After four nightmarish years, the presidency of Donald Trump came to an end in January. Over 81 million people voted for Joe Biden over Trump, the largest vote total for any presidential candidate in the country’s history.

Many of those votes for Biden were the result of the extraordinary efforts of grassroots organizers who rallied people to the importance of getting Trump out.

Many of these activists had been in the forefront of the thousands of rallies in hundreds of cities and towns that erupted last Spring and Summer in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The tireless work of black activists, especially black women, brought millions of new voters to the polls. Those efforts proved crucial in Biden winning key swing states like Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Protest Organizing and the Election Victory

The months-long protests of last year were crucial to Trump’s defeat. They were a response to continuing police violence against black people that often results in death. With organizations in place and dedicated activists laying the groundwork, millions of people including many who had never attended a rally or demonstration before turned out to express their outrage at the continuing violence of a system of white supremacy. Many others who may not have participated in any of the actions nonetheless recognized the importance of voting, in many cases for the first time, and in so doing helped provide Biden the narrow margin of victory in the states mentioned above.

Trump and his minions left the country in catastrophic condition. This is evident in the criminal neglect by his administration of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused more than half a million deaths. With publicly funded vaccine research coming to fruition and a new administration dedicated to actually responding to the emergency, there is finally some optimism and reason to believe that the worst of the pandemic is past.

There is much to lament about the disastrous policies and inaction of the last four years. Of the many problems associated with environmental degradation, the single most important issue facing the world’s people, the Trump administration made an already perilous situation worse. Whether it was the drastic weakening of long-standing environmental laws and regulations, the appointment of unqualified and woefully incompetent flunkies to key regulatory posts or withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trump administration seemed hell-bent on pushing the environment to an apocalyptic endpoint.

Unparalleled Upward Redistribution of Wealth

One phenomenon that has not been as closely scrutinized as it should be is the unparalleled upward redistribution of wealth during the four years of Trump. This trend began in the 1970s and has devastated the country ever since. Analyses vary depending on which factors are included, but the best estimates are that several hundred trillion dollars have been transferred from the middle and working classes to corporate elites in that time.

Though this phenomenon is almost 50 years in the making, there has never been as profitable a year as 2020 for the Super Rich. Numerous sectors of the corporate and banking class have profited as never before, their rapidly increasing wealth fueled by a combination of especially egregious pro-business maneuvers of the Trump administration, deeply entrenched neoliberal policies and the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the richest of the rich, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Charles Koch of Koch Industries, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of Tesla made so much in profits last year that all now have a net worth of more than 100 billion dollars.

The flip side, of course, is much more difficult lives for a majority of the population. Poverty, homelessness, hunger, lack of health care, unemployment and underemployment – all at serious levels before COVID – have become catastrophic.

All of these problems hit black, brown, red and yellow people especially hard.

No Return to the Pre-Trump Normal

There are many other problems that have plagued the United States for decades that were exacerbated during the four years of Trump. While the importance of getting Trump out cannot be overstated, we must expose as false the idea that the country under Biden is on the road to the way it should be.

Biden is a long-time adherent of neoliberal doctrine in all its devastation and was also a key figure in implementing reactionary and racist policies such as those that greatly expanded the prison industrial complex. He is also unwaveringly committed to empire.   

Resistance Going Forward

In addition to the resistance to police violence that was the highlight of 2020, organizing efforts on other issues continued and often gained strength. In virtually every instance, and especially on issues of the environment, young people were leading the way.

Important work done at the grassroots made possible the shaping of a Green New Deal.

Important even if inadequate, possible Green New Deal legislation nonetheless faces tremendous opposition from corporate elites and politicians who serve their interests. Continued effective organizing is essential to pushing the issue forward.

The same is true with virtually every other progressive campaign. The business class and those they bankroll in government and media will concede nothing unless we build larger movements demanding change. While a fair amount of what the Biden administration has done thus far is positive, we must organize and exert even greater pressure.

Our forces are quite small. Despite the gravity of the situation, activists should be sure to fortify ourselves so as to be able to keep going and most effectively expand our numbers. We must deepen our commitment to the projects we are working on and increase our knowledge as to how the many struggles are interconnected. As we do, interpersonal solidarity is of the utmost importance. We cannot afford to have people giving up because of any perception that the problems we face are overwhelming or because their ideas and contributions are not respected.

The Danger of Reactionary Forces

Compounding matters is the existence of a strong, extensive network of white supremacist, reactionary organizations. Many of those involved are heavily armed and dedicated to obtaining their ends through violence. These organizations have been at work for many years and have the potential to grow stronger and more influential. The coup attempt of January 6th is just the most open display of who they are and what they are capable of.

The best antidote to combating these organizations is expansion of our work. We must respond to their actions with counter protests and actions of our own. Pandemic notwithstanding, it was disheartening that there was virtually no public response to the January 6th fascist coup attempt in the form of rallies and demonstrations. Liberal media outrage is all well and good but the only things that will check the influence and activities of the Far Right are organizing and the kind of street heat of last Spring and Summer.

The Ravages of Neoliberalism

We must also recognize the degree to which both the ravages of neoliberalism and the weakness of radical forces have led many poor and working class whites to join these forces of reaction. It has been well documented that the primary base of the Far Right is white professionals, business owners and upper strata workers such as those in the building trades, and that their organizations  are well-funded by some of the country’s wealthiest people. Still, many poor and working class whites are part of these organizations and we must recognize the monumental impact capital flight and the loss of any semblance of meaningful or even sustaining work has had on white workers.

The grievances of white workers, while often horribly misdirected, are real. The opioid epidemic sweeping the nation is directly related to the collapse of good-paying union jobs in wide swaths of the country. “Deaths of despair” is a new phrase used to describe the degree to which mostly downwardly mobile whites are destroying themselves with drugs and alcohol and by suicide. While we should be acutely aware of the racism in the attention paid to this phenomenon compared to far less attention to drugs decimating black communities, serious attention must nonetheless be paid.

With living standards in decline, the appeal of those who blame blacks, women, gays and immigrants of color will continue unless a concerted effort is made to organize among white workers. Right wing media is pervasive while ours is marginalized so, while we must utilize media as best we can, the only effective way to counteract the influence of reactionaries is with organizers and organizations dedicated to multiracial working class solidarity.

White supremacists in the corridors of power have already unleashed a wide array of voter suppression initiatives. That the Republican Party retains any power at all at the national level is overwhelmingly due to concerted, successful voter suppression activities of recent decades. Aimed at black voters and potential voters in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia and other states, these moves have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands if not millions of blacks. In a telling moment of candor, Trump admitted on Sean Hannity’s television show that Republicans cannot win presidential elections if all eligible people are able to vote.

These are perilous times. The United States has many of the signs of a society rapidly approaching some kind of dramatic conflagration.

Civil war, fascism and the possibility of further right wing coup efforts are now regular topics of discussion in the mainstream.

On the progressive side, socialism and other ways by which we might re-structure and democratize our country are more popular than they’ve been in 75 years. How we deal today with the challenges before us will determine what kind of society we will have both in the short term and for generations to come. 

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Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning writer whose most recent book is the novel In Motion. He is an award-winning author who writes regularly for Z, Znet, Counterpunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at andypiascik@aol.com.


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