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The US Protests: Is Liberal Democracy Saving Itself?

The US Protests: Is Liberal Democracy Saving Itself?

Thursday, 4 June, 2020 - 11:45

There is no doubt that US President Donald Trump is investing in his country’s escalating internal divisions to secure a second term. This investment, however, is not enough to explain the seriousness of the protests and demonstrations that have spread in the US after an African-American citizen was killed by a white policeman.

Trump entered the White House in 2016 as a symptom and consecration of bipartisanship and both parties being unable to provide solutions for a system that had reached stagnation. This alternation between Democrats and Republicans tells a lot at the level of major social and economic policies. Under Bill Clinton, the Democrats did not change the general direction that Ronald Regan and his successor, George Bush Sr., had started in terms of reducing public services and spending on social programs and introducing market notions such as profit and loss into sectors that intrinsically lose money. These sectors provided social security. since the “New Deal” that was introduced by Franklin Roosevelt and aimed to limit the effect of the Great Depression of 1929 and was augmented by Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” project that deterred racism as a response to the civil rights movement in the sixties.

During his two presidential terms that witnessed a large number of African-Americans being murdered by white policemen, Barack Obama’s attempts came too late and were insufficient. Despite the partial success that was achieved by the Health Care Act, he failed to reform the judicial system and address the crowdedness of prisons with blacks. While the percentage of blacks in the US is only 13%, the percentage of black inmates exceeds 40%. This is enough to believe that the judicial and security systems are blatantly discriminatory against blacks. This cannot be explained by racist claims that blacks are lazy or refuse to work and instead rely on aid provided by the state, but that the rise in crime rates among the black community reflects the classic correlation in all societies between poverty and illegal acts. The former claim is only nonsense that right-wing supporters inherited from their ancestors and are repeating today.

Whether they were Obama’s internal projects or the Democrats’ attempts to impeach Trump a few months ago, the Democrat-Republican divide that rendered the political system sterile and stagnant has aborted all of the attempts at reform or change. This has made it seem impossible to restore the efficacy of legislative institutions without one party taking over both houses after reaching a consensus between the House of Representatives and Congress became impossible at a time where the US president is taking advantage of all of the executive powers granted to him by the constitution and law, the vastness of which has been evidenced by his ability to interfere in issues that range from the economy to the environment.

This inability to break this zero account balance has ultimately served to enhance the power of major funders and CEOs of major companies (who belong to both parties) to mobilize Americans. This mobilization has reached political institutions at both the state and federal levels. What had started during the 2016 US presidential elections as an attempt to take advantage of the frustration and despair of the majority of the working-class whites who had especially suffered from the industrial shift to China, and the superfluousness of the approach that Democrats’ adopted under Hilary Clinton on immigration and unemployment, turned with Trump assuming the presidency into a fierce economic war against China through a systematic demonization on issues such as spying, without them missing a chance to attack the US’s largest trade partner. They also hold China responsible for the spread of the coronavirus that Trump had dubbed the “Chinese virus”, not to imply that Beijing is entirely innocent of these claims but to fit China’s expansionist ambitions with the US’s internal populism.

With 40 million Americans having become unemployed as of last February, the scene has started to look like a gunpowder barrel waiting to be detonated. This is exactly what happened in Minneapolis after the grotesque murder of George Floyd.

The danger that the protests pose does not lie in the security threat that it poses or the looting, violence, and the destruction of property, or that criminal elements are taking advantage of the public’s legitimate outrage, but that it is one of the rare occasions where the ability of liberal democracies to reform itself and address its illnesses is being questioned. If this question has been frequently asked in North America and Europe over the past years, especially since the financial crisis in 2008 and the limitations that traditional political representation cannot cross in addressing massive crises, then today this question carries dimensions that relate to the restructuring of American society and its political system, especially after the decline in the forces of that contributed to hampering radical changes that overtook Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The results of opinion polls that give the Democratic candidate Joe Biden a notable lead are not sufficient to say that if the current US president loses his seat that there will be substantial reform of the political system, with the innumerable divisions across all binaries one could possibly think of, including racial, class and regional divisions, among others.

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