Biden Admin Robert Reich

President Biden Must Now Put an End to ‘Centrism’

There is no middle ground between lies and facts. There is no midrange between democracy and fascism.
President Joe Biden. [ Screen shot / YouTube]

By Robert Reich / RobertReich.Org

I keep hearing that Joe Biden will govern from the “center.” He has no choice, they say, because he’ll have razor-thin majorities in Congress and the Republican party has moved to the right.

Rubbish. I’ve served several Democratic presidents who have needed Republican votes. But the Republicans now in Congress are nothing like those I’ve dealt with. Most of today’s GOP live in a parallel universe. There’s no “center” between the reality-based world and theirs.

Last Wednesday, fully 95% of House Republicans voted against impeaching Trump for inciting insurrection, even after his attempted coup threatened their very lives.

The week before, immediately following the raid on the Capitol, more than 100 House Republicans and several Republican senators objected to the certification of Biden electors in two states on the basis of Trump’s lies about widespread fraud.

Prior to the raid, several Republican members of Congress repeated those lies on television and Twitter and at “Stop the Steal” events.

Trump has remade the Republican party into a white supremacist cult living within a counter-factual wonderland of lies and conspiracies.

According to various surveys, more than half of Republican voters—almost 40 million people—believe Trump won the 2020 race or aren’t sure who won; 45% support the storming of the Capitol; 57% say he should be the Republican candidate in 2024.

In this hermetically sealed cosmos, most Republicans believe Black Lives Matter protesters are violent, immigrants are dangerous and climate change doesn’t pose a threat. A growing fringe openly talks of redressing grievances through violence, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, of whom two are newly elected to Congress, who think Democrats are running a global child sex-trafficking operation.

How can Biden possibly be a “centrist” in this new political world?

There is no middle ground between lies and facts. There is no halfway point between civil discourse and violence. There is no midrange between democracy and fascism.

Biden must boldly and unreservedly speak truth, refuse to compromise with violent Trumpism and ceaselessly fight for democracy and inclusion.

Speaking truth means responding to the world as it is and denouncing the poisonous deceptions engulfing the right. It means repudiating false equivalences and “both sidesism” that gives equal weight to trumpery and truth. It means protecting and advancing science, standing on the side of logic, calling out deceit and impugning baseless conspiracy theories and those who abet them.

Refusing to compromise with violent Trumpism means renouncing the lawlessness of Trump and his enablers and punishing all who looted the public trust. It means convicting Trump of impeachable offenses and ensuring he can never again hold public office—not as a “distraction” from Biden’s agenda but as a central means of reestablishing civility, which must be a cornerstone of that agenda.

Strengthening democracy means getting big money out of politics, strengthening voting rights and fighting voter suppression in all its forms.

It means boldly advancing the needs of average people over the plutocrats and oligarchs, of the white working class as well as Black and Latino people. It means embracing the ongoing struggle for racial justice and the struggle of blue-collar workers whose fortunes have been declining for decades.

The moment calls for public investment on a scale far greater than necessary for Covid relief or “stimulus” – large enough to begin the restructuring of the economy. America needs to create a vast number of new jobs leading to higher wages, reversing racial exclusion as well as the downward trajectory of Americans whose anger and resentment Trump cynically exploited.

This would include universal early childhood education, universal access to the internet, world-class schools and public universities accessible to all. Converting to solar and wind energy and making America’s entire stock of housing and commercial buildings carbon neutral. Investing in basic research—the gateway to the technologies of the future as well as national security—along with public health and universal healthcare.

It is not a question of affordability. Such an agenda won’t burden future generations. It will reduce the burden on future generations.

It is a question of political will. It requires a recognition that there is no longer a “center” but a future based either on lies, violence and authoritarianism or on unyielding truth, unshakeable civility and radical inclusion. And it requires a passionate, uncompromising commitment to the latter.

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  “Aftershock” (2011), “The Work of Nations” (1992), “Beyond Outrage” (2012) and, “Saving Capitalism” (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” Reich’s newest book is “The Common Good” (2019). He’s co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.

29 comments

  1. Assuming the nation is governable at all, the first indication of whether the Democrats have any intention of moving forward will be the Senate decision on the filibuster rule. This anti-democratic rule, if not removed, will prevent any legislation from passing except for more military spending and anything Israel wants.

