22nd October, 2021
By Umair Haque
I need to tell you something that a lot of you aren’t going to want to hear. Especially die-hard liberals, whose relationship with the Democrats has become uncritical, unalloyed, and unhealthy.
Joe Biden’s Presidency is dying. Yes, really. Let me make my case. Because the question is: who killed it?
Biden swept to power on a wave of disgust at Trumpism. Americans didn’t vote for Biden so much as they rejected Trumpism. And even that, by narrow, narrow margins — the majority of white Americans voted for Trump.
Biden thus acted like a typical politician. He proposed an agenda that wasn’t nearly ambitious or visionary enough. That’s not my opinion — it’s simple economics, in this case macroeconomics. What plunges societies into fascism? A precipitous plunge into poverty, and the shattering decline of living standards it produces, which cause resentment, anger, and rage — all of which demagogues easily turn into hate and violence, by scapegoating minorities and long-marginalzied social groups for the woes of “the pure” and “the true.” So much, so Trumpy.
Biden misread America’s plight from the very beginning. He didn’t propose anything remotely like a New Deal. I know that liberals think he did, thanks to the Democrats’ spin, but the fact — and again, this is a fact — the New Deal was half of the economy, 50% of GDP. Biden’s plans at the outset were less than 5% of it. And now? They’ve been watered down to less than 2% of the economy.
And they’re being watered down yet again.
Why is that? Well, because Biden has two Very Big Problems. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Manchin recently came out against the element of Biden’s plan to cut carbon emissions, and against a shift to clean energy period. Sinema, meanwhile, jetted off to go shopping in Paris this weekend.
Let’s take a second to examine those two facts, because they reveal a very great deal. About the present, the future, and the course America’s taking, and can’t seem to shake.
Now, you might think to yourself, “Sigh, well, that’s just DC business as usual.” Only in this case, the consequences are going to be catastrophic. For the whole world. You see, we’re already in the incipient stages of an age of apocalypse. Enjoy living through megafires, megafloods, and pandemics — all effects of climate change and ecological collapse? I didn’t think so.
What’s going to happen now that Manchin has dictated America won’t have clean energy? Three things, all of which are completely catastrophic. One, poor nations like China, whom rich nations like America need to move away from coal and shift to clean energy…won’t. They’ll say: why should we bother, when you don’t? And worse, they’ll be justified in saying so. Climate change will intensify globally as a result of this shockingly, abysmally, unbelievably bad decision of Biden’s — to cave to a corrupt Joe Manchin.
The second effect of caving to Manchin is that Americans aren’t going to have a modern energy grid, either. Guess what that means, in practice? Blackouts and brownouts. You see, a renewable energy grid also comes with the benefits of resilience. It can weather and survive the worst of climate change. But a dirty, industrial age one can’t. Hydro and windpower and so on — they aren’t so affected by climate change. But a dirty energy grid, which needs coal to be mined, and shoved into giant furnaces? That isn’t going to be a system you can count on, when flood and fire and plague are at your door. America’s old, creaking, obsolete energy grid is going to go down, hard and fast.
That brings me to the third effect. As America’s dirty power grid fails while climate change intensifies, it’s going to take the economy with it. Good luck turning on the lights at that factory. Plant. University. Hospital. School. Good luck driving that electric car to work. Good luck joining that conference call from home. A failing energy grid is absolutely catastrophic for an economy — and thanks to Joe Manchin, with a little help from Joe Biden, that’s what America’s going to have for the next generation.
Now. Why does Manchin oppose clean energy and cutting carbon emissions? Because the coal lobby does. And Manchin of course represents America’s prime coal producing state. But not the people in it, whose only real future is to leave coal in the rocks where it belongs. Manchin represents corporations — greedy ones, already worth billions. Is that democracy? Do corporations vote? Of course not.
So if we cut through the noise, the facts being to look like this. Because of a corrupt, backwards Senator from a literally failing state which only exists thanks to the “handouts” they hate in the first place…the entire world’s efforts against climate change are going to set back decades, if they proceed at all. If you doubt that, then here’s another fact: China’s building new coal plants, instead of cutting emissions — precisely because now it knows that America isn’t remotely serious about climate change.
Beijing’s laughing at an America where a corrupt old fool like Joe Manchin can literally bring the system to its arthritic knees.
Let me put that to you even more bluntly.
Biden has now failed spectacularly on climate change, which is probably the single most important of this age. For America. For the world. For the future of all of us.
Now let’s come to Biden’s other nemesis, Kyrsten Sinema. Isn’t it a little jaw-dropping that she jetted off to Paris for a shopping spree while…leaving the entire apparatus of DC politics paralysed? Doesn’t that take your breath away? It should.
Sinema may be even worse than Manchin. Manchin can at least point to his constituents and make a bad argument for coal. Sinema opposes everything — for no reason at all, except that she’s corrupt. She’s not even just corrupt in the old way of DC politics — corruption hidden behind closed doors, veiled behind backroom deals. Nope. She flaunts how corrupt she is. She literally jets off to Paris while the nation plunges into political despair and ruin.
