How To Criticize A Post-Trump America
And why we must
For four years, Trump said the quiet part out loud. Racism, violence, destroying the Earth, yay! With Biden, however, we’re back to normal. Still doing that stuff, just not shouting about it. This is of course hard to criticize, but criticize we must. People, real people, are still crushed.
America is still racist. America is still violent. America is still destroying the Earth. In short, America still sucks. How do we talk about this now, without someone to talk about? In truth, Trump was an easy target. He stole babies with pride, he bombed with glee, he was racist without apology.
Now, hitting Ctrl-Z, America will have what it had before. Someone shamefully, somberly, apologetically doing the same things. At scale. Because Trump is America. He just said the quiet part out loud.
The usual American evil
America’s default policies are war, racism, incarceration, torture, and dunking the poor. America, on a good day, is evil.
The colonial empire keeps an underclass of over 10 million people who are branded ‘illegal’ and yet who are also ‘essential workers’. People exercising their human right to move (as all American ancestors did) are persecuted, jailed, raped, orphaned, and killed as normal American policy. Trump just said the quiet part out loud.
President Jimmy Carter recently noted that in its 242-year history, America has enjoyed only 16 years of peace, making it, as he wrote, “the most warlike nation in the history of the world” (Wade Davis). While Trump killed aplenty, he was actually unusual in that he didn’t start any new wars for once.
America has bombs and guns everywhere, which Americans take as normal, but it’s not cool. You’re the baddies. America has troops in 85% of the world and is actively killing in at least 14 countries. People all over the world are occupied, tortured, and killed by Americans, and they train governments to do this to their own people as well.
Trump childishly crowed about his super duper missiles, but the default American policy is to deploy the highest military force against the weakest, poorest, people in the world. America has killed over 1 million and displaced over 37 million in its endless Terror War. Trump, again, just said the quiet part out loud.
Finally (for our purposes only, the atrocities go on), America is structurally racist. Its enslaving founders enshrined the power of land (and human) owners in the Electoral College and Senate, and with lifetime appointments via both to the Supreme Court. America is not a modern democracy, it’s a lightly modified slave state, a system built on voter suppression, not voting.
Today, 47.7% of voters are down with overt white supremacy and fascism, and that genie’s not going back in the bottle. Indeed, it was never contained. Racism was built into the system for centuries, then spoken about in dog whistles (states rights, drug war, welfare reform), and under Trump America was just like ‘fuck it, yeah, white power’. Trump, as ever, said the quiet part out loud.
The usual American President
With Joe Biden, these policies still exist. The structure remains. Indeed Joe Biden has emphatically voted for war and racist polices like mass incarceration. He has not campaigned on the radical changes to actually make America a decent state. Biden’s main attribute is that he doesn’t say the quiet part out loud. Presumably he doesn’t believe it. But yet it’s still there. This poses two problems.
One is that people are still oppressed under this system, and they’re not happy. Two is that evil white people feel like they’re not able to oppress enough, and they’re also unhappy. This is in many ways the central tension of American history. The Union tried in every way to accommodate enslavement, but it was ultimately the South which started the Civil War because they couldn’t enslave enough.
Hence, like Obama-era electoral Xanax, Biden will merely take the edge off. America will still be at war. America will still have violent borders. America will still be racist. America will still dig and burn fossil fuels. The branding will change and the arc will change, but not enough to make either side happy. It’s frankly an impossible balance. Biden needs to solve problems that half the country doesn’t want to solve.
This is the usual American tension which has been going on for centuries, so presumably not catastrophic, except we live in catastrophic times. Climate change (and coronavirus) are its largest threats in American history. Black Lives Matter is the largest civil rights movement in American history as well. Bold action is both required and resisted, leading to a unique political tension that previously broke the Union in half.
Usually this is when God turns it off and turns it on again. Empires just collapse and people start over. It happens to everyone, in time. Hinduism acknowledges this. Shiva’s always gets his turn, as the destroyer. When gradual change won’t satisfy anyone, the way fate usually works this out is flipping the board over and starting again. Again, this happens to every single empire. What goes up must come down. When any civilization gets diminishing energy returns and the elites start looting, the whole thing usually just collapses.
This is how it went with the empires of the feudal age, culminating with the fall of the last Empire, the Soviet Union, in 1991. At some point America — the empire of climate capitalism — must fall. It fundamentally cannot fix itself because the master’s tools will not dismantle the house. The problem with America is America. When societies are at this point, where they try to turn around, that’s precisely where they break. Look at the Soviet Union. When Gorbachev started reforming it, that’s when Ukraine et al just fucked off and it fell apart. Hence accommodating Joe Biden may well become Joe Gorbachev.
Since history is rhyming hard these days, it’s worth looking back at how America saved itself last century. The last time things crashed so bad, FDR took the reins and ruled for life. In those 12 years he set up the American welfare state (for white people ) and papered over the tensions that could have made it a failed state. But Republicans have been dismantling the welfare state for 40 years. And now the whole thing is coming down again.
White Americans would literally rather be poor have their teeth rot out of their skulls than share social services with minorities. A majority of white people voted for Trump, a supermajority in the areas most affected by COVID019. White people are suicidally racist. Meanwhile American elites can easily trade on this racism to rob everyone, leading to the conditions that have caused every civilization to collapse. For example, the American stock market is going to crash, it’s just surviving on government bailouts. The only question is when. And then you’re back in 1929 again.
The question then is whether Biden is FDR, who turned the thing around. Or whether he even can be. For one thing Biden can’t serve 12 years, was not elected in a 57% landslide (42 states in your electoral pachinko), and may not have the Senate support to pass meaningful legislation, let alone decide on his own cabinet. Also the population has gone 50% feral, not ‘believing’ in elections, coronavirus, or climate change. It’s hard to solve real problems when half the population doesn’t acknowledge reality.
Just because the quiet part will be quiet again doesn’t mean it’s not there. Indeed, it makes it more dangerous. America is just four years away from fascism again. They’re two Senate seats away from total gridlock. America is still an evil empire, one which must be fought, even if the new emperor seems chill. The damage of racism, of war, of climate change, that will still continue under Joe Biden.
Trump has shown that the empire has no clothes, and we can’t unsee that now. While we can welcome new leadership in America, we can never again allow American leadership of the world. They are simply too evil, too unreliable, and too dumb. A post-Trump world is a post-American world, whoever sits in the post. Quite frankly, good riddance.
As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” American voters have shown us who they are. Believe them.