We have come through haunting, destructive, and dangerous four years. Mr. Trump did not really lead anything but bullied, lied, purveyed shallowness, boasted, threatened, and did just about everything else that a petty narcissistic individual would do, reflective of the overall psychology and lack of critical thinking (due to lack of values). Largely because of him, ethnic conflict thrived, as well as conspiracy "theories'' and Q-Anon, phenomena that probably would be absent if there were more critical thinking philosophy, and excellent schools. Now that the quadrennial fraud of democratic elections is over and the circus has left town, what now? Biden has been deemed the winner, but, while no one has presented evidence of widespread fraud, the show is not quite over until inauguration day. The whole system bespeaks anarchy and convolution, from the refusal to make voting procedures uniform nationwide through the utterly bizarre and antiquated electoral college. The courts themselves are fickle, personalities and ideologies dominating the landscape, rather than logic and consistency. Philosophy is not even an entry in this race. About the only normal thing we can say about this whole liberal democratic scam is that everything has been anything but normal, and I am not holding my breath for any common sense or logical outcome. Nevertheless, the present consensus is that Biden has won, and I'll go with that.
Everyone is holding their breath, and for those opposed to Trump, there are great expectations, but don't expect much, either policy changes, ideology, or ethos. "Biden promises to unite the country. After this election, is it even possible?" the 7 November 2020 internet edition of the Washington Post opined [https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-challenges-presidency/2020/11/07/83c40b04-1fe2-11eb-ba21-f2f001f0554b_story.html#comments-wrapper ]. Dan Baltz went on to say, "...the most challenging part of his long, public career is still ahead of him."
My written response in the "comments" section was:
Neither party has had a coherent social philosophy, save for the GOP's predatory social Darwinism and the Democrats' identity politics, both of which only exacerbate social conflict. ["Social" I use three times, my editorial critiquing the mythical and delusional "rugged individualism" championed by a good half the country. ] "Issues", feel-good politics, and slap-back policies do not count. The US empire is dying beset internally by rising income stratification and failure to care for its people (as in real universally-accessible health care) and obsession with dominating territory for Wall Street's benefit. Alas, Biden's victory will prove to be Pyrrhic.
For the immediate future? Think: 1934 and 1945 Germany, the first hallmarked by Trump's executive order empowering him to fire civil servants not loyal to him (AKA Hitler Oath), the second (1945 Bunker - Germans were not worthy of Hitler) his capacity to wreak havoc by court battles, fostering "emergencies" (international "incidents"), destroying the bureaucracy by firing people, rallying boogaloo mobs, and all sorts of fun. Just make sure you have plenty of popcorn.
So, what do we mean by "Pyrrhic victory"? King Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans at the Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE, but his losses exceeded the gains [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrhic_victory ]. The victory only was apparent or technical. Out of the box, about a half voted for Trump, the Democrats actually losing some House members and very possibly not even gaining the Senate.
We have modern historical precedent for appreciating the meaning of a Pyrrhic victory. I regards the 1918 victory over Germany as Pyrrhic, given the consequences of the Versailles Treaty and the allies (among other things) failing to 1) establish a national reconstruction programme; 2) develop a social philosophy integrating all Germans into a coherent social unit and with a purpose; 3) monitor and enforce the treaty. We can trace the development of circumstances leading to the second world war to the liberal democratic ideology, the bywords of the victors being "democracy for Germany". In form, Trump's defeat has many similarities, the victors hooting about the return of "democracy" and mumbling platitudes about how the Democrats will provide for the people in a more orderly social atmosphere. They surely have nothing to unite the people, a "rally around the flag" action, save for some destructive war. The space programme has largely been parceled out to predators like multi-billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. Perhaps, though, NASA's huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket may help change that, but, still, you need an overarching philosophy. Otherwise, it will be just another "wow, gee".
Let's untangle all this, assess our future, and ignore the liberal democratic ballyhoo. More pointedly, we should ask, "What, then, were the gains? The losses? The long-term prospects of survival?" Of course, we need to consider who is benefiting and losing?
We have a "heads I win, tails you lose" situation. Wall Street, the banksters, and the liberal democratic materialist ideology win, regardless of the side on which the coin lands. True, the Democrats are less stingy with the crumbs they toss to the masses, but from a practical point of view, this is more of the carrot than the stick, leading the animal to the slaughterhouse. There has not been the essential debate about social philosophy, and do not expect one. Capitalism will win in either case.
For policies and programmes, don't expect much, given the job histories of Biden's cabinet. We most likely will see the Russia and China phobias, matched by international sanctions and provocations. Yes, the crumbs to the people will be tossed, but capitalism will be entrenched firmly as ever.
