A Pyrrhic victory

The Democrats don’t care about the poor and, Mike Davis argues in the London Review of Books, it showed up in the election results from, among other places, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas:[1]

As the fantasy of great gains in Texas dissipated, Democrats were stunned to discover that a high turnout had instead propelled a Trump surge along the border. In the three Rio Grande Valley counties (the agricultural corridor from Brownsville to Rio Grande City), which Clinton had carried by 39 per cent, Biden achieved a margin of only 15 per cent. More than half of the population of Starr County, an ancient battlefield of the Texas farmworkers’ movement, lives in poverty, yet Trump won 47 per cent of the vote there, an incredible gain of 28 points from 2016. Further up river he actually flipped 82 per cent Latino Val Verde County (county seat: Del Rio) and increased his vote in Maverick County (Eagle Pass) by 24 points and Webb County (Laredo) by 15 points. The Democratic congressman Vincente Gonzalez (McAllen) had to fight down to the wire to save the seat he won by 21 per cent in 2018. Even in El Paso, a hotbed of Democratic activism, Trump made a six point gain. Considering South Texas as a whole, the Democrats had great hopes of winning the 21st Congressional District, which connects San Antonio and Austin, as well as the 78 per cent Latino 23rd Congressional District, which is anchored in the western suburbs of San Antonio but encompasses a vast swathe of southwest Texas. In both cases, the Republicans won fairly easily.[2]

Albeit probably in part due to Barack Obama’s record as a neoliberal (these policies help propel northward migration[3]) and as “deporter-in-chief,”[4] Joe Biden couldn’t even get the Latinx vote in the river valley that divides the United States from Mexico. Even when Donald Trump and the Republicans have been relentless in their demonization of human beings from south of the border.[5] Even when Trump locked migrants and their kids up in concentration camps.[6]

The Democrats are simply too comfortable with the status quo. Think of Nancy Pelosi and her very, very expensive refrigerators stocked with very, very expensive ice cream that must be flown in just for her (because probably nobody else in San Francisco has even heard of that brand).[7]

Even as a pandemic rages,[8] Joe Biden promises a veto of Medicare For All, saying, among other things, that it would be an insult to his dead son.[9] Even as the lockdown has cost millions their jobs,[10] their homes,[11] and, oh, by the way, their health insurance,[12] they let Republicans bottle up even the barest economic response,[13] never mind one that would actually work,[14] because it just isn’t that urgent for either party.[15]

The Democrats have no substantive answer for Rust Belt workers (or workers anywhere else) whatsoever,[16] even as an inescapably racist[17] fury in southwestern Pennsylvania among those who’ve lost their manufacturing jobs and among their children leads to a plethora of Confederate[18] and thin blue line flags and probably even more conspiracy theories.[19] All Democrats offer are just the same platitudes we’ve been hearing for decades.

Platitudes don’t put food on the table. Platitudes don’t pay the rent. Platitudes don’t pay for trips to the doctor. Platitudes don’t buy shoes for the children. Platitudes don’t pay for the Internet connections those children need to continue their schooling during lockdowns. Platitudes don’t relieve a sense of being utterly forsaken and profoundly abandoned.

But platitudes are really all we ever get from the Democrats. Platitudes, especially when they want our votes, but like the ones we heard endlessly from Obama when joblessness persisted following the financial crisis.[20]

The United States, as pundits hourly remind us, is now cleaved into two almost equal-sized political universes. But power abhors stalemates and clearly in the present world the evolution is towards differential experiments in post-fascist oligarchy and pseudo-democracy. A weak and court-enchained Biden-Harris White House, built on the betrayal of progressives and subservient to a donor class of Silicon Valley and Wall Street billionaires, will face a new depression without the wind of popular enthusiasm at its back. Where does this point except to total destruction in the 2022 midterm and the further triumph of the new darkness?[21]

I try not to call must-reads too often, but this London Review of Books article by Davis most definitely qualifies. Drop everything. Read this now.

