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No “Return to Normal”: Fight for COVID Relief, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal

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To the relief of millions of Americans, Trump will be a one-term president. After enduring four years of his regime, and what felt like 10 years of 2020, many are finally unclenching their jaws.

Of course we should remain vigilant as Trump has already indicated a complete unwillingness to concede. He will continue to undermine the results of the election through a tsunami of lawsuits, recounts, and even whipping up the most reactionary elements of his base with baseless claims that the election was stolen from him. We should be prepared to mobilize in defense of the vote if Trump’s threats materialize. 

“Too Close to Call”

The relief felt by millions as Biden has won the presidency is mixed in with an almost existential concern that this race was far too close. After four years of relentless attacks on immigrants, Black people, the environment, and the broader working class — Trump deserved a clear defeat on election night. 

The reason this election was a nail biter and not a blowout was precisely because the candidate on offer to challenge Trump did not inspire confidence for millions of people. He was not able to point any inspiring way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, mass unemployment, deepening inequality, or racist police brutality. Instead, he promised this fantasy of a “return to normal” that millions have accepted isn’t possible or desirable.

A “return to normal” as Joe Biden and the Democratic establishment would have it is a return to bailouts for big banks and corporations, a continuation of poverty wages for low-wage workers, a further explosion in billionaire wealth, and massive handouts to big insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Given that the U.S. is seeing the biggest surge in COVID-19 cases to date anywhere in the world and the economy is teetering on full collapse, Biden’s “normal” gets us mere inches further from the edge.

While it is a relief to see Trump out of office, what this moment calls for rather than Biden’s “normal” is something far closer to Bernie Sanders’ vision of Medicare for All, taxing the rich, and a Green New Deal jobs program. Unfortunately, it seems that at the exact moment we needed someone mobilizing people in defense of that vision, Bernie left the field. It will now be up to all of his supporters to carry that vision forward under a Biden presidency.

Fight for the Relief We Need

The COVID-19 pandemic will outlive the last two months of Trump’s presidency. We will be left with this pandemic and its consequences for years to come. However we do not need to submit to despair. There are measures that can be taken immediately to bring the current outbreak under control. Executing these measures – including shutting down non-essential businesses in places where the virus is raging – will require a massive aid package to working people and small businesses to protect from the personal financial fallout of such a move.

We are heading into a COVID winter and millions are still out of work. The unemployment top up was cut off over three months ago and our $1,200 stimulus checks have long been spent. The federal eviction moratorium ends on December 31st and landlords are at the edge of their seats waiting to kick out tenants and collect mountains of back rent (the money for which, of course, doesn’t exist).

Half measures and virtue signalling will not be enough to get working people through this crisis. If we are to take the steps needed to get the virus under control, we need to apply pressure on both Trump and Biden once he takes office to carry out an emergency relief program. This means a massive investment in direct aid to working families and small businesses including: 

  • Another round of stimulus checks, 
  • bring back the weekly $600 unemployment top-up, 
  • extending eviction moratoriums and canceling rent for the duration of the crisis, 
  • cancellation of any medical debt accrued during this public health crisis, 
  • immediate aid to small businesses.

Beyond direct aid to workers, we need to take drastic measures to contain the virus including: 

  • returning to “Phase 1” lockdown (shutting down non-essential businesses) in places where the virus is raging,
  • massive aid to hospitals who are about to be overwhelmed to expand their capacity, 
  • making widespread testing available for free to every American, 
  • using the Defense Production Act to direct industry to produce needed supplies like ventilators and vials for vaccine distribution, 
  • a federally directed effort to develop a vaccine that eliminates competition between pharmaceutical companies and brings together their vast resources, 
  • once developed the vaccine should be free and widely accessible to all
  • a rapid transition to a Medicare for All healthcare system that guarantees high-quality, free healthcare to all Americans.

Funding the type of massive spending this moment calls for will require taxing the super rich and corporations to pay for it. This is something Biden and the entire Democratic establishment will resist at every turn. They will insist, as Democratic mayors and governors have done across the country, that working people should pay for this crisis through cuts to social services. We cannot accept this logic. Billionaire wealth has grown by more than 30% since March, while working people are scrambling to make rent and afford food. It’s time the super rich and their portfolios took a hit.

Independent Politics Needed

While this election exposed the lukewarm excitement about Joe Biden, enthusiasm for progressive policies shot up. According to Fox News of all places, 73% of Americans support moving to a government run healthcare plan. According to that same poll, 70% of Americans support increasing spending on green and renewable energy. In Florida — a state that Trump won — a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour won by over 60%!

If, instead of a contest between two bad options, a real political alternative had been on the ballot — things would look very different. There is a hunger for a distinctly working class political party in this country and millions have drawn the correct conclusion that the Democratic Party simply won’t be it. 

The task of the left in the final months of Trump’s presidency and continuing the moment Biden takes office needs to be the urgent creation of a mass, working class organization fighting for sweeping COVID-19 relief, Medicare for All, a Green New Deal jobs program, and taxing the rich to pay for it all. An organization like this could be a pole of attraction for millions of people who feel completely left behind by the bi-partisan politics of the billionaires.

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