Here is a case. CNN reported 30 November 2020, "a trio of pharmaceutical industry groups last week filed a court challenge to importation, saying the effort would jeopardize Americans' health and fail to reduce prices." James Stansel, general counsel at PhRMA, the main industry lobbying group said,
“The final rule fails to overcome the well-documented safety concerns regarding importation expressed for nearly two decades by previous HHS secretaries across party lines or to make any showing that the proposal would result in any—let alone significant—cost savings to American consumers.”
Never mind that Canada is no third-world country; neither is India; neither are a lot of other countries from which persons in the US import and having lower drug prices. Their populations in the billions are doing fine by using their lower-priced pharmaceuticals.
Implied in all this is that, like the corporations too big to fail in 2008 (resulting in their bailout by the US regime in 2008), the Big Pharma predators are exempt from regulation, let alone control. Of course, given the prevailing ideology, nationalization is totally out of the question. Needless to say, this will not occur under a Biden regime, as he has declared that he is no socialist, a point to which I will return later.
Both Biden's and Harris's initial address, as well as this website, were deeply infused by the divisive identity politics. In earlier editions, I wrote about this extensively, but, since it was axial in these elections, we need to revisit it. The mainstream media, especially CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and MSNBC, are infused daily with its divisive propaganda. Democratic propaganda obsessed about identity politics but failed to achieve the intended result, blacks, Latinos, and Asian-Americans still voting for Trump. RT had an excellent article on 27 November 2020, by Micah Curtis, "Is ANYONE actually surprised that rioting comrades Antifa & BLM are seeking a divorce as racial tensions come to the fore?... it seems like Antifa is too white and too rich for BLM tastes, and some organizers in BLM aren’t pure enough for Antifa.".
If we look closer, you will see the other side. On first inspection, identity politics is about bringing everyone together, but the inspection reveals an admitted alienation, peoples' identity but their not admitting it is due to capitalism. The Nazis used identity (as I wrote in an earlier article for The Reformationist) to define a person (rather than the State – dialectically – individual in terms of the State).
Moreover, identity is about alienation, and alienation is a product of capitalism in modern society (eg: Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism), i.e., one's identity is defined by the power to labor, but that labor is to be given as a sacrifice to "earn" one's way to Heaven. Contrast this to the Nazis, a person's identity based on race (and now, gender, religion, etc.), the important property of the power to labor being conveniently omitted.
For us, this is an important distinction between fascism and Nazism. This is to say that the Biden's and Nazis are closer together, the NRP on the other side of the Universe. Where, though, is the reality of the Pyrrhic part? I see it minimally on three fronts: programme, identity, and philosophy, wherein in all three areas, no substantive change not only cannot be expected but matters will become worse.
Comes Biden with his groveling to the Republicans, not only with his … but actually nominating a number of them to cabinet posts. In essence, his is a collaboration with them, and to expect that any meaningful change, let alone a change in underpinning philosophy, is delusional. That is, what I proclaimed in my previous article "Do not vote" is the current reality.
The phoniness of liberalism will be revealed when the mask of democracy will be torn off when the rest of the COVID-19 masks will be in 2021 - the real irony of it all - with the vaccination revealing the ugliness that truly is of democracy showing how fraudulent it truly is... " The war is over … Global Capitalism triumphs! " [https://www.rt.com/op-ed/506307-war-over-globocap-triumphs/ ] opined C. J. Hopkins, award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist.
Remember that Biden's proposed programme is not really different than Obama's. "A change you can believe in." "Yes we can" (preserve capitalism, that is). What hollow words, when looking at the eight-year-long reality of corporate bailouts, incessant wars, and failure to develop a universally-accessible health care system, the true colors of this system show. All you need to do is go to Biden's website, https://buildbackbetter.com/priorities/economic-recovery/ , where you will not find the first trace of social philosophy or the elimination of capitalism. Upon closer examination, we have a petty-bourgeois-oriented programme, "... small-business-led supply chains to retain and create millions of good-paying union jobs ...", Biden harking back to the Horatio-Alger myth of robust individualism and small-size "entrepreneurship" saving the day – every person a capitalist. Don't miss the crumbs and identity politics, though. I am reminded of an old Kliban (I think it was) cartoon, "Keeping bugs away", the left panel showing bugs on a wall, with the caption "bugs", and the right-hand panel blank, that caption, "bugs kept away". Biden crows on his website, "...create millions of good-paying new jobs in these areas with a choice to join a union; and to free up millions of people to join the labor force and grow a stronger economy in return".... out of thin air, I guess, just like keeping bugs away. Don't worry about the programme or specifics.
What about raising taxes? Even the grand bourgeois have learned the lessons from Marie Antoinette and the Russian Revolution – be greedy, but not so great as to inflame the masses to revolution. Hence, they won't mind throwing a few dollars and social services to placate them. Instead of paying only 10% taxes, sure, we'll pay 20%. All we need to do is send more jobs overseas, lower the quality of goods and services, and not pay workers their full worth. How about regulations? How well have they worked to stop the Jeff Bezoses or Mark Zuckerbergs of the world from gaining so much power? How about the Google empire?
