As I’ve said repeatedly, the election this fall is Joe Biden’s to lose. Trump has failed to establish the kind of rapport with the media that comes almost effortlessly even to criminal incompetents like Andrew Cuomo and George W. Bush. I suppose he could try to tweet his way around CNN and MSNBC, but I don’t think it will be enough.
The Republicans, however, have one last card to play. People are getting desperate. What’s going on in Minneapolis is only the beginning. This Summer, as the money and food run out, people will feel less hesitant about taking to the streets to riot. Protests against police brutality almost always become protests against private property, against the unequal distribution of wealth.
This is more of a problem for the Democrats than for the Republicans. For Republicans, it’s pretty simple. “Shoot to kill.” For the Democrats it’s a lot more complex. This Spring, just after Super Tuesday, the DNC expelled the last remnants of New Deal liberalism from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party ideology, a marriage of convenience between conservative, pro-Wall Street economics and leftist identity politics, depends upon an alliance of upper-middle-class white professionals in the suburbs and working class blacks.
Covid-19 will test this alliance. When the protests in Minneapolis against police brutality turned violent, the corporate media shifted on a dime. They stopped talking about racism and started talking about looting. Conservatives, in turn, stopped yelling about “fake news” and quickly amplified the narrative, so familiar from Hurricane Katrina, that the protesters are a threat to private property and need to be put down. The question is whether or not those “Karens” still full of rage about Hillary Clinton’s defeat (Is there a male equivalent of a Karen? Honky? Cracker?) will continue to side with those elderly black voters in South Carolina, or will thy desert the bourgeois, liberal identitarian coalition and start calling for blood? Will they stop talking about Russians and start talking about the safety of our neighborhoods and “good” schools?
The jury is out.
As for me, I support looting, but with certain reservations. Don’t loot small businesses. Don’t loot property owned by immigrants. Don’t loot bike stores, but by all means loot the hell out of big corporations like Target and McDonalds. When I saw the video coverage of people carrying merchandise out of Target, I didn’t see criminals. Indeed, if you want to steal the easiest way to to it is to form a corporation and get bailed out by the government. What I saw were poor and working class people living check to check willing to risk jail time for a few hundred dollars worth of groceries and consumer goods. Look at this video. Do these look like criminals to you? To me they look like scared, desperate people hoping that in a few months they’ll have money to buy food.
But as I said, my support for looting is critical, not unconditional. In the long run, I don’t think it’s an effective strategy. Covid-19 isn’t changing anything. It’s accelerating social and economic trends that were already going on, even before the lock downs. The ruling class doesn’t want brick and mortar stores. They want more Amazon. They want to store their goods in huge, militarized warehouses, and ship them to customers via privatized couriers like UPS and Fedex. They don’t want restaurants and coffee shops where people sit down together. They want us to order our coffee and fast food on an app, and pick them up at the drive through. Neoliberal capitalism wants to shred the very last social ties between flesh and blood people and replace them with bits and bytes.
A more effective form of looting might be to drive an 18-wheeler through the gates of an Amazon warehouse and “liberate” everything inside. At the very least it might give Jeff Bezos a heart attack. But in the end, Amazon’s insurance company will pay up, then declare bankruptcy. President Biden, or President Trump, in turn, will declare the insurance company “critical infrastructure” and bail it out at the taxpayers expense. But don’t get me wrong. Loot. Loot. Loot. Loot until every talking head in the media breaks down and cries on the air. By all means storm the Bastille, but keep in mind that sooner or later we’re going to have to cut off the King’s head, and then we’re going to have to defend the revolution against the white terror (which will take the form of “concerned citizens with AR-15s) that’s sure to follow.