“Change” A broken promise in Trumpland

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OPINION: Staying true to his word, it is likely nothing will change with the US’ new Democratic President.

“Change” was the slogan. It was what president Barack Obama promised throughout his campaign. A president who offered a way forward, who would prove that the deep-rooted racial discrimination that its so apparent, could be left behind. What the first term of Obama’s administration would show is that change is hard to achieve – especially when for the most part, you don’t want it.

There is no doubt that the election of Obama was a landmark event, it had people genuinely excited about the future. By 2012 however the world was a much different place. Many after the financial crash of 2008 no longer felt represented by Washington elites and their far-removed positions, instead feeling left behind. The ‘change’ candidate in 2008 was in fact another career politician with their interests deeply invested in the status quo.

“I know what change looks like because I’ve fought for it”

(Barack Obama, 2012)

But had he? Of course, the election of the United States first black president is a momentous event, a new chapter in the dark book of America’s racial history. However it is argued that Obama instead advanced the status quo, offering just enough concessions to the working person in order to be re-elected. The response to the 2008 financial crash was woeful, the change candidate who called out big banks, who chastised the monstrous financial institutions that were directly responsible for 2.6 million job losses in 2008 instead cosied up to Wall Street offering multiple concessions and bailouts. This shattered the wide eyed hopes of a nation, Professor Cornel West summarised this poignantly:

“He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”.

The neoliberal politics of the US has made the Democrats and Republicans largely similar. Obama’s persona is a myth, a character. It’s hard to deny that he is a polite and presentable man, but it is easy to disagree with the claims that he was an extremely progressive leader. It was in Obama’s interest to bail out the banks, to give stimulus packages to Wall Street giants – which reflects well on the government’s figures – it was not in his favour to fundamentally change and address the conditions which led to millions of people suffering.

This is where Trump comes in. It is hard to talk about contemporary US politics without him. Liberals around the world were shocked and blindsided when Donald Trump was elected into office, in reality it was expected. Obama and the wider centrist movement embedded within the Democratic Party was in a sense, a catalyst to the MAGA movement. The Democrats failed to support the population in the wake of a crisis, they cared more about corporate donors and political posturing than they did about the welfare and safety of their constituents. At the end of the day both parties are the arms of the same body – capitalism. They both enjoy the same benefits whilst putting on the biggest play of all, a perceived interest in those they are meant to represent. There is the old saying ‘it’s a big club and we’re not in it’.

The Trump years have again not lived up to what was promised to his devout disciples; the left behinds are still left behind. Whilst there is no doubt that Trump believes the bile that he spouts, there is no doubt an aspect of his rhetoric is for political gain. Like any other actor in the great play of liberal politics, political gain is much sought after. With reference to Trump, telling his vocal followers what they want to hear has advanced his agenda, and for an ‘anti-establishment’ individual he too encapsulates the very essence of mainstream politics, Allan J. Lichtman writing for The Hill states:

“Trump is the poster boy for the establishment in the United States. Rather than change, a Trump presidency guarantees business as usual in America. That is business that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the ordinary Americans that he falsely claims to represent in this campaign.”

 The difference between Trump and his successor? Biden is palatable.

The choice in November 3rd’s election was one of Diet conservatism or white supremacy. You can put makeup on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Joe Biden does not appeal to much of the Democratic base, instead he offers security for the agents of the political elite, the centrists and big city liberals who need not worry about a dramatic change to the inequalities and injustice that is so easy to capitalise on.

Looking at Biden’s political record highlights just how similar the centrist democrats are to moderate Republicans – both, it must be added, enjoy the same benefits in Washington. It’s interesting to note that as reported by the Washington Examiner, Biden has recently stated

“There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration”.

This on the surface seems like a victory for the Democrats and their candidate and there is no doubt that his disapproval of the Trump Wall was a factor that persuaded many to vote for him. Why then in 2006 did he vote in favour of then President George W. Bush’s construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border?

Furthermore, it is crucial to look to the history of healthcare within the Democratic establishment and Joe Biden, for a party of the people they do not seem to care much for them. Newsweek reports that via a Hill-HarrisX poll 87% of Democrats favour universal healthcare, something which leading Democrats including Joe Biden have said they will never entertain. Whilst it is easy to pull at straws in demonstrating the failures of Joe Biden there is one startling realisation that many will have to realise:

There is no real, material difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Looking at America it is easy to become disheartened at the democratic project and that is because, looking back at Obama, Clinton, and probably soon Biden too, it has largely failed. Indeed, it appears every 4 years the world’s biggest pantomime is put on and the idea of a choice is presented. The reality is much less appetising – which millionaire would you like to represent the interests of the working class?

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Doug McCulloch
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