The Hill Biden Has To Climb

And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow, we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one…
– Excerpt from The Hill We Climb
by Amanda Gorman

Gorman, female Black poet and activist, 22, read her passionate and disturbing poem, first penned on January 6, and then in a flash of sudden energy after the Capitol Hill occupation by Right-wing Trump supporters, at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. She follows Elizabeth Alexander and Maya Angelou, who recited at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Amanda has painted a kaleidoscopic rainbow in response to the collective trauma of a polarised and divided nation. One American media organisation, sensing the emotional mood, has observed that Biden need not be flamboyant at all, or choose to be in the headlines for all the ‘wrong’ reasons like Donald Trump, but he should just do his work with a quiet, stoic and steadfast resilience, even if he is branded ‘boring’. And that is what the new president seems to be doing.

In one of his first speeches to his White House team, he categorically said: “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot… On the spot. No ifs or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”

He has been frank and honest. To his political aides he confessed that “I’m going to make mistakes. When I make them, I’ll acknowledge them and I’ll tell you and I’ll need your help to help me correct them…We’re not going to walk away, we’re going to take responsibility.”

So, what has been missing in a big way in the last four years was quickly rectified by some far-reaching decisions by the new President soon after he took office. These orders will have an eventful and long-term national and global impact in a world which is still struggling to cope with the pessimistic consequences of the pandemic.

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Among other important decisions, Biden overturned several retrograde and sectarian orders by Trump like withdrawal from the WHO and the ban on citizens of certain Muslim countries from entering American soil. He brought back expert virologist Anthony Fauci, who defied Trump’s juvenile denial of the deadly virus and was side-lined. Besides, his multi-cultural cabinet is full of various colours, creeds, and inherited histories from across the pluralist spectrum of America, with representation of secular and liberal experts, including talented women professionals.

Some from Indian origin have been taken in his team in key positions. Interestingly, two individuals in the Biden campaign, with alleged overseas RSS links, have not been accommodated. It should be noted that several eminent American citizens had petitioned Biden to be careful of individuals aligned with the BJP-RSS and their overseas allies in the US, who had followed the unprecedented call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Howdy Modi rally in Houston in July 2020, with Trump as the chief guest: Abki baar Trump sarkar.

Witness certain path-breaking executive orders passed by Biden soon after he assumed office:

*Ties with WHO reinstated. A delegation led by Fauci will attend the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board to be held soon.

*Social distancing and compulsory mask for all in federal buildings and territory. A ‘100 Days Masking’ campaign to propagate masks across America. Indeed, Trump and his top aides and followers refused to wear masks.

*Trump tried to block the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, under which immigrants brought to the US as children are protected. Biden passed an order to “preserve and fortify” DACA.

*The notorious wall along the Mexican border has been scrapped.

*The ‘Muslim ban’ has been revoked. Trump stopped citizens of certain Muslim and African countries from flying into America.

*The Trump administration’s move to prevent the census from counting undocumented immigrants has been revoked. Harsh immigration enforcement policies have been stopped.

*America has decided to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change within 30 days.

Among other significant decisions, the controversial $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline project, which was opposed by indigenous communities and environmentalists, and was backed by Trump, has been cancelled. This has yet again triggered the protracted struggle in Dakota by indigenous communities of Standing Rock and Native Americans which peaked in 2016. They want the pipeline to be scrapped because it will destroy their homeland ecology.

Biden has asked the government to reinterpret the country’s Civil Rights Act so as to stop discrimination based on gender, colour, sex, religion and ethnicity. Trump administration’s 1776 Commission report, which aimed to promote ‘patriotic education’ in schools has been overruled. Historians had dubbed it as partisan political propaganda.

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Vermont Senator and socialist Bernie Sanders, with a huge following among the millennials, has been made the head of the Senate Budget Committee. Sanders has been campaigning for radical health reforms to help ordinary citizens and low-income groups, students’ loan waiver, big financial Covid relief for millions who have been rendered jobless, hungry, or, are facing acute economic crisis, among other radical reforms. He has been backed by young and progressive democrats like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.

