“The US is also a one-party state, but in typical American extravagance they have two of them.”
― Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania
American Politics lean very heavily to the right. While the Republican Party, in its more recent endeavors, has outdone far-right European parties like the National Rally in France and UKIP in the UK, it is pretty obvious to the world that the Democratic Party leans to the right as well, maybe not by US standards, but on the political spectrum – devotion to Neo-liberalism, adherence to free international trade austerity and privatization of the economy.
However, the Democrats have been responding to leftism, albeit not as one would want. While ideas like universal health care, increased minimum wage, tuition-free colleges or waiving of student loans, or even legalisation of marijuana are gaining traction (traditionally leftist ideas) – the net change in the political horizon in the US is towards the right. This is what we would be focusing on today – The Ratchet Effect.
Over the last few months of the Biden administration, it has failed to uphold its promises of the $15 minimum wage, the infrastructure bill, the freedom for Amazon and Alabama coal miners to unionise or go on strike, shut down the concentration camps on the southern border, get the immigration process to work smoother for stranded workers and their kid and the military budget and the embassy in Jerusalem – which is still operational even after the insurmountable evidence of the Israeli government committing human rights abuses on Palestinian families and murdering their kids. The government is not standing up for the little guy anymore; it is getting in his way now.
The Ratchet Effect comes into the picture here when Democrats do one or more of three things, actively or passively – accept any movements to the right, move to the right themselves or block any bills that are leftist in nature. In any such scenario, sooner or later, the Republicans come back to power and set into motion their ultra-right agenda – passing policies to with practically no resistance, replacing judges to keep their right-wing policies intact for generations, approving budgets to give corporate tax breaks, and, of course, raising the debt ceiling and making America poor again. The ratchet is free-flowing only when the Republicans are in power and gets frozen otherwise. And the country keeps moving more and more to the right. The most significant example is the corporate tax rate – Trump brought it down to 20% from 35%, and while Biden plans to raise it to 25-28%, it is still less than what it was in the beginning.
It is not that the Democrats are not responding to the growth of socialism and leftism in the US. A considerable force within the Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, have proposed radical changes and policies that would steer American politics more to the centre. However, with the Party itself promoting more centrist candidates like Clinton or Obama or Biden and handing them endorsements, fundraising mechanisms, media coverage, publicity and outright slandering of their opponents, the more left-leaning candidates find themselves outmatched, facing detachments from their own party, which focuses on centrism much more than battling the growing right-wing fascism with progressive left-wing politics.
The biggest reasons why the Democrats act this way are corporate sponsorships and the populist nature of the US elections. Large corporations fund entire election campaigns and hence necessarily drag the democrats to the right – that is true. However, the primary reason is the nature of the American Elections at the very core. The “Winner Take All” majoritarian model of democracy allows two parties to grow and take over all levels of government. The political arena changes from “who has the best policies” to “who is the least psychopathic”. Furthermore, the disparity in electoral college votes leads for the parties to choose candidates who can gather votes from all states and who have a chance of winning, hence stopping them from being actually being accountable to their core voters, who now have no choice but to vote for the chosen candidate. Over the last few election years, this has been the entire premise of the American Elections.
The competition is no longer over the American Public. A large chunk of the voters are now fully integrated into the Trump/QAnon Cult, who will do anything and everything Donald Trump says or does – even if it means using a horse dewormer for COVID-19 or injecting bleach or believing that Obama and Hilary smell of “fire and brimstone”. Another chunk is so anti-Trump that they will vote anyone to power, as long as that one is not Donald Trump. So the competition gets reduced to the centrist voters, and parties get dragged more and more to the right to please both the voters and the corporates that fund the elections. Elections are now about undoing the past x years of disaster and about saying that at least we are not promoting the objectionable psychopathic ultra-right wannabe fascist dictator figurehead. “Working across the aisle” makes them compromise with the same people, dragging the country more and more to the right, radicalising more and more Americans in the process.
It is a two-party duopoly, both held hostage by the same corporate interests that the two swear to serve *after* the American Public is served. With Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema now blocking the latest moves from the “left” side of the aisle, it is not very difficult to see how the Democrats of today more and more closely resemble the Republicans of yesterday. The desperate attempts to maintain this dystopian neoliberal status quo are making the trend worse. Until a real left can emerge and mount an effective resistance, the transformation of the current scenario into outright fascism seems inevitable.
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt