When contemplating who the next president will be, a decent bet is that it will be Joe Biden’s pick for vice president. This is only a little tongue-in-cheek. I’m not sanguine about President Trump’s campaign or Biden’s capabilities.
Biden’s front-porch campaign has retreated to his basement, and he does not inspire confidence when he emerges. Even if Biden wins and becomes president, his administration will be run by a shadow president, or, more likely, by several people fighting for that role.
Factional differences, as well as ego and ambition, will animate and motivate this struggle. More so than the Republicans, Democrats find themselves riven by class divisions. The Democratic Party is now home for Wall Street and big business, as well as radical leftists who want to go full Robespierre on the rich. The Democrats are the party of socialists but their top tax reform priority is restoring a tax break for the wealthy who live in high-tax blue states. Indeed, their proposed plan for student loan forgiveness would help the well-to-do much more than the oppressed proletariat.
Biden spent his career as the senator from credit card companies. The Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party detests him because he is a corporatist whose style is to cut a deal between big business and big government, not to agitate for a socialist revolution. Amid these factions, someone will have to set an agenda, even if a President Biden is incapable of formulating one. Otherwise, the administration will fracture as disparate factions fight for control. A classic strategy in such cases is to encourage unity against a common foe.
Thus, the culture war will likely escalate under a Biden presidency, as it will be the one thing Democrats will agree on. Some pundits have speculated that a Biden presidency will cool off the culture war, but culture war is a Biden administration’s ticket out of internecine warfare. Fanning the flames will be a way to unite the Democrats who hate the rich and the Democrats who are the rich. This will be an extension of Obama’s “stray voltage” strategy, which consisted of provoking culture war battles the administration thought it could turn to its advantage in energizing its base.
Biden’s campaign is already using culture war issues to appease the radicals in his party. While he was once in favor of at least some restrictions on abortion, Biden now champions taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand until the point of birth. This is an extreme position even among pro-choice Democrats, but Biden’s camp was eager to satisfy the abortion lobby. Similarly, when the Supreme Court rebuked the Democrats for their continued harassment of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Biden’s campaign promised more attacks on the nuns.
There would likely be much more of this in a Biden administration, as whoever runs it attempts to hold the Democratic coalition together by starting cultural fights. And they would be limited only by their imagination. For instance, in education, they could use the IRS to try to shut down Christian schools over LGBT issues while using the leverage of federal money to force the teaching of the ahistorical 1619 Project or dangerous critical race theory in public schools.
In using this strategy, a Biden administration would be following the success of corporate America. Big business is finding that wokeness is an effective diversion: rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter banners and a few donations to “social justice” organization are cheap indulgences that throw a bone to the internal radicals while distracting the online mob. Woke capital is thereby allowed to be capital.
Thus, corporations that profit from Chinese slave labor today are winning plaudits for moralizing about the sins of America’s past. Most of the left is content to ignore what brands like Nike and Apple do overseas so long as they use their cultural and financial clout to support the left in America. Being on the “right” side of the culture wars at home gives them a pass to do whatever they want in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the like.
Indeed, activism often gives businesses a pass on what they do in America. It helps that activists, academics, and mainstream media outlets are far more concerned with race, sex, and sexuality than class. For all of their supposed socialist fervor, today’s Democratic activists care more about pronouns than poverty. Poor people tend not to be woke enough for the new radical, intersectional left.
No doubt a Biden administration will try to move the country to the economic left, but it will want to do so in ways that don’t threaten the migration of Wall Street money and affluent professionals to the Democratic Party. The way to buy off the radicals in the party, including those in Congress, will be by giving them their way on culture war issues.
Those who think that electing Biden will reduce cultural conflict are likely to be disappointed if he is elected. The left will cut a deal with big business rather than call off its cultural offensive.