Not unlike Trump, Joe Biden has a long history of lying, from having to drop out of the 1988 presidential race due to a plagiarism scandal, to pretending he didn’t spend his entire career fighting to cut social security, to lying about his support for the Iraq War. You could even count him claiming to believe science, while also declaring his undying support for fracking as another lie.
But once in a while, there’s some reason to take his word at face value; for instance, when speaking to wealthy donors like he did in June 2019, telling them that under a Biden presidency “nothing would fundamentally change.” Now, with Trump a lame duck and Biden president-elect, if we want to win fundamental change, we need to mobilize an organized socialist movement against him — one that didn’t exist just four years ago, but is luckily beginning to form today.
Everything about Biden’s history shows he can’t be trusted to enact progressive policies simply out of the goodness of his heart. Biden is the reason you cannot file for bankruptcy on your student debt, but Donald Trump can on his business ventures. He was the architect of the 1994 Crime Bill and the Patriot Act, two bills with drastically more authoritarian effects than any policy implemented by Trump. He was a staunch advocate and supporter of the Iraq War, which killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Iraqis. And he was vice president to someone who oversaw the largest increase in domestic oil production ever by that point in history and built the cages on the border that we’ve been protesting these past four years. Not to mention he eulogized arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond and aggressively fought against integration efforts (his running mate even made a T-shirt about him not supporting busing, which she, uh, doesn’t either).
Just a few weeks ago, thousands took to the streets in Philadelphia to protest yet another police murder of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., as he was having a mental health crisis. In response, Biden spent more time condemning those rightfully outraged at systemic racism and police brutality than he did condemning the police who murdered Walter Wallace Jr.
Trump was awful and destructive and we should be glad to see him go, but we shouldn’t by any means be excited for a Biden presidency. His administration will be staffed with war criminals, corporate elites and Republicans. If you want to play a fun game, just check out Biden’s transition team and count as many people as you can from major corporations, law firms, banks, investment firms, insurance companies and private hospital chains, as well as right-wing think tanks. And potentially graced with a Republican Senate, Biden already has a perfect excuse for why he won’t be able to address the pain and suffering of the American people.
While it can be easy to paint Biden as uniquely bad, he’s just one of many right-wing Democrats who preach social justice while actively making conditions worse for the working class to make them better for the top 1 percent. If we want “fundamental change” during a Biden administration, we have to extract it ourselves. Without Trump putting us on defense, we now have the chance to be on the offensive against neoliberalism with an organized left that didn’t exist during Obama’s eight years. While there were protest movements like Occupy throughout the Obama presidency, they lacked a real national and disciplined organizational form, weakening their ability to make real interventions in politics. For all intents and purposes, the organized left was effectively nonexistent until Bernie Sanders ran in 2016 and repopularized the language of socialism and the need for mass organization.
Until the 2016 election, the Democratic Socialists of America, now the country’s largest socialist organization in nearly 100 years, barely broke 5,000-6,000 members. Just this past Friday, DSA hit 80,000 dues-paying members and has gained 12,000 members in just the last six weeks, making it double the size of the U.S. Communist Party at its height in the early 1930s and ’40s, and slightly smaller than the Socialist Party of the 1900s and 1910s. Despite winning the presidency, the Democrats had an incredibly weak performance this election, losing congressional seats against Republicans in spite of the 250,000 American deaths throughout this pandemic. Meanwhile, DSA won 28 out of 37 of its nationally endorsed races and 8 of 9 endorsed major ballot initiatives, including passing a $15 dollar minimum wage in Florida (a state that went to Trump) and sending four DSA members to Congress.
This is a fundamentally new opening in American politics, and we can’t let it go to waste. The only way forward is building an independent socialist organization that can struggle inside and outside the state, in our workplaces, campuses, neighborhoods and communities, fighting for an expansive socialist program of Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, an end to mass incarceration and police violence.
With millions out of work, hundreds of thousands sick with COVID-19 and climate disaster already causing environmental and human destruction on a mass scale, we need our society, economy and political system to fundamentally change. Joe Biden is going to break a lot of campaign promises he made to the American people throughout this election. Let’s fight tooth and nail to force him to break the promise he made to those wealthy donors last June too.