Joe Biden was not elected to "Save America" - Only "we the people" can
Most Americans are proud of their brand/version of democracy. At least, they used to be. And the erosion of the institutions that hitherto protected, promoted and preserved American Democracy began long before Donald Trump came to office in 2016. Indeed, the new low for American Democracy came during the first widely televised presidential campaign debate between incumbent Republican President Donald John Trump, and his Democratic Party challenger, now president-elect. The vicious primetime encounter, was more of a caged cockfight and spoke of a now different America: a modern split screen America, a nation of now unbridgeable divides, a country beset by democratic decay. On screen for all to see were two elderly white men, both of them in their 70s, trading insults and barbs, with a sitting president once again trashing in primetime the norms of conventional presidential behavior.
To many international onlookers, as well as a large portion of Americans at home, the debate - if that was what this petty, schoolyard bullyfest can be called - offered a real-time rendering of US democratic decline. It reminded everybody again how American exceptionalism has now increasingly come to be viewed as a negative construct: something associated with mass shootings, mass incarceration, racial hatreds and divisions, and a runaway political chaos. In many ways we witnessed the murder of American Democracy in real time before our very eyes. The stunning imagery and partisan political bantering of the debate, and the harsh rhetoric of the campaigns themselves, produced some searing moments of American self-harm.
Even when compared to the damaging imagery and throwback of the Bush Administration's war on terror - the watchtowers of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the pictorial horrors of Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and the imperial hubris of the "Mission Accomplished" banner, the backdrop for the made-for-television moment when George W. Bush prematurely claimed victory in an unfinished war that ended up haemorrhaging so much American blood and treasure, the present Trump political era has outdone all this. He's presided over, created or caused a string of national and international embarrassments that would make any dictator blush. Donald Trump's penchant or maybe addiction to shooting himself in his foot will be debated and analyzed for years to come for its incomprehensible march to political self-mutilation.
But as if the American experiment with democracy has been derailed by a sudden appeal to autocratic populism, the 2020 elections exposed another damning statistic that only helps to further the decline of American Democracy, and facilitate its brutal murder. A full 57 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. What this means is that this population is comfortable with his bullhorn "shout outs" to white supremacists, his inherent and avuncular racism, and his misogyny. I'm left to conclude that they voted for their WHITENESS, their white privilege, and their racial identity in a deeply divided and demographically changing 2020 America. This is NOT about democracy. It is a tight embrace of a creeping fascism, and of an American president who aspires to be a tin-horn dictator.
To be sure, in the formats of public debates and supposed exchange of ideas and policies, political campaigns by both Democrats and Republicans have degenerated over the years. It was therefore no surprise that the 2020 Presidential debates, once events that gave Americans a glimpse of what their presidents would do for them and the country, are now simply primetime political preening and pompous posturing. It has nothing to do with American Democracy but all to do with entertainment as elucidation. Trump and Biden's exchanges had more to do with TV ratings linked to political comedy and combat targeted to a divided American base. Instead of meaningful policy and issue discussions they were about one-liners, designer zingers, and knock out political punches. Heck, the mainstream media has even embraced the lexicon and language of wrestlemania and adopted them to political commentary.
The jokes, caustic and sarcastic retorts, and putdowns are rerun endlessly on news networks, packaged as "breaking news," in the days following these debates. And what was supposed to be a presidential job interview has now become more like a clumsy audition for the role of leading man in a B-rated Hollywood movie. The fact is that Donald Trump exploited a preexisting now chronic American condition of contempt for democratic norms and then made it manifestly worse. Now many of the reform-minded are pinning their hopes on the new Democratic president, Joe Biden. I do not share their optimism because a divided America will be ruled by a divided and polarized Congress as well as partisan state legislatures all across the nation. "The two-party system has become a deadlocked machine in which both parties have come to feel that "you can't give an inch or else you're going to lose the entire war." [Source: Lee Drutman of the New America Foundation].
Drutman has pointed out that in the 1980s, New Zealand, today's global darling, was locked in dysfunctional governance until a national commission recommended a switch to a German-style multiparty system that allowed people to sort themselves out according to their actual views and afforded those views a new measure of political representation. He suggested that a President Biden create just such a commission, with a mandate to produce recommendations for reform broad enough that neither party could be sure beforehand if it would win or lose. [Source: Foreign Policy magazine].
I'm not asking Joe Biden to do the heavy lifting required to save American Democracy and to protect it from the clear and present danger that is Trumpism. For one thing he's never going to get the cooperation of Republicans in and out of Congress. If he thinks that a Republican-controlled Senate is going to play ball to make him and Democrats "look good" and succeed, then I have the Brooklyn Bridge to sell him. In this present political construct, it's in Senate leader Mitch McConnell's interest to obstruct EVERYTHING and make life difficult for the POTUS.
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