Joe Biden won November's election with a promise to restore decency to politics and take America back to 'normal'.Gage Skidmore | Flickr

“Decency has been restored to the American government,” writes my friend on his timeline. As I unlock my phone on Thursday morning, the dazzling face of Joe Biden at his podium is fractured into a million different Instagram stories in a kaleidoscope of liberty. Distilled through the iPhone screen are the pulsing rhythms of a young, hopeful poet uplifting more than just her nation as Lady Gaga struts across the stage in a garish vision of red, white, and blue. Following the events at the Capitol, the world seems for the first time in four years to breathe a collective sigh of relief. In the words of The Guardian, “democracy has prevailed”.

But what exactly has democracy prevailed over? Has America narrowly slipped out of the iron grasp of neo-fascism? Perhaps I am flogging the proverbial dead horse here, but I feel it is important now more than ever to return to the “is Trump a fascist” debate. Language matters, and at such critical political moments it is important to pause and deconstruct the language we use, in order to understand where America now stands with Biden. I think it is important to challenge, hopefully for the last time, the portrayal of Trump as a fascist.

The Trump administration was brutal to say the least, targeting minorities and the most vulnerable groups in American society. Under the Trump administration, the world witnessed the American state flippantly shrug off the environment and grossly neglect human life in the face of a lethal pandemic – all in the name of America-first economic growth. Acts like the transgender military ban, undeniably reactionary and prejudiced in their nature, were all part of the rhythm of ‘economic prosperity’. Commonly misrepresented as simply an attack on trans* rights, it is important to understand the economic motivation behind the discharge of 15,000 soldiers.

“To characterise Trumpism as anything other than capitalism at its ugliest is to misrepresent the nature of the beast.”

First, the US military is responsible for subsidising the healthcare of all soldiers. As a trans* woman, I can tell you first-hand that trans* healthcare and surgeries are staggeringly expensive, and the number of people identifying as trans* continues to rise as it becomes safer to do so. In banning trans* people from the military, the Republican government was no longer expected to subsidise their projected $3 billion healthcare bill.

Yet this is not authoritarian fascism instituted by Trump, but capitalism at its most reactionary and extreme, that is prepared to sacrifice vulnerable minorities in its tireless crusade to turn a profit. Similarly, America’s long history of climate denialism predates Trump – it is a direct product of decades of pillow talk between Republican politicians and their big industry donors. To characterise Trumpism as anything other than capitalism at its ugliest is to misrepresent the nature of the beast.

The beast of the American political system can be understood much like a centaur. Although composed of two halves that seem to oppose each other, they are fundamentally fused into one creature. In labelling Trump a fascist we are engaging in a voluntary blindness. We are looking merely at the centaur’s lower half and mistaking it for a horse. Perhaps we do this because we do not want to acknowledge that the unsightly animal is connected to the human torso. With Biden now in power, we are looking at the human half of the beast – but it is still the same centaur. The animal half may be out of sight, but its legs continue to gallop. Scrutinising the relationship between this centaur and big industry is more urgent than ever under the looming shadow of the climate crisis. Immediately, Biden has signed an executive order to re-enter America into the Paris Agreement – good optics, no doubt – but what is Biden’s climate plan? An underwhelming net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the same target as that of the UK government, a target that – as we have been warned by scientists and climate activists time and again – is not enough.

“What is normal? A stale establishment that pushed voters into the arms of Trump in the first place.”

Let us return to language. Words are a politician’s best friend. When we deal in words, we must deal in them wisely. When we call Trump a fascist, what does Biden become? The face of antifascist heroism? A champion of the people? A herald of democracy? The linguistic assassination of one President is the armour of another. Biden has been heralded as returning America back to ‘normal’ – but what is normal? A stale establishment that pushed voters into the arms of Trump in the first place. No doubt, Biden’s America will be one that is safer for queer people, BIPOC and migrants, but the Democrats’ liberal appeal to identity politics will only carry them so far before an inescapable economic unease returns.


Mountain View

The war for America’s soul won’t end with a Biden win

This is where language is important. Biden has had a hero’s reception – it is not every day that Lady Gaga serenades a politician – but politicians and heroes are not cut from the same cloth. By deconstructing our language of heroism around Biden, we employ a critical lens that is necessary for the truly radical change that America is yearning for. Perhaps decency has been restored to the American government. Perhaps it is time to stop pretending that decency is enough.