The Vermont senator told the CNN that the Democrat-controlled federal government cannot wait “months and months” to pacify hardline Republicans who favour austerity measures. If Republicans refuse to back Biden’s $1.9 trillion opening relief proposal, Sanders has asserted that he is ready to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a coronavirus aid package and legislation.

In terms of foreign policy there are unconfirmed reports that the arms deals with Saudi Arabia might be frozen. This has been welcomed by some Democrats in the light of the abysmal humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He will surely rethink the Iran sanctions, which Obama overruled, and Trump brought back. While Jerusalem might stay as the new Israeli capital, the peace process might be restarted. On China, there will certainly be more strategic dialogue, and less rhetoric and posturing.

Meanwhile, Biden has also reversed another retrograde ban by Trump — transgender Americans can now join the military. The order said that all “qualified Americans can serve their country in uniform”.

Besides, as what is seen as a direct fall-out of the new freedom in the air, striking workers in Bronx, New York, captured national attention and got solid support from local communities. Around 1,400 members of the Teamsters Local 202 union walked off their jobs on January 17, demanding a $1 raise. They said that they were in the font-lines against all odds in difficult circumstances to feed New Yorkers during the pandemic, with the Hunts Point Market supplying about 60 per cent of the local supplies. After a one-week strike, they got the hike, and more.

Hence, truly, Amanda’s poem of infinite hope might not be only pure passion. In New York in this cold, it might be just one dollar or a bit more for the working classes, but her inspired poem is literally translating on the streets of America.

Trump Is Riding High On Negative Narrative

Donald Trump is yet again on a roll, however fake news it might seem in this post-truth media world. That is the funny and dark irony. Beleaguered, demonized, trolled, thoroughly exposed, caricatured, spoofed, pulped and pulverized, the old man with his thinning golden hair still seems to be on a roll.

So much so, like he did with what apparently and falsely seemed the formidable candidature of Hillary Clinton in the last presidential elections in the United States of America in 2016, by winning the polls despite having polled lesser number of votes, and polarizing the entire country on racist, white supremacist, misogynist and xenophobic lines, he might very well do it again. Indeed, the Democrats, often driven by the same deep pockets lobbies as before, even coinciding with the big bucks and hardline interest groups of the Republicans in terms of vested interests, have yet again seemingly opened the presidential electoral game in favour of Trump. With Joe Biden in the running, with running mate Indian-origin candidate Kamala Harris, there are serious speculations that Trump might yet again return to the White House.

This is not the first time that the Democrats have deliberately and systematically chosen a weak candidate. Even in the last elections, there was widespread opinion in the US, that stoic socialist Bernie Sanders from Vermont would have given a run for his money to Trump, floundering with shameful charges of sexual harassment, bad and abusive language, real estate blues and a colourful record of a reported debauched life with video evidence etc. Some of it was proved, some was not, other sleazy stories were buried in the information glut of charges and counter charges which the American media and local gossip factories celebrated in the run-up to the polls. It was also alleged that he was not mentally fit to hold this difficult and delicate position.

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At that time, as prime time television in America gloated and bloated on how disgusting was Trump, as the big papers destroyed whatever little credibility he had, no one could even imagine that he would finally become the president of the USA. Sociologists and media theorists would call it the boomerang effect, that those attacking Trump on grounds of high morality or Christian purity or gender justice, etc, were missing the wood from the trees, and were actually scoring a free self-goal. The more he was turned into a bad man, the more Trump seemed to be scoring his goals in the American hinterland, especially in the vast, empty and untouched landscape of rural America, especially among the white working class and jobless people living in the countryside, and including among the women.