    Of course, if a simple majority can pass legislation, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves when they face the electorate in 2 years and have accomplished nothing.

  2. I was very disappointed to read your article. I have been regularly dismayed by Donald Trump’s assault on our environment and his favors for the one percent, but I’ve read of huge voting fraud reports from whistleblowers in half a dozen states. I think those elections should have been redone, and that Trump would have been declared re-elected. I have seen how the Powers that Be and the NYTimes have decided that this should be ignored, but I didn’t think that you would be captured by their narrative. If Bernie Sanders had received the nomination, we would have elected him honestly and be able to progress for the next four years.

    1. You have been fooled by the repetition of the Big Lie method, where a people believe things if they hear them stated with enough authority.

      I reccommend you study how state elections are actually undertaken, how every court that heard these ridiculous claims threw them out, scrutinize the “whistleblowers,” who have been exposed as phonys and hacks, and then ask yourself why you know Trump won and that the election should have been “redone.”

      Also, become active in your local community to volunteer on elections to see up close how the thing works.

      Finally, the NYT is biased, just like every other media source, but it is hardly the only media game in town. Did you know Fox News is consistently the most watched cable news channel in America? That the NYT is almost entirely read only by coastal, liberal elites? That more people get their news from social media than anywhere else?

      1. I realize that Trump cannot get through a day without untruths, but the Big Lie to me is the mechanism and its supportive media that drives our pre-emptive war policy and inflates pandemic dangers and wants to eliminate paper money. I can’t prove that they also select the president, or that all those state workers were lying; but generally whistleblowers have been courageous and selfless– why would these people go out on limbs and give hours of their time to wanting recounts? Do you think they are paid infiltrates, or collectively crazy? I don’t know if Fox News spread the stories; I never look at it. I did read reports on the Epoch Times about discrepancies. I wish you were right.

      2. Name some of these whistleblowers and we could look at them individually. Some may have been attempting to tell a truth they believe in, but that is only the lowest bar for beginning to assess their claims.

        The questions to ask: Are they actually in a position to have seen and understood the large-scale manipulations they are claiming? Is there any evidence to support their claims?

        The Epoch Times is a propaganda outlet for the Chinese Falun Gong movement. I feel terrible for the way Falun Gong has been treated by the Chinese government, but they are not at all transparent as a set of publications about their agenda, financial backing and bias.

      3. None of the courts you mentioned heard the case but rejected the cases for technical reasons. The Mueller commission spent years trying to prove that Trump colluded with the Russians and in the end indicted no one for collusion. I can’t say how much election fraud there was of if it would have changed the election but it deserves the same treatment as Russian collusion claims. An is an editor supposed to tag something as a Big Lie? Isn’t your job to give a fair hearing to both sides?

      4. Sorry for the confusion — I am AN editor, not THE editor. And I am not Robert Scheer!

        I like to be part of the conversation down here in the comments, so sue me.

        As for “hearing both sides,” that is a noble goal — although already the way you frame it, extemeley limited, because you have made it a binary rather than a multi, and even excluded the paradoxical reality that two things in seeming opposition are both true. Traditionally, “both sides” meant mildly liberal and mildly conversative, as presented by the well-to-do and classically educated, and getting “both sides” was the most insidious (and effective) form of censorship around, since it quite effectively telegraphed to the populace that anything outside of those bounds was not worthy of consideration.

        But this is a website of opinion and advocacy, and we are not pretending (as mainstream media always does) to be “non-biased” — such a thing can’t even exist! Biases are either forefronted or hidden, but they are there, always. We, too, are deciding what we think is worthy of consideration in the realm of our (extremely) limited resources.

        To your point: There are MANY MANY MANY problems with elections in the United States, with the biggest being that half the country doesn’t even bother to vote, and that widescale voter suppression of poor and non-white voters is baked into the system — just look at the lines and lack of polling stations in low-income minority neighborhoods in “red” states/counties, or how we have used the prison-industrial complex to limit the citizenship rights (including voting) for men and women who already served their pushishments!

        In our collective bias, as the co-creators and managers of this exceedingly humble low-rent internet outpost, it is our bias that widescale voting fraud of a mechanical nature of the kind explictely shouted about for months by the Republicans has ZERO creditibility and is not worth the “space on the page.”

