By Benay Blend
In a popular song from the mid-60s, there is a reference to the changing times—grocery stores that become super marts, cars built to go “faster all the time.” Nevertheless, at the same time, some things never change–men “keep marching off to war” and the poor cry “buddy, have you got a dime?” While superficial changes catch the eye, “the beat goes on” much like it did before, signaling the rot beneath the surface.
In many ways, these words encapsulate Biden’s “Uncle Joe” façade, a covering that hides his checkered past. As Louis Allday notes, under Donald Trump “the superficial mask of American liberalism dropped entirely,” exposing “policies inherited from the Obama-Biden Administration, including the detention of migrant children, the Muslim ban,” and Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, made “legally possible,” Allday claims, due to earlier legislation supported by both Biden and later Obama.
It’s true that there were mass celebrations in the streets commemorating the defeat of Donald Trump. Still, how many people were simultaneously feeling little pleasure at the thought of Biden/Harris continuing in the footsteps of the current administration’s neoliberal policies.
For those people who are aware of Biden’s history, continues Allday, watching mainstream news and social media reaction has been a “profoundly alienating experience,” made worse by charges of spoiling the joy for those who are celebrating Biden’s win.
Because political education and critical thinking skills are so absent in this analysis, Allday concludes, there is no recognition that criticism of Biden’s past springs from solidarity with the victims of the “neo-liberal and imperialist politics that [Biden] so perfectly embodies.”
“As liberals celebrated and congratulated Black people for helping Democrats win,” writes Nicholas Ayala, “the violence of poverty ripped through Black and Brown communities.” After months of claiming solidarity with Black people protesting in the streets, adds Ayala, the same liberals encouraged support for Kamala Harris, a prosecutor responsible for jailing poor people when their kids missed too much school. They also told people to vote for Joe Biden, a man who constructed the “crime” bill that sent so many people of color to jail.
In the end, he concludes, a “mass delusion took place in which many went out to celebrate their ‘victory,’ but this ‘victory’ will include more violence domestically and internationally.”
While many in the U.S. celebrated a deluded sense of harm reduction, at least in the domestic realm, the rest of the world understands the reality of U.S. imperialism.
In the words of Onyesonwu Chatoyer, an organizer for the All African People’s Revolutionary Party—New Mexico:
“The only way to save the kids and families in cages – and keep them out of those cages – is to drastically change US imperialist policy towards Central and South America and the Caribbean and that is decidedly *not* on the table under a Biden administration. He’s gonna double down on the same policies that created mass migration in the first place. Remember the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras was couped under the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION and THAT was what led to mass movement to the US border after a dictator was put into power that began brutalizing and oppressing people – particularly African, Indigenous, and LGBTQ activists.”
Moreover, given Biden’s long-time support for Israel, there is little doubt where his sympathies will lie regarding policies in the Middle East.
As Sumaya Awad and Hadas Thier assert, the pro-Israel lobby came together over the Biden campaign. Indeed, right-wingers and liberal Zionists alike ignored the fact some state representatives and newly elected officials have moved beyond “depoliticized humanitarian mantra[s]” to embedding support for Palestine within a broader social justice framework.
Far from being a victory, conclude the authors, these advances nevertheless offer an opportunity for the left to go “beyond empty humanitarian rhetoric and push for more robust political transformation.”
Others call upon activists to understand that joint struggle continues no matter who wins which election. In a recent statement, the Palestinian Youth Movement places obstacles to their liberation within a broader framework that includes “an escalation of police violence, expansion of surveillance, concentration at the southern border, attempted coups in Latin America,” and mishandling of the pandemic that has resulted in the deaths of 10s of thousands of Americans.
A Biden/Harris administration, they predict, will not reverse the losses of the past four years. It is only through “through joint struggle, political education, mutual aid, and direct action” that a just future will be gained.
“We write this in full solidarity with all oppressed peoples across the globe who struggle under the thumb of imperialism. And more specifically, this is a statement of solidarity between our two peoples, Palestinians and Black people, as we resist against Israeli and American genocide. It is also a statement which seeks to name that the material collaboration of our enemies demonstrates to us how connected we are as siblings in struggle.”
“As we continue to occupy the streets of Atlanta for the third week in a row,” the report concluded, “we do so with a global analysis of imperialism, capitalism, Zionism, and anti-Blackness. The only way we win is together, and we will win.”
Finally, in an open letter to the Biden/Harris campaign and the Democratic National Committee, a coalition of people of color activists reminded the campaign that their members showed up in large numbers, despite the many obstacles, to help but Biden win the White House.
“Elections are one moment in time,” the letter read, “and one way that we express our power. We voted for our communities, not a political party. Today, we are celebrating our communities’ success.”
Nevertheless, the signatories continue:
“Tomorrow we’re back to holding you — our elected officials– accountable to do right by us. Remember up for us in funding and policy decisions you make, and in the narratives about our communities that you advance.”
Coming from a wide variety of neighborhoods—in Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but also Atlanta, Detroit and Kenosha, Brooklyn and Oakland, Phoenix and Las Vegas, East St. Lois and DC—their coalition is self-described as part of a “global movement fighting to dismantle the systems, policies and practices rooted in anti-blackness.”
Despite addressing the Biden/Harris administration, the letter states that “we voted for our communities, not a political party.” In the end, it concludes: “We are leaders of our own liberation,” not dependent on a system that from its inception has been unresponsive.
Unless activists move beyond the celebratory phase of the Biden/Harris win, writes Jonathan Cook, “it won’t be Biden doing the sleeping.” Instead, it will be “the liberals who cheerlead him,” while Biden/Harris are busy placating their corporate donors, “whatever the cost” to the rest of the world.
In the words of Steven Salaita, so relevant today:
“Dismissing movements for justice as impossible (abolishing the police, decolonizing North America, liberating Palestine) isn’t a concession to pragmatism: it’s a failure of imagination. Anything is possible unless you kill the idea.”
Without the brand of imagination that Salaita here prescribes, with no pushback from progressive groups, the beat will for carrying on, offering no chance for a different kind of tune.
– Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.