  1. [1]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts
  2. [2]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  4. [4]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency
  5. [5]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts
  6. [6]David Benfell, “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/24/its-time-to-be-clear-migrant-children-are-being-held-in-concentration-camps-and-the-trump-administration-is-fascist/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/
  8. [8]Antonia Noori Farzan et al. “U.S. surpasses 64,000 new coronavirus infections two days in a row for first time since late July,” Washington Post, October 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/16/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/; Elliot Hannon, “Trump Says “We’re Rounding the Turn” the Same Day the U.S. Approaches Record Number of New Coronavirus Cases,” Slate, October 23, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/u-s-record-coronavirus-single-day-cases-trump-debate-declares-country-rounding-the-turn.html; Karen Kaplan, “U.S. deaths are about 300,000 higher than expected since the coronavirus arrived,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-10-20/excess-deaths-in-united-states-since-coronavirus-arrived; Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree, “Full hospitals, talk of rationing care: New wave of coronavirus cases strains resources,” Washington Post, October 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/25/coronavirus-cases-hospitalizations-surge/; Derek Thompson, “The COVID-19 Fall Surge Is Here. We Can Stop It,” Atlantic, October 12, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/how-keep-fall-surge-becoming-winter-catastrophe/616674/; William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/
  9. [9]Tim Marchman, “Joe Biden: It Would Be an Insult to My Dead Son for Everyone to Have Healthcare,” Vice, August 27, 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vb5d7y/joe-biden-medicare-for-all-would-be-an-insult-to-my-dead-son; Marina Pitofsky, “Biden cites delays, cost when asked about Medicare for All veto,” Hill, March 10, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/486749-biden-cites-delays-cost-when-asked-about-medicare-for-all-veto
  10. [10]Associated Press, “3.2 million more filed jobless claims last week; more than 30 million since coronavirus hit,” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-07/coronavirus-weekly-jobless-unemployment-numbers; Associated Press, “1.9 million seek jobless aid even as reopenings slow layoffs,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-06-04/jobless-unemployment-claims-coronavirus; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004; Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110; Justin Lahart, “Great Depression Unemployment Levels Are on Tap,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/great-depression-unemployment-levels-are-on-tap-11587053071; Justin Lahart, “Jobs Warning Light Starts Flashing,” Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/jobs-warning-light-starts-flashing-11595516312; Heather Long, “Over 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in March as economy collapsed,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/02/jobless-march-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario,” Washington Post, April 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/16/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/; Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/unemployment-claims-coronavirus-3-million/; Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, “6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the pandemic total to over 17 million,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/09/66-million-americans-filed-unemployed-last-week-bringing-pandemic-total-over-17-million/; David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/us-economy-deteriorating-faster-than-anticipated-80-million-americans-forced-stay-home/; Dylan Matthews, “Coronavirus could lead to the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression,” Vox, April 1, 2020, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/4/1/21201700/coronavirus-covid-19-unemployment-rate; Olivia Rockeman and Jill Ward, “Millions of Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-14/millions-of-jobs-could-be-permanently-lost-in-reallocation-shock; Andy Sullivan and Brad Brooks, “‘The government is failing us’: Laid-off Americans struggle in coronavirus crisis,” Reuters, May 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-07/coronavirus-weekly-jobless-unemployment-numbers; Anneken Tappe, “30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March,” CNN, April 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html
