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Issue 7

The Biden-Harris Campaign: Representation or Presentation?

On 20th January, as Joe Biden was sworn in as United States of America’s 46th president, Democrats celebrated Donald Trump’s departure from the office while also rejoicing in Kamala Harris’ entry. Kamala Harris, the vice-president with several firsts, has been the talk of the news cycles ever since she was picked by Joe Biden as her running mate, after she suspended her own presidential campaign in August.  USA’s first woman, Indian-American, Asian vice president’s candidacy has added onto the world’s fixation with US politics because of the position and the power the country holds in global affairs. It is extremely important to acknowledge and appreciate Harris reclaiming space where women, especially black and other women of colour are constantly overlooked, silenced and shut — as also noted by Harris in her speech. This joy gets doubled when one looks at it as a victory that comes off at the heels of an administration that has  enabled white supremacy. 

Though Kamala’s Harris’ entry is a historical win for the United States of America in most means, people of the country are looking at Kamala Harris unidimensionally, and reducing her existence to only her identity:  Indians, both in USA and abroad, have been quick to claim her as their own, just like they have always been with every successful member of the diaspora, with remote links that root them back to the homeland. The internet is flooded with people from all over the world, especially Indians reacting to someone who “looks like them” making a place for herself in a majoritarian white-male office. From people calling her “Kamala Aunty” to Mindy Kaling claiming that her toddler does not see a difference between Harris and Kaling herself, Indians, mostly Hindu, out of which a significant portion is upper caste, immediately appropriated every aspect of Kamala Harris’ existence to make it their own. Many feminists are referring to Harris as “girlboss”, a term most commonly used to describe women in power, that has been criticised time and again for straying away from activism. 

Such a reductionary approach to a politician is definitely not new but it is dangerous as it tends to be used as a weapon by the candidates to mask their intentions and mislead the voters into buying a revisionist identity. Kamala Harris’ campaign is often seen focusing on Harris “going back to her roots”, whether it is making dosas with Mindy Kaling or talking about the importance of idlis and festivals in her mother’s house, time and time again we have seen Kamala Harris’ identity been marketed as an identity tool to appeal to a particular kind of vote bank — the upper castes from the Hindu diaspora through quick and lazy surface level tropes. Identity Politics, that is crucial for bringing forward a diverse panel to avoid trampling of minorities in the country, is increasingly being misinterpreted and reduced to a marketing tactic that caters to the “feel good” sentimentality without actually bringing any tangible change. 

Representation holds concrete value, however, only when the candidate reflects back onto the struggles of the community they claim to represent. There is nothing about Kamala Harris’ candidature that separates her from her white colleagues and opponents. . It is extremely hypocritical of Harris to bring up her “Jamaican roots” and talk about smoking pot as a youngster and claiming to be for the legalisation of the same. when she saw around 2,000 marijuana related convictions during her term in San-Francisco.  All this is just talk that profits off people’s struggles by giving them a false sense of relatability when in reality it is hollow, keeps stereotypes alive,while enabling divide and rule of the proletariat. This kind of playing on the sentiments of the voters also helps the public hold their representatives less accountable — the marketing strategies of the campaign are rolled out in such a manner that only diverts all attention to just one part of the candidate, their persona, completely taking away the focus from their policies and ideology.  

During the peak of Black Lives Matter movement in America, the Jamaican side of Kamala Harris’ identity was brought out time and again. She called herself a proud black woman, talked about her experience as a black student in college, told the public about the societies she was a part of in college that helped her get a deeper understanding of her community and its struggles, she calls herself a “progressive prosecutor”. However, if one looks at her past actions, we can see how during her term alone in California, more than ⅔ of the men killed by police officers were people of colour, of which a majority were unarmed. She was also responsible for holding black men longer in jails when they were eligible for release just to extract cheap labour out of them. It is disheartening to see an important movement that seeks to bring resolution to racial disparity in the country being twisted to fit a political campaign and agenda, when the candidate does not comply with anything that the movement stands for. Kamala Harris’ campaign runs in a similar manner to that of any big co-operative, where they take people’s real struggles, and capitalise on them under the false pretense of bringing forward a social change — like how brands do with LGBT struggles during the pride month.   

Kamala Harris has also constantly referred to herself as a feminist beacon, who purportedly understands women’s struggles when her activites have shown otherwise. Harris has not done much that aligned with the feminist movement, more so, she has been dangerous to the sex workers and the trans community alike. In 2008, Kamal Harris opposed the Proposition K, which was directed at decriminalisation of sex work and prevention of STIs. She argued that Proposition K unfurled “a welcome mat for pimps and prostitutes to come into San Francisco”. Her campaign completely ignores this past of Kamala, which had put women into danger and continues to show her as a feminist crusader and a “girlboss” who would bring a fresh perspective and voice into the US politics. She willingness of people to selectively see their candidates as it seems fit to them, makes it even more convenient for the campaign to do so. She also claims to be pro-decriminalisation of sex work but has not even commented to make amends to this action she undertook as an attorney general. 

