by Danny Haiphong, published on Black Agenda Report, January 19, 2022
COVID-19 continues to spread with rapid ferocity across the United States. On January 14th, the U.S. surpassed 850,000 COVID-19 deaths. More deaths from the pandemic have accumulated under President Joe Biden than his predecessor, Donald Trump. Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s lack of competence in addressing the pandemic has damaged the credibility of the administration. The Biden administration’s approval rating has fallen to 33 percent , a 22 percent decrease from a year ago.
Biden and Harris are political expressions of the American Empire’s crisis of legitimacy. The crisis has reached an acute stage that neither Biden nor Harris is capable of managing without significant political consequences. This has led to a number of cringe-worthy public relations moments for the administration. In an NBC News interview , Kamala Harris expressed that the administration would not change course on its COVID-19 strategy.
“It is time for us to do what we have been doing and that time is every day,” said Harris. When Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the myriad of problems facing the Biden administration, she responded with the following :
“I think that having worked in the White House before, you do hard things in White Houses . . . and could certainly propose legislation to see if people support bunny rabbits and ice cream, but that wouldn’t be very rewarding for the American people.”
Such rhetoric does not exactly exude confidence from an administration that claimed it would “Build Back Better” out of the Donald Trump administration. The truth is that Biden’s promise to “Build Back Better” was always a branding exercise. Biden’s ineptness is a reflection of the historic decay of the Democratic Party. After eight years of Obamamania, Democratic Party elites gambled their political capital on the sale of non-stop fear of Donald Trump to their constituents in order to soothe their wounded psyches following the embarrassment that was the 2016 election. Biden struggled to gain credibility in the 2020 primary from the outset but was finally given the elite’s blessing to take the reins of the Democratic Party’s sinking ship.
The Biden administration entered the White House amid a myriad of crises facing the Empire. COVID-19 had already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Another economic crisis was afoot that had only built upon the immiseration from the 2007-08 “Great Recession.” Support had grown among Democrat voters for Medicare for All , climate change policy , and significant reforms to policing in the U.S. following the massive Black Lives Matter upsurge in the summer of 2020. While Biden ran a typical neoliberal campaign, he was forced to promise something to the masses in the way of pandemic relief and economic recovery. The hope for Democratic Party strategists was that “liberals” and “progressives” would support Biden under a “never Trump” mandate and relinquish any expectation that the administration would follow through with concrete policies upon winning the presidency.
Such political stagnation is exactly what has transpired in Biden’s first year as commander-in-chief. Biden never had any intention of forgiving student loan debt or expanding healthcare during a pandemic. So-called Build Back Better legislation has stalled in Congress due to resistance from the rotating villains of senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, but Biden’s deference to the corporate donor class has played a significant role as well. Biden boasts of an “economic recovery” despite intense spikes in the cost of living . American capitalism, however, is fully open for business and that means the working class is fully free to die from a pandemic while being super exploited in low wage work.
The situation is no better when it comes to the American Empire’s dealings abroad. Tensions with Russia have worsened as the U.S.-NATO alliance saber rattles over a mythical “Russian invasion” of Ukraine. Biden has failed to repair relations with China despite his willingness to sign onto modest statements of cooperation around climate change and nuclear conflict . Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” remains a staple of U.S. foreign policy and the propaganda war against China is fueling racist hysteria in an effort to revive Cold War-era politics in service of the military industrial complex. Deadly U.S.-backed “color revolutions” and sanctions have only caused further instability across the globe. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the American Empire has nothing to offer the world but war and austerity, leaving China and a growing number of partners with the responsibility of building a multipolar world amid the chaos.
A major principle of Marxism is that the contradictions of capitalist society have a tendency of becoming antagonisms which cause tectonic shifts in political and economic relations. The loss of confidence in the Biden administration is part and parcel of the sharpening contradiction between its public relations image as the U.S.’s savior from the so-called evils of Donald Trump and the fact that Biden and company are functionaries of the very ruling elite that produced Trump in the first place. Said differently, Trump is a byproduct of the general crisis of capitalism that Biden’s long career of service to the ruling class helped produce. The capitalist, imperialist, and white supremacist roots of the American Empire are rotting from within. Capitalism is at a dead-end and is faced with an impossible choice: either accept reforms that cut into finance capital’s ill-gotten profits or terrorize workers and oppressed people for everything they have.
For the ruling class, this really isn’t a choice at all. When faced with economic and political crisis, capital always chooses to reproduce itself over the needs and interests of society. The Biden administration’s arrogance in the face of crisis represents a breakdown in the state’s capacity to govern an empire in decay. Capital is banking on the fact that no mass movement yet exists that is mature enough to confront the contradictions of duopoly rule. Any genuine revolutionary must take up this task as Biden moves sluggishly past his first year as president of the United States. American exceptionalism is dead, and the time is now to build revolutionary movements and leaders who are ready to bury the American Empire with it.
Danny Haiphong is co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” You can follow his work on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present’s: The Left Lens. You can support Danny on Patreon by clicking this link. You can contact him at .