Joe Biden has been signaling, ever since he first kicked off his campaign for the 2020 Presidential Election last year, that he will be taking the country back to a place of “normalcy”.
Take it from me, “normalcy” is politician-speak for wanting to be able to carry out corporate tax breaks, steal a foreign nation’s natural resources via an economic war, and drop bombs all over the Middle East WITHOUT the commander-in-chief’s loose lips divulging all of this in an explicit manner, either via Twitter or in interviews with cable news pundits.
Don’t worry folks! With Joe Biden in the Oval Office, we all get to relax and go back to brunch! Aren’t you all thrilled that you won’t have to be exhausted anymore about our leaders bragging in bombastic fashion about taking the oil from Syria, and about how they will fight to not implement a single-payer healthcare system?
Joe Biden will make sure that he’s extra-discreet when he ignores the warnings about fracking’s dire toll on our environment, so you can enjoy your French toast and oatmeal in bliss!
Fortunately, many, even Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton, have begun sounding the alarm that a return to this “normalcy” is not acceptable and not enough to rectify the profound plights of this country that existed before Donald Trump, and will exist after Donald Trump (the opioid crisis, economic inequality, the bloated Pentagon budget, to name a few). Few though are also issuing the warning that such a way of governing from Joe Biden may actually open the floodgates for another “Trump”, or at the very least a Trump-esque figure, to obtain the momentum needed to win the Presidency in 2024.
Let’s wind the clocks back to 2015. The Supreme Court had affirmed same-sex marriage. NASA had discovered two new moons orbiting Pluto. Avengers: Age of Dull-tron arrived in theaters to underwhelm its audience. And Donald Trump had announced that he was going to run for the Republican nomination to become President of the United States. What people often forget is that Donald Trump in fact did run on policy for much of his campaign. Behind the fervent chants of “lock her up!”, and the insistences that rally protestors be thrown out into the cold and not have their coats returned to them, was also rhetoric about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and how it would decimate the middle-class through offshoring jobs, a complete condemning of the Iraq War and the U.S.’ overall involvement in the Middle East, and a pledge to eliminate the stranglehold of lobbyists and corporate money on our government.
This turned out to resonate with working-class voters who felt they had been glossed over by an administration that largely favored college-educated and highly affluent citizens, and the entire 2016 election, in part, seemed to be a complete referendum on the legacy of former President Barack Obama, corporatist neoliberalism, and globalization.
Now, bear in mind that four years later, much of what Trump laid out on the 2016 campaign trail never actually came to fruition – he signed and ratified a new trade deal unofficially designated as NAFTA 2.0, he prolonged military interventionism in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Iraq, and began appointing alumni from Goldman Sachs into his administration – an investment bank he had initially critiqued on the campaign trail with regards to its influence over politicians – even before he was officially inaugurated.
But it still could not be denied that, in 2016, Trump was signaling, at least in rhetoric, a drastic shake-up from the status quo that was just not being heard from then-Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton.
Now this is where Joe Biden and his latest line of cabinet nominations enter the picture. The danger of Joe Biden wanting just a return to “normalcy”, to reset Washington D.C. to the state that it was before Trump, and to even briefly consider the notion that Trump was an aberration in the grand scheme of things, represents a complete failure to recognize the issues in our country that Trump capitalized and commentated on before his ultimate ascension to the White House.
If Biden is unwilling to signal any sort of drastic shake-up in his forthcoming administration, the issues of American jobs being offshored, a bloated military budget for wasteful wars, and the complete corruption of our legislative process by big-money firms and donors – issues that existed long before Trump – will persist, and may just be capitalized on by the next Republican nominee in four short years.
To quote Washington Correspondent for The Hill Saagar Enjeti with regards to any potential progressive action a Biden administration could take, “In order to move forward, you have to admit…Obama was not a very good President, and if you can’t admit that, then you really can’t move forward.”
Well, from the looks of many of the names being floated by Biden for his administration, the odds of Biden insinuating that Obama was not the champion of the progressive movement that many had hoped he would be in 2008 look amazingly dwarfish.
Biden’s agenda regarding foreign policy involves maintaining an overly-bloated Pentagon budget and thumbing his nose at the notion of a complete withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. And his selections for key cabinet positions seem as though they, judging from their histories, would enjoy nothing more than to enable Biden to keep up that nice, comfortable, egregious, interventionist status quo overseas. For Secretary of State, Biden has chosen Antony Blinken, a Biden aide since 2002 who was an advocate for the invasion of Iraq, the intervention and bombing of Libya, the supplying of weapons from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia to assist their genocide in Yemen, and the laundering of weapons from the CIA to Syrian rebels.
(I actually think Blinken’s mantra might be George Carlin’s quip, “You give [the United States] a color, we’ll wipe it out!”)
Next to Blinken is Michele Flournoy, Biden’s pick for Secretary of Defense, and her track record isn’t anything to laud about as “progressive” or “empowering” either. Flournoy was an advocate for the surge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the intervention and bombing of Libya (without congressional approval, mind you), and utter regime-change in Syria.
And finally, let’s not forget about Avril Haines – she’s being considered by Biden to be Director of National Intelligence. Haines was also very instrumental in architecting former President Barack Obama’s drone program aimed at lethally targeting terrorists, a program later exposed to have killed citizens in the Middle East that were not designated targets almost 90% of the time.
