The murder of George Floyd, an African American, has polarised the upcoming US presidential elections. It appears that Democrats and Republicans are going to battle over the past, rather than the present and future. On Independence Day, presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden said: “We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.”
Biden did not overtly declare support for the protests that have destroyed confederate statues and monuments, which demonstrators view as shameful and must be torn down. By not condemning these acts, however, Biden is implicitly endorsing them in the hope that black voters will choose him in the race to the White House.
US President Donald Trump responded to Biden by pandering to white Americans who are indirectly targeted by Trump’s opponents. These white citizens differentiate between their pride in their heritage and country, and their position on the issue of racism today. They believe the current anti-racism campaign by Democrats intrinsically includes indirect incitement against them, to shame them of their race and not just the history of their ancestors.
Trump tweeted about his decision to protect all statues and monuments on 26 June: “I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials and Statues — and combating recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
In his 4 July address, Trump said some on the political left hope to “defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children”, adding that Americans should speak proudly of their heritage and shouldn’t have to apologise for America’s history.
The ongoing battle over history and the past will serve neither Trump nor Biden. The US public need a president who can solve the dire economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump is counting on the economy recovering, especially since last month’s employment figures show a noticeable increase in jobs. Also, concerns that the pandemic will continue until autumn give credence to Trump’s logic of opening up the country while taking personal safety measures.
Scientific and medical institutions in the US admit they are unable to conclude with any certainty that shutting down the economy had any tangible impact on curbing the pandemic. Meaning that social distancing in public may have lessened the spread of infection, but these measures do not necessarily require people not to go to work or entertainment venues as long as they take safety measures.
While Trump is generating ideas to relieve the economic crisis, his rival Biden is avoiding any open confrontation with Trump on the issue. Democrats do not have a viable plan to address economic conditions if Biden wins, especially if the pandemic continues at its current rate.
A return to welfare state policies, which Democrats revere, is impossible due to the economic crisis and the strain it puts on the budget, federal debt and possible inflation (the nemesis of a robust economy).
The Democrats slogan,“People’s lives are more important than the health of the economy” is absurd, since those who lose their jobs due to the economic shutdown will suffer psychologically, socially and economically.
Those who buy into the Democrats’ slogans will end up like the man who in 2011 heckled an economist who bragged that the US economy is doing well judging by the sale of iPads. “I can’t eat an iPad!” the man shouted. Put otherwise, the slogan of Democrats may be very humane, but in the future the public might retort, “we stayed alive but we are dying of hunger and depression due to your ideas and slogans.”
At the same time, Democrats are not even remotely considering the possibility that scientists will find a vaccine before autumn, which would boost Trump’s chances at the polls even if only a few weeks before the elections, since it would mean steady improvement in the economy.
By then, Democrats’ focus on anti-racism will not have the same impact as it does today, so soon after Floyd’s murder, since voters are likely to focus on recovering their losses during the pandemic and not waste their energy on anti-racist protests, which Democrats and their radical left and anarchist allies would like.
Democrats are mistaken to make promises via Biden that they will uproot racism in the US if they win the elections. Racism will not be eradicated by issuing laws and purging US heritage.
Racism has a long history and different manifestations in different eras; it is part of human culture and society that could be regulated or mitigated by issuing laws and legislation but impossible to uproot completely from any society no matter how it progresses.
Democrats should remember what Robert Bork wrote in his 2003 book Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, warning about the end of American liberalism because it is moving towards radical left ideology which will try to destroy American values under false humanitarian and ethical pretexts. And in the end, they will certainly become a threat to the very existence of the American nation.
By adopting an anarchist agenda today that promotes the removal of historic American symbols, Democrats are implementing what Bork warned against 14 years ago. But there is hope, as Bork mentioned, that the transformation of liberalism into anarchism, which is already an integral part of its nature, can be slowed due to current events amid Covid-19.
Catastrophic events in the West, including two world wars and the Great Depression in the late 1920s, slowed down the transformation of liberalism into anarchism at the time. Today’s calamity could revive conservative ideology among the public around the world, and in the US especially. The power of these ideas could halt the deterioration of American liberalism and force Democrats to move away from an alliance with those calling for anarchy, as we see today, especially if they lose the race to the White House.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly