Last month, former Vice President Joe Biden was elected as the United States’ 46th president, amassing nearly 80 million votes – by far the most in presidential history. Running a campaign centered around the imminent need to oust the Trump-Pence regime, the Biden campaign received a number of key endorsements representing a broad and diverse coalition of voters, including marxists like Angela Davis who argued progressive voters needed to “settle for Biden” because a Biden administration can be more easily be pressured by the left.
Davis is certainly right, a Biden administration has the tools and potential to be more progressive than his predecessor. But we must not pretend we didn’t just elect a corporatist, someone who developed a racist mass incarceration infrastructure and someone who refuses to take bold action to address the climate crisis. Settling for Biden, while doing nothing else, is detrimental and will do more damage than another four years of Trump ever could. As such, it cannot be understated how important it is that the left organize to apply that “pressure” and that they work to organize, unionize, engage with their communities and create lines of support outside of electoral politics. Moving forward into a Biden presidency, the left must continue to hold Biden accountable for his promises and push for policies that will institute structural social and economic change.
Under a violent Trump presidency, direct action, political organization and collectivization have seen novel heights, and it’s crucial we don’t let the prospect of a Biden presidency pacify that. And it will be pacified if we buy into the idea that Biden, in any fundamental meaningful sense, is a better alternative, other than the fact that he just isn’t Trump, when it comes to changing the way we organize ourselves and our resources. The Trump administration has certainly raised alarm bells and caused outrage, justifiably so, but we must remember that Trump’s atrocities are nothing historically novel, and the rise of the Trump-Pence regime and its authoritarian inner workings were not accidents – they’re symptomatic of underlying structural trends in our society.
We’ve had racist presidents. We’ve had presidents grossly mishandle pandemics that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. We’ve had presidents incarcerate and criminalize immigrants and refugees. We’ve had presidents nominate partisan judges. We’ve had presidents fund and participate in killing millions of civilians abroad. We’ve had presidents use the presidency for financial gain. We’ve had presidents isolate us from our allies, openly support dictators and we’ve had presidents participate in genocide. Looking at the devastating role the United States and its presidency have played in gross economic inequality, social injustice, terrorism, genocide, colonialism, imperialism and slavery, we should ask ourselves why our political system necessitates this violence and inequity, and why we consider it to be legitimate at all.
A Biden presidency alone, without pressure from dissident activism, presents no fundamental change toward improving the conditions of historically marginalized populations. So while voting for Biden was a first step in correcting the ills the Trump administration exposed, it can’t be the only step taken. We must continue to pay attention to the atrocities that will undoubtedly occur under the next administration, like our inhumane border policies, ruthless bombing of civilians, the gross lack of response to the murder of thousands of native women, the silent massacre of the homeless or the tens of thousands of Americans who were dying from a lack of access to health care before the pandemic. While these issues were certainly more pronounced under a Trump administration, they aren’t aberrations from the normal order and they weren’t brought by Trump – these issues are part of the inequality of American society that can’t be fixed with a series of moderate, Band-Aid policy tweaks.
We must intimately involve ourselves in mobilizing, protesting and organizing our resources in order to bring about the structural change desperately needed for the development of a just society. Push your workplace toward more liveable wages, donate or get involved with your local mutual aid networks and uplift and publicize the efforts of other dissidents. Resistance against Trump was loud and clear, it’s about time the same kind of energy is brought to the kinds of issues that have been plaguing society for decades.
It is crucial, now more than ever, that we not ease our activism, especially considering the Biden administration represents no fundamental change in the social and economic system that impedes our society. Our current lifestyle is not sustainable. Our international order kills civilian children incessantly and mercilessly promises the deaths of those who cannot afford to live. The complete reorganization of our economy, our military and our allocation of resources is non-negotiable. People are dying, and Biden’s policies do not reflect that.
A Biden presidency, while representing a break from Trump, does not represent a break from the violent injustice that dominates America. So while ousting Trump was important, it most certainly cannot, if we have any interest in the establishment of an equal society, be the only thing we do.
Karina Ochoa Berkley, a sophomore majoring in political science and philosophy, is an opinions writer.
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