Joe Biden on the campaign trail. In law school he would have learned that identifying the issues involved is an essential part of getting the answer right. His opponent has never figured this out and moreover, couldn’t care less. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
A possible “new normal”
US power in the world
part 1 of 3, by Eric Jackson
Joe Biden is a child of the Cold War, whose rise to political leadership coincided with the rise of an economy globalized on corporate terms. As the senator from the corporate tax haven State of Delaware, he would have no great moral objection to that neoliberal order.
But he is also a politician who has tacked with changing times, and who has several times had to rearrange things in his personal life in the face of devastating setbacks. Back in the 70s it was the hippie radicals, not Joe Biden, saying that gay men and lesbians should be able to live their lives with dignity and the same full set of rights and privileges that others have. But it was Joe Biden who, during the Obama administration, announced that public policy was finally coming around to recognizing the LGBT communities and individuals as full citizens.
Biden came to the Democratic nomination through the intervention of a billionaire openly proclaiming first priority for a foreign power. That’s what Mike Bloomberg, “Democratic Majority for Israel” and the half-billon-dollar mudsling against Bernie Sanders are all about. But it’s now a genuine doubt whether Bibi Netanyahu can cling to power in Israel. Whether Israel’s planned final liquidation of the Palestinian lands can come to pass and be sustained is another big question. As it stands now a large portion of American Jews object to Netanyahu, annexation, apartheid and AIPAC.
There is certainly no majority among Democrats for this stuff. But where to go if the old paradigm of acceptability, when Golda Meir in the name of her then nominally socialist party could declare the Palestinians to be “cockroaches” and no Democrat in Washington would be heard to object, when a white supremacist could blow up the federal building in Oklahoma and the first question on CNN was whether it was “terrorists” – meaning Muslims – can no longer be sustained?
Yes, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were kept away from the recent Democratic convention, the Republican who lied to the UN and the American people to gin up the disastrous invasion of Iraq got to speak, and one of Biden’s aides set off on a Muslim-baiting screed that was not repudiated by the candidate. But despite primary opponents who tried to ride Joe Biden’s coat tails with the backing of dark corporate super PAC money, Tlaib and Omar were re-elected. The Obama administration’s intervention in Syria has failed and that verdict will not be reversed. Rank-and-file Democrats may on the whole still want to honor an old American promise to guarantee Israel’s existence, but we are much closer to J Street than to AIPAC about how that might be done. Moreover, what happens in the Holy Land will not just be up to Democrats, nor to Americans, nor for that matter the Israelis and Palestinians who live there.
The days when Washington can snap its collective bipartisan fingers and make the Middle East, Africa, a large part of Asia and the Americas south of the US border fall into an orderly line are over. That the old Republican generals, spymasters and economic hit men pine for the good old days will not suffice to restore any mid-1950s imperial grandeur. The Cold War is over. Even if the neocons want another one, America can’t afford it.
The Russian threat? Vladimir Putin is wily and ruthless. But while Donald Trump is a militant ignoramus and Putin isn’t, there is a pathos that the two men share. They both lead the damaged shells of old superpowers and use bluster, smoke and mirrors to project holograms of strength.
You would expect that Joe Biden, unlike Donald Trump, would both recognize current realities and refrain from the banana republic practice of inviting foreign powers to intervene in US domestic affairs. If this writer judges it right, not even Israel, notwithstanding the primary campaign boost he got from Mr. Bloomberg.
Biden is going to recognize China as the main geopolitical rival of the United States. He’s also going to recognize the perils its expanding ambitions pose to traditional if currently neglected or insulted friends like Japan, South Korea and the western European countries. And not only to them. Also to troubled giants led by reprehensible strongmen, Russia and India. Also to the entire Muslim world. Biden will notice how Chinese business has all but run the US competition off the field in Latin America.
Donald Trump hasn’t a clue about world realities. He cares only about his personal fortunes and not about the lives and aspirations of the American people. There are too many such people on both sides of the US major parties political divide. Joe Biden isn’t one of them.
But what to do? The Biden coalition sinks, along with Kamala Harris’s ambitions, if America blows its diminished resources on foreign adventures. Surely Joe knows that. A sparing, principled foreign policy in which the United States rarely acts alone is what America can afford. Leadership that works with friends who have common interests rather than sullen bullied lackeys who have been threatened into line is what would work for America.
Mainly, though, a “new normal” that works for Americans is, whatever you want to call it, a new deal that puts people back to work. One that builds the cities and transportation systems and schools and factories and energy grid that’s needed for a better tomorrow. A successful Biden administration would be Americans looking inward to rebuild America.
And you know what? In a better educated, more across-the-board prosperous and more just America, there would be political “herd immunity.” The pathetic Internet troll farms by which foreign powers try to manipulate US divisions would be ineffective.
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