Biden’s inauguration might help you sleep better, but don’t become so complacent that you accept a meager status quo. We’ll meet for brunch later, there’s work to do now!
Boy, it’s been a tense couple of months (or four years), hasn’t it? With Biden safely ensconced at the Resolute Desk, though, we’ve won some breathing space. It’s a relief when each day’s news cycle is no longer a vast crap vortex. People are even sleeping better now that Biden has been inaugurated. The urge to rest and enjoy the relative Twitter silence can be overwhelming. Perhaps there’s time to go to brunch instead of an obligatory protest. Hitting pause on the outrage machine for a few days is warranted. Enjoy it!
Remember, though, it’s only a little breathing space. Brunch is still canceled. We have so much work to do.
Joe Biden didn’t win the presidency because the Democratic voting base felt tremendous enthusiasm for his policies or because he’s the special sauce that’s been missing from our political process. He won because he wasn’t Donald J. Trump, and even that didn’t count for much. By the slimmest margins in some deeply purple places, Biden eked out a marginal victory because every vote counted. Democrats lost ground in the House, have a skin-of-their-teeth majority in the Senate, and the cherry on top is a President who reassured wealthy donors that if he won, “nothing would fundamentally change.”
If nothing changes, we’re simply bringing back the conditions that led to Trump’s victory. Unless you want another Trump, or worse yet, a competent authoritarian who won’t make the same boneheaded mistakes Trump did, we can’t stop caring now.
We can’t afford apathy in the absence of Trump’s clear and present challenge to our national wellbeing. The day Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) addressed the political complacency of the comfortable by reminding her Instagram followers that even if Biden became the next president, “We’re not going back to brunch.” Brunch, a leisurely, often expensive and boozy meal that signifies a certain level of disposable income and weekends off, became a political statement. Symbolically, it’s what people do when they’re doing okay.
We’re still not doing okay.
The challenges before us are many. First, we’re still neck deep in a pandemic/recession combination platter that will make every other problem that much harder to tackle. Biden’s inauguration day flurry of executive orders repealed as much of the Trumpian legacy as he could manage with a penstroke, but he’ll have a harder time making significant progress on important goals with so little support in Congress. Unless the filibuster is flushed, for example, it’ll take ten Republican votes to get anything through the Senate. This is not promising.
If we want to see some fundamental changes, to bring about something other than the disappointing, pro-corporate policies that both parties have offered up since the Reagan era, it will take more than that. Fortunately, Biden has a reputation for being able to read public opinion and governing accordingly, but for that quality to be of use to progressives, they have to push Biden their way, and uncomfortably enough to make him worry less about offending corporate donors.
Second, the country faces some implacable long term challenges that are easier to ignore than to do anything about. From systemic racism to the climate crisis to the need to manage our current and future economic predicament, the problems we faced even before Trump stirred the pot are still with us, and have only grown more urgent. Don’t lose the momentum now!
Third, we’re going to face more opposition than we think, with less help than we expect. Biden’s victory may feel like the end of a long, oppressive journey, but the right-leaning coalition is plotting their next move. Readers familiar with the Four Boxes of Liberty will understand why this is alarming, but for the rest, I’ll explain. Conservatives have blown right through the soapbox (persuasion), feeling censored by “cancel culture” and social media deplatforming. They tried the ballot box and lost. Although they may be hoping for the jury box (a court system stuffed with Trumpist judges) to deliver, they may be eyeing that most desperate of boxes, the ammo box. Meanwhile, lightweight liberals who feel their needs are satisfied by the election of a corporatist Democrat who promises no fundamental change will be off wearing their Biden pin to brunch. Don’t expect them to show up, their work is done.
Ironically, brunch is also a decent symbol for some of the left’s goals after all. Instead of being enjoyed only by our betters, leftist brunch would allow everyone to have sufficient time off from their labors and food to fill their bellies. By this measure, even the economic anxiety that ostensibly undergirded Trumpism would be mitigated when workers finally receive a more equitable share of the value they create for their bosses and shareholders. If that’s a world you believe is worth fighting for, then we must not only keep the pressure on the President and Congress, but also build alternative power structures in our communities. Biden’s election merely gives us the space to do better. When everyone gets fed, then we can meet for brunch.
Related: Joe Biden Is Not The Radical Left