The Democratic party during the Biden-Harris campaign has shown exactly what happens when neo-liberals twist the identity politics model, and reduce it to a weapon that centres itself around one aspect of an individual’s identity and uses it as a ladder while aligning with interests do nothing to dismantle a pre-existing model, all the while disillusioning the masses into believing that they would bring some concrete and effective change. 

Madhulika Agarwal is a third year English and Media Studies major who is interested in literature by children and for children. When she is not lamenting over her tiktok career that ended before it could start, she likes learning about animals and reading books with good art in them. 

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Categories
Issue 5

Bidenomics For America and The World

Say all you want about President Donald Trump, one thing you can’t deny is that the US economy soared under his reign – that is before the pandemic…

Prior to the pandemic the American GDP grew in a sound manner, the stock market reached record highs, unemployment rate fell drastically, wages continued to rise and poverty rates were comparatively very low. Donald Trump also successfully challenged the rising Chinese influence over the global economy by calling them out for their intellectual property theft. While Trump did tilt towards protectionist economic policies, it worked in the interest of the American people. His focus on deregulation helped American manufacturing operate at a higher level of economic efficiency. 

President elect Joe Biden seems to have very different views from President Donald Trump on most socio-political issues, and his economic policies seem to be very different as well. So what will Bidenomics mean for America and the world? 

Biden has a history of being a supporter of free trade, he has often described Trump’s protectionist policies as ‘reckless’ and ‘disastrous’. This brings to question whether Biden will get rid of protectionist policies after he has been sworn in. While the shift from protectionist policies to those revolving around free trade seem like the most probable step, there are political and economic restrictions that will not allow Biden to make the move quite so smoothly. The trade war with China was one of Trump’s most significant moves as president, and Biden has been criticised for taking it easy on China. While the trade war has disrupted global trade it is widely supported by the American population, hence pushing Biden to practice protectionist policies. While Biden will probably continue the trade war with China, he will propagate global cooperation with the rest of the international community. Biden claims that forming a coalition with allies and partners is a better strategy instead of the unilateral tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

Biden’s plan to reverse Trump’s tax cuts on corporations has been championed by the leftists, but how effective is this policy going to be in its implementation?  Biden’s tax policy wants to raise the top income tax rate to 39.6% from 37% and the top corporate income tax rate to 28% from 21%. This move will allow the government to collect a tax revenue of approximately $4 trillion by 2030. While this move sounds good on paper, its effective implementation has several obstacles. Corporates with major accounting teams and an army of lawyers have continued to find safe havens and loopholes in tax laws to legally avoid paying taxes. A tax hike of this rate also increases the probability of tax evasion and tax fraud, which will undoubtedly lead to the creation of a larger shadow economy. Additionally in a post covid world that has witnessed large scale unemployment, increasing taxes on corporations and high bracket earners is gonna push firms to cut costs, thereby creating disincentive for hiring. The increase in taxation may also push firms to switch gears and focus more on international markets such as Hong Kong or Singapore that offer lower corporate tax rates. While progressive taxation is ideally the way to go, the Biden government must ensure that its implementation takes into account all the limitations of the current system.

The Trump administration focused on deregulation in the manufacturing sector to ensure productive and economic efficiency, Biden on the other hand takes a different stand – promising to focus on sustainable development instead. Biden as part of his election campaign has released a 10-year, $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan. The plan aims to move the U.S. to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Bidens climate change plan in total will cost the US approximately 2 trillion dollars, and he aims to fund it by reversing Trump’s excess tax cuts on corporations and ending subsidies for fossil fuels. While Trump focused on short term economic efficiency, Biden’s plan is for the future. Switching to sustainable means of manufacturing is going to undoubtedly drive up costs for the American economy, but will also create middle class jobs and ensure environmental conservation. This move towards building sustainable infrastructure also displays that America will be joining the global fight against climate change, after Trump pulled them out of the Paris Accords.

Biden also aims to tackle student loans and flaws in the health care system through his economic plan, and has extensively criticised Trump’s approach towards the same. Biden aims to insure around 97% of the American people through his healthcare plan, and doesn’t shy away to take credit for the Affordable Care Act  introduced by the Obama government. Biden also wants to cancel a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person. He proposes forgiving all undergraduate, tuition-related federal student debt for low-income and middle class individuals (earning up to $125,000). Biden plans to fund this through the hike in corporate tax. The healthcare and student loan support by the government has been a campaign promise by almost all democrats including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Biden hence seems to be catering to his key demographic.

While Biden and America seem to be optimistic about these economic policies, it can be a cause for great concern if not implemented with caution. An increase in corporate taxation in the midst of an economic crisis can lead to tragic consequences for the American economy. Biden plans to fund sustainable infrastructure, stimulus packages, healthcare, and student debt through his tax plan, while the plan isn’t as optimistic as “Mexico will pay for it”, it still is somewhat overreaching. Even though some may be doubtful about whether Bidenomics will be successful for America, the reversal of the globalisation backlash that we witnessed in the last few years brings some hope for the international community.

Karantaj Singh finished his undergraduate in History and International Relations. He is now pursuing a minor in Media Studies and Politics during his time at the Ashoka Scholars Programme. He enjoys gaming and comics in his free time.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).