Article 1 March 12, 2021
Partial Legitimacy of the Biden Administration and What It Means for the USA and the World
Evgeny PASHENTSEV, leading researcher at the Diplomatic Academy, Moscow
March 12, 2021
The current situation in the United States, which remains – despite the obvious decline of its power, a leading economic and military power – inspires serious concern. The decline of the country is turning into an acute political crisis, multiple accusations coming from the now former President Donald Trump of massive fraud in the recent elections like this one: “This election is about great voter fraud, fraud that has never been seen like this before” (Associated Press, 2020); the Capitol riot by Trump supporters, which ended in bloodshed, and the growing confrontation between the supporters of the two largest parties, of course exacerbate the crisis, and – in the most negative way – affect the perception of the United States by the international community. The crisis in a country with one of the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world is objectively extremely dangerous for humanity with its possible consequences, and it cannot and should not remain indifferent to this crisis.
American history is driven by periodic moments of loss of trust and moral convulsion. The famous political scientist Samuel P. Huntington noticed that these convulsions seem to hit the United States every 60 years or so: the Revolutionary period of the 1760s and ’70s; the Jacksonian uprising of the 1820s and ’30s; the Progressive Era, which began in the 1890s; and the social-protest movements of the 1960s and early ’70s (Brooks, 2020). The understanding of the depth of the crisis is increasingly spreading in American society. As Robert Array notes in his publication in the American Thinker, analyzing the situation in the country after the elections: “The courts and the Congress have failed to perform their constitutional duty, whether explicit or implied, to preserve the Union. Until those changes, there will be no unity. How could there be? Matters will not get better; they will get worse, and that is a terrible thing” (Arvay, 2021).
American moral convulsion
It seems now we are witnessing a new and much deeper moral convulsion, connected both with the systemic internal contradictions of American society, and the crisis of modern capitalism, the system of international relations as a whole. Half-measures cannot be helpful to overcome the crisis and the ruling elite in the pursuit of power and wealth is not able to offer a way out of the crisis; its most radical factions are already considering extreme options to capture full authorities within the country and the total mobilization of all resources for a confrontation with China. Former Clinton adviser Naomi Wolf warned on February 22 2021 on FOX News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight that the U.S. is becoming a “totalitarian state before our eyes”. She warns that the country is rapidly “moving into a coup situation, a police state” under the “guise of a real medical pandemic” (Hains, 2021). Rod Dreher, a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative, contends the United States is well on its way to becoming what is known as a “soft” totalitarian state (Wikipedia, 2021a).
Thus, the movement towards totalitarianism is recognized on both the left and right flanks of the country’s political spectrum, although it is explained differently. We have already drawn attention in our previous publication to the obvious aspirations (and not only in the United States) to use the situation with the Coronavirus for selfish interests by dominant groups (Pashentsev, 2020a).
On the one hand, the internal socio-political crisis and the consequences of the pandemic distract the attention of the US imperial forces, require focusing on the internal problems of modernization, in order to be more successful and aggressive in the international arena, regain the status of the only superpower and unquestionably dominate the world, as in the 1990s. On the other hand, the understanding that more or less honest methods of economic competition will not restore the former dominance, and in 10-15 years the country is likely to go to the second – although significant – role in the world economy and politics, constantly reanimates the desire to restrain competitors by a variety of methods today (tomorrow it will be too late).
In the process of leaving the position of the world hegemon, the stage of a rapid collapse of influence will inevitably come: external and internal loans are too large and after the collapse of financial and economic positions, it will be time to pay the bills in terms of politics. And under conditions of a qualitative decline in living standards and very likely social upheavals, it is difficult to guarantee the elite not only power and financial well-being, but also life itself. This is what scares the American establishment and, in addition to the current serious corporate contradictions, inevitably exacerbates the struggle for power.
At the same time, the most adventurous part of the US elite in the pursuit of the outgoing power can be extremely dangerous for the United States and the entire world community when trying to replay the natural course of history. This was the case in the history of many declining empires, with one exception: they did not have the most powerful nuclear arsenal…
Long-standing roots of current crisis
The current crisis has deep and long-standing roots. It was softened and partly postponed by the collapse of the USSR (happened for objective and subjective reasons) and the emergence of extremely favorable, somewhat hothouse conditions for the development of the only remaining superpower, the United States, but its establishment foolishly took advantage of this collapse in its own selfish interests. The wealth gap between the richest and the vast majority of the nation has grown steadily. The income inequality in the United States had hit its highest level in 2019, since the Census Bureau started tracking it more than five decades ago, even as the nation’s poverty and unemployment rates were at historic lows. The situation became only much worse under the pandemic.
When the Census Bureau began studying income inequality in 1967, the Gini index was 0.397. In 2018, it climbed to 0.485. By comparison, no European nation had a score greater than 0.38 in 2018 (Telford, 2019). Technological superiority was shrinking, infrastructure was aging – experts say that U.S. infrastructure is dangerously overstretched, with a funding gap of more than $2 trillion needed by 2025 (McBride & Moss, 2020). Attention is drawn to the striking similarity between the decline of the Pax Americana and the Roman Empire (Strauss, 2012).
The rise of antagonisms in the United States has been increasingly apparent since 2007 – 2009 Great Recessions, and found its clear and obvious expression in the contesting of the results of the presidential elections of 2020, both by the outgoing President D. Trump and by most of the Republican Party. The election campaign, election results and ensuing events, questioned, if not the legal grounds of the new administration, then, of course, its legitimacy in the eyes of tens of millions of Americans, wider foreign communities, and a significant part of the ruling circles of other countries.
Formation of Conditions for the Presidential Elections Delegitimization
Responsibility of main stream media
The majority of mainstream media, the influential social networks are largely responsible for the current situation. They were systematically and clearly biased the election campaign and election platform of D. Trump, and his chances of success. This created the initial grounds for doubting the legitimacy of the election campaign. The information asymmetry in the capabilities of Biden and Trump partly programmed the election results themselves. Trump, of course, not without intent irritated his opponents by his effective direct appeal to target audiences through social networks. Yes, this skill he greatly abused, and impermissibly covered his own and corporate interests with the slogan “America First”.
However, he did not deprive his opponents of information, analytical and human resources which they use for large-scale influence operations. They clearly had more than enough of these opportunities and they skillfully used them. The poll conducted for the Media Research Center found that one in six (17%) of seven swing state voters among them wouldn’t have voted for Biden had they been aware of important pro-Trump and anti-Biden information that had been suppressed in the media prior to the election (Bell, 2020).
Far too many pollsters also contributed to misinformation of the population. They systematically underestimated President Trump’s support (Russonello, 2021; Syndicated Local – CBS San Francisco, 2020). In the 2020 presidential elections, the national polls may have missed the numbers by about twice as much as in 2016 (Romano, 2020). President Trump added to the fusillade by accusing them of deliberately releasing false results to discourage his supporters from voting (Lauter, 2020). But as states have counted more results, the picture has shifted: Polls did underestimate Trump’s vote, but by a relatively small amount – less, for example, than they underestimated President Obama’s strength in 2012, when he ran for re-election (Lauter, 2020). Maybe, but the troubling thing about 2020 is not just that the polls missed again. It’s that they missed again in the exact same places they missed in 2016 — and they missed by even more (Romano, 2020). At least, in our opinion, the first preliminary results of the elections helped to form a certain pattern of perception of the final outcome among millions of Americans, which was already difficult to abandon.
After all, the elections took place in an almost split country, under crisis conditions, in a psychologically extremely uncomfortable situation of a pandemic and under a long-term restriction of normal contact between people. And when President Trump prematurely announced his victory to his supporters, it was hard for them to accept the different end result as true, given the bias of mainstream media and pollsters and their faith in Trump.
For many years, the warring parties have reinforced public distrust in every possible way with mutual and not always adequate accusations. “People in the USA no longer merely disagree on ideology; they positively detest each other, both topically and personally” (Arvay, 2021). In such conditions, a weighted adequate response to the election results is difficult to expect (even assuming that they were 100% fair and honest). It can be assumed that the elections have acquired the connotation of just and legitimate or unjust and illegitimate process in the eyes of millions, not only by the final or even preliminary results, but before the elections, due to the decline of trust in government institutions in the country.