All three are former Obama Administration alumni, and all three come from WestExec Advisors, a firm built on the premise of its founders – Blinken and Flournoy – using their insider suaveness to lobby for Pentagon contracts for their clients (which the firm also has chosen to not disclose at the time of this writing).
Like the philosopher Townshend once said, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
Then there’s the matter of trade. Biden is known for being a near-ardent defender of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and still defends the trade deal – one that outsourced nearly 700,000 American jobs and quashed union efforts – as recently as May of 2019.
So naturally, it’s fitting that other appointments and considerations named by Biden for his cabinet are also like-minded, in the sense that they’re not too keen on examining policies that could induce job growth here in the states, and expand on-shore manufacturing opportunities. First, there’s Wally Adeymeo, nominated by Biden to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Adeymeo was also a defender and chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that ultimately had to be shelved due to fierce backlash.
Then, there’s Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago Mayor who is being eyed by Biden to be either transportation secretary or U.S. trade representative. Given Emanuel’s record, the fact that Biden would even consider him for trade representative already tells you a lot about what Biden thinks of the matter. Emanuel was instrumental in the operation to swing enough Congressional votes to enable the passing of NAFTA.
Biden’s also not shied away himself from insinuating that TPP, as well as the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), rather than be done away with entirely, instead be renegotiated. Hilary Clinton’s own support of NAFTA and TPP very well may have cost her votes in the industrial Midwest back in 2016, an area particularly devastated by the after-effects of the former. Biden’s own hesitance to completely condemn both deals could threaten to impair his performance in key swing states such as Michigan come 2024, and this time, there won’t be a devastating pandemic to expose the incompetence of his Republican opponent, and make Biden look favorable by comparison.
Finally, there’s the issue of “draining the swamp”. But if you’re Joe Biden, your strategy is probably more akin to the stuffing of Shrek’s swamp with fairy-tale creatures, and instead of Pinnochio and the three little pigs, it’s a bunch of BlackRock Inc. alumni.
Yes, already Biden has named two executives from BlackRock Inc. – a major Wall Street investment firm – to be nominated for positions in his cabinet. One of them we’ve already glossed over in fact, and that’s Wally Adeymeo! Adeymeo is also a former senior advisor of BlackRock and interim chief of staff to Chief Executive Larry Fink. The other nominee is Brian Deese for the National Economic Council.
And don’t hold your breath for any major reform vis-à-vis Wall Street. It’s been pretty well documented in just the last year-and-a-half how much of a cozy affair Biden hopes to maintain with the big banks and firms. Biden told his big-money donors at the start of his campaign that he would not be aiming for any type of reform against the rich and that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he was elected. The firm Signum Global Advisors told their clients that Biden was paying lip service to progressives with regards to any rhetoric about economic reform, and that they were not convinced that Biden would move that far left. Biden then told the Blackstone Group – a private equity firm – that corporate America needed to change…but Biden also wasn’t going to propose any legislation to induce such change. Oh, and this was after the Blackstone Group also made a $130,000 contribution to Biden’s campaign, and an additional $350,000 to a super PAC in support of Biden.
I’m sure that last part was just a coincidence though.
The writing seems to be on the wall, at least for the moment. Biden will govern and run an administration not drastically unlike how Obama did; the “forever wars” and destructive interventionism will rage on in the Middle East, sapping billions upon billions from tax dollars. More American jobs will be shipped overseas. And the fat cats on Wall Street…you know, do I even need to say it?
With all of this in mind, let’s look ahead now to 2024. As the country emerges out from the other end of the Covid-19 pandemic, we may resemble an America that’s been stuck in time, that’s had the pause button in effect ever since 2016, when Donald Trump capitalized on the plights of working-class Americans, and supposedly looked to expose a corrupt system that was not governing on behalf of the people, but on behalf of the banks, the lobbyists, the investment firms, and the military-industrial complex.
Does anybody really think it won’t be easy for a Republican to come along next cycle, and recycle the Trump playbook? Only this time, if Trump chooses ultimately to not run again in 2024, the Republican nominee may not be an outsider-looking-in. They certainly could be someone with years of political expertise behind them instead.
Take for example Senators Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Ever since the 2020 election, which revealed that there was still very much rigid support from rural America towards the Republican party, Hawley, Rubio, and Cruz each took to Twitter to make the assertion that the Republican Party was moving in the direction to definitively become a party that supposedly championed the working class.
It should be noted that no such assertion is being made immediately that somebody with the record of Hawley or Cruz can be considered an “ideal” populist, one without dependence on big-money donors, but as previous elections have shown time and time again, sometimes, the rhetoric is enough for voters, and contradicting records can be damned.
As alluded to earlier, whoever is the next Republican nominee, they’re sure to be somebody with a much more profound understanding of the mechanics of the political establishment. And if they choose to seize the opportunity, they may very well be capable of alluring and securing a vast chunk of voters – the Trump base – who all signaled in 2016 that they were desperate for a major reform of the system that seemed much too beholden to corporate power.
Perhaps the time will come when we will all long for the days of Donald Trump’s incompetence and naivety.