  11. [11]Associated Press, “Tenants Behind on Rent in Pandemic Face Harassment, Eviction,” U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/virginia/articles/2020-06-13/tenants-behind-on-rent-in-pandemic-face-harassment-eviction; Regina Garcia Cano and Michael Casey, “Wave of evictions expected as moratoriums end in many states,” Associated Press, August 4, 2020, copy in possession of author; Kriston Capps, “What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?” CityLab, May 29, 2020, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/05/pay-rent-eviction-ban-coronavirus-housing-crisis-landlord/612277/; Kriston Capps, “Landlords Challenge U.S. Eviction Ban and Continue to Oust Renters,” CityLab, October 22, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-22/landlords-launch-legal-attack-on-cdc-eviction-ban; Michelle Conlin and Christopher Walljasper, “Time’s up: After a reprieve, a wave of evictions expected across U.S.,” Reuters, October 19, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-housing-eviction-insight/times-up-after-a-reprieve-a-wave-of-evictions-expected-across-u-s-idUKKBN27415U; Sam Levin, “California landlords are locking out struggling tenants. A ‘tsunami of evictions’ may be next,” Guardian, July 30, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/30/california-covid-19-evictions-landlords-tenants; Eric Levitz, “This Recession Is a Bigger Housing Crisis Than 2008,” New York, July 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/coronavirus-recession-evictions-crisis-congress.html; Renae Merle, “Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit,” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/06/eviction-moratoriums-starwood/; Ashwin Rodrigues, “Gig Economy Company Launches Uber, But for Evicting People,” Vice, September 21, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ep435n/gig-economy-company-launches-uber-but-for-evicting-people; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/; Kyle Swenson, “Renters thought a CDC order protected them from eviction. Then landlords found loopholes,” Washington Post, October 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2020/10/27/trump-cdc-eviction-moratorium-loopholes/
  12. [12]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html
  13. [13]Jason DeParle, “8 Million Have Slipped Into Poverty Since May as Federal Aid Has Dried Up,” New York Times, October 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/15/us/politics/federal-aid-poverty-levels.html; Marianne Levine, “Schumer rips ’emaciated’ Republican coronavirus relief plan,” Politico, September 3, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/03/coronavirus-relief-plan-chuck-schumer-407974; Jonathan Roeder, Jordyn Holman, and Mary Schlangenstein, “‘People are suffering’: Corporate America lashes Trump after stimulus call,” Sydney Morning Herald, October 7, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/people-are-suffering-corporate-america-lashes-trump-after-stimulus-call-20201007-p562rj.html; Christopher Rugaber, “Rise in jobless claims reflects still-struggling US economy,” Associated Press, August 20, 2020, copy in possession of author; Dominic Rushe, “For most Americans the crisis is far from over whatever the GDP numbers may say,” Guardian, October 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/29/us-gdp-figures-crisis
  14. [14]Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-showed-america-wasnt-task/608023/; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-inequality-america.html; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation; David Wallace-Wells, “America Is Broken,” New York, March 12, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-shows-us-america-is-broken.html
  15. [15]David Benfell, “The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn,” Not Housebroken, October 15, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/01/the-mysterious-expectation-that-elites-give-a-damn/
  16. [16]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts; Jeff Stein, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, October 13, 2020, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1316133318027608064.html
  17. [17]Letrell Deshan Crittenden, “The Pittsburgh problem: race, media and everyday life in the Steel City,” Columbia Journalism Review, October 25, 2019, https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/racism-black-burnout-in-pittsburgh-journalism.php
  18. [18]Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/mckeesport-year-of-fear-covid-19-pandemic.php; Jason Togyer, “Will western Pennsylvania become a string of ghost towns?” Columbia Journalism Review, September 8, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/year-of-fear-mckeesport-census.php; Jason Togyer, “Will the sons of steelworkers see Trump’s COVID-19 behavior as strong, or reckless?” Columbia Journalism Review, October 6, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/year-of-fear-pennsylvania-steel-trump-masculinity-covid.php
  19. [19]Jason Togyer, “How Facebook has undermined communal conversation in McKeesport,” Columbia Journalism Review, June 18, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/year-of-fear-chapter-19-facebook-undermined-conversation-in-mckeesport.php
  20. [20]David Benfell, “Dickens redux,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/2011/08/03/dickens-redux/
  21. [21]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.