According to the Pew Research Center Report published in 2019, three quarters of Americans say that their fellow citizens’ trust in the federal government has been shrinking, and 64% believe that about people’s trust in each other. When asked a separate question about the reasons why trust has declined in the past 20 years, people offer a host of reasons in their written answers (Rainie & Perrin, 2019).
In our opinion, an important result and evidence of a certain maturity of the respondents is that they do not attribute the decline in confidence to the activities of individuals or parties. So, President Donald Trump and his administration are mentioned only in 14% of answers as a factor of falling confidence, and a smaller share lays the blame on Democrats. Those who think there has been a decline of trust in the federal government over these two decades often see the problem tied to the government’s performance: 36% of those who see the decline cite this. Respondents also cite concerns about how money has corrupted it and how corporations control the political process (Rainie & Perrin, 2019).
Thus, the elections provided only an additional serious reason for US citizens to strengthen their negative vision of the existing order and attributes of power that are in clear contradiction with the declared commitment to democracy of the US ruling elite around the world. In the eyes of many Americans, not just the international community, the very possibility of winning the popular vote but losing the election hardly looks like a triumph of justice, more an archaic attribute of the past. However, other real or perceived contradictions of the American electoral system and a discussion of many of the claims by the Trump team challenging the election results and the legal decisions regarding them, which have by no means reassured the country, are beyond the scope of this article. Maybe, because in US society (as in almost any other today), there is a huge lack of trust in the authorities.
The storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by a mob of about 800 supporters of Donald Trump was not the act of members of ultra-nationalist groups. The team of more than 20 researchers that has been reviewing court documents and media coverage for information on the demographics, socioeconomic traits, and militant-group affiliations (if any) of everyone arrested by the FBI, Capitol Police, and Washington, D.C. police for offenses related to the January 6 insurrection came recently to rather important conclusions.
A closer look at the people suspected of taking part in the Capitol riot suggests a different and potentially far riskier and dangerous prospective: a development of a new kind of violent mass movement in which more “normal” Trump supporters – middle-class and, in many cases, middle-aged people without obvious ties to the far right – joined with extremists in an attempt to overturn a presidential election. There was an overwhelming majority among the rioters of well-to-do middle-aged Trump supporters who have something to lose. What is clear is that the Capitol riot revealed a new force in American politics – not merely a mix of right-wing organizations, but a broader mass political movement that has violence at its core (Ruby & Pape, 2021).
Thus, the rioters are, in the absolute majority, citizens who doubted the results of the elections, and who – in an environment of political crisis, mutual distrust and accusations – went to join protest actions that were initially peaceful in nature, which is proved by many videos circulating the networks (Knightly, 2021). However, even if we assume that these videos are fake, since they attract millions of visitors and are obviously explosive, and no measures are taken to delete them on the networks, they reinforce the illegitimacy of the Biden administration in the public consciousness (or at least show its obvious weakness).
Serious riots that resulted in violations of the law and human casualties, with the participation of representatives of extremist organizations and possible provocateurs (which may not be known soon), became possible, including due to questionable actions of law enforcement agencies. Acting US Capitol Police Chief, Yogananda Pittman, said the response to the January 6 riot was a failure on multiple fronts (Wagner, Macaya, Mahtani, Rocha & Fernando III, 2021). Security officials testifying at Congress’s first hearing on the deadly siege of the Capitol cast blame and pointed fingers but also acknowledged they were woefully unprepared for the violence (Mascaro, 2021).
Some U.S. Сapitol rioters claim they were “escorted” into the building by the police and did not know they were breaking the law (Harrison, 2021; ABC News & Siegel, 2021). Thirty-five US Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their actions during the January 6 riot at the Capitol, and six of those have been suspended with pay (Al Jazeera, 2021). Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department chief, Robert Contee, said that there was “no intelligence that there would be a breach” at the Capitol. But reports from online research groups, journalists and civil rights organizations found a flood of threats and calls for violence on 6 January weeks ahead of the failed insurrection (Woodward, 2021).
Broader view of riots and factors behind
However, the leadership of the Democratic Party was no less responsible for the increase in violence in the country for political reasons, supporting the violent actions of left-wing anarchist groups. This was revealed at the Senate hearing on Trump’s second impeachment. Former President Donald Trump’s legal team accused legislators from the Democratic party of hypocrisy as they played lengthy video montages of elected officials speaking about committing assault against Trump, threatening his supporters, and backing protests in 2020 that regularly turned violent (Stieber, 2021).
In the circles of Trump supporters, the version is already widespread that the storming of the Capitol is the equivalent of the arson attack on the Reichstag, which was arranged to punish communists and other political parties (Thomson, 2021; Knightly, 2021). In the context of history, another analogy is possible, according to which the storming of the Capitol is the equivalent of The Beer Hall Putsch (Bürgerbräu-Putsch) of Nazi November 8–9 1923. Despite its crushing defeat, Bürgerbräu-Putsch gave rise to the legend of the Nazis’ sacrificial struggle against the “cosmopolitan left”.
The Capitol riot with time in the eyes of many Americans can be more and more artificially and skillfully transformed in a revolt against the top Democrats who “stole the elections” from the patriots of America. Thus, the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led President Donald Trump’s legal efforts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 year, wrote on Twitter: “To all those patriots challenging the fraudulent election, POTUS wants you to EXPRESS YOUR OPINION PEACEFULLY”. “We are the law-and-order party,” he added. “You are on the right side of the law and history. Act with respect for all”. Giuliani’s comments came as the president and others released similar statements calling for calm after the violent rioters had already breached security barricades and clashed with law enforcement before entering the Capitol building (Riotta, 2021).
Dec. 30, Josh Hawley became the first Senate Republican to announce his intent to challenge Biden’s congressional certification. After the riot Simon & Schuster dropped plans to publish his book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech”. Major donors severed ties. Yet something else happened, too. Hawley saw a surge in small-dollar donations to his campaign, making January his best fundraising month since 2018. As Axios first reported, the $969,000 he amassed easily offset defections from corporate political action committees. Added to that was the applause of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has since bundled more than $300,000 for Hawley (Plott & Hakim, 2021).
“Elites distrust patriotism”, said Josh Hawley in a 2019 speech at a conference on conservative nationalism (Suderman, 2021). A son of a banker, a graduate of both Stanford University and Yale Law School, first becoming a state attorney general and then being elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 39, all the life path makes him an elite member in nearly every sense of the word. And while he said shortly after the riot that he would not run for president in 2024, his advisers have continued to hype him as “one of the favorites” of a potential Republican primary field (Suderman, 2021). Such people like Josh Hawley certainly have a good chance for a political career in the United States in the next round of history, but will they be able to meet the great challenges of history?
Only history will have the final word regarding which historical analogy is appropriate in case of the Capitol riot and the overall rise in political violence in the United States. Alternatively, maybe both are appropriate at once. Maybe the leadership of both parties uses the loose conglomerate of numerous historically incapacitated organizations left over from the twentieth century (right-wing and left-wing) to conduct a kind of vendetta of the elites in the struggle for power, for the redistribution of financial flows in the conditions of their impoverishment in the country, which is losing its former power?
New progressive organizations, corresponding to the realities of the technological and social revolution of the twenty-first century, are still in the process of formation. This assumption does not in any way call into question the objective reasons for the discontent and social protest of millions of Americans and the disinterested motives that the obvious majority of participants in these protests follow. However, the parallel creation of legends about the victims of the struggle for justice and the peremptory mutual accusations of the bloody crimes of both sides of the political warfare prepare the country and the world for even greater sacrifices… But in the name of what and who?
Influence of ICT giants
Information radicalization through the channels of allied ICT giants from Silicon Valley is actively used by the leadership of the Democratic Party to eliminate political opponents. Two impeachments against one president were organized (which has no precedent in the history of the United States), and the second – after the end of the presidential term of D. Trump.
