Three years after Jan. 6 insurrection: Is Biden the ‘lesser of two evils’?

Photo: A crowd of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This Saturday, Jan. 6, marks the third anniversary of the far-right Capitol Insurrection of 2021. Details of this historic event are still emerging to this day, but the affair was a clear attempt by the country’s increasingly militant far right to express its solidarity with Donald Trump and the movement against democratic rights in the United States.

Republicans and the rightwing at large have been moving over the course of several decades to attack the wins of social movements, like abortion, voting eligibility, affirmative action and LGBTQ rights. The MAGA crowd that attempted the insurrection is but one faction of a larger, though minoritarian, conservative offensive movement within the United States.

This year, Democrats will continue to use the legacy of Jan. 6 as fodder for their campaign to re-elect Joe Biden this coming November. The anniversary of Jan. 6 continues to be used as a threat against voters: Either vote blue this year, or the far right will unleash more terror on the country. Jan. 6 is hyped by the Democratic Party as a uniquely evil and destructive event that foreshadows peril for the lives of all Americans unless they cast their votes for Biden.

This misleading and opportunistic strategy is a way for the Democratic Party to capture votes without presenting any appealing policies — or candidates. Assuming that Trump will prevail as the Republican nominee, the Democratic Party has coalesced all of its energy into Biden, the least popular president in recent U.S. history, in hopes of re-running the 2020 election and recreating his narrow victory. But this time, Biden is running with a disappointing track record that begs the question: Is he really a better choice than Trump? And even if he is, will a Democrat victory be enough to stop fascism?

Biden’s first term

There are plenty of Trump-era policies that Biden has quietly continued, if not extended. Most recently is the unconditional funding and arming of the Israeli military and other U.S. allies, with both presidents going so far as to bypass Congress to send weapons abroad. Among other unpopular policies, Biden has:

  • Canceled the COVID-19 Emergency, allowing evictions and student debt repayments to resume for millions of Americans
  • Refused to pass a $15 minimum wage while inflation soared
  • Continued the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and allowed the internment of immigrant adults and children in abhorrent conditions
  • Greenlit oil and gas drilling programs during a climate emergency through his Climate Bill, which the Government Affairs Director of the Center for Biological Diversity referred to as “the climate suicide pact”
  • Failed to codify Roe v. Wade into law while having control of Congress
  • Discouraged, if not outright blocked, peace negotiations that would end the war in Ukraine
  • Increased the budgets for military and police, resulting in police officers killing more civilians in 2023 than any year in the past decade

The Biden campaign’s main selling point so far in the election cycle has been the so-called success of “Bidenomics.” Yet in the first few days of 2024, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 41% of Americans are now struggling to afford their household expenses. Homelessness has hit a record high across many states. Claims that 2023 boasted one of the strongest U.S. economies in recent history add insult to injury for working people, whose lived experiences completely contradict this narrative.

While Democrat staffers, Wall Street moguls, and the ruling establishment at large celebrate the U.S. economy’s “soft landing” that narrowly avoided a recession, four out of five American adults currently rate the country’s economic conditions as “fair” or “poor,” according to a Gallup poll. On top of that, 68% of Americans perceive that the economy is worsening.

Regardless of the analysis that pundits are pushing, the majority of Americans are aware that we are undoubtedly in a period of economic crisis that the ruling parties seem to ignore. This is the point at which a functional party that claims to serve working people would advocate for some sort of positive policy measures to provide economic relief, even if just to gain favor before an election. Not only is the Democratic Party rejecting the most minor of concessions in favor of fearmongering about its opponents, but it is completely resisting shifts in policy that are necessary to maintaining societal stability.

‘The party of democracy’

The Biden administration is currently polling at approximately 39% approval — the lowest rating of any recent president at the same time in their term. But things are looking up for the election, Democratic pundits argue, as this is a decent step up from the record low approval rating of 27% last November.

In response to Biden’s abysmal job approval rating, Democratic elites have doubled down on their choice of candidate. Party figures have shamelessly declared that the party will not even hold debates among the candidates in 2024, allowing zero space for dissent or accountability to Biden’s policies.

In four states — Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Tennessee — the Democratic Party has even moved to secure Biden as the only candidate on the party’s primary ballots in 2024, deterring all potential challengers. This approach is even more hardline than the 2020 Democratic Party strategy of sabotaging popular candidates like Bernie Sanders who touted mild reforms to capitalism, which resulted in only a razor-thin margin of victory for Biden.

The lesser of two evils

We absolutely cannot discount the abhorrent role of racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of bigotry in igniting the far right. The Democratic Party is correct in its analysis that Trump has played a major role in stoking, fanning and normalizing dangerous bigoted violence. But at its core, this shameful far-right movement is not totally divorced from economic hardship.

So long as the underlying economic order remains, Republicans and demagogues like Trump will continue to misdirect public anger and scapegoat marginalized communities for the suffering of the entire working class. For example, the classic conservative talking point that “an immigrant stole your job” is one of many ways that ruling elites distract from the country’s failure to guarantee job programs or any significant support to anyone experiencing joblessness. Similarly, the idea that the opioid crisis is the fault of drug users or foreign interference — or anything other than the government turning a blind eye to the white-collar crimes of the pharmaceutical industry — is ludicrous, yet still a popular trope for elected officials to parrot.

There is no question that Trump is a racist and bigoted presidential candidate. But the notion that conditions would improve under Biden, or any Democratic president for that matter, is farcical. Across the board there is not a single serious positive policy measure put forth by the Biden campaign that excites voters or answers society’s most pressing issues. Under Biden, Republicans are still in control and successfully launching attacks on all the gains of social movements, from voting rights, to abortion rights, to affirmative action. Social programs are still being slashed left and right with support from Democrats in Congress. The rights of the working class are being forcibly ripped away regardless of the figure in the Oval Office.

Biden did not lie in his 2020 campaign when he said that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he were to be elected. He is not, in fact, “the lesser of two evils,” but rather a friendlier face to the U.S.’s political and economic system that continually neglects the needs of its people regardless of who sits at the top. Democrats’ promises that by voting blue we can get things “back to normal,” i.e., how things were before the era of Trump and COVID-19, are hollow and impossible. The world has changed dramatically in a way that requires strong, positive, people-focused leadership and an economic overhaul in order to keep things running. Working people know that when Democrats say they will bring “decency,” they mean they will use softer language when they bring the same economic and social hardships as a Republican president.

To truly stop the assault on democratic rights across the country, a popular movement is necessary. Both parties have proven time and time again that no matter how well-meaning their policies or individual members are, their hands are tied by the rules of capitalism. A complete lack of useful or exciting policy initiatives among the Democratic party will not be sufficient to win the societal support needed to truly challenge the attacks coming from the rightwing. In fact, the far right is rising as part of an expression of deeper societal issues that presidents from both parties have failed to materially address. To truly make a better world, political change in this country needs to start from the ground up.

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