Making Up For Lost Time: A Nation Lost In The Past
The wealthy and powerful have intentionally prevented America from changing, growing, or progressing. This moment isn't about radicalism, it's about preventing self-destruction
President Joe Biden’s address of Congress on Wednesday night was a marked departure from the strange, incoherent, abusive speeches delivered by Donald Trump that bounced strangely from one subject to another, all while painting a portrait of an America that wasn’t just falling apart, but was ready to destroy itself.
Apart from Trump’s obvious and intentional lies, there was a note of truth hidden among the debris. For decades the United States of America had failed to address the very real concerns of its people, instead kowtowing to the whims of the wealthy and powerful. Trump never intended to address this. His appeals were thinly-veiled pandering that took a tragic reality and twisted it into a product to sell his voters on more and more outlandish corruption.
The America Trump spoke of was very real though. Materials condition had broken down to the point where citizens were left confused as to just how things had deteriorated in “the greatest country on the face of the Earth” and that powerlessness soon turned to violence. The government had been turned into a completely impotent structure and was bought and sold, many times over, by the wealthy few, leaving Americans on their own and left to die and suffer as a generational pandemic savaged its way through the nation. Trump, however, did not speak of this in any way, shape, or form, to help it, but to redirect anger and seize an opportunity to make a few bucks off the continued desolation.
What we witnessed with Biden on Wednesday was a new approach. Already the Right is trying to portray his agenda as “socialist” or “radical,” but the sad truth is that nothing Biden is proposing - be it updated infrastructure, jobs plans, an extension of public education that covers some college - is even remotely leftist. It is an attempt to drag the United States of America into the 21st century and undo decades upon decades of intentional hindrances. This work that is being proposed, and this work that Republicans will undoubtedly oppose, along with, possibly, West Virginia’s Democratic senator Joe Manchin, isn’t liberal, leftist, progressive, or ideological at all.
It’s a race against the clock to modernize America.
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The victory of modern hypercapitalism was cemented in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as former actor Ronald Reagan became the pitchman for the destruction of the post-Great Depression program the New Deal and worked, on behalf of a constellation of think-tanks and corporations, to shred the social safety net while selling the American public on the idea that government was, always had been, and always would be, an impediment to their health and happiness.
Unfortunately, the pitch was disingenuous. Much like Trump, Reagan’s diagnosis was knowingly wielded as a means of redistributing wealth while redirecting anger from the individuals and companies responsible for American misery to public servants, government as a public good, and, perhaps most damaging, to fellow citizens. Economic trends show us that unregulated markets of the kind Reagan and his conspirators championed lead to meltdowns and cruel inequality, and it’s not surprise that we’ve found ourselves in this moment.
Approaching the dawn of the 21st century, Reagan and Republicans systematically drug America backward, choosing to plunge our politics into the post-World War II Cold War as a means of creating a crusade of meaning out of the ideological struggle between capitalism and communism, preaching a faith that lionized wealth and greed while demonizing the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. This manifested a culture of consumption and consumerism, alienating us from one another and vilifying the concept that the state has any obligation to the citizen beyond staying out of their way.
Of course, that was only a myth. The state, under Reagan and the presidents to follow, continued to pick winners and losers and direct the market, only now it was the express purpose of rewarding the wealthy and redistributing resources from human projects into the pockets of the holy rich.
“Trickle Down Economics” wasn’t just a failure. It was never intended to work.
As a result, we live in a country that is far, far, far behind other industrialized nations. Our healthcare, our educational system, our infrastructure, our basic human needs, fall short of anything the “greatest and wealthiest nation in human history” should resemble. While we were fighting the wars of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the 1980’s, we were missing out on opportunities to modernize, innovate, and prepare for changes.
We became a nation that consumed and lived in constant denial of our rapidly deteriorating status. We were destroying ourselves.
Mitch McConnell has one job: break politics.
The project the Republican Party has enacted over the recent past is to render our political system incapable of addressing even the most basic needs of the American people, resulting in disillusionment and the continued redistribution of wealth from the poorest many to the wealthiest few. There is no Republican Party. There is a public relations front tasked with creating chaos, distrust, inspiring incoherent and violent white supremacist movements as protection against reform, and stoking fear among their base to keep them wary of change and progress.
We are not, with these Biden proposals, discussing Big Government. Even pundits who should know better continue failing on that front and keep framing it as such. We are talking about Government. That’s it. The actual need for the state to provide baseline conditions for human existence.
Clean drinking water.
Protection from a novel and murderous disease.
An address of a growing global catastrophe that requires state-level response.
Republicans aren’t advocating “conservatism.” That would mean actually proposing a policy. These are issues that are real, demonstrably real, and Republicans would have to advocate something approaching a solution, whether it would be market-based or rooted in “traditional values,” but they have moved beyond dealing with reality and are, instead, fighting over paranoid delusions, symbolic culture wars that are both meaningless and nonexistent.
This isn’t about Left vs. Right. This is about even recognizing material conditions and beginning to improve them.
Before Franklin D. Roosevelt died, he began proposing a “Second Bill of Rights” that would fundamentally change the United States of America. This would leverage the country’s growing status as a world-leader into a new promise of employment, a home, free medical care and education, and the confidence of a life free of undue economic suffering.
Let us be clear: this is an actually leftist proposal. For someone to call this “radical” would not be wrong as it would fundamentally alter the fabric of the country and realize the potential for a better, freer, more human future. It could be debated. It could be mulled over. It could be the foundation for an extensive, intense, and ideological discourse to determine who we are and who we want to be.
People are still grasping at how to perceive Joe Biden’s presidency. Already too many articles have been penned, again by pundits who should know better, that his presidency is shaping up to be like FDR’s. This isn’t true. We are witnessing large public projects, investment in relief and the people, and this is a necessary move in a necessary direction. But we are not even in the realm of something radical yet and the Right’s continued insistence that we’re watching tyranny or dangerous socialism is as bad-faith as bad-faith gets.
We’re discussing reality. We’re naming the problems that need named and beginning the process of even addressing them in a real way. But do not mistake that. We’re making up for many, many years of lost time. All of the things we’re now debating should have been accomplished decades ago, but fell by the wayside because hypercapitalism demanded redistribution of wealth in truly radical ways.
If this is the beginning, let it be the beginning. But our insistence on telling our story and viewing our country through the lens chosen by the Right and the wealthy and powerful individuals and corporations they represent is a losing battle. This is common-sense, baseline stuff. If we’re going to alleviate human suffering, realize long-denied, necessary projects, and begin to wrestle with the looming climate catastrophe that could destroy human society as we know it, we have to start somewhere.
Don’t let them tell you the start is the end or we’ll never get started.