After the events of January 6, not only Twitter and Facebook but many other social media platforms banned or limited Donald Trump and his supporters from using their resources (Tannenbaum, 2021). According to Kevin Roose, there are legitimate questions about whether a small handful of unelected tech executives, accountable only to their boards and shareholders (and, in Zuckerberg’s case, to neither) should wield such enormous power.
These actions also raise longer-term questions, such as whether the business models of social media companies are fundamentally compatible with a healthy democracy, or whether a generation of Twitter-addicted politicians can ever be untaught the lesson that racking up re-tweets is a surer path to power than governing responsibly (Roose, 2021). In the same row is the refusal of some anti-Trump media from the option that allows their users the option to leave comments on the news. For example, a link in Yahoo News is eloquent: “Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting.” This approach puts these resources at a disadvantage, for example, compared to a right-wing news site Breitbart News Network, or Fox News, who still welcome comments on their news.
The Partial Legitimacy of the J. Biden Administration: Forms of Manifestation
To date, the existence of only a partial legitimacy in the administration of J. Biden is proved by the fact that a number of internal (in the United States) and external target audiences did not recognize the process and results of the presidential election as legitimate and some audiences perhaps they continue to do it in future.
Illegitimacy according to public opinion polls
US citizens declare the illegitimacy of the last presidential election and, accordingly, the new administration en masse. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted on December 10th found that 77% of Republican voters believe there was widespread voter fraud during the presidential election. Of voters overall, only 60% believe the election to be legitimate. Similarly, a survey by Politico found that 79% of Trump voters believe the election to be stolen through illegal voting and fraud (Staub, 2020). Around the same time, at least two national polls (CBS and FOX) came out indicating that the substantial majority of Republicans, and somewhere between 35% and 40% of all voters, believe that the election was stolen and should be contested. This represents over 60 million Americans (Wilkerson, 2020).
The poll from February 2021 from the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, shows 33% of Republicans say Biden was legitimately elected as the 46th president of the United States, while 65% say he was not. Overall, roughly two thirds of Americans say Biden was legitimately elected, with nearly all Democrats saying so (Associated Press, 2021).Thus, we can assume that the perception of Biden’s illegitimacy among Americans is quite stable and widespread.
This leads to the fact that Americans evaluate the actions of the new president under the influence of current emotions, largely based on their political preferences, likes and dislikes and not his actions. President Biden had barely occupied the Oval Office long enough to arrange his desk and hang pictures, but voters already held firm opinions about his job performance. That is how polarized Americans are. Gallup polled nationally and reported in the beginning of February 2021 an “extreme partisan gap”. “Initial evaluations of presidents are more influenced by Americans’ party identification now than in the past”.
The polling organization found an 87-percentage-point gap between Democratic and Republican views of Biden’s job performance – 98% of Democrats approved, but only 11% of Republicans did. Overall, it found 57% approval and 37% disapproval (Skelton, 2021). We will see in the future that Biden’s first actions as president cause widespread rejection in society. In any case, the extremely intolerant approach to a political rival in the United States cannot be overcome quickly, even if the election campaign and its information support would be perceived by the population as absolutely legitimate.
Illegitimacy in the eyes of a part of the American political elite.
Members of Congress, state legislatures, the Presidential Administration, and other officials representing the Republican Party challenged the legitimacy of the election through appropriate legislative procedures. They did not abandon their views, for the most part, even after the elections. The establishment of the Republican Party cannot afford to take a different position, since the Republican electorate consistently follows Trump, his agenda, and the GOP hopes to win back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections (Breuninger, 2021) with the support of Trump. Republicans who do not follow this course are ostracized and risk their political careers.
Illegitimacy in the eyes of a part of the military elite.
Some of the retired senior officers openly supported Trump in his allegations and the introduction of martial law in connection with the situation around the elections. Former national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn promoted a petition calling on President Donald Trump to temporarily suspend the U.S. Constitution, declare martial law and order the military to oversee a national revote for the 2020 presidential election (Kerr, 2020). He also said on TV that Trump “could take military capabilities, and he could place them in those [disputed] states and basically rerun an election”. During the 2020 presidential election, Thomas McInerney – a retired US Air Force three-star general who conducted 407 combat missions throughout his 35-year career – had also promoted a theory that alleged voting machines deleted votes for Trump. McInerney also claimed that US Green Berets had “seized” computer servers in Germany that held election data during a CIA operation in which several soldiers were killed (Choi, 2020).
Captain Scott O’Grady, 55, may not have risen to the rank of a general, but he became well known after his F-16 was shot down over Bosnia in 1995. O’Grady was stuck behind enemy lines for six days until he was rescued by US Marines. In November 2020, Trump nominated O’Grady for assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, a position that required Senate confirmation. O’Grady supported the ideas that the presidential election was rife with fraud. He re-tweeted a tweet saying that “calling for martial law is not a bad idea when there is an attempted coup against the president” (Choi, 2020).
Before the elections, 235 former military leaders supported Trump, warning that the “historic way of life is at stake” in the USA. Their letter warns that those dangers include the growing acceptance of radical leftist ideology. “With the Democratic Party welcoming to socialists and Marxists, our historic way of life is at stake,” it says. The retired leaders went on to claim that the Democratic party’s positions regarding border security, the Iran nuclear deal, and policing also threaten U.S. national security (Blitzer, 2020).
The military–industrial complex and the top echelon of the leadership of the armed forces had great preferences under Trump, and their support is quite understandable. Trump has used his job as commander-in-chief to be America’s arms-dealer-in-chief in a way no other president has since Dwight Eisenhower, as he prepared to leave the presidency, warned in early 1961 of the military–industrial complex’s political influence. The president has repeatedly appeared at weapons production facilities in swing states, appointed defense industry employees to top government jobs in an unprecedented way and expanded the Pentagon’s budget to near-historic highs ― a guarantee of future income for companies like Lockheed and Boeing (Ahmed, 2020).
Trump’s request of $740 billion for national defense in 2021 is still a huge amount of money. It exceeds the inflation-adjusted Cold War average (including costs of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the Reagan buildup) by more than $200 billion. It represents nearly 40 percent of the global total; add in America’s key allies, and the West accounts for at least two thirds of world military spending (O’Hanlon, 2020).
Of the senior officials serving under Esper, almost half have connections to military contractors, per the Project on Government Oversight (Ahmed, 2020). Do not forget that the military overwhelmingly voted for him in the 2016 election, where Trump outpolled Clinton among those in uniform by a two-to-one margin (Perry, 2020). At the same time, a significant, if not a large, part of the military personnel as a whole remained on the side of D. Trump by the end of the presidential term. For soldiers and officers tired of constant combat missions, even a slight reduction in the presence of the US armed forces in “hot spots” was perceived as an obvious benefit.
Far-right sentiment is certainly strong in the US military. The widespread statements about the illegitimacy of elections in American society and the deepening crisis phenomenon in the country create a favorable breeding ground for right-wing military radicalism. Approximately equal potential of antagonistic civil forces, with even the mere perception of the government course as a direct threat to corporate interests of the military–industrial complex, and the military and national security, may provoke an attempt of active military intervention in the political process, as we previously had to write in several papers (Pashentsev & Miniar-Beloroutchev, 2002; Pashentsev, 2016). Hardly coincidentally, three days before the Capitol riot, all 10 living former defense secretaries warned in a Washington Post op-ed against “efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes” (The Washington Post, 2021).
Partial illegitimacy in the eyes of the international community.
We do not have data on public opinion polls in different countries about the legitimacy of the US elections, even if we assume that they were held. However, it is difficult to imagine that if the United States itself is almost split on the issue of the legitimacy of the elections, the public of other countries (especially those that have been subjected to sanctions and other forms of pressure from the United States) will believe the results of the elections more than the Americans themselves. In turn, the skeptical perception of the election results and the legitimacy of the new administration already objectively weaken the international position of the United States and will complicate the domestic and foreign policy of the administration of Biden. This is not just a weak election victory, it is a dubious victory – with such a verdict, it is difficult to feel confident in internal and external affairs. It is hardly a coincidence that Russia, China, Mexico and some other countries recognized Biden’s victory in the election with a certain delay.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – who sometimes has embraced the label “Trump of the Tropics” – said on 28 November 2020 he would wait a little longer before recognizing the U.S. election victory of Joe Biden. “I have my sources of information that there really was a lot of fraud there”, he said. “Nobody talks about that. If it was enough to define (victory) for one or the other, I don’t know” (The Associated Press, 2020).
