On The 2024 Election

The 2024 election presents two terrible options. Let's talk about what this means for the left. Don't worry, there's no electoralism.

As the presidential election this fall looms ever larger, I’ve been thinking about what the results mean for the left here in the US. For what I hope are obvious reasons, I’m not going to even remotely get into electoralism, but nonetheless it’s valuable to think about what a victory for either of two terrible options means for the future [1].

Trump is broadly considered the accelerationist candidate - by that, I mean that under his administration, things would likely get worse much more quickly and visibly. If you subscribe to accelerationism (or understand the allure), the argument goes something like:

  1. Trump wins and does many terrible things
  2. Liberals are mad about it
  3. We see liberals mobilize and radicalize because they’re so mad, which accelerates the coming of the revolution/apocalypse/collapse of the US/etc.

In essence, the idea is that the already existing regime of imperial violence and exploitation is put on display under Trump because he’s not only unwilling to hide it, he revels in it. Liberals can’t help but notice, and it makes them more likely to do something, including abandon liberalism. When the mass of complacent liberals in the US are forced to take action, things get spicy. There are a lot of parts of the argument that I’m ignoring here as part of my admittedly strawman representation of accelerationism, but hopefully you get the gist.

This article argues against this widespread take and makes the claim that the form of acceleration Biden causes is a more useful one for the left in the United States. In short, the Biden administration is helping the left (just not in any of the ways that mainstream politicians on either side think [2] ).

Accelerationism’s core argument is that precipitating (accelerating, if you will) a crisis is the way to major change. There are a huge number of theories and flavors about how exactly this linkage works, from the empowering and revolutionary to the classic right-wing apocalypse fantasy. They mostly agree, though, that Trump is more likely to precipitate this crisis - via some sort of coup that galvanizes the country into action [3], finally exposing the evils of imperialism in a way liberals can’t ignore, or some other (likely horrifying) event.

The problem with this argument is that liberals don’t ascribe Trump’s actions to a crisis of the political system itself. The “resistance libs” are a great window into this: they support the government in its “fight against Trump,” from Comey to Mueller to Mattis. They nearly deify establishment figures like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They can’t help but point out that Trump lost the popular vote, again reinforcing their belief in the system as a whole. Trump is treated as an aberration, a bump on the road to a more perfect union (probably caused by those intransigent “poor whites” and their racism, tsk tsk). This means that crisis under Trump is likely to rally liberals to the side of the existing system, not against it. Any structural criticism of neoliberalism is subsumed into “orange man bad,” and solutions are limited to “get rid of him and things will go back to normal (i.e. good) like before.”

Comparatively, Biden going mask-off forces liberals into a dilemma – in essence, “why is this happening even with Good Guy in charge?” Issues like the brutality of the immigration system, crackdowns on protests, unwavering support for genocide, and more can’t be ascribed to “well, Trump is racist so that’s why he’s doing this.” The people they think are on the side of good are supporting Biden even as popular disgust with him builds. The truth is, liberals voted for this. There’s incredible cognitive dissonance here, and all of the usual avoidant behaviors are present, but if they’re forced to really come to terms with this contradiction, liberals may finally understand that voting isn’t the solution.

In this light, Biden is frankly more of an accelerationist president than Trump is. Trump may accelerate some form of crisis, but Biden accelerates what matters - structural critique of the current neoliberal system among the general population.

The role of the left in all of this is to recognize and shape this discontent, and help people realize that their anger at Biden is correct, and meaningful, and that their feelings are the recognition of real, deep structural failings. Under Trump, the presence of a “bad” figurehead allows that dissonance to stop there. Under Biden, the dissonance lingers. That gives the left an opportunity.

Take this time to go on the offensive - if the Democrats are in charge (all the way from top to bottom in places like New York), why are demonstrations on campus being met with such incredible violence? Why is the clear lack of support for Israel among Americans not even remotely translating into policy? Under Trump, there’s a cop-out answer - “because Trump is bad, and he’s doing this, so go vote!” - but without this to fall back on, we have a chance to force actual consideration of these questions.

There’s widespread anger at Biden among liberals, but the current political system is providing no other option in their minds than to vote for him (or face another Trump administration). Capitalist realism is stifling widespread discontent, and if we can puncture the bubble by offering other options, we have a rare chance to really convince people that the current system does not work for them. Millions of people around the country right now are angry at Biden, but believe there’s no alternative. Let’s get out there and show them one.

Massive thank you to the friends and comrades whose thoughts shaped this article. I’m presenting these ideas, but they are far from being all my own.

[1] as with any writing about the future, I guess we’ll see how well this ages!

[2] sorry, Dark Brandon

[3] the “action” here usually being “a civil war”