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Left Voice - December 6, 2020

In other words, the false “progress” of neoliberal capitalism, sustained across decades of borrowed time, has finally run its course with even more dire consequences for working people and the economy, not to mention the massive destruction of the environment and the proliferation of diseases such as Covid-19.

... Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton, is also widely, and correctly, perceived as a representative of the political establishment. This time around, however, after four years of controversy, political polarization, a bungled pandemic response, and mass social unrest, the Democrats won the Electoral College by exactly the same margin as they lost it in 2016. This zigzagging back and forth from right-wing populist to establishment technocrat is emblematic of the ongoing elements of organic crisis currently developing in the United States. But this does not necessarily mean that people were voting for neoliberalism or even for the establishment. On the contrary, the U.S. political regime’s two-party structure almost guarantees that the real needs of the U.S. working class are never fully represented in such elections. For most of the U.S. electorate, Biden was the candidate not of neoliberalism, but of stability and of normalcy, an old and well-lit port in a political storm of historic proportions. But neither he nor the U.S. political-economic system is equipped to create that stability. In this respect, Biden’s presidency may signal the beginning of the end of the neoliberal project. How long it can be sustained and what might replace it, however, are open questions.

The Last Neoliberal?

While it’s clear that many voters who chose Biden were actually casting their ballot against the disgusting politics of the Trump administration and not in favor of Biden’s establishment politics, his election nonetheless represents perhaps the last opportunity for the ruling class to salvage what little is left of the wreckage of the neoliberal project. And in several ways Biden is the perfect man for that job. A business-friendly fiscal conservative with a long track record of supporting corporate bailouts, Biden is precisely what the capitalist class needs right now. It is no surprise then that Wall Street investors contributed five times as much to his campaign as Trump’s in the leadup to the election, or that he received the endorsement of two national chambers of commerce and hundreds of leading Republicans.

This backing from the capitalist class and the Right shows that there is still considerable bipartisan support for the neoliberal project despite its slow unravelling. These sectors of the ruling class are banking on Biden to reestablish some kind of social and economic stability through a combination of corporate stimulus spending and austerity, like what we saw after the 2008 crash.

If Biden’s record is any indication of how he will govern, it looks as though he will not disappoint his corporate benefactors. Indeed, although Biden campaigned on a platform that included some begrudging concessions to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, his entire political career has been a testament to the kind of across-the-aisle bargaining that defined Obama’s presidency. A consummate politician and an expert in the art of bipartisan compromise, he was one of the first of the New Democrats — also known as the “Third Way” — who moved the party to the right in the early 1990s. He is also a well-known and enthusiastic deficit hawk who regularly supported balanced budget legislation and who, as recently as 2007, said he supported raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits. He advocates corporate-friendly free trade agreements and strongly supported NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And, as Branko Marcetic has painstakingly detailed, he is a transparently transactional politician with strong ties to the banking and credit card industries, to Washington lobbyists, and to the financial sector. As Obama’s vice president, he was also, and perhaps most importantly from the perspective of the capitalist class, part of an administration that oversaw the biggest corporate bailout in U.S. history. ...
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