The election results were greeted with quite scandalous reactions, even in the camp of the most obvious allies of the United States. Thus, Estonia’s far-right Interior Minister Mart Helme quit, while his son Martin, who was the country’s finance minister, survived a no-confidence vote to remain in government, after both men came under fire from coalition partners for criticizing U.S. President-elect Joe Biden (Sytas, 2020). “There is no question that these elections were falsified,” Martin Helme said in the interview, according to Estonian news portal Delfi and national broadcaster ERR. “I believe all normal people should speak up against it. There is no point in talking about democracy or rule of law in a situation where elections can be faked so plainly, boldly and on a massive scale” (Olsen, 2020).
No one wants to enter into an open conflict with the United States on such an important issue of their domestic jurisdiction as the assessment of the results of presidential elections (although the United States has made it a rule to question the legitimacy of elections in other countries, passing off the selfish considerations of its elites as a belief in democracy, and to exert all sorts of pressure on the “guilty”). However, no one will ignore the specifics of the current situation, of course, and will remember it if circumstances force it.
The partial illegitimacy of mainstream media
Especially social networks such as Twitter or Facebook, which openly and purposefully misled the public about Trump’s popularity, is also evident in the eyes of wide audiences. Several world leaders defended Trump after Twitter closed down his account (Takala, 2021). German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson said Twitter’s decision to ban Trump from its platform was “problematic,” adding that the freedom of opinion is of “elementary significance” (Al Jazeera, 2021). Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrado vowed to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have blocked or suspended the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump. “I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” López Obrador said. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression” (Stevenson, 2021).
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube banned President Trump from their platforms for inciting January’s deadly mob attack on the Capitol. But in other countries, social media giants have been far slower to shut down misinformation and hate speech (Bengali, 2021) and this allows us to talk about the double standards of these companies, which are afraid of losing their profits around the world. It can be assumed that the pressure on them will increase both from governments and from various public organizations around the world, although in many ways and for different reasons.
The partial illegitimacy of the ruling elites of the EU and NATO.
Such a Biden victory naturally turns into a partial illegitimacy of the ruling elites of NATO and the EU, since the leaders of these countries have already unequivocally (although, perhaps, for different reasons) quickly and unconditionally recognized Biden’s victory, which partially discredits them today.
The illegitimacy of the new US president in the eyes of a wide range of internal and external audiences is already obvious, already fait accompli. Thus, we can only talk about the partial legitimacy of the new president of the world’s leading power. This, of course, is a destabilizing factor for the further development of the United States and a danger for the entire international community.
The First Steps of the Biden Administration and Their Impact on the Legitimacy of the President and the Prospects for the Development of the Crisis in the United States
First presidential decisions – executive orders
Just after the elections J. Biden declared, “I promise you this: I will be a president for all Americans – whether you voted for me or not” (Biden, 2021). This is a true message, but it is extremely difficult to implement it without increasing social tension. Some important measures of the new administration can clearly turn into a further split in society. “The Biden administration, in coordination with Democrats on the Hill, introduced legislation that would give citizenship to 10–20 million illegal immigrants”, Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, said in a public statement (Georgia Star News Staff, 2021). Among other decisions on immigration regulations, Biden has instructed the Department of Homeland Security to halt construction of the border wall, increase funding to sanctuary cities that refuse to work with federal law enforcement, restrict arrests and deportations of illegal immigrants, plus bolster the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He also sent a bill to Congress to grant green cards and citizenship to illegal immigrants who are already in the country over the next eight years. By giving green cards and citizenship to illegal immigrants, the bill would make them eligible for social welfare programs, which the country cannot afford.
These actions from the new administration incentivize illegal immigration (Anderson, 2021). Biden’s lenient immigration policies have encouraged large migrant caravans to come north. As one of thousands of border-bound Hondurans told CNN, Biden is “going to help all of us” to become legal residents (Guzzardi, 2021). One day after President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters there is not a crisis at the border, the White House is evaluating how to provide more than 20,000 beds for the large influx of unaccompanied migrant children who are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border (Davidson, 2021). Things have gotten so bad that A. Mayorkas is asking DHS staff to volunteer to help deal with what he is calling an “overwhelming” number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border (Carroll, 2021).
In the future, the fulfillment of the election promises on immigration issues may give a result in a new “grateful electorate” for the Democrats, but already, due to unemployment, lack of financial resources, and fears that immigrants will become a source of Covid infection, only a minority of US citizens support the populist measures taken in the field of immigration legislation.
The Morning Consult poll, a partnership with the journalism company Politico, found that several of Biden’s Executive Orders – especially those immigration-related – are among the most unpopular with voters. Of the voters polled, only 45 percent support including illegal immigrants in the census, and only 46 percent approve halting the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, which the Biden administration has undone (Guzzardi, 2021). People rightly fear that the measures taken will negatively affect their well-being. Of course, the problems of migrants can be solved with the progressive development of the country in the interests of the majority of Americans, and not the corporate elites, but this is not to be expected from the Biden administration.
According to Newt Gingrich most critiques of the current $1.9 trillion bill have missed its real purpose. The true purpose of this bill is to funnel tax dollars to Democrat-allied states and institutions. The words “COVID-19 relief” “are propaganda to justify an unjustifiable bill” (Gingrich, 2021). In particular, the House version of the Coronavirus stimulus bill contains more than $100 million for an underground rail project in Silicon Valley, for which planning has been going on for several years but has not yet broken ground (Olson, 2021), which is naturally perceived by the public as an additional gift from the Democrats to their high-tech corporate allies.
It is hardly a coincidence that a coalition of more than 150 corporate executives signed a letter endorsing President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Coronavirus stimulus package. According to CNN, the group of executives includes the top executives representing some of the powerful business interests in the US, ranging from bank and investment firms like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone, to technology companies like Google, Intel and IBM, to hospitality companies like Loews Hotels & Co., and airlines including American and United Airlines (Mattingly, 2021).
Biden told during the campaign (pretending to oppose Executive Orders) that he is the opponent of executive orders because only “dictators” like Trump resorted to them. During an infamous campaign interview, Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “I have this strange notion, we are a democracy … if you can’t get the votes … you can’t [legislate] by Executive Order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus”. But Biden fulfilled these promises by using the first week of his presidency to issue 40 Executive Orders (Hinderaker, 2021). President Biden faces the classic problem of the elected official who has promised everything but now actually has to govern (Bresiger, 2021).
Defense sector under revision
Lloyd J. Austin III, the Defense Secretary, a retired general who most recently sat on the board of the defense company Raytheon, declared “I will fight hard to stamp out sexual assault and to rid our ranks of racists and extremists and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity”. He went on: “The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies, but we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks” (Garamone, 2021). The Defense Secretary went on to order a “stand down” of the entire US military over the next 60 days in order for commanders to address “extremism” in its ranks.
If the measures taken were aimed at actually identifying active terrorists, Nazis and racists, they would have to be extremely targeted. However, more and more evidence suggest that, in fact, an attempt is being made to broadly purge the armed forces of Trump supporters. Congressman Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) suggested that at least 75% of the National Guard might be compromised because they voted for Donald Trump (The Spectator, 2021). According to Thomas Kolditz, a retired Army brigadier general, and who now runs the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University:
… Trump’s supporters in the military who think that what happened [on Jan. 6] was a good thing need to be managed out of the military as soon as possible…We’re not talking about half a dozen people. We’re probably talking about thousands across the Department of Defense. Many of them will have already run their mouth, put things on social media. But this was an insurgency, a crime against the state. And it’s a duty obligation of the defense leadership to make sure that there are no, essentially, sleeper cells, people in the military who, for whatever reason, think an insurgency is a good idea or justifiable (Colvin, 2021).
Any broad interpretation of this purge provokes a corporate rebuff from the army and can push its conservative majority into the hands of right-wing radicals. Republicans and Trump personally perceive the purge as a direct attack on their powerful positions in the armed forces. Headlines like Fox News’ “Biden defense chief starting ideological and un-American purge of the US military” gain numerous supporters in the comments. Also widespread in the social networks are articles and photo reports on how thousands of national guardsmen, sent to guard the Capitol after January 6, were turned out of the Capitol building and sent to sleep in car parks, before being allowed back in late at night after complaints from lawmakers.
Despite the quick reversal, two Republican governors commanded their troops home in protest (Capurro, 2021; TMZ, 2021). Very soon, between 150 and 200 National Guard deployed to Washington, D.C., to provide security for President Joe Biden’s inauguration tested positive for the Coronavirus (Ali & Wallis, 2021). Thus, there are good reasons to conclude that both leading parties are actively trying to use the army for political purposes, guided by their own party interests. This may be a rather provocative and very dangerous game against the national interests.
Shortly after his 2016 election victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, Donald Trump has laid out a US military policy that would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts: “We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with”, Trump said, insisting the United States must end a “destructive cycle of intervention and chaos” (Voice of America, 2016). By refraining from the military interventions of its Republican and Democratic predecessors, the Trump administration has not stopped threatening to use military force against undesirable governments, whether it is North Korea or Iran. Such threats were used under false pretexts against legitimately elected governments, for example, in Syria. The Trump administration participated in the preparation of coups, for example, in Venezuela.
More sectors and functions under revision
When the new Biden administration came to power, it also revised the course of its predecessors. Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, in his first big speech March 3 since taking the job said: “…we will not promote democracy through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force. We’ve tried these tactics in the past, however well intentioned, they haven’t worked. They’ve given democracy promotion a bad name and they’ve lost the confidence of the American people. We’ll do things differently” (Rev, 2021). It doesn’t sound entirely convincing coming from the person who was one of the advocates of the 2003 invasion of Iraq back when he worked as the staff director for Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CODEPINK, tweeted, “So, we will have a president who supported the invasion of Iraq, and a secretary of state (Tony Blinken) who supported the invasion of Iraq”, noting how. “In the U.S., there is no accountability for supporting the worst foreign policy disaster in modern history. Only rewards” (Zunes, 2020). Also worth noting is that Blinken had just met with Juan Guaido, whom the previous US administration tried to install as the president of Venezuela, and expressed support for what is effectively an agenda for regime change in Caracas (Malic, 2021). According to Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco “…some progressives are relieved that Biden did not choose the even more hard- line Susan Rice or other even more hawkish possibilities…however, what Blinken represents is essentially a return to the status quo ante. Both the United States and the world need better” (Zunes, 2020).
It is very eloquent that already in the first weeks of Biden’s tenure as president, comments appeared in the media about the measures he took. The leitmotif of these publications is the idea that the new government measures exacerbate the division of the nation. It is quite clear that both the right (Pollak, 2021; Justice, 2021) and the left (Rall, 2021; Lawrence, 2021) have their own complaints about the new administration. The first proceed from the fact that its agenda was too radical. The latter believe that Biden has reneged on many of his promises and is following a right-wing course. The left is more likely to be closer to the truth, since by their composition, program settings and actions themselves, the Biden administration and he personally are center-right, under growing pressure from the Republican Party on the one hand and the left wing of the Democrats and all those who voted for Biden out of protest and fear of a second Trump victory, on the other. In view of this, it will be extremely difficult for the Democrats to win the midterm elections of 2022.
Biden’s excessive promises
President Biden faces the problem of the elected official who has promised too much and for too many but now actually has to govern under very complicated conditions. His slim majority in the election will evaporate quite quickly, as his rejection of the center-left items on his agenda is already evident. As Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, concludes: “It was inevitable that President Joe Biden would betray numerous of his campaign promises – and those that mattered most to wide-eyed voters who put him in office. The speed at which he and his people have revealed their treachery is nonetheless stunning” (Lawrence, 2021). For instance, Biden has openly rejected calls from within his own party to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt and has hinted that there will likely be serious limits on any student loan relief – limits that could keep millions from qualifying for any loan forgiveness at all.
Biden’s new immigration guidelines, which include targeted Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations, directly contradict his promise to halt deportations. In a conference call with governors, Biden assured them that a federal increase in the minimum wage will not pass Congress and that he has no intention of fighting to make it happen. This statement is only the latest in a series of compromises and broken promises that reveal the real priorities of the new administration (Hoff, 2021).
Democrats – Republicans scisma
Republican neo-cons now shelter in the Democrat’s big tent, today’s party of war. The major difference from his predecessor is that the new US president promises a greater reliance on multilateral diplomacy and international cooperative agreements to achieve US imperial goals (Harris, 2021). And the left rightly comes to the conclusion: “You can have democracy at home or empire abroad, but you can’t have both. We will continue to suffer the latter under Joseph R. Biden, Jr.” (Lawrence, 2021). The average American wants a reduction in record military spending, but this is unlikely to be achievable with a solid bipartisan majority of opponents of military budget cuts, relying on generous donations from military contractors (Semler, 2021).
It is clearly advantageous for the Republicans to declare Biden’s left-wing radicalism, since this successfully mobilizes the extreme right under their banner. In fact, they say: “only we can stop the radical left, the socialists, the communists”. The same tactic, only with the opposite sign, is used by the Democratic leadership, intimidating the left wing with right-wing radicalism and Trump’s unpredictability (“only we can stop the right-wing radicals, ‘white supremacists,’” etc.). Very effective … for the time being. Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to control “sponsored” organizations in the context of the growing crisis, it is necessary to “blow off steam,” giving a certain freedom to destructive radicals to show themselves in riots, attacks on law enforcement officers. We know how it ended in the Weimar Republic.
The accusations of Democrats in radicalism, socialism, and even communism, which are loudly voiced by the right, may have goals that go far beyond the current campaign to discredit the Democrats through Cold War stereotypes. First, the accusations are convenient for escalating the confrontation with China on an anti-communist basis. Secondly, to prepare the conditions for the removal of the “socialist Marxist regime” of the Democrats from power. Marx would be very surprised to learn that the “Marxism” of the Democrats is embodied mainly in the protection of sexual minorities, the demolition of historical (Wikipedia, 2021b), renaming schools (Tucker, 2021), military bases (Neuman, 2020) and so on, without even a tentative hint of the elimination or restriction of private ownership on means of production, especially large-scale ownership, of the means of production. Even a serious racial problem takes on the grotesque forms of kneeling white police officers begging for leniency.
Meanwhile, crime has increased dramatically on the streets of the United States, and criminals have taken advantage of the situation. According to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ) report, homicides rose sharply in 2020, and rates of aggravated assaults and gun assaults also increased. Homicide rates were 30% higher than in 2019, an historic increase representing 1,268 more deaths in the sample of 34 cities than the year before (Rosenfeld, Abt & Lopez, 2021, p. 3).
Trump in his interview to Fox News suggested “some very stupid rich people” are funding protest groups, rioters at RNC and across the US. They “… have no idea that if their thing ever succeeded, which it won’t, they will be thrown to the wolves like you’ve never seen before” (Creitz, 2020). Such funding is most likely carried out with the purpose of shifting the attention from left-wing protest movements from fundamental, systemic issues to particular ones that do not pose a direct threat to those in power. About 40% of young people (18–38 years old) in the United States have a positive attitude to socialism (Montanaro, 2020), not least because of the long-term consequences of the crisis of 2007 – 2009.
In the event of a very likely failure of the Biden presidency, everything will be written off as a failed “socialist” experiment, which is not in sight. The fall in security that irritates most Americans, and the “left-wing” innovations of the Democrats in the spirit of George Orwell’s “1984” can be eliminated at the end of the next electoral cycle in the event of a relatively calm development of events.
However, the attention of the citizens themselves is increasingly shifting, for objective reasons, from the problems of the pandemic itself to acute social problems. And if in the face of a likely financial and economic collapse, a sharp deterioration of the situation in the country requires a “firm hand,” then it will have to “justifiably” put an end to the threat of left-wing radicalism, which goes beyond the acceptable and generally harmless framework of the system of “socialism” coming from large corporations. On the other hand, the bet itself is on the overaged Biden, who, according to some of his political opponents, suffers from increasing dementia (We Love Trump, 2021; Valverde, 2020; Davis, 2021; Gardey, 2020) – a convenient lightning rod for the US elites in the event of an uncontrolled development of events. Almost everything can be “written off” for such a president.