I could go on ad nauseam about Biden's kowtowing to the prevailing socio-economic system, his warmongering, and disingenuous and demagogic appeal to the masses, but there is an overarching reason why the victory is Pyrrhic. If Biden would acquiesce and not be so dogmatic about his support for capitalism, would the nemesis of Trumpism - socialism - be the answer? We need to get this out of the way before advancing to philosophy.
Go to just about any mainstream socialist website or look the term up in a dictionary, and you will see something comparable to the following. "Socialism" is defined by the social ownership and control of the means of production and distribution of goods and services. "Social" here includes its institutions, public in nature, such as cooperatives, labor associations, and so forth, those beholden to society. Such is contrasted with "private", meaning obligated only to a selection of persons and not to society as a whole. Warren, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and the rest have not formally come out in favor of this, hence are not socialists. That is, they see no problem with the means of production and distribution resting with persons not being obligated to society as a whole, that is, alienated from society, even at odds with it in philosophy and actions. Are they the "leftists" attacked by the GOP? Well, even within the Democrat Party, socialism is spurned, reflected by Biden's quote, above. And, don't count on Pelosi, Harris, or Obama calling for the nationalization of ANY industry.
"Left" to the most extreme in the US mainstream political discourse has been only social democracy, not adequate to stem income stratification and predation, as Europe plainly demonstrates. There does not seem to be any hard and fast definition of social ownership and control. For example, by advocating such for major industries and services, is s/he a "socialist"? For example, the NRP Action Plan calls for the "nationalization of the financial sector" and "national industrial policy is coordinated through the state by representatives from each industry. These representatives are elected by workers and owners within an industry, alike; ensuring the true representation of interests free from the politics and coercion of liberal democracy" (emphasis mine). Another model is the CasaPound Italia programme, calling for "Nationalisation of energy, telecommunication and transport sectors". Yet, political pundits are quick to call CasaPound "fascist" without really knowing what "fascism" means.
One fallacy my logic students learned was "false dilemma", known also as "either-or". Only two alternatives exist; it is "black-white" thinking, binary. It is the simplest form of reasoning, and computers use it in their architecture. Compound arguments can be "digitized" by incorporating subsets of the simplest. The problem in the U.S. is that usual social and political discourse is stuck in the binary mode. You either are a "leftist" or "rightist", a "conservative" or "liberal", or more immediately on point here, a "capitalist" or a "socialist". So, is "socialism" the answer, if you are not a capitalist? Even in high school, students learn of "mixed economies", those systems borrowing from various others, as Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration did in the 1930s. In fact, many similarities exist between Italian fascism and his administration.
A sidebar but useful study is James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution, and Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property. Ownership is receiving the benefits of a company; control is the determination of its direction; possession is physical occupation. All three can be divorced from each other, stockholders as owners, managers as controllers, and workers as possessors. The question arises of control being adequate to overcome the deleterious effects of ownership, i.e., expropriating surplus value from the workers. For sure analysis of the problem should be entered into formulating any social programme.
Elsewhere in this edition of The Reformationist is the observation that we cannot simply repeat a history or utterance of an "ism" or person to sustain an argument on behalf of a social philosophy or system. Scholars in systems analysis are keenly aware that a system survives because it can adapt, change with a changing environment. That is, a social system in this way is organic, the State its formal expression.
My comments apply to socialism, as well, more particularly the keen observation by Marx about surplus value. Not only in the structures, but social philosophy we need to adapt. It does not compromise your value system to draw upon accurate descriptions and analyses when appropriate, and Marx is no exception.
The subtitle of his Das Kapital is "An analysis of the capitalist system". Accepting it as fundamentally accurate does not imply you have to accept any "cultural" aspect of Marx's writings, in particular here accepting that material gratification is the endpoint of a social system, an extension of Enlightenment values.
Bound up with a person's identity is her/his physical capacity in which an economic environment is exchanged for compensation. The amount of that compensation is subject to another analysis, but it is sufficient to say here that if the compensation does not match the worth of the labor, part of the person's identity is stripped away or expropriated. It does not take a Marx to observe it; it simply is logic. One does not have to be a "Marxist" (a term that has lost much of its meaning) to see his description of surplus-value in Das Kapital in partially explaining radical income stratification, "partial", because Marx also explains the role of finance capital in further enriching the few. It also sustains (is an element) the social ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, i.e., socialism. But, we must go on from this point. Like in science, we come to find out that parts of a theory are wrong. In Marx's case, for example, there is no evidence of his determinism, that one "class" will dominate the rest or that immiseration is a guarantee of revolution. Useful as it may be, relationship to the means of production is not the only way of grouping individuals. Minimally stated, it is hard to argue a case for "scientific socialism".