        You can read all day on social media and other states about how Trump was allegedly robbed of his right to be a truly godawful human being with absurd power that no single human should ever even nominally possess, but we have no more obligation to air these grievances here than to allow fascist, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, anti-scientific, religious cant or any other viewpoint that exists as a “side” in the universe.

    2. Well said Kathleen. It seems Dems are not at all interested in fixing the election problems we’ve seen and known to be real. The first full day of Joe’s administration he sends 200 troops into Syria. He’s already beating the Bush/Obama era war drum. Of Trumps very questionable policies getting troops out the the Middle East is something 99% of Americans agree on. Joe and his new admin seem more Neo Con than Trump and it’s only been a few days. Get ready for wars and higher prices. Why would Biden reverse a Trump policy lowering insulin costs?

      1. The mainstream of both parties are in the thrall of American empire, hegemony, interventionism and the military-industrial complex.

        Trump pushed us toward war with Iran and added more nails of every finding a just solution to the Palestine issue, and encouraged violence in Syria at various moments, while trying to push Cuba, Venezuala, etc. into total collapse. But he also brought some troops home, and perhaps could have done even worse in Syria. Obama brought us further into the nightmare of Yemen, left the Afghan and Iraq quagmires to simmer for 8 years and allowed Hillary to turn Libya into a refugee-spawning basketcase. However, he made the major move to join Europe in de-escalating tension with Iran through the treaty which Biden will hopefully re-animate.

      2. Actually those troops were already there–illegally–and they simply drove to the new location.

  3. Does RR ever get tired of spewing “fan fiction” about what the Dems SHOULD DO? But never do and never will? Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have records of corruption that make Trump seem like a choir boy. And Trump was a POS.
    It is because of fantasists like RR that we ended up with Trump and why, IF we ever have a fair election again, a COMPETENT not STUPID version of Trump will win and then we will truly be screwed.

    1. “Records of corruption that make Trump seem like a choir boy.”

      This is the kind of ridiculous stuff that I feel discredits the arguments of obviously intelligent people like yourself.

      I am from Kamala’s stomping ground and while she is fundamentally a run-of-the-mill centrist party hack, all ambition and image and little integrity, to say that she has even 1/100th the corruption record of Trump is just absurd on its face.

      Biden, being a credit card guy and key player in the right-shift of the Demos, plus his family’s dabbles abroad, you can make a stronger case. But Harris? Silly.

  4. The author said, “It means boldly advancing the needs of average people over the plutocrats and oligarchs, of the white working class as well as Black and Latino people. It means embracing the ongoing struggle for racial justice and the struggle of blue-collar workers whose fortunes have been declining for decades.” I totally agree, it would also mean a 180-degree turn for Democrats because their embrace of free trade, wars and the free market has left them in a situation where someone like Trump can get elected.

    I don’t buy the line that all Trump supporters are white racists – that makes it too easy to write them off. The Democrats have to reach out to those 70-some million people, listen to their concerns and come up with constructive solutions. They have failed at doing so since the 70s and it has allowed the Republicans to come up with even more regressive candidates.

    1. In terms of the frought issue of the Democrat Party and where it stands — the real question that is elided by much of the debate about “lesser evil” voting is HOW DO YOU FORCE POWER OF ANY STRIPE TO BE RESPONSIVE, RESPONSIBLE, JUST and COMPETENT.

      Bashing leaders and parties only goes so far. They are just fragile human agents floating on the political/economic currents responding to the forces that carry or intimidate them. To the extent they swim against those currents, they are flung into irrelevence or worse.

      Why do so few here talk about actual activism? About the Sunrise Movement or the Democratic Socialists of America or moms4housing? A new Occupy, or what can be built from the energy of BLM? The future of the Sanders, et al movement?

      How would you organize lower-income white people? Rural people?

      IMO, the biggest organized, politicized block of Americans (separate from corporations) is the evangelical Christian fundamentalist sector that is 30-40 percent of the populace, which is (to only lightly generalize) deeply pro-capitalist, white, anti-intellectual, conservative and does not believe we need to worry about this planet because (literally) the world is going to end in their lifetimes. Their counterweight is the urban administrative/professional class which is socially liberal yet whose livelihood is tied to corporate and government jobs and the cult of the 401K.