In the context of all of the above, it seems likely that Republicans will maintain and even strengthen their vision of Biden’s illegitimacy because of the “stolen victory” and his “radical course”. In the eyes of the broad left spectrum, Biden, who from the very beginning was the “lesser evil,” will become the main political opponent. His actions will be increasingly assessed as unfair and illegitimate, and will be met with appropriate resistance from the right and left. Thus, Biden will become illegitimate for the apparently major part of the nation, which will cause a further weakening of the US imperial capabilities in the international arena. However, declining empires have repeatedly sought to change the course of history with foreign policy adventures, which we must also be prepared for.
Big Business and Partial Legitimacy of Biden
It is unlikely that the bet of business sponsors on Biden is accidental. The new US president is convenient for them for many reasons. Political views, career, business connections – definitely not a radical, but he was in the team of Barack Obama and was acceptable to the left spectrum against the background of the threat of Trump’s re-election, which became important for winning the 2020 election. At the same time, the dubious nature of the victory and the age of the president make it a fairly manageable and controlled political asset. Partial legitimacy in the period of “oligarchic freedom” is not a disadvantage, but a virtue that frees business from excessive control of state power and facilitates the rapid enrichment of the few at the expense of the many.
The socio-political system of the United States
The assessment of the socio-political system of the United States as an oligarchic is currently quite common. “We believe it is now appropriate to move a step further and think about the possibility of extreme political inequality, involving great political inﬂuence by a very small number of extremely wealthy individuals. We argue that it is useful to think about the US political system in terms of oligarchy,” conclude the US professors Winters and Page (2009). In another study done by Gilens and Page (2014), the researchers compared 1,800 different US policies that were put in place by politicians between 1981 and 2002 to the type of policies preferred by the average and wealthy American, or special interest groups. “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no-independent influence” (Gilens and Page, 2014, p. 564). “…we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” (Gilens and Page, 2014, p. 577).
Destabilization of the situation in the US demonstrates the inability for progressive self-renovation (and very likely survival) within the existing status quo. This also explains the split among the ruling elites, part of which directly witnesses the necessity of the inter-formation revolution and the other part is ready to continue the former course, or establish the open dictatorship if necessary.
Zbigniew Brzezinski in the introduction to his book “Strategic vision: America and the crisis of global power” stated “… there are several alarming similarities between Soviet Union in the years just prior to its fall and the America of the early twenty-first century” (Brzezinski, 2012, p. 4). Among these similarities Brzezinski names the late Soviet “increasingly gridlocked government system incapable of enacting serious policy revisions, self-bankruptcy by committing an inordinate percentage of its GNP to military goals, the economic crisis and the deterioration of the quality of life, the ruling class became cynically insensitive to widening social disparities while hypocritically making its own privileged life-style and finally. In foreign affairs it became increasingly self-isolated” (ibidem). “These parallels, even if overdrawn, fortify the case that America must renew itself and pursue a comprehensive and long-term geopolitical vision…” (ibidem). One of the main ideas of the book that the consequential shift is in the center of gravity of global power from the West toward the East has to become more strategically deliberate in its global engagement with the new East. Such approach expressed by Brzezinski in his last years of life can be useful for the development of new US policy, by those who will be able to, as Brzezinski, to revise their views to meet the requirements of the time.
In 2013, the monograph of Nobel laureate and former Vice President of the United States Albert Gore named “The Future” was published. The researcher has made the unfavorable conclusion regarding the possibility of the American establishment to solve the existing problems, “…the weakened state of democratic decision-making in the U.S., and the enhanced control over American democracy by the forces of wealth and corporate power, have paralyzed the ability of the country to make rational decisions in favor of policies that would remedy these problems. These two trends, unfortunately, reinforce one another. The more control over democratic decision making by powerful wealthy interests, the more they are able to ensure that decisions on policy enhance their wealth and power. This classic positive feedback loop makes inequality steadily worse, even as it makes solutions for inequality less accessible” (Gore, 2013, p. 121).
Gore’s conclusion about the obvious differences and, in fact, curiously similar dependence of the two parties from big business is extremely interesting. On the surface, it appears that Republicans have moved to the right and democrats have moved to the left. “Beneath the surface, however, the changes are far more complex. Both political parties have become so dependent on business lobbies for the large sums of money they must have to purchase television advertisements in order to be reelected that special interest legislation pushed by the industries most active in purchasing influence – financial services, carbon-based energy companies, pharmaceutical companies, and others – can count on large bipartisan majorities.” (Gore, 2013, p. 119).
In this regard, it may also be necessary to take into account the words one of the theoreticians of 4th Generation Warfare, William S. Lind, the United States is a one-party state: “the single party is the party of the establishment, which is also the party of permanent war for permanent peace” (Fazio, 2017).
Such rather numerous claims of critically thinking representatives of the American elite witness the deep crisis among the upper circles of the American society, and their inability to solve serious problems facing the country and the whole world.
The estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty done by specialists of the World Bank demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to push between 88 and 115 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, setting back poverty reduction by around three years (Lakner et al., 2020). At the same time the billionaires “did extremely well” during the Coronavirus pandemic.
A report by Swiss bank UBS found that the total billionaire wealth globally climbed by a quarter (27.5%), reaching USD 10.2 trillion, up from USD 8.0 trillion at the beginning of April 2020. This is a new high, surpassing the previous peak of USD 8.9 trillion reached at the end of 2017. The number of billionaires reached 2,189, up from 2,158 in 2017 (Bruce, 2020, p. 36). Josef Stadler, the head of UBS’s global family office department that deals directly with the world’s richest people, gives a very sober assessment of the current situation: “Billionaires did extremely well during the Covid crisis, not only [did] they ride the storm to the downside, but also gained up on the upside [as stock markets rebounded]” (Neate, 2020). In 2017 he warned: “We’re at an inflection point. Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest – that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?” (Neate, 2017).
More than two-thirds of Americans experienced financial setbacks in 2020 due to job loss, declining household income or a drawdown of emergency savings, according to a new Fidelity study (Murphy Marcos, 2020). The US breaking records of deaths from the pandemic. But according to Oxfam’s calculation – based on poverty data from the World Bank and wealth data from Credit Suisse and the Forbes Billionaires list – the world’s 10 richest people, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk, added $540 billion to their collective net worth in the last three quarters of 2020. If they handed over around $80 billion, they could keep those imperiled millions above the poverty line for a year while economies rebuild. With the remainder of their 2020 profits, these 10 billionaires could pay for both rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine for every person on Earth and still come out ahead. (Oxfam used World Health Organization data to estimate a cost of around $9 per dose, a total expenditure of $141.2 billion for the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants) (Schupak, 2021). But, of course, this is from the realm of dreams.
In its annual report, “The Dirty Dozen 2018: Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk,” the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety (COSH) ranked Amazon and Tesla as among the most dangerous work environments in the United States, exposing the grim reality that workers face in the modern tech industries. “Recordable injuries for workers at Tesla Motors were 31 percent higher than for the rest of the automotive industry in 2015 and 2016. […] The rate of serious injuries among Tesla workers, requiring days away from work, restricted duty or job transfer, was also much higher at Tesla than at other auto factories: more than double the industry average in 2015 and 83 percent higher in 2016” (Blake, 2018).Thus the exploitation of labour force is one of the main sources of great profits of the richest people on the Earth.
At the beginning of 2020, Musk’s net worth was nearly $30 billion (still a very healthy number). In the midst of January Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk surpassed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to become the richest human on the planet, with a net worth of $189 billion (Goldstein & Hall, 2021). Musk’s wealth increased by $160 billion over the course of a year. The main source of Musk wealth is his stock in Tesla, an electric vehicle company which controls less than one percent of the global auto market. Tesla delivered 499,550 cars in 2020, short of its annual target of 500,000 vehicles, according to the Motley Fool website. In contrast, Toyota produced 8.8 million vehicles globally in the 2019 to 2020 fiscal year and General Motors sold more than 6 million trucks and cars worldwide in 2020. The company itself has reached over $760 billion in market value, according to BBC News— “more than the total market value of carmakers Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, [General Motors] and Ford combined”(Goldstein & Hall, 2021). The rise of Tesla stock out of all proportion to its actual productive activities is so unreal that BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones put it bluntly: “To believe the electric car-maker’s worth could rise so rapidly in just 12 months is the ultimate example of irrational exuberance” (Goldstein & Hall, 2021).
