busy I guess. Thanks for the link. I had never heard of Heather Cox Richards but I found her to have a very interesting approach and through all the howling and rage surrounding us she has a calming and well informed view of the shit fight.I know of Biden's short falls but I will say this. Having spent the last five winters in my temporary base of rural Illinois, I have witnessed Trump's folly first hand and I have seen how things came together before and after the January six melee. The infrastructure rebuilding that is taking place all over the country is quite something to witness and to see this economy is in a growth pattern that would put our country to shame. So yeah, lesser of two evils be damned. I can't vote so I haven't got a dog in this fight but I know who I sure wouldn't vote for.

thwap said...

Purple library guy & zoombats,

I expect that I'll have time to listen to this thing Wednesday morning. But thanks for your feedback.

(I've become something of a gym-rat and my back pain is greatly reduced and my minute-to-minute mood is thereby improved.)