THE cynical but truthful conclusion to draw from the second televised Trump-Biden debate is that it confirms what we already knew — that US democracy is the best that money can buy.
Even allowing for exaggeration and downright lies, the business and fundraising activities of the candidates and their relatives reveal the grubby driving force of US society and its political system, namely, rapacious money-making.
That said, the debate also provided yet more evidence of Donald Trump’s total unsuitability for public office of any kind, let alone president of the world’s most powerful state. This is clearly a man who cares not one whit about truth, reason or evidence.
His arrogant bombast apparently knows no limits. He is utterly oblivious to the impact his language, prejudices and conduct have on US society. His vile comments about women and immigrants should, by themselves, have disqualified him from victory the first time around in 2016.
His reckless encouragement of far-right armed militias, his refusal even to recognise institutional racism, his denial of climate change and Covid-19 and his cruel mockery of threatened and disadvantaged individuals, all underline his unfitness for office on this occasion, too.
That’s before we consider his policies to benefit big business bankers, frackers and polluters while worsening the plight of the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.
Trump’s response to these and other charges is to proclaim how much he loves everybody, how much that love is reciprocated and how beautiful everything already is under his presidency — or is about to become after he wins. Any problems and deficiencies are somebody else’s fault, whether of ex-president Obama, Democratic Party state governors, Black Lives Matter protesters or the Chinese Communist Party.
However, the misrepresentations and false claims came from both sides on Thursday, from Trump on Covid-19 (“we’ve rounded the corner”), Nato military spending and water quality, for example and from Biden on Covid-19 also (on the record of Republican-run states), the federal prison population and the US trade deficit with China.
Nonetheless, one of Trump’s real achievements has been to make the dull, wooden and conservative Biden look comparatively good.
In Thursday night’s debate, he outlined relatively progressive though limited policies to combat the coronavirus, enhance social security and medical provision for the poorest, address institutional racism and tackle global warming with a green job-creating programme. He is also committed to safeguarding current abortion rights.
This is a far cry from the type of radical social-democratic agenda presented, say, in Britain by Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 and 2019, although enough to provoke disingenuous accusations of “socialism” from Trump and his disciples.
But it is sufficient to justify a vote for Biden.
On foreign policy issues, there is little to differentiate the stance of both candidates. Both continue to demonise Russia and China and will ramp up the cold war sanctions and rhetoric if elected. The only significant difference appears to be that Biden’s outlook is stable and predictable whereas Trump is erratic and destabilising.
This means that whoever is declared the winner on or after November 3, the peace movement will be needed as much as ever inside the US and around the world.
In the US itself, our solidarity must be with the labour, women’s, anti-racist, anti-war and environmental movements which represent the real, immediate interests of the American working class and people generally.
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