      Where in all this is the basis of a radical, socialist or anarchist or green revolution or reformation? For many, they argue that we will face a crisis of such depth that we will be forced to come together to overthrow the status quo…yet there is little track record of immense suffering and trauma leading to positive outcomes, at least directly, on both an individual and group or national scale.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t bash anyone. It was an accurate description of the past 45 years. Carter deregulated trucking and airlines. Clinton ended welfare as we know it, signed free trade, put more blacks in jail and deregulated Wall Street. Obama implemented a conservative healthcare system and went for more free trade. How long can the country afford these kinds of policies – even if they are the lesser of evils? Especially when one considers that the US economy is growing at less than 1/2 the rate it did before the adoption of trickle-down and debt is growing at over twice the rate of economic growth. It is not welcome to thing that the average federal debt per American is $84,000.

      2. Remember when Carlin said “They got you by the balls!” And at the same time expressed “They’re coming for your Social Security, and you know what? They’ll get it.”
        He was right. George was right about everything.
        This trap has been long laid for us, ‘tween the propaganda and contrived distractions, the entire illusory construct that they (the Owners) have developed and maintained, now operates as a juggernaut of irresistible, if not inevitable force. The sonsabitches learned the lesson of FDR and have applied it remorselessly and effectively. “Step outta line, the Man comes, and takes you away.”
        Everywhere we turn they’ve got their bases covered. The being suckered into social media with our eyes wide shut was the human thing to do. It promised so much and for a while it felt like we were going to do it, activists in instant comms all over the world.
        I naively saw it as a paradigm shift of our collective consciousness and was always telling everyone “Isn’t this cool? Isn’t this just the cat’s ass-amazing?” A sense of vindication after only having presumed to have shaken off the shackles of the 1950s during the 1960s. But nooo, those SOBs were more than prepared for us, they truly figured out by persistence and wheelbarrows full of cash to circumvent our higher ideals—which of course they snickered at.
        Our surveillance state (the actual state we’ve been in and under for all of those decades of the twentieth century) is likely now approaching its apogee. In my mind—sorting and citing what evidence is before me, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to claim to have had anything remotely resembling a ‘legit’ election again with the amoral Big Tech kids now asserting their being in charge, if not just colluding with their fellow propagandists of the Duopoly: “Hey, being in a race with my buddies to become the first $trillionaire, who ever knew it could be so much fun! And look at all of the little losers buying any crap we choose to place in front of them! Countries? People? What’s that? Do you know who I AM?”

        Not that this system wasn’t sufficiently rigged already. And Constitutionally at that. Any simple solution such as paper ballots doesn’t stand a chance in this charged and seemingly forever changed environment. It’s like the perpetual quadra-annual hue and cry about the Electoral College that makes its Roman candle-like appearance right on time and disappears again, snuffed out.
        The Owners. Their Powell Memo, the work of the Kochs and their operatives from James Buchanan to ALEC to Mercatus, Cato to the friggin’ infiltration of even the PTA, ffs. And Wall Street’s Praetorian Guards, Allen Dulles’ biggest and most vile achievement that laid the foundation for his societal vision for totalitarian plutocracy: the CIA.
        “They got you by the balls!”

        In the meantime the Kochs already have 27 states lined up in favor of a Constitutional convention. They’re not satisfied with their ‘progress’ under these current constraints. A nation full of trained-for-ignorance dummies is just waiting for the next ring of Pavlov’s bell. A bevy of testosterone-fueled crackpot billionaires from Robert Mercer to Haim Saban to…. have their own notions and pet projects to pave us with. And about these past four years, did that just really happen? Jayzus, whadda country.
        ‘Exceptional’ at that. Sorry RS, I don’t have any ‘solutions’ for crap of this magnitude, it’s like standing at the base of the Tower of Babel ’round here taking friendly fire. I think this civilization is teetering at the tip-over point anyway. Crazies everywhere and the heat in this room (the Holocene Earth) is gawdawful. “Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right, Here I am, stuck in the Muddle with you…
        Whatever. I’ll go down swinging.

      3. @Editor

        Regarding organizing rural & lower income communities: As I am not an organizer I really have no idea. Most working people I know are skeptical of unions, as most haven’t been educated on labor history.

