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Why Isn’t Biden Going All Out for Democracy?

Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

You’d think President Biden and the Democratic Party leadership would do everything in their power to stop Republicans from undermining democracy.

So far this year, the GOP has passed roughly 30 laws in states across the country that will make voting harder, especially in Black and Latino communities. With Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen, Republicans are stoking white people’s fears that a growing non-white population will usurp their dominance.

Yet while Biden and Democratic leaders are openly negotiating with holdout senators for Biden’s stimulus and infrastructure proposals, they aren’t exerting similar pressure when it comes to voting rights and elections. In fact, Biden now says he won’t take on the filibuster, which stands firmly in the way.

What gives? Part of the explanation, I think, lies with an outside group that has almost as much influence on the Democratic Party as on the Republican Party, and which isn’t particularly enthusiastic about election reform: the moneyed interests bankrolling both parties.

A more robust democracy would make it harder for the wealthy to keep their taxes low and profits high. So at the same time white supremacists have whipped up fears about nonwhites usurping their dominance, America’s wealthy have spent vast sums on campaign donations and lobbyists to prevent majorities from usurping their money.

They’re already whipping up resistance among congressional Democrats to Biden’s plan to tax capital gains at 39.6% — up from 20% — for those earning more than $1 million, and they’re on the way to convincing Democrats to restore the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, of which they’re the biggest beneficiaries.

 

In recent years these wealth supremacists, as they might be called, have quietly joined white supremacists to become a powerful anti-democracy coalition.

Some wealth supremacists have backed white supremacist’s efforts to divide poor and working-class whites from poor and working-class Black and brown people, so they don’t look upward and see where most of the economic gains have been going and don’t join together to demand a fair share of those gains.

By the same token, white supremacists have quietly depended on wealth supremacists to bribe lawmakers to limit voting rights, so people of color continue to be second-class citizens. It’s no accident that six months after the Jan. 6 insurrection, dozens of giant corporations that promised not to fund members of Congress who refused to certify Biden as president are now back to funding them and their anti-voting rights agenda.

Trump was put into office by this anti-democracy coalition. According to Forbes, 9% of America’s billionaires, worth a combined $210 billion, pitched in to cover the costs of Trump’s 2020 campaign. During his presidency, Trump gave both parts of the coalition what they wanted most: tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks for the wealth supremacists, and legitimacy for the white supremacists.

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