Biden Admin Norman Solomon

Don’t Let President Biden ‘Make Us the Dupes of Our Hopes’

More than being a time of hope—or fatalism—the inauguration of President Joe Biden should be a time of skeptical realism and determination.
Dr. Jill Biden, left, and the president-elect at Wednesday’s presidential inauguration ceremony. [Screen shot / YouTube]

By Norman Solomon

At inauguration time, journalist I. F. Stone wrote, incoming presidents “make us the dupes of our hopes.” That insight is worth pondering as Joe Biden ascends to the presidency. After four years of the real-life Trump nightmare, hope is overdue—but it’s hazardous.

Stone astutely warned against taking heart from the lofty words that President Richard Nixon had just deployed in his inaugural address on January 20, 1969. With the Vietnam War raging, Stone pointed out: “It’s easier to make war when you talk peace.”

That’s true of military war. And class war.

In 2021, class war is the elephant—and the donkey—in the national living room. Rhetoric aside, present-day Republican politicians are shameless warriors for wealthy privilege and undemocratic power that afflicts the non-rich. Democratic Party leaders aren’t nearly as bad, but that’s an extremely low bar; relatively few are truly champions of the working class, while most routinely run interference for corporate America, Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.

Rarely illuminated with clarity by corporate media, class war rages 24/7/365 in the real world. Every day and night, countless people are suffering and dying. Needlessly. From lack of social equity. From the absence of economic justice. From the greed and elite prerogatives cemented into the structures of politics and a wide range of institutions. From oligarchy that has gotten so extreme that three people in the United States (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett) now possess more wealth than the entire bottom half of the population.

Yes, there are some encouraging signs about where the Biden presidency is headed. The intertwined economic crisis and horrific pandemic—combined with growing grassroots progressive pressure on the Democratic Party—have already caused Biden to move leftward on a range of crucial matters. The climate emergency and festering racial injustice also require responses. We can expect important steps via presidential executive orders before the end of this month.

At the same time, if past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, we should not expect Biden to be a deserter from the class war that he has helped to wage, from the top down, throughout his political career—including via NAFTA, welfare “reform,” the bankruptcy bill and financial-sector deregulation.

How far Biden can be pushed in better directions will depend on how well progressives and others who want humanistic change can organize. In effect, most of mass media will encourage us merely to hope—plaintively and passively—holding onto the sort of optimism that has long been silly putty in the hands of presidents and their strategists.

Hope is a human need, and recent Democratic presidents have been whizzes at catering to it. Bill Clinton marketed himself as “the man from Hope” (the name of his first hometown). Barack Obama authored the bestseller “The Audacity of Hope” that appeared two years before he won the White House. But projecting our hopes onto carefully scripted Rorschach oratory, on Inauguration Day or any day, is usually a surrender to images over realities.

The standard Democratic Party storyline is now telling us that greatness will be in reach for the Biden administration if only Republican obstacles can be overcome. Yet what has led to so much upheaval in recent years is mostly grounded in class war. And the positive aspects of Biden’s initiatives should not delude progressives into assuming that Biden is some kind of a class-war ally. For the most part, he has been the opposite.

“Progressives are not going to get anything from the new administration unless they are willing to publicly pressure the new administration,” David Sirota and Andrew Perez wrote days ago. “That means progressive lawmakers are going to have to be willing to fight and it means progressive advocacy groups in Washington are going to have to be willing to prioritize results rather than White House access.”

The kind of access that progressives need most of all is access to our own capacities to realistically organize and gain power. It’s a constant need—hidden in plain sight, all too often camouflaged by easier hopes.

More than being a time of hope—or fatalism—the inauguration of President Joe Biden should be a time of skeptical realism and determination.

The best way to not become disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place. And the best way to win economic and social justice is to keep organizing and keep pushing. What can happen during the Biden presidency is up for grabs.


  1. “Rhetoric aside, present-day Republican politicians are shameless warriors for wealthy privilege and undemocratic power that afflicts the non-rich. Democratic Party leaders aren’t nearly as bad…”

    Self-delusional tripe. (At least, I hope so, the alternative being a deliberate attempt to deceive the gullible.) The reality?

