When Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their respective Senate runoff elections in Georgia, the stage was set. The Democratic Party now holds control over Congress and the presidency, while Republicans gear up for an intra-party war between establishment types and remnant Trump loyalists. A spotlight is now rightfully on the Biden administration to deliver meaningful change for the American people, and us brackish anti-capitalists are wasting no time in urging poor folks not to pop champagne (as if they could afford champagne) with the upper-middle-class liberals of the country whose top priority — maybe their only priority — was to oust Donald Trump.
As the debate around cash aid rumbles on, we should be clear about this: Democrats won in Georgia because they promised $2,000 relief checks for voters. The day before the election, President-elect Biden got up on stage, looked a crowd of Georgians in the eye, and told them, “If you send Jon and the Reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door.”
He continued, saying, “If you’re like millions of Americans all across this country, you need the money, you need the help, and you need it now.”
Now. Let’s take a look at the updated now. Now, President-elect Biden is President Biden, the millions of struggling Americans have still not received a $2,000 emergency relief check, and how fares the debate in Washington, D.C.? Well, there’s now discourse claiming that by $2,000 what they really meant was $1,400 on top of the $600 already received (conveniently, miraculously phrased differently on the campaign trail in Atlanta). Joe’s updated rhetoric reflects this newfound specificity, as he said in a speech on the 14th, that “[w]e will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most.” Crisp, precise. He added, “$600 is simply not enough if you still have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table.”
If we don’t rally, we’ll keep debates about our well-being in the hands of people whose well-being is already secured.
Given that this pandemic has ravaged those in need for much longer than one month, even the proposed $2,000 is obviously “simply not enough.” The debate should be about monthly $2,000 checks retroactive to the beginning of quarantine, with continuing aid until the pandemic and its fiscal impacts are largely over, as has been proposed by House Reps Tlaib (D-MI) and Jayapal (D-WA). And this is how the low, low, low bar of defeating Trump pollutes national discourse. It drops expectations to an abyssal, bottomless framework, where as long as the crumbs Americans are allowed to lick off the floor are more than what Republican governance would have achieved, people are conditioned to treat it as acceptable.
Bipartisan suffering and the power of the people
This is why so many of us refer to electoralism as a farce of political theater. No matter which party is in control, corporations do well and poor people do worse. That is the macroscale truth, despite what the Democratic establishment tries to sell the American people. In the grand scope, the crumbs they divvy out do nothing to attack broader trends of income inequality, do nothing to address the root causes of poverty and all its needless suffering, do nothing to address systemic racism. The people who need help now continue to have now kicked down the road, simple solutions for problems dragged on and on and on, muddied, obfuscated, forgotten. Until the next election against the boogeyman GOP. And liberal Democrats have the gall to criticize non-voters for apathy. Apathy is a logical byproduct of the piss-poor style of governance exhibited by the Democratic Party, a nakedly opportunist band of corporatist sycophants.
Whatever Democrats get done for the people will be a result of populist pressure. It’s a big ask to try and rally folks who are suffering to rise and unite, to demand a government that is for the people. But if we don’t, we’ll keep starving, we’ll keep debates about our well-being in the hands of people whose well-being is already secured. We’ll keep debates about whether we should get health care in the hands of people who already have health care, debates about whether we should be able to pay rent this month by people whose Congressional salaries paid by taxpayer money are more than enough to cover their mortgages. We’ll keep debates about migrant children in cages in the hands of rich folks who will never get anywhere near a scenario in which they’d have to risk their lives to try and secure a future for their children.
If we don’t fight for control, we won’t have any. Not now, not ever. Liberals are going to pop champagne and rest. They did what they came to do, oust Trump and secure their material conditions. They have different class interests than the exploited laborer and the working poor. They are not your allies, and they are not going to fight for you. They’re going to tell you that you’re lucky to get the incrementalism they’re offering you, that your demands for relief from the threats to your survival built-in to the design of capitalism are impractical, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, fairy tales. They’re going to tell you that working together with the GOP is the way forward, the way to unite the country. (What does it mean when someone wants to meet halfway with a party whose wealthy representatives are plainly fighting to deny you relief?) Worse yet, they believe what they’ll tell you.
We know what unity between these two parties looks like. Bipartisan inequality, bipartisan war, bipartisan hunger, bipartisan houselessness, bipartisan medical debt, bipartisan insulin rationing, bipartisan price-gouging, bipartisan lies from a bipartisan corporate media infrastructure.
Moral humans with an honest lens on the landscape of the American experiment will discard, with confidence, the entire framework of Democrat vs. Republican politics. They will see it for what it is: a dysfunctional system with predictable outcomes, none of which favor the working people. It has never been about D vs. R, and it has always been about haves vs. have-nots. If you’re a working poor person, Joe Biden and his Democrats are not going to save you.
Unless you force them to.