How 2024 Came To Pass: Grading Joe Biden’s Presidency

[This article first appeared under a different title in 2021, in my literary magazine, AUTOMACHINATION. Its core prediction has come to pass: Joe Biden, for structural reasons, has been unable to enact the reforms voters might consider ‘good enough’, even as crises pile up. COVID measures went from punitive to laissez faire; inflation has suppressed real wages, leaving Americans feeling worse-off than in 2019; lobbyist spending has led to political and humanitarian disaster with unqualified, bipartisan support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza; nonwhite voters have continued to leave the Democratic Party; the militarization of police has accelerated; any promise to reverse Trump’s tax cuts was dead from the beginning. I argued that Joe Biden would be more superficially ‘progressive’ than Barack Obama, but that it wouldn’t be enough to really be felt. The response to Trump’s 2024 campaign has been to disqualify and/or imprison him, largely due to the fact that the Biden administration was paralyzed from the beginning. These are sentiments echoed by Benjamin Studebaker in our discussion of American democracy.]

In the last few decades, the term forever war has come to denote an unpleasant fact for imperial ambition- namely, that superpowers have ceased to exist, dislodged by regional actors limited to their own spheres of influence, while influence itself grows narrower and more abstract. Thirty years after America failed to take Vietnam, it would fail for much the same reason in Afghanistan and Iraq: lately, empire cannot explain its purpose even to itself, much less to its victims, whose soft power must be recruited to win modern wars. But while there is no way to hide material losses in combat, the world’s gradual abandonment of violence will, ironically, do more to expand the concept of ‘forever war’ than the usufructs of empire ever could. That’s because the forever war abroad- wasteful, belligerent, transparent in intent yet maddeningly plausible to the median dolt- is being transformed into a cultural war of attrition at home, through the same loss of purpose. I mean, what is America’s legitimating function anyway? It can’t be to lead the world on climate change. It’s certainly NOT to teach others how to mitigate a global pandemic at a time when infectious diseases are slated to redouble. It has terrible health outcomes, bad infrastructure, political gridlock, and- with crisis after unresolved crisis- doesn’t even pretend to care about the working class. Put another way, America has scrambled its own legitimation story, even though the rest of the world has not believed this story for some time now. And so, America has lost its wars and is in the process of losing the most important one, as faith in democracy collapses at home and authoritarian doldrums envelop abroad. No one, it’s been said, saw this coming, but isn’t that the point? If civic engagement is cratered- that is, if the legitimation story gets rejected- this is less a failure of voters than of the choices they are bullied into. Now that Donald … Continue reading →

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