But what are the effects of Sinema’s obstructionism going to be? They’re going to be completely devastating, just like the effects of Manchin’s posturing, only in a different way.
Sinema opposes everything. Lower drug prices? No thanks. Clean energy? Childcare? Nope, nope, nope. She essentially opposes every element of the Democratic agenda, while openly taking money from corporations and taking trips to Paris. Whew. Now. What’s all that going to cause?
Wrong question. What’s it already causing? Well, the fragile coalition that put the Democrats in power is already falling apart. Biden’s approval ratings are plummeting. That’s because it took an historic coalition of different social groups to put him over the top. Young people, Black people, gay people, women. Anyone and everyone threatened by the fascism of the Trump years. But many of those groups are now walking away in disappointment, disenchantment, and sheer disgust.
The bloom is off the rose. “These fools can’t deliver anything” is the sentiment. Young people know that even Biden’s agenda wasn’t nearly enough to begin with — they oppose capitalism — and they also know that he can’t even deliver that. Similar sentiments of frustration and resignation and anger are holding true across the vital social groups that pushed Democrats over the top, from young people to Black people to women.
What’s likely to happen? Well, these groups are already disappointed. By next year, they’ll be apathetic, seeing the dismal, grim truth that nothing is possible in DC. So…why bother voting? Turnout will be depressed. The crucial groups that pushed the Democrats over the top last time won’t vote next time around. In states with razor-thin margins, that’s going to be completely catastrophic. Because Trump will cruise to an easy, resounding victory.
Remember, the vast majority of white, middle aged Americans voted for him and still adore him.
What will a resurgent Trumpism, back in the White House, do? It’ll be much, much worse than before. Look at how fanatical and violent Trumpists are now — they invade school board meetings and scream in rage and threaten teachers. Imagine what they’ll do when they control all the institutions of government. This time, they won’t stop at concentration camps for kids and hunting minorities in the streets. It will be much, much worse.
The gloves will be off, and America will begin to resemble Texas, a state that’s more or less on the way to becoming Gilead by way of Moscow meets Tehran somewhere in North Korea, a place where women have no rights to privacy, expression, or association anymore, a failed state where people carry guns, which has no functioning institutions, where pandemics and natural disasters run rampant, and there’s no sense of decency, justice, truth, or goodness left at all in power anymore.
Fascism is going to rip America apart when Trump wins again. (Notice how I didn’t say “if.”) Because at this point, you can see it from a million miles — or at least three years — away. The Democrat’s coalition isn’t holding.
Kyrsten Sinema is going to be the woman who brought fascism back to America. Many of you won’t like me putting it like that. You’ll think I’m being cruel, unkind, throwing insults. Let me remind you that she’s jetting off to Paris while leaving DC paralysed. She’s not just corrupt in the way of genteel DC politics of yesteryear — she’s corrupt like Putin’s corrupt: she is reveling in it and flaunts it. Figures that craven and corrupt and thoughtless do indeed end up notorious in history, and they are indeed the linchpins of social collapse, from Hindenburg (who appointed Hitler) to Marie Antoinette.
Biden’s Presidency is dying. You might think I’m overstating it. I don’t think I am at all. I think I’m understating it. After all, the way I’ve put it implies it can still be revived. But I don’t even realistically think there’s a chance of that. Because, well, ask yourself. How weak does a leader have to be to cave to Sinema and Manchin? Why is Biden literally signing over America’s future — and the world’s — to a woman who jets off to Paris at a time like this, and a man who doesn’t seem to know what “global warming” means?
Whose fault is that in the end, to be that craven, that weak?
Biden’s Presidency is dying. And like the end of so many empires, it’s hard to say — who killed it. Who brought down Rome? Was the crucial moment was when Caesar crossed the Rubicon — or when they killed him in the Senate? Was it Brutus’s fault, for landing the first blow — or did each Senator make Rome fall, too, with each plunge of the knife?
It’s impossible to say. The only thing that can really be said, in the end, is that Rome fell, because there wasn’t a leader left in the empire capable of running such a machine of violence, brutality, fear, and poverty. The machine could only do what it was made to do — repress and subjugate the masses, while enriching a tiny few.
Sound like America? It should.
Who killed Biden’s Presidency? Today, tomorrow, we’ll debate it. Sinema, some will say. Manchin, others will cry. Some will point to his wise men and advisors. Some, like me, will point to the weakness of the man himself. Still others, like Europeans, will point to the selfishness and shallowness of Americans, preening over selfies while their country’s wrecked by corruption, greed, and vanity.
In the end, it won’t matter at all. History sees empires fall, and laughs to itself. They never learn, it says, chuckling. Not even when the planet’s burning, and their future’s going up in flames.
*Umair Haque is the Director of the London-based Havas Media Lab and heads Bubblegeneration, a strategy lab that helps discover strategic innovation.
He first published this insight in Medium