    “Biden told donors at an event at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday evening that he would not “demonize” the rich and promised that “no one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,”


  2. The audacity of hype, thats what we got from the oilybomber and his bagman joey. Now Normam thinks we can organize and push uncle joey, and california’s top cop, by using the fraud squad and the rest of the “good” dems. Let’s not forget just how evil barry the drone is and the complete disaster his presidency was. I would argue obama was the worst president in u.s.history and continues pulling the levers of power behind the scenes, giving us his former bagman for president. Yes I’m happy the orange clown man/boy is gone, but barry the drone lives on.

    Following the same game book that got us where we’re at today will get us nowhere. We spent 8 long years being hope a doped by the oilybomber and his side kick joey. The only way to stop the scum sucking leeches that are actually pulling the strings to make that corporate puppet biden dance is to organize from the bottom up and shut this system down.

    As I’ve said before you cant fix the system cause the system’s fixed. Revolution is the only option left to us, unless you consider the annihilationtion of the planet an option.

    1. I’d like to push back a little on these repetitive narratives to get to some brass tacks, so to speak.

      What will this revolution look like?

      Will it include an electoral component? A fighting force? Is it based on a particular ideology? Does it depend on desperation and crisis to worse to a “bottom”? What prevents it from falling down the traps of previous revolutions?

      How is Solomon’s “organize” different from your “organize”?

      Who is the “we” who were “hope a doped” by Obama/Biden? Liberals? I doubt you identify as such — so is this a overgeneralization?

      If Obama’s presidency is worse than Reagan’s or Clinton’s or Dubya’s, forget about Andrew Jackson or Herbert Hoover, etc., how in the heck do you quantify that? The only argument I think you could make was the Great Recession bailout, as a transfer of wealth. Otherwise, the claim is absurd, based on war, economics, racism, immigration, etc.

      If the annihilation of the planet you speak comes from climate disaster, how is Obama worse than Trump? If it is from nukes, how did Obama bring us closer to that particular Armageddon?

      Finally, do expressions like “uncle Joey” and “Barry the drone” actually further conversation? Are they convincing? The seem Trumpian in their usage, although I suppose he has some real political skills that may be inspiring you.

      1. “If Obama’s presidency is worse than Reagan’s or Clinton’s or Dubya’s, forget about Andrew Jackson or Herbert Hoover, etc., how in the heck do you quantify that? ”

        Very, very easily. Let’s talk about whistleblower prosecutions: more than every other president combined:

        (This from a candidate who campaigned on promises of more transparency in government.)

        How about drone strikes?

        “542 drone strikes that Obama authorized killed an estimated 3,797 people, including 324 civilians”

        How about the first president ever to order publicly the assassination of an American citizen with no due process? You’re right! Obama again.

        Of course anyone with access to Google and a spirit of honest inquiry could go on and on and on. How is it then that you can claim, with a straight face

        “The only argument I think you could make was the Great Recession bailout, as a transfer of wealth.”

      2. Because we were talking about the claim that he was the worst, not coming up with run-of-the-mill examples of how the American Empire has long been operating in the world.

        Was the argument about how whistleblowers are treated? Are you comparing 324 civilian deaths to the number killed by Truman at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the hundreds of thousands or even millions killed through the Iraq occupation and aftermath, the genocidal actions of Andrew Jackson, the millions killed in Indochina by the war developed by Democratic Party regimes, and on and on…

        We have been assassinating for long before Obama did….

        Is this an emotional argument for people? Based on single issues? Are people pretending to make it because they are secretly Trumpers or racists? Because I don’t see any utilitarian analysis that can make this case no matter how many times people repeat it.

      3. It is childish and irrational to ascribe people who condemn Obama’s barbarities as racist….I couldn’t give a damn what color a politician is….Crimes are crimes whatever race commits them….The fact that you even bring up the racist thing is somewhat suspicious.

        It seems you are saying that if one kills 100 people he/she is better than one who kills thousands….To me, this is an unsolvable philosophical argument….Whether it’s Truman, Bush or Obama, they are all rotten criminals.

      4. I am really expecting people who comment on this site to use consistent logic and read each other carefully. I have expectations for all of us!

