On Monday, the Biden campaign leaked a list of people being considered for appointment to high office. The list fits everything we know about Biden. It came at the perfect time for his campaign. The day before a major primary he’s signaling big donors everywhere that he’s keeping his promise – “nothing fundamental will change” for them. The leak is meant for the people that pay close attention to politics. Most people don’t. The story won’t have much if any effect on most people. The list is a who’s who of the plutocracy, including Micheal Bloomberg being considered to head the World Bank and Jaime Dimon (CEO of JPMorgan Chase) for Treasury Secretary. And a who’s who of neoliberal foreign policy figures, including John Kerry and Susan Rice.
He’s making no concessions to progressives at all, except the narrow slice who are still with Elizabeth Warren. She’s on the list, but has lost much of her credibility with most progressives since backing away from Medicare for All, slandering Sanders as a secret sexist, taking SuperPAC money after promising not to, then not endorsing Sanders because some of his supporters were mean to her online. Many progressives believe that when she declined to challenge Clinton for the 2016 nomination, she went all in for the establishment, and hasn’t looked back.
The upper echelons of the establishment are run by wealthists, for the plutocracy. Wealthists are people who behave as if wealth entitles the wealthy to power, whether they themselves are wealthy or not. A plutocrat is a wealthist who is actually wealthy. Biden’s list makes it clearer than ever – these are the people he’s working for, not the average joe.
By rejecting any progressive choices, Biden is flatly ignoring a significant wing of the Democratic Party. Like when it ran Clinton, the plutocracy won’t make any concessions. It knows how to go into a negotiation strong. It doesn’t negotiate like Obama on healthcare, who opened by taking every progressive option off the table and leaving a purely Republican plan – Romneycare. The plutocracy has absolute confidence it can get everything it wants, so it starts by demanding everything it wants. If there’s a negotiation, it always starts from its maximal position. When the plutocracy wants to slow something down, the red wing of the Plutocratic Party takes the maximally plutocratic position within the Overton window and the blue wing takes a position marginally to the left of that – progressives tried to get a public option added, but the plutocracy said no, so Obama didn’t fight for it. It keeps as much of the public discussion within those bounds as it can, using its massive influence on the media. That’s what it’s trying to do now, keep the discussion within bounds it can control, with Biden leading the blue wing of the Plutocratic Party and Trump leading the red. The blue wing of the Plutocratic Party is the upper echelons of the Democratic establishment.
The ‘reject progressives’ strategy tells us what constituencies Biden is counting on to win the general. First, the broad base of the Democratic Party – all the people who were always going to vote blue no matter who. Second, all the people of whatever political persuasion who were always going to show up and vote against Trump – virtually no Republicans, some number of independents, and some grudgingly Democratic or occasional voters. Third, “moderate Republicans.” They don’t plan to court leftist, anti-plutocrat, progressive, or young people’s votes at all, and certainly not the marijuana vote that would turn out to legalize weed. They’re only going to pay attention to us if we make them pay attention.
That means massive protests in Milwaukee. It means getting as many people into the convention as possible and making sure they’re ready to challenge power. The National Convention Delegates and the National Convention Committee members were always very important. Now they’re that much more important. Here’s how to run for delegate in Michigan. The same procedure is used to run for a committee position.
Biden is betting the general election on the theory that the anti-Trump vote, without the progressive end of the political spectrum, will be enough to win – or maybe his advisors figure few on the progressive end will sit out an opportunity to vote against Trump – if so, they’re very wrong. He’s about to test the “moderate middle” theory of politics which says you can’t get new voters to show up, it’s not worth trying, the best you can do is push a few percent one side or the other of the political middle relative to the half of the population that votes regularly. He’s hoping the electorate is similar to the 2016 electorate, except people don’t hate him like they did Clinton and will hate Trump more. Those are reasonable bets if Trump doesn’t expand his coalition – after all, Clinton won last time by 3 million votes.
Trump is working to expand his coalition – to consolidate more of the right-wing behind his already overwhelming support among Republicans, and he’s making progress. Trump will flank Biden to the left on trade where he has some accomplishments he can tout (nothing that helped workers, but he’ll pretend), foreign policy where he’ll claim to be ending wars and bringing troops home (look at all the winning!), and healthcare – it’s a lie, but he’ll promise great healthcare for everyone like he did last time. The establishment misunderstands his appeal to voters – it’s not because he’s vile, racist, and sexist, it’s because he challenged the establishment and promised people things that could make a real difference in their lives. A lot of people don’t care about his crude behavior so long as he’s challenging the establishment and, at least on television, making it sound like he’s helping folks.
The establishment misunderstands the progressive wing of the Party and the left more generally. Run two candidates who are this obviously shills for the plutocracy, and there are a lot of people who won’t show up to choose between a servant of the plutocracy and a member of the plutocracy. No matter who you vote for the plutocracy still gets in, so why bother voting?
But Trump! Children dying in cages! Absolutely critical issues. Biden’s healthcare plan leaves tens of millions uninsured or with insurance they can’t afford to use – a death sentence for thousands of people just as surely as anything Trump could do. Their argument is elect Biden because he’ll let the children out of the cages, not mentioning the death sentence that would be for thousands of family, friends, and neighbors. A lot of people can’t stomach that choice. A lot of people will stay at home.
And then there’s climate. We’re rapidly running out of time to seriously address the climate crisis. The best available science tells us we have less than 10 years to radically transform our energy and economic systems before we’re on a much faster trajectory to destroying Earth as a viable habitat for humanity – and that’s an underestimation, we probably have less time. Biden doesn’t have anything close to an adequate plan, and whatever he tries to do will get cut back even more. We’re talking about an existential threat to our species. If you disagree, you’re a science denier. That’s cool, you do you, but be honest about it. There are a lot of people that will come out to vote for someone with a serious climate plan. They’re not going to come out for weak tea policies that further enrich the wealthists and plutocrats who got us into this mess in the first place. Young people especially aren’t going to show up for a candidate without a serious plan to address climate change at the scale of the problem.
Biden isn’t looking for unity with the progressive movement. He’d rather court Republican votes. His list of possible appointees reads more like a declaration of war against the 99%. It is a declaration of war on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He’s planning to ignore us.
That’s a mistake.
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We win this fight together, or not at all.