Posted 354 days ago
I'll start by saying that George Packer is one of the best political writers today; this artile is no exception. He understands the sorrow that underpins Progressive American Patriotism: we love the country for some reason but we are following into a sort of nihilism as our bonds are fraying and we are losing trust and hope in our institutions. 2020 has been the icing on the cake:
Then, this year, a series of crises that seemed to come out of nowhere, like a flurry of sucker punches, but that arose straight from [collective ills that go untreated year after year...from income inequality, feckless government, and police abuse...] and exposed the failures of American society to the world.
And now, at the precipice of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a moment to change all this. Packer says that what seemed so important less than a year ago (Medicare for All vs private options), we are coming to realize that our only options are to step behind Biden or lose any hope at preserving the Affordable Care Act and all the good it has done for Americans. But Packer, and surely most Americans, realize that Biden is an unlickly savior.
This is not the stirring of a visionary language of a visionary leader, or the doctrinaire rhetoric of an ideologue. It's the prosaic talk of a career politician shrewd enough to realize that he might have greatness thrust upon him.
If he can take home the election, which Packer seems decently positive about (I am personally more pessimistic), Biden will be forced to confront the structural changes that society is demanding. His career doesn't quite indicate that he will be the leader here, but he might know how to usher through the changes in a seemingly dysfunctional system and restore some faith that Americans have lost in our democracy. Imagine if his huge jobs program is successful.
A Biden administration would invest $2 trillion in infrastructure and clean energy. He proposes creating 3 million jobs in early education, child care, and elderly care...while raising their pay and status...Another $700 billion would go to stimulating demand and innovation in domestic manufacturing for a range of essential industries such as medical supplies, microelectronics, and artificial intelligence. Some $30 billion would go to miniority-owned businesses as part of a larger effore to reduce the racial wealth gap.
This are sweeping changes and could usher in a new moment in American history and common Americans' relationship with their government. Recent years have seen a sharp decline in civic engagement and trust, but a government that could spend big and create good jobs could change our minds. But he, or other candidates in the future, would have "to show that government can do big things before corporate money organizes to co-opt him and habitual public cynicism buries him."
I'm not sure how this will turn out but I greatly enjoy Packer's hopeful cynicism. Lastly, my favorite quote from the article was the following:
What are the democratic dreams of a nonunion Amazon warehouse associate putting in mandatory overtime with a fever and leaving her remote-schooled kids in the care of her elderly mother? "You can't expect civic virtue from a disfranchised class," [Walter] Lippmann wrote.
Posted 355 days ago
Packer references Richard Rorty's two kinds of American left: "reformist and cultural." He claims that although that distinction is eroding with politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Left is still unwilling to concede to the reformist policies of the Center-Left. He suggests that they need to release their grip on ideology and seize the current moment.
My doubt is this: the only reason we are at this critical juncture is because the Left has fought back against neo-liberalism and other Center-Left politics that has left the country in need of change. It refused to elect Hillary Clinton, and has pushed the Center-Left to either include progressive politics or take the whole Democratic Party down altogether.
And my question is this: is Joe Biden the candidate that we want to fall in behind temporarily? Obviously he is not our hero, but is he the best we could do in the current moment? Could the Left not hold out for another 4 years and force the Democratic Party to elect a true Progressive?
Biden has to make large reforms. If he doesn't, we run the risk of losing faith in the democratic process. I'm not yet sure if we should put our faith in him, but we might not have another choice.