        The argument made repeatedly was: Obama is the worst president ever, and that is what I was addressing. My response was: There is no logical, historical argument for WORST because we have had SO MANY TERRIBLE ones whose rubber stamp (AND OURS, thank you very much, if we are to accept responsibility for our role as citizens) is all over genocide, slavery, horrific and pointless wars that killed millions and destroyed the lives of tens of millions of others…

        Obama’s barbarities are OUR barbarties, and the US has been doing them for 246 years and was doing them before that during the colonialist era. For every Syria or Yemen, we can give you a Phillippines, East Timor, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Honduras, El Salvador, Korea, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on and on. Are you seriously thinking Obama was the first president to bail out the rich at the expense of the working person? Who authorized torture?

        I never said anybody who savaged Obama was a racist. I said the argument that he was THE WORST was so ludicrous as to begger some other explanation and floated a few possibles…

        If I sound irritable, it is because I was a child during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement who knew about the bombing of Cambodia and the My Lai massacre, the genocide of the Native Americans and the African slave trade before I was five. I have little patience for ahistorical arguments that present the latest horrific thing a country has done as some new, unheard of thing that would have never happened in some mythical Good Old Days. A lot of folks seem to want to brandish their woke cynicism about Obama or Clinton as if this shows how worldly they are when it really just exemplifies a naivete about how power works here and throughout the world.

        Capitalism, nationalism, the exploitation and hatred of the other, the growth/power imperative by all organisms/organizations, living or artificial — these are terrible powers that humanity has struggled to restrain, guide, repress, redeploy…with some success and so much heartbreaking failure. You think Obama is the cause of even a fraction of that? Do you think if Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney had beaten him, the country would have taken a dramatically different stance in the world?

        “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” – F. Douglass

      5. Your comments are always thoughtful, thank you….But, btw, I do believe Hillary would have been a more vicious war maker than Obama….She had an irrational hatred of Russia (shall we say, the Soviet Union which to her were one and the same)….I think she would have made war on that country, possibly nuclear….In this respect I think she would have been far worse than Obama….Romney?….I only know about his magic underpants.

      6. It is not farfetched to call Obama the worst President….He is the one who set the precedent that presidents were above the law and need not fear being punished for their crimes….And that’s exactly what happened when he let Bush/Cheney get away with their war/torture crimes….Thinking about it, he probably failed to prosecute them because he intended to commit his own crimes, which he did!….That’s a pretty nasty precedent.

      7. The lack of historical perspective in some of these comments is quite depressing.

        Bush/Cheney brought us the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, yet you blame Obama for not bringing them to justice (as if there is a mechanism in the American system and history to do so) and claim he is worse?

        I believe people’s sense of betrayal from the Democratic Party, based perhaps on their own naivete, is pushing them to outright irrationality.

      8. Torture goes against our Constitution….America has signed treaties such as the Geneva Conventions making torture illegal….Treaties become part of our Constitution

        So are you saying that politicians (Bush/Cheney in this instance) who commit these barbarities are legally above and beyond the law and not liable for prosecution?….I disagree and still maintain that Obama, in not prosecuting them, is an accomplice to their crimes.

      9. Morally, you can make the argument.

        However, it has been pretty clearly shown in US history that presidents have never been held accountable for actions done in the name of the state — and even when it seemed they might, as with Nixon, they are pardoned to keep the precedent from being made. And since I doubt you can find too many presidents (who didn’t die in the first months of their first term, at least) who have NOT authorized or allowed atrocities in the name of the state, the same could be said of almost every administration.

      10. Similar to the child’s argument, “she did it, so why can’t I?”….I still feel there is something not quite right about that, especially when it comes to presidential atrocities….I believe Obama claimed to be better than his predecessor…. He had the choice to stand up for what’s humane….He chose otherwise….That made him not the worst, but just as rotten.

      11. It would seem by your comments that your sole metric for judging a presidents actions are their domestic policies. During his first month in office barry the drone, tripled the amount of drone strikes in pakistan, resulting in massive civilian casualties, all with the tacit support of the black misleadership class, and the progressives. Any radical black voices like Glen Ford and Cornel West were excoriated, public shamed and silenced.