The Democrats and their media and poll analysts just missed the smell of the wind blowin’ out there, so obsessed were they with their high moral ground, the low credibility TRP of a bad-mouthing and sexist Trump, the email leaks of Hillary Clinton, and the Russian factor looming large in the elections.

Two conspiracy theories were rampant during the 2016 elections and they might come back again in another avatar this time too. One was that Russia was managing the Trump campaign through its sinister and diabolical methods, especially proved by the Wikileaks email leaks of Hillary Clinton, which massively helped Trump. The second was that there was a huge white backlash from the ground, especially among the illiterate white working class in the cities and the countryside, including the huge number of jobless and impoverished sections, against Barack Obama, a black man, ruling for two terms, and becoming the first black man to become the president of the USA. Surely, both the theories seem to be hitting the nail on the coffin of the Democrats’ candidate.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders was riding a massive wave, a mass wave of solidarity and support, unprecedented in the history of capitalist USA. Almost the entire millennials, youngsters and students, across colours, status, campuses and class spectrum, were supporting Bernie: an incredible upsurge for the socialist and Left principles and values of equality, justice, egalitarian ethics and anti-war politics flooded the political mainstream consciousness, and the critique of capitalism post-recession acquired a new life not only in campuses, but across the media and middle class spectrum. ‘Bernie’ from Vermont, a die-hard socialist, won one battle after another. The old man became a river of redemption for the young in America, who wanted change, peace, no war, and a new society, with hope floating like a miracle. Bernie resurrected the spirit of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.

His candidature was unfortunately and predictably shattered by the Democrats belonging to the Rightwing lobbies, including the pro-Israeli hardliners. Once again Obama blocked his candidature. People were convinced in the US at that time that Bernie would have been a formidable opponent to Trump and the working class and the educated, especially the young, would have definitely voted for him. Indeed, many of the young supporters of Bernie refused to vote for Hillary Clinton, and chose to abstain. One big reason for the dislike for her was her crude and transparent happiness expressed after the gruesome roadside murder of Libyan president Muammar Gaddaffi, and her role in the escalation of war in Syria.

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The latest goof-ups by Trump, which otherwise seems so universally shameful and embarrassing, even for a thick-skinned man like him, might just not affect his credibility among his fanatic followers one bit. He has apparently called American soldiers ‘suckers’, that is, those who died in World War II. Besides, he has apparently come on tape with a top journalist declaring that the Corona pandemic might be disastrous etc, and that China might not be at all under control. However, in all his public utterances he has stated just the opposite, that all is well, that China is doing course correction, and that there is nothing to worry. Even while thousands were dying in America, especially in big cities like New York, especially Blacks and Latinos when compared to the White population, and the cases were rising like hell across the American landscape.

Rightwing hardliners including pro-gun lobbies and supremacists actually rejected the pandemic, chose to protest against restrictions, lockdown and quarantine in the name of individual freedom, dumped the mask into the garbage can, and chose to assemble and mingle in bars and public spaces in total disregard for the norms of social and physical distancing. Trump himself refused to wear the mask in the initial days.

With so many thousands dead, and the pandemic refusing to die down, the economy in a slump, and the American foreign policy in doldrums, and the promise of jobs an illusion, Trump is banking on various factors to push the mandate in his favour, including in the so-called swing states. He is banking on the white backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement, and the brutal use of armed mercenaries and Feds against peaceful protestors in democratic and liberal strongholds like Portland in Oregon. He is banking on the recent peace deal brokered by him between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the first in a beginning foreseen across the Arab world which is aligned with Saudi Arabia and is opposed to Iran. And he is banking on his original ‘Make America Great Again’ constituency of white supremacists, racists, sexists, and anti-immigrants.

With Joe Biden appearing weak and indecisive, and with his history of being a pale shadow in the charismatic presence of Obama, Trump is pushing the negative discourse of his son’s links in Ukraine etc. A Bernie would have shown him his place. A Biden might just find himself on a sticky wicket as the race heats up.