Social selfishness generally characterizes the actions of the US financial elite during the pandemic. According to a Washington Post poll conducted in the summer of 2020, the 50 wealthiest people in America have publicly donated about $1 billion for Coronavirus relief — that’s a big number, but it adds up to a very small fraction of their combined net worth: less than 0.1% (Elkins, 2020).
The establishment is evidently losing its capacity to control the situation in the US and beyond. That fact logically leads to the national crisis and the right-wing dictatorship at the end or… revolution. Now we can find publications about the Third American Revolution not only in the left radical editions (Lind, 2013). Discussion of scenarios of the all-national crisis and the prospects of the American revolution in 2014 by well-known representatives of mass media and the CIA looks quite symbolically on air at Fox News in 2009 (NSfuture, 2009). This revolution can become much more radical than many political scientists and economists are ready to imagine today. The authors of the forecasts could have made a mistake in the timing, but apparently not in the general trend of development.
Global trends of contradictions
These and other global contradictions of modern capitalism are not a product of conspiracy or “ill will” on the part of certain leaders. The elite does not want its inevitable death by nuclear fire; however, increased economic and social antagonism has an unavoidable impact on international affairs, further aggravating the situation. At the same time, the criticism of “neo-liberalism” (in favor of “national capitalism”) under the banner of defending national interests and national identity reflects the objective conflicts between nations and a global oligarchy. However, it is full of inner contradictions and inconsistencies. Sometimes this criticism simply serves as a disguise for the battle of transnational clans supported by certain state elites.
Extreme right-wing groups replace the people’s legitimate desire for social justice with agitation for a national one, which, in reality, turns out to be only “an exclusive right” of the national elite to steal from the population. Global confrontation is developing at a time when the social system itself, on which the world’s oligarchic pyramid rests together with its rival clans, is suffering from a deep crisis. The breakdown of the global system cannot resolve the conflicts of capitalism; it will only lead to war. This is the most convincing strategic communication proving the failure of the current system to drive social progress further.
The increasing strife in foreign relations reflects the growing competition for market outlets. This situation is somewhat similar to those on the eve of both the First and Second World Wars. Ultimately, however, unsuccessful attempts to build socialism under the leadership of the proletariat showed that it lacks prospects. The liberal model of capitalism is collapsing. In such circumstances, right-wing authoritarian sentiment is on the rise, leading even to attempts to whitewash Nazism (Zuroff, 2009; My Future America, 2014 etc.) as some kind of ultima ratio of certain elites. However, even the bloodiest dictator regimes could not stop the progress of history being only an obstacle in the way of forthcoming transformations.
The general context of the situation in the United States and in the world naturally turns the new president into a hostage to the grandiose economic speculation on the pandemic. Most of the US GDP is stock market speculation, while ordinary people need real jobs. Now, after trillions in new spending, the market still continues to climb, but unemployment is now reversed and it is high, not low. Debt is rising, commercial real estate is sagging. So the question is, how long can this scenario continue (Stand in the Gap Radio, 2021)? Stocks are near all-time highs and the housing market is red hot.
In the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency, Jeremy Grantham, the value-investing legend and co-founder of Boston-based GMO warned that U.S. stocks were in an epic bubble. He now predicts Joe Biden’s economic-recovery plan will propel them to perilous new heights, followed by an inevitable crash: “We will have a few weeks of extra money and a few weeks of putting your last, desperate chips into the game, and then an even more spectacular bust,” Grantham, said in a Bloomberg “Front Row” interview. “When you have reached this level of obvious super-enthusiasm, the bubble has always, without exception, broken in the next few months, not a few years” (Schatzker, 2021). President Biden will oversee an economy that is “in the late stage of an epic bubble,” billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene told “The Claman Countdown” (Stabile, 2021).
According to Egon Von Greyerz, the founder of Matterhorn Asset Management AG/Gold Switzerland, Zurich, “in the next 4 years the BY team (Biden&Yellen) will most probably be the ones who fulfil Voltaire’s prediction in 1729 that “Paper Money Eventually Returns To Its Intrinsic Value – ZERO”… Stock market investors should now have sleepless nights that they are about to lose up to 99% of their wealth within the next 5 years…The repercussions would obviously be devastating not just for private investors but for pension funds, institutions, as well as for the global world economy” (Von Greyerz, 2021). Of course, you can argue about the timing of the financial and economic collapse. Moreover, the collapse is not inevitable. But it requires a different policy, which is not capable of a partially legitimate president, especially at such an advanced age. The movement towards the abyss will continue: slow or fast, time will tell…
If in the United States there was no further escalation of the crisis, striking antagonism between the luxury of the elite and the fall in living standards of the majority of the population, serious problems with the partial legitimacy of President Biden would not exist. Mainstream media would smoothly soften it all and D. Trump’s claims about the “stolen election” would be remembered with a smile. Then they would become a curiosity of history. But no, the world is in the most severe crisis of recent decades, which is only getting worse, there is less and less doubt about it.
Therefore, Biden’s partial legitimacy in the context of his inability to cope not so much with the crisis, but with its obvious use by the ruling elites of the United States in their own interests, could quickly make the president not legitimate at all; moreover, it could turn him into the embodiment of evil in the eyes of most Americans and residents of other countries.
The decline in the legitimacy of the president in the context of the expected growth of economic problems, social antagonisms and political confrontation will inevitably reduce the effectiveness of the US state machine and may even end with the early termination of the president’s powers outside the legal framework.
The rocking of American society by the leadership of the two largest parties, reflecting the undeniable contradictions in the establishment at the same time, serves as a kind of spectacle, distracting ordinary Americans from the further concentration of property and power in the hands of the elite of corporate elites. Now the situation is much more acute than in pre-revolutionary Mexico, where the largest owners of haciendas competed for territory with some European states. In the United States, the largest states exceed the GDP of some not-so-small European states. As for the wealth of Bezos or Musk, each of them exceeds the total GDP of fifteen European states, with the lowest indicators of GDP on the continent.
The crisis in the US has gripped most of 2020 and will continue for most Americans at least into 2021. People are being prepared for further casualties. The crisis must be deep enough and long enough for the richest to become even richer at the expense of everyone else. Every American will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July 2021 if they want one, Biden promised in February 2021 (Ellis, 2021). At the same time, Dr. Fauci says that it is “possible” that Americans will be wearing masks in 2022 (Harmata, 2021). Of course, we can assume that where there are masks, there will be, to a certain extent, other restrictions on social and business activity, especially ruinous for small and medium-sized businesses, which, as in any cyclical crisis, are easy prey for large corporations.
The pandemic allows the elite to shift the arrow of responsibility for the current situation from socioeconomic reasons that are dangerous for their well-being to force majeure. Moreover, the goal is to blame the origin of the pandemic and, in many respects, its consequences, on the main geopolitical enemy of the US – China. This is a very important difference from the Great Recession of 2007–2009, when Joseph Stiglitz wrote about the roots of the Great Recession: “This crisis has a very clear ‘Made in the USA’ label on it. Not only did the United States export its toxic mortgages, but it also exported the deregulatory philosophy that allowed others to buy these toxic mortgages and ensured that regulators abroad did not stop it” (Stiglitz, 2009, p. 2).
The United States – objectively the strongest country in the world in economic, scientific and technical terms, with the most developed medicine, was the undisputed leader in the number of infected people and deaths from Coronavirus. This is a rather strange development, even if we take into account the serious mistakes of the Trump administration’s counteraction the pandemic.