        The oily bomber made the u.s. the number one producer of oil during an existential climate crisis, and disrupted every single u.n. cop during his 8 years of scorched earth policy. His weekly terror tuesday meetings and his disposition matrix are beyond Orwellian. Barry the drone’s intervention in Libya resulting in an unmitigated disaster and the only open slave markets in the world. Barry,s refusal to acknowledge the military coup in honduras in 2010 directly led to the a rein of terror and the deaths and torture of countless detentions of indigenous water protectors.

        I could literally go on for days recounting the illegal and immoral actions of Amerikas worst president, the oily bomber, but for the sake of brevity I will end with this. The oily bombers greastest sin was his audacity of hype , providing cover for the cabal of bankers and billionaires, who raped the poor of this nation and left us to die. All this was done with the liberal press providing cover. This is what led to the rise of trump, not racism, not push back against things like medicare for all, neo liberals and the oily bomber did this.

        You’re right I do not identify as a liberal, if I did I would only hope that I had the decency to put a bullet t o my head and help stop the spread of that disease. Now onto my idea of a revolution and why we should risk it’s dubios outcome.

        When I talk about revolution I am talking about non violent mass civil disobedience on a level never seen in the history of the world. Locally autonimous groups without national leaders, in the traditional sense. Many of us will be tortured and imprisioned, if not outright murdered, but if we don’t we all die within the next 30 years max. Some might call that statement hy.perbolic. To those people I say wake up, 2020 was a climate disaster, we don’t have a year or two to waste on a failed system. We will likely die no matter what we do, but you might nazis because their nazis, not because you think you’re going to win.

        All of this is connected. Neither the oily bomber, nor the oranged hair clown came out of a vacum, they were vomited out of system, as was chattel slavery, the electoral college, ou
        r senate/house of lords, our capialist system all from one misbelief, that we are not part of nature. Every human race was once “indigenous” and our only hope of salvation lies in becoming that agsin.

        Footnote: To the surveillance state goons, private contractors or A.I. viewing this post kiss my arse.

      12. Again, you list negatives, saying he is typical of the system producing presidents, presumably before and after, yet claim he is the worst ever. The only options I see for this consistent lack of logic is that you ascribe more to him than the others because he is a) black or b) you believed in him at one time and so felt betrayed.

      13. I understand Mr. Rucks fury. Instead of Barry the drone , I just call Obama, evil, polished evil, eloquent evil, suave evil, diverse evil…. and he served men and institutions even more evil than he. My definition of evil is to cause unnecessary pain and harm, for your own gain or pleasure. And mr Obama can plead ignorance ignorance. He knew exactly what he was doing when he signed section 10 24 of the NDA. It was to be able to jail people like Mr. Ruck and myself. And let’s not forget that it was the threat of revolution that got us the new deal. Without it the New Deal never would have happened. Everything ,except the threat of revolution, was in place again. Obama could have been a modern day Roosevelt, but he didn’t face the threat of revolution. And ,yes, my visceral hatred of Obama, is directly related to my feeling of betrayal. I guess I thought he’d be different….he certainly looked different, his name was certainly different, I guess I’m guilty of racism. Oh, and one more thing, why do I have to give you personal info in order to post a reply?

      14. You don’t have to give personal information. You have to input an email address as part of WordPress anti-spam system.

  3. I see that when you get push back you resort to the old defamation of character ploy. Lack of logic, must be a racist etc. etc. Right out of the neo liberal playbook. Yeah I admit it I’m a racist, that explains why I hold people like Glen Ford, and Cornell West in such high regard.

    Have you ever listened to MLK’s riverside church speech oh mighty editor and sole arbiter of truth? King would have excoriated the oily bomber and spat him out of his mouth were he still alive today. But yeah I must be a racist for having the termity to denounce the first half white president! I’m officially claiming the oily bomber for the white race. Call it reparations, an act of atonement if you will, for no person of color should be burdened with weight of the oily bombers crimes against humanity. No sir , I claim Obama for the white race. Hell, he’s whiter than I am. Oh yeah almost forgot about the must feel betrayed portion of your neo liberal triade. Sorry, never bought into just hyperbole, and see if for what he, a despicable charlatan, the sole purveyor of the audacity of hype.