Socialism itself is entirely philosophically bankrupt without a supporting philosophy. It is a step toward community and cooperation, but it alone is comparable to herding people into a theater with no show or other purpose.
Looking to this "ism" or that or to a history of one to assess the content of another for its inherent value is only a mechanical exercise devoid of much critical thinking and philosophical reflection. In essence, the core of US problems has been unnoticed, one of alienation, stemming from failing to implement virtue and integrating every person into society. Here, "society" needs focus – its concept and supporting thinking. I have rehashed these many times before, my requirement here only re-directing readers to Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society, and The Reformationist articles. Yet, analyzing events like the US elections hopefully will clarify how the philosophy gets translated into action.
Here is an appropriate place to insert an observation about action. In reflecting on the most fundamental law, the unity of opposites, ideas, in themselves, have no standing unless mirrored by the material, or physical. One of Hegel's criteria for the existence of the State is "happiness", evidence of its success and health. A person must be so for the idea to live. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to live like a monk in a hair sack. Especially in modern times, the pursuit of truth can be very sophisticated, as in the fields of cosmology and quantum physics, learning more about our world. Hegel wrote much about "becoming", history, and context. To produce those instruments for discovery, mines, manufacture, and technology are required. For the work, excellent education and training are needed. Everything has a background, and it needs to be quality. When the material becomes THE object for being, there are problems. "We should eat to live, not live to eat" is an apt comparison. Here, the State is vital, because perforce, the institution is not about material acquisition per se but incorporates it as the means to seek truth. Call this the framework of society, but it is as important to examine how it is done. "Happiness" is a loaded word, and without deviating to an important discourse about states of mind, we do need reminding about how advertising is a form of psychological warfare or control, the object being to get people to buy things that they really don't want, let alone need. As important are the conditions under which a person works.
So, do not quibble here about the degree of "socialism" but keep in focus the State as the highest expression of human socialization, the rejection of materialism and hedonism, and, above all, the love and pursuit of truth as the highest ethos (core value). Identity crises are eliminated in the dialectic between the individual and the State, one existing because of the other.
I wrote my previous piece, "Do not vote" warning not to expect much substantive change, regardless of who is elected, that substance referring to the underpinning philosophy of the prevailing system. Whether one wears a brown or black hair wig makes no difference in a person's ethos, or core values. Neither does throwing in an extra mattress and bed clothes to a prisoner. S/he still is in prison. True, external policy changes can be important, such as re-joining the Paris IPCC accords (although they are toothless), but arguably more critical appointing real scientists to lead the response to the pandemic. In any critique of Biden, we should step back and consider "common sense", literally empiricism, a way of knowing by all our senses working together. Of course, we need an "algorithm" to sort out the data, and it is philosophy and the capacity to reason. We have what we have today because of logic, science, and philosophy (love of wisdom). Important - even the most misguided social reprobate has to acknowledge the power of physical law. No matter how reactionary or ideological you are, you cannot build a perpetual motion machine or defy the law of gravity. When Biden comes out in favor of science, such as recognizing the reality of global warming, the need to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, or recycling to help mitigate resource depletion, it only makes sense to support these things.
It also makes sense to preserve human dignity by recognizing one's identity, be it gender, ethnicity, or personal beliefs (as long as they are not destructive of the social whole). Hence, one can sympathize with Democrats wanting gender equality, ethnic justice, and so forth.
Let me interject a reference to my past writing arguing the nonexistence of "race". It is a social construct, as a look at any rainbow or color palette will confirm. The problem emerges when demagogues use these in their identity politics, which can be deemed only as an obsession. Compare it to one repeatedly washing hands after touching doorknobs. Obsession often results in overcompensation, compromising the integrity of society, itself.
All policies are made within the context of this prevailing social system, it abiding by the Enlightenment ideology of protecting private property, rather than anything noble like the pursuit of truth. The myth is quaint. The reality is that capitalism, itself, thrives because the political system protects the economic one, failing to recognize that all the regulation in the world will not contain the predation driving the system. Capitalism in its essence is Socially Darwinistic. As they say, you cannot change the zebra's stripes and still have a zebra. Unions, taxes, and other regulatory devices historically have failed, one needing only to look at Roosevelt's policies all amplifying these measures and today's situation. Union busting, radical income stratification, and concentration of industries are the legacy of such policies. Liberal democrats fail to recognize that the predatory underpinning of capitalism is like a physical law that cannot be broken. Capitalists will always find a way around the barrier.
Well, we have the beginnings of a social philosophy, the primary focus of an organized people to serve truth, rather than self-ingratiating and consumerism.
There is one ultimate benefit I will gain from this election. Writing "sleepy Joe" is a lot shorter than "gangster-in-chief".