But the deepest crisis allows the most serious way to rationalize production at the expense of the population in the absence of mass protest against the social system. Democrats blame the Republicans, Republicans blame the Democrats for underestimating/ exaggerating the danger of Covid, and of course all of them blame the Russians and Chinese, but not corporate America – an important achievement of the American elite in the technology of political manipulation compared to the Great Depression or the Great Recession, when US citizens and the whole world were sure that the crisis was “made” in the US. It is possible that after a “long and selfless struggle” with the crisis, corporate America will record a victory over the Coronavirus through its donations. It is unlikely, however, that corporate elites will mention that these donations are a small part of the funds “borrowed” from ordinary Americans during the pandemic.
The pandemic is a catalyst for the degradation of modern capitalism. Poverty and social polarization are growing and provide an objective basis for further aggravation of systemic contradictions. Degradation in the United States is accompanied by the fleeing of the middle class from the cities. A combination of the Coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty and social unrest is prompting waves of Americans to move from large cities and permanently relocate to more sparsely populated areas. The trend has been accelerated by technology and shifting attitudes that make it easier than ever to work remotely. Citizens of all ages and incomes are moving in record numbers to suburban areas and small towns (Tate, 2020).
In 2020, there was a significant disorganization of police actions, not only due to objective processes of social polarization, but also due to the fact that the police became the object of political manipulation in the inter-party struggle. There is a mass arming of the population: U.S. gun sales in January 2021 surged 60% to 4,137,480. This makes it the largest single month since figures started to be recorded in 1998. The rise is part of a trend. Gun sales in the United States rose 40% last year to 39,695,315 (McIntyre, 2021). Who bought these guns? CBS News pointed out that over 5 million people were first-time gun buyers last year. CNN reported a sharp rise in sales to Black Americans and women. “Sales to women are also up 40% through September when compared with the same period last year” (McIntyre, 2021).
Partially legitimate Biden will not be able and will not want to meet the demands of a wide range of forces that initially voted not so much for Biden as against Trump. We can expect that the unsatisfied part of the electorate will stand in open opposition to the presidential course. A reduction in support for Democrats due to the inability to effectively address national issues is more than likely. Even a complete end to the Coronavirus pandemic, which is still to come, as well as a complete economic recovery, will not solve the remaining problems of American society. They are only escalating, so far.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to exclude various options for the development of the situation outside the constitutional framework (chaotic and disintegration of the country, military coup, civil war, etc.). At the beginning of the crisis of the 1930s, the United States, represented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, put forward an adequate capable popular leader with a program of rather radical reforms at that time. Now such a popular leader is not yet visible in the political arena of the country.
Meanwhile, the crisis is more fundamental due to modern and promising technologies (primarily AI), which are already seriously changing and will change the world much more than the technological innovations of the first half of the twentieth century.
The most radical technological revolution in the history of mankind cannot be matched by stagnation or a limited and indecisive evolution of socio-political forms.
But it is this impossible combination that provokes growing tension around the world. The United States, due to its relatively high level of development and geopolitical importance, is experiencing the most intense antagonism of the old forms and their undiscovered and unused capabilities. For their disclosure and use, they need to overcome the schemes and concepts of previous epochs (with all the careful study of them for the synthesis of a new model of development). If they do not do this, they will fall into a crisis much more serious for the country and the whole world than the USSR, which has become a victim of the old dogmas, inertia and corruption of the party and state elite.
The transition to the new system cannot simply be canceled or stretched out for many decades. Perhaps only a more decisive and rapid transition will create the conditions for successfully overcoming the crisis. However, this transition is not a reckless, desperate leap into the future, but a conscious, strategic move forward with the intelligent use of the latest technologies, which, however, can also pose a great danger (see more: Pashentsev, 2020b).
Unfortunately, the two opposing leaders are quite old (Biden –78 years, Trump –74 years) to start a long-term fundamental transformation. For Biden, this question is particularly acute, given the mass of clearly politicized accusations against him about progressive dementia. There is a growing tendency to use this information to destabilize the situation.
Some circumstances are really alarming. Halfway into his first 100 days, President Joe Biden has yet to hold a formal, solo news conference, raising questions about accountability with the White House under increasing pressure to explain why. Biden has gone longer without facing extended questions from reporters than any of his 15 predecessors over the past 100 years (Gittleson, 2021). Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced March 3 bipartisan legislation that would repeal decades-old authorizations for the use of military force in the Middle East, amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the region (Desiderio & O’Brien, 2021). Is this really about war powers or is this about Joe Biden health? Any serious uncertainty about the president’s health only exacerbates political nervousness in the United States.
However, in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini led the Islamic revolution in 1979 at an even older age, but this is hardly the case of Biden. In addition, it is not the equivalent of the Islamic revolution that is in demand in the United States. Rather, the rise of extremism and terrorism under one or another quasi-religious cover at the beginning of the twenty-first century is the result of many years of inability of more developed countries to make a qualitative leap in their development. Unfortunately, it is not age, but the old ideological schemes (with all the serious differences between them) of the entire US establishment that are the main brake on the path of overdue transformations.
American political contradictions
The parity of almost antagonists (Democrats and Republicans) with their approximate equality of forces and the sharpness of contradictions, the growing inefficiency of the government, the distrust of the election results of tens of millions of Americans, when the Biden administration makes decisions that strengthen the split in the country, the obvious intention to organize a purge in the armed forces from extremists and racists (read: from their political opponents) – all this can be used by certain circles with the assistance of the armed forces to restore order in the country and hold new elections. The military budget after its previous reduction by Barack Obama hit a record in the history of the United States: In the fiscal year 2020 it reached $721.5 billion. Trump, who has tried to support the armed forces in every possible way, but without getting involved in new military adventures, remains more popular among the military than Biden.
Far-right dictatorship, if it be established in power in the US, will certainly be a mobilization plan to counter the growing power of China under the anti-Communist slogans in an attempt to keep the leading positions in the most reactionary, most chauvinistic part of the American elite. The fate of the EU in such conditions would be to become a resigned proxy force of the U.S. in a global confrontation with Russia and China. Such prospects undoubtedly might cause serious conflicts in NATO and the EU. However, it is impossible to exclude the chaotic nature and disintegration of the country. The theories of “controlled chaos” are good as long as the chaos is really controlled, but no one can guarantee this, since the existing social system in the United States, if not exhausted, is close to being so.
In subjective terms, much depends on the formation of a strong progressive movement/party in the country, which can see a way out of the crisis in a socially oriented economy, the democratization and de-oligarchization of public life, in the accelerated introduction of high technologies (not least AI), in the comprehensive development of a human being, his/her capabilities, including the use of the latest technologies.
A more perfect society is a society of augmented human beings, not a post-human society in which there is no place for people. In foreign policy, it is important to abandon the role of the world gendarme in the international arena to mutually beneficial multi-vector cooperation while maintaining and developing a reasonably sufficient and highly developed military potential necessary to curb possible aggression from outside, and not wasteful satisfaction of the immoderate appetites of military contractors.
In the meantime, progressive organizations that correspond to the realities of the technological and social revolution of the twenty-first century are still in the process of formation, which indicates the immaturity of the subjective factor of implementing socially oriented transformations in the United States. So far, the new has not yet emerged from the old organizational and ideological forms. It is very likely that many future creators of the twenty-first century US prosperity are among the grassroots of the Republican and Democratic parties, but they do not yet realize their future role, experiencing acute mutual hostility and / or experiencing political frustration. This is quite normal in difficult transitional moments of history. The practical question is whether new ideological and organizational forms will have time to develop before the final destruction of the old forms with historical consequences that are dangerous for all mankind. Only citizens of the USA themselves can provide an answer.
 The putsch did not receive any support at the time it took place, but after the Nazis came to power, the putsch was called a National Revolution, and the 16 dead putschists were called martyrs by official propaganda. On November 9, 1935, the sarcophagus with the ashes of these people was moved to Munich’s Konigsplatz square. Der neunte Elfte (9/11, literally “the ninth of the eleventh”) became one of the most important dates on the Nazi calendar, especially following the seizure of power in 1933. Annually until the fall of Nazi Germany, the putsch would be commemorated nationwide, with the major events taking place in Munich.
Prof. Evgeny N. Pashentsev
Sources and references