    1. I didn’t say you were a racist, I said there were only two logical explanations for those who with any historical understanding could, using any utilitarian or moral or significance scale rate Obama the “worse” in US history: Racism and betrayal. Maybe I should have added a third: Zero historical memory. Or a fourth: You have a different agenda that you don’t want to talk about.

      You say you don’t buy hyperbole, yet your whole argument is exactly that! Obama as the “worst” in 246 years is extreme hyperbole.

      By needless death, probably Truman. Genocide? Slavery? Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson (abandoning Reconstruction) and others. Incompetence and corruption? Harding, Trump, Nixon, many others. Starting or entering quagmire wars? Wilson (WWI), Truman (Korea), JFK and LBJ (Vietnam), Duyba (War on Terror/Iraq), military buildup and savaging unions and the safety net – Reagan, terrible judges? All the Republicans after Nixon…

      You think I haven’t heard the Riverside speech? I used it in the classroom for years, lol.

      I don’t have to like or approve Obama to know he was not the worst American president, overall. The bailout and coverup of Wall Street after 2008 was his disaster, but he certainly didn’t make the real decisions there and he also inherited that in his first year. Obamacare, for all its flaws, is an advance for poor people compared to what we had before, as those of us using it in California will attest.

      The other stuff, from Libya to drones to deportations, is pretty run-of-the-mill evil and cynicism which is the background noise for every American president. For our presidents, it is not whether you engineer assassinations and coups, you can only be graded on how many you authorize and whether the collateral damage is measured in the thousands or millions.

      1. For starters you did imply that I was either a racist or moronic, and or had some sort of ulterior /nefarious intent, and that I seemed to be borrowing from the trump playbook by use of terms like the oilybomber. That is character assasination and you should apologize to me and the other posters who you excoriated.

        This is not a classroom and I am not your student. Quite honestly I am shocked at your hubris,. You insult and denigrate everone who has an opinion you do not agree with.

        From the perspective of of a poor white senior citizen who did not have the luxury of a “higher education”, I have a different perspective, and I believe Obama to be the worst most destructive president in U.S. history.

        The oilybomber very specifically and methodically utilized propaganda to advance his neo liberal agenda. Disrupting the u.n. cop, asking for the largest military budget in the history of the world, making the U.S. the worlds largest producer of oil during a climate disaster. The latter in terms of sheer devastation qualifies as the most damaging thing any u.s. president has ever accomplished, and he his still quite proud of it. This single action has solidified the destruction of the human race, and is perhaps the greatest crime against humanity in the history of the world.

        The oilybomber hope a doped the liberal class with propaganda of hope and change. It was very effective, distracting us from the real issues of climate change, late stage capitalism, and led directly to the election of the orange tinted buffon.

        Yes Jackson and Wilson, and Hoover were horrible presidents, but in terms of sheer carnage Obama stands head and shoulders above them.

        Everytime someone like Fred Hampton, or MLK, or Malcolm begins to question the official narrative, they are disappeared, I find that rather disturbing. All the aforementioned were reaching out to poor whites, in understanding of their common issues they were facing. Based on your retorts you seem to have zero understanding of the plight of poor whites.

        In the liberal worldview there are worthy and unworthy victims. Poor whites “older males especially”, are deemed unworthy in it’s identity driven ideology. Obviously we are vile xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, uneducated Aholes who deserve what we have been dished out.

        You might consider a bit of humility Mr. Scheer. People like myself live lives of desperstion and despair d that no one can comprehend if they have not lived it. That is why we self medicate ourselves to death, or are incarcerated, or turn to demented right wing populists. Want to help, first thing you can do is come down off your high horse.

      2. This is not Robert Scheer, as I have repeatedly stated. You can bet that between teaching, the podcasts and being an octagenerian, he is not spending time doing this. I am a part-time editor on the site who, among other roles, is moderating and managing the comments area. I have a day job and so must remain anonymous, as I suspect you do, Mr. Donald Ruck.

