The seismic event taking place near the end of the third presidential debate was caused by Joe Biden. In a moment of candor, he stated that his goal is to end the fossil fuel industries. The wave of heat and motion unleashed by Biden’s declaration exploded from the Nashville debate stage all over the world. One reason for its impact is that it fits in with Donald Trump’s hysteria over a Biden presidency. He portrays Biden as a Trojan Horse. Once he is in the Oval Office, Democratic Socialists will burst from his flanks, forcing anti-democratic policies on the peaceably, anti-scientific world that is Trump’s alternate reality.
The idea of Biden as a socialist is laughable. He is one of the surviving centrists of late twentieth century American politics, a believer in the quaint arm-twisting and aisle-crossing days of old. He is an incrementalist at heart. As Barack Obama’s Vice-President, Biden spearheaded the nuts-and-bolts recovery plan needed to restart the national economy in 2009. He also was instrumental in the legislative combat needed to establish the Affordable Care Act, a relatively modest plan for healthcare policy. Recall that Obamacare was vilified on the left as a middling program lacking a public option, unable to deal the drug and the insurance lobbies.
Biden is offering a phased approach to energy overhaul. The Future is green, he argues, to be built while the oil-soaked Present recedes into history, following rikshaws and stage coaches. Dependent on natural forces instead of natural resources, a renewable energy supply would bank and recycle the power of wind and sun, rather than draw down from the diminishing sources of fossil fuels. Extraction of petroleum and coal is an increasingly destructive way to sustain the world’s energy needs. trashing the planet, while its CO2 by-product blasts holes in the planet’s atmospheric cocoon. Climate hawks dispute Biden’s go-slow approach, but his approach complements his fundamentally conservative political outlook.
The battle over energy policy is political. One can only harness wind and solar power, not possess it as if it were a vein of coal or field of oil. Renewable energy has the potential of being a more egalitarian source of fuel. For that reason, it’s an abomination to those industrialists, such as Charles Koch, perched atop the Pecuniary Pyramid. Trump has been a well-digger for Koch and his ilk, trying to stop time. Trump’s is a regressive world-view, which explains why Trump has no plans for a second term. He traffics only in the past. For Trump, the future is today, and today is transactional.
The year 2020 – the pandemic, the recession, election and the year itself – symbolizes the struggle between the Past, represented by Trump and his anti-scientific horde of nostalgic barbarians, and the Future. He can’t deal with a novel virus because in his world, nothing really is novel. At most, it’s a restatement of the old, even ancient. Trump admires Putin but he emulates Louis XIV, the Sun King.
Trump will continue to support his benefactors’ flagging industries, with tax cuts and by running up debt to patch the holes caused by his policies and trade wars. After all, bad debt and bankruptcy are Trump’s M.O. He has always used other people’s money for his projects, and his projects all have been old-school losers : casinos, golf courses, a football league, and water – yes, water! He invested in steak while vegetarian culture was becoming more mainstream. As President, he will continue to remake America according to his own Luddite vision.
As a nation, we need to invest wisely; to foster new industries; to enrich our world as well as fill our wallets. We can’t survive on the transitory, sleight-of-hand nature of the Trump’s retrogressive economy. His rollback of regulations has extended the life of the destructive fossil fuel industries or short-term gain, without furnishing oxygen to new, sustainable business models. Given more time, Trump may well make the United States his seventh bankruptcy.
Trump fantasizes about building beach resorts in North Korea. He thinks about creating 19th century playgrounds for the wealthy in the 21st Century. He is a grotesque sentimentalist, unsuitable as a custodian, much less the leader, of a nation desperately in need of insight and innovation. Biden may not be a visionary, but he understands that, for a world confronting an existential threat, standing still means going backward.