Juneteenth – A Day of Celebration, Remembrance, and Recommitment
Yesterday Susan Collins (R-ME) said: “S. 1 would take away the rights of people in each of the 50 states to determine which election rules work best for their citizens.” But what if states enact discriminatory, anti-democratic legislation that suppresses the vote? Should the federal government and Congress sit idly by, doing nothing to right the wrong? Nothing to protect democracy and voting rights?
Collins, not surprisingly, avoided these questions. Not out of ignorance though. Cynicism doesn’t explain it either. That lets her off the hook too easily. Words like crassly anti-democratic, racist, anti-working class, and demagogic for me anyway, better capture her position and mental makeup.
It goes without saying that the position of rest of her Republican colleagues mirrors hers. And like her, they do this shamelessly, even righteously. So much so that is doesn’t strain the ears to hear echoes of the apologists of slavery in the 1850s and the Southern Redeemers in the 1870s.
Early on I didn’t fully appreciate the full impact of China on the Biden’s administration’s decision to turn away from neoliberalism in favor of a people/labor, climate, egalitarian centered economic policy. If you doubt this, hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, listen to Ezra Klein’s recent interview with Brian Deese, Director of Biden’s National Economic Council.
In 1979, Paul Volcker, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, raised interest rates to nearly 20 per cent. In doing so, he engineered a deep recession to squeeze inflation out of the economy and discipline labor. A year later Ronald Reagan, the newly elected Republican President, complemented Volcker’s actions by slashing government spending, attacking the labor movement, and assailing the movements for equality. Together their actions upended the prevailing model of profit accumulation and political governance – Social Keynesianism – and ushered in a new regime – neoliberalism, unfettered globalization, and financialization – that both parties, in different ways, adjusted their politics to. No less significantly, their actions threw any opposition within and beyond the state on the defensive.
Four decades later that regime of accumulation and governance, thanks to its own economic and political contradictions – none bigger than the Great Recession of 2007 – and a changing terrain of struggle, is hanging by a few threads. Whether 2021 will mark the moment when those threads completely unravel isn’t a certainty, but the sustained actions of the Biden administration and the political coalition that elected him could be the coup de grace to this anti-popular economic and political regime.
Thanks to a small handful of Democrats, mainly in the Senate, and, of course, every Republican in both chambers, a break from neoliberalism – trickle down economics, an obsession for price stability over full employment, lavish tax handouts to the 1 per cent, means testing, an insistence on market coordination of the economy, not, God forbid, robust government intervention. the organization of a coordinated assault on labor, and the enactment of policies designed to severely aggravate inequality – is proving to be more difficult than I expected a few months ago. It’s ironic, to put it nicely, that the fate of so many is dependent on decisions of so few.
Any resolution of this impasse will depend not only on what happens in Washington, but across the country as well. Street heat at this moment will likely make the difference between a break from neoliberalism or its adaptation to new circumstances.