        And yes, I stand by my earlier arguments re: Obama’s place in history. And, yeah also, Trump is fond of the kind of dehumanizing and childish nicknames you employ, which I find ridiculous. In this case you are punching up, but it is still the style of the bully.

        However, your plaintive claim that I am attacking poor whites sounds like a prerehearsed grievance stance that does not relate to anything I said. (I myself am rather broke and of the white hue, and no longer in my heyday, so to speak. But yeah, I have some higher education of a middling nature, although nothing that seems out of line with your diction, historical knowledge, etc., and do not want to presume to have walked in your shoes. I am sorry for your suffering, truly, as well as for anybody currently living a life of desperation and despair, even, yes, those who are not poor!) In the worldview where racism, sexism and other formal/informal structures of oppression persist white men and other dominant types are seen, correctly, as having inherent privilege in this place and time, yes, but that does not mean they do not also suffer from “intersectional” oppressive pressures like poverty, sexuality minority status, disability, illness, childhood trauma and all the rest.

  4. I tend to agree with the Editor’s responses to the comments posted here.

    However, as a number of historians have already concluded when studying the presidencies since FDR (including FDR), they have all been thugs. Some have been worse than others but primarily they were all bad.

    I would only say in this regard that JFK was probably the only decent man among them; not because he didn’t have his negatives but because he was the only president to actually change his views while in office. This became especially apparent after the 1962 Missile Crises when it frightened him to such an extent that he then turned to attempting to reduce such threats in the world, including working feverishly to stop Israel from getting such capabilities.

    The ideas of revolution and secession are very tempting ones given the circumstances we find ourselves in today. However revolutions tend not to go as planned and historically a society lands up replacing one set of sociopaths with another. Despite all of the trauma such a revolution would cause while completely gutting our remaining social fabric let alone the economy, what would such a revolution hope to create after we rid ourselves of all the political dung we now have? How would a new government model work for example?

    Promoters of secession seem to have the idea that they could easily have their states return to the days of “states rights”. But what does that mean in modern times? Do we return to The Articles of Confederation, does a state become a sovereign entity on the international stage? How would that work?

    And given that both Red and Blue states require each other for what each has to offer the other (ie Red state agriculture, Blue state wealth) how would such a rupture in our current system work?

    I don’t believe anyone has worked out the details just yet but whether one likes it or not we are all connected to each other now and breaking such a connection is more easily said then done.

    And of course, the biggest issue is the existing morass we call our current political infrastructure, which admittedly hardly works for anyone who is not in one of the wealthier tiers in US society but nonetheless still controls the reigns of governance. How do we actually get rid of it in order to rebuild it, and do it without destroying our nation in the process?

    I did in fact design a new federal, governmental infrastructure, which actually eliminates voting for representatives and instead gives the populace the power of the vote in policy referendums making the population at large the entity with the power to create laws.

    Why vote for some idiot who you already know will lie through his or her teeth to get elected and then go on to ignore the needs of his\her constituency and the nation at large? I believe I have found a solution by using rotational, citizen representation.

    Its only one concept but how would anyone consider having it reviewed and promoted?

    With newly elected President Joe Biden, I believe for the most part he has done what he can to get his administration off to a decent start only now to be blocked by that cretin Mitch McConnell in the Senate (along with his pathetic cronies) whose seemingly only purpose in office is to implement his own selfish agendas.

    Instead of thinking large such as revolution right now, it may be more prudent to implement the military axiom of the “indirect approach”, through the use of the “defensive maneuver”, which in this regard would be to change the battlefield by first getting rid of McConnell as soon as possible by any legitimate means necessary (ie: investigation for treason, which I believe a good case could be made for).

    By getting rid of the more reprehensible Republicans first, you give the Democrats a much more level playing field to move forward with their agendas. But this is not saying that the centrist Democrats are angels either. But they are more pliable and with enough Progressives and Independents coming into the mix, a new and more capable third party may be in the cards to upset this old apple cart.

    So I would go slow in terms of considering any form of revolution until you have a battlefield that is advantageous to the causes that most Americans want and require….

    Steve Naidamast
    Sr. Software Engineer / Military Historian-Analyst

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