        The only time I’ve seen my community organize was very recently in opposition to a new corporate owned prison. I believe it’s the only time anyone felt a need to organize. Although the pandemic obviously adds a new challenge.

  5. USA, United States of America, Home of the Free and Land of the Brave. I don’t even know anymore what that was ever supposed to represent standing on top of the blood of millions massacred for privilege class that views us, working class People as garbage or pawns only to preserve this machine or engine to institute suffering & dehumanize people. The Declaration of Independence and MLK, I Have a Dream was supposed to stand for People first, but this is only a Dream or as Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Chris Hedges, and many more voices for ethics argued, USA is a lie. First President George Washington argued in US First Farewell Address the alarm of Party Politics to liberty republic. There’s too much noise and too much distractions to prevent critical thinking.

  6. You’re too funny, Reich. Walking around with your head in the clouds as usual, spouting inanities about a mythical “big tent” party of the people which has been hijacked (and you KNOW it) into a corporate and now techno-feudalistic Democratic Party whose drivers are not only your Clinton Inc and the white collar class, but now the T-shirt-wearing socio-psychopaths like El Zuck as fellow dictators.
    You were there when it happened. Why do you pretend it is otherwise? How pathetic.

  7. PS, @ Editor. I’ve signed up 3 times now for email alerts. The first time was in June or so of last year, again in December, I think, and just now. Is my task Sisyphean or what?

    1. We can’t manually add you, which is a spam-prevention system. I put in your address and got:

      “You subscribed to this site before but you have not clicked the confirmation link yet. Please check your inbox.
      Otherwise, you can manage your preferences at subscribe.wordpress.com.”

      That is for the “blog” which really means you get each new posting at the moement it posts (usually 1-3 a day).

      The weekly handmade newsletter is currently on hiatus but should re-start soon.

      1. Thanks a lot. All I can figure at this point is it might have gone to a spam folder as I never received the confirmation link before. I DO appreciate your journalism here and considered Truthdig along with Consortium News the twin acmes of all of the printed material out there these days.

  8. Ah, Bob, still in dreamland, are you? The “Center,” as you surely know, is actually the Right, and Cracker Joe is right at home there. “We need a strong Republican Party,” said Lunchbucket Joe. Did you miss that? Nancy “Two Fridges” Pelosi said the exact same thing a few months ago. You know what that means, right, Robert? And as for you, you’re the guy who declared in a tweet that “Putin won,” in reference to the White Settler Riot of January 6th, already being swept into the memory hole by the Dem leadership. So, are the Dems now working for Putin, Robert? So confusing, and more than anything that is the condition you’re in. Confusion and the inability to determine one’s enemies from one’s friends are the hallmarks of a corrupt and spineless liberal class, one of precursors to fascist and Right wing ascendancy.
    You’re better than this. I know that. For the love of God, bail on the wishful thinking, the strange belief that the Dems are anything other than what they actually are.

    1. Z, there was no such tweet by this Robert Scheer. Were you thinking of a different Robert Scheer? There are others.

      And please stop ascribing the postitions of every article on this site to Robert Scheer. The author’s names are at the top of each article.

      1. I was referring to Robert Reich–the person who wrote the article. I thought that was clear. Perhaps I posted it under the thread under which “the editor” appears, but I had to go to the end of the posts to write, there having been no “reply” notice at the immediate end of the article. Hope I cleared this up.

    2. This piece is below the standards I usually see at the ScheerPost. Reich doesn’t deserve to be on the same platform as Hedges, Goodman and Greenwald.

  9. Centrism is a mixed bag. Mixed bags are the foundation of authoritarianism, because total positivity eliminates all opportunity for exploitation/plunder. Such opportunity can only be created via the strategy of trickery via mixed bags, i.e. taught/trained associations between things helpful and things harmful. It’s easy to identify how each and every authoritarian institution, tradition, system, strategy, convention, etc, is a mixed bag. Centrist. A mixed bag is a mixed bag whether it’s leaning toward state socialism, fascism, or laissez-faire capitalism. The only path toward total positivity in the political space is libertarian socialism, i.e. anarchism. You don’t get total positivity unless you ask for it, seek it, pursue it, achieve it. This is the big news the people are now awakening to. It’s been common sense for 200,000 years.

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