After a tumultuous two weeks, we will most likely see the end of Trump’s pall over the country and the possibility of a beginning of what could be the most thoughtful reorientation of our society in our lifetime. It could also be a return to the old normal or worse. I’ll start with the worst scenario so we can spend the most time on the best.
The worst would be a civil insurrection along the lines of what we have already seen that could include assassinations of top officials or celebrities. We don’t know how serious the dissenters are going to be, and many of us are old enough to have personal memories of such assassinations in the 1960’s. We also know that we don’t want to live in a fear-inspired high-security state. That could signal the end of our democratic experiment.
The next possibility would be a return to the old normal in which the wealthy continue to run the show. Biden comes from the neoliberal Democratic Party culture that has capitulated to wealthy interests and might offer only the incremental reforms that are acceptable to the wealthy.
The best scenario would be that the Biden administration will recognize the grassroots wave that is trying to bring about the beginning of real government of, by, and for the people. In order to achieve this outcome, we will have to demonstrate unequivocally that we want to turn over a new leaf in how we see each other and our responsibilities to each other and to the natural world. In my mind, Biden is very malleable right now and will bend to a great degree to grassroots demands. I’m sure he would like to be another FDR and the time is ripe for the same kind of transformation. FDR made it very clear whose side he was on. This from an FDR speech before the 1936 election:
“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”
We must remind Joe that it is alright to welcome that hatred because our present situation is similar to then in so many ways. The candidates they really hated were Sanders and Warren, and the corporate media and financing of elections nowadays may very well have beaten either of those candidates. The best the corporates could do was to back Biden, but he can be our Trojan Horse if we signal that it is safe for him to carry out the reforms that will not be in the interests of wealthy corporations in the short term but very much in the interests of our nation as a whole (and the corporate interests in the long term).
As then, we need to build the infrastructure that we need today, i.e. renewable energy, a smart and carbon-free transportation system, clean and safe water, air, and food, affordable housing as a commodity (like water and power). We need to provide universal access to equal, excellent education, living wage for all, universal free access to health care, universal access to the internet, etc. Roosevelt addressed conservation as well, but our challenge is much bigger than that: we need to address the causes of climate change, species loss, and resource depletion. Something that was not addressed by FDR that we must move forward now is laws governing racial, gender, income, and ethnic justice and equality. We can pass laws to guarantee justice, but cultural biases may take time and experience to heal.
The importance of referring to FDR and the New Deal is to remember that we have been in dark times before and that there was no substance even then to the dire warnings from the wealthy corporate interests. We can do all of these things, and we will prosper rather than self-destruct as the corporate interests are warning.
We can breathe a huge sigh of relief that we will not see another four years of Trump. We can also be elated (most of us anyway) that the Democrats now control the Senate. With complete control, we should not make the mistake that Obama made in catering to the Republicans. Anything that involves equality, redistribution of wealth, or deficit spending will be met by great cries, lamentations and gnashing of teeth on the part of Republicans.
“Socialist” programs of the New Deal such as Social Security, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (insures your bank account), unemployment and disability compensation, the Federal Reserve System, the Securities and Exchange Commission, were met by cries of alarm, yet they are now accepted and revered by all. Also of note is that a conservative Supreme Court in Roosevelt’s time eventually approved all of the New Deal programs—precedent for our Supremes today?