It is easy to be seduced by the illusion that Trump constitutes the United States’ main problem, something that the new administration under Joe Biden has to resolve starting now. But this idea is just a soothing mechanism sold by the media.
In reality, Trump is no more than the current expression of a deep crisis that affects the world’s capitalist system and, in particular, the United States after irremediably losing its role as the planet’s dominant power.
Ever since the United States was formed as a nation, internal problems have existed.
One only has to remember how “the world’s leading democracy” was born with the dreadful baggage of slavery, the extermination of the natives and the notorious exploitation of millions of immigrants from all over the world seduced by the “American dream”.
Even though slavery was abolished, discrimination against the black population continues in multiple forms, just as it does against immigrants.
Democracy only functions more or less fully for a small percentage of the population (whites and assimilated people); the modern forms of welfare state which in advanced capitalism have been the most progressive manifestation of the system have never been universal here; in reality Trump only intensifies the line taken by all the previous leaders.
It is not surprising, then, that in areas such as health, justice and electoral participation society in the United States seems closer to periphery countries than to the models of advanced capitalism.
Indeed, under Trump’s management there was not a single measure designed to reduce the problems that afflict the working classes.
Fundamentally, he governed to favour big business, admittedly in the middle of a demagogic campaign of xenophobia, racism and various types of religious and “patriotic” fundamentalism which in so many ways resembled the campaigns of traditional fascism.
Trump just exacerbated previously existing problems but without bringing real solutions.
The fact that the social forces that support this narrative are so significant shows the country’s political culture in a very poor light.
But all the indications are that big business (at least most of it) is abandoning a Trump who proved useful at a certain point in time but who, once his role was fulfilled, must be removed, at least for the moment. That far-right could become necessary again and, from this perspective, the possibility of a large sector of the Republican party and sectors close to the far-right forming a new party of fascist hue should not be ruled out; they have the social base and the funding. As ever, for big business the right constitutes a reserve to be used in an extreme situation, as happened with Hitler in Germany.
And it is not just a problem in the United States. The resurgence of fascism is also happening in Europe with social and political expressions that recall the past and in some respects replicate characteristics associated with the deplorable democracies of the peripheral world.
The assault on the parliament in Washington is a good example of this.
It did not happen by chance and it appears probable that the rich world’s current bourgeois democracy will be transformed into a new regime that overturns all the principles of the liberal regime.
What should we expect from the new Biden administration?
As well as some relief measures to reduce domestic social tensions he will keep in place the fundamentals of the current social model, the same one that has made Trump bearable.
The new leader is not even going to boost measures that bring to United States society something similar to the traditional European welfare state (in part already dismantled by neoliberal policies).
Nor will he do anything approaching the proposals of the Democrat Bernie Sanders, isolated and sacrificed in favour of Biden; big business does not appear willing to encourage anything that could resemble any type of “socialism”.
If in the domestic realm little or nothing new can be expected, what about the foreign policy of the former sole superpower?
External affairs are an immense challenge for the new administration.
Trump failed spectacularly in his objective to turn his “America first” proposal into reality in order to try to recover lost world hegemony, since to the ever-clearer competition from his traditional allies (both European and Japanese) vigorous competition from new world powers, China in particular, must be added.
In the current complicated network of international relations it is no longer possible to attempt to impose Washington’s hegemony in the world by force.
The most sensible path is to negotiate with the rest of the powers to achieve the greatest advantages in the competition for raw materials, markets and areas of influence.
Biden cannot go further.
The nuclear monopoly was broken some time ago and even countries that are medium or small powers have armed themselves with atomic bombs forcing a revision of the imperialist dreams of the powers that want to impose their interests by using this threat.
Of course, the United States could use those weapons against whoever does not obey its orders, but the price is too high and only a madman would ignore this fact.
On the other hand, the current complexity of those relations allows countries like Cuba and Venezuela, Iran and North Korea to exercise their national sovereignty with considerable freedom and without subjecting themselves to Washington’s blackmail (even without having atomic weapons).
That is why Trump’s slogans were, at heart, pure demagogy and left Biden the hard task of trying to move forward in a world negotiation that leads to some form of harmony among nations (however unstable it may be).
Or that starts by recognising that the United States is no longer the world’s boss, nor will it be again.
Biden must try to repair relationships with the traditional allies of the United States and above all establish them with the new powers, but very far from the impossible dream of “America First”.
He must also consider new approaches to relations with Latin America and the Caribbean; Cuba, first and foremost.
The significant presence on the American continent of European and Japanese capital and the decisive appearance of China, Russia, Iran and Turkey give the governments of this region of the world a very significant margin to repair their relationships with Washington and overcome their condition as the empire’s “backyard” and to make effective to a greater or lesser extent the exercise of national sovereignty (if such an aim exists).
The inertia in these relationships will probably be felt at first but different scenarios that force Biden to rethink the imperialist idea of “America for the Americans” should not be ruled out.
He could start by revoking the measures taken by all the previous governments (not just Trump’s) against Cuba and Venezuela and, ideally, ending the most egregious forms of aggression that have long been used against these two countries.
Cuba was able to withstand the blockade successfully, first with the help of the socialist bloc and, once this disintegrated, through the advantages offered by the new balance of power in the world.
Washington’s power is no longer absolute and what goes for Cuba goes for the rest of the continent if the respective governments have the objective of making a reality of national sovereignty. Of course, the decisive force that ultimately determines the possibility of fully exercising sovereignty resides with the population.