Bipartisan politics, democracy, confusion, and COVID-19
Updated 11:38, 26-Dec-2022
Keith Lamb
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. /CFP
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. /CFP

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. /CFP

Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

During the mid-terms, U.S. President Joe Biden declared that the pandemic is "over"; his evidence was that "no one's wearing masks, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape." Missing from the anecdotal "everyone" were the one million dead.

The lack of masks reflected the dropping of stricter measures, such as lockdowns and social distancing, and an average of 400 daily deaths hardly signified a "good shape."

In place of meaningful political differences, COVID-19 is one topic dividing Democrats and Republicans. Biden's comments, in service of his popularity ratings, were a self-affirmation that he had delivered on his earlier promise to control COVID-19.

Biden positioned the Democratic Party as the sensible party vis-a-vis Trump's Republicans who traded in pseudo-science and whose supporters leaned towards conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19, vaccinations and lockdowns, which became global capital's plan to enforce their agenda.

Bipartisan bickering led to a bipolar COVID-19 response, balanced between madness and sensible distrust, which reflected U.S. citizens' COVID-19 perceptions.

In this pressure cooker of infighting and confusion, many citizens would not tolerate strict measures for the greater social good as they doubted their validity. Many U.S. citizens demanded their freedom not due to lockdown fatigue or even because of the culture of U.S. individuality, but as defiance to the class interests of an invisible "cabal" where even the non-wearing of masks became a political statement against them.

If the people demanding an end to COVID-19 restrictions were for the public good, figures don't back this up. The U.S. with about 4 percent of the world's population has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Johns Hopkins University recently reported that the U.S. had exceeded 100 million cases and one million COVID-19 deaths, which amounts to more than 15 percent of the global total.

While the developed U.S. prides itself in being "No. 1," this was not a "No. 1" the world expected. This ignoble position has weakened U.S. soft power.  

While lockdowns and vaccinations were envisaged by many Republicans as a globalist policy, one can make the same case for easing restrictions. With lockdowns, large transnational corporations, like Amazon, profited at the expense of the high street; however, the easing up of restrictions was also in service of the short-term economic interests of big business.

Travelers at the United Airlines check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 22, 2022. /CFP
Travelers at the United Airlines check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 22, 2022. /CFP

Travelers at the United Airlines check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 22, 2022. /CFP

While big business economic interests trickle down to the family, it would be a fallacy to conclude that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions was primarily people-centered. This is evidenced by the catastrophic death rate and the U.S. political-economic structure. Here monopoly interests dominate the medical system, public transport is in tatters, and U.S. students are beggared before they even graduate.

In this tattered state of affairs where meaningful material power is hidden behind bipartisan politics, where the corporate media sways public opinion, and where there exists disunity and confusion, could Biden, whose class interests are in step with U.S. elites and the confusion peddled through their media, have done better than Trump?

One way past the confusion would be to take a scientific approach. This is precisely what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, exhorts the government and public to do. He believes disinformation, political ideology as well as the polarization of American culture has thwarted an effective COVID-19 response that didn't follow scientific recommendations.

Fauci recently said, "I don't care if you're a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, everybody deserves to have the safety of good public health and that's not happening." In light of the pandemic which Fauci warns is far from over, and risks getting worse during the festive season, he urges citizens to take a booster vaccine and wear masks at family gatherings.

Fauci has been ridiculed by the corporate press, Trump, and wealthy members of society like Elon Musk. When his scientific advice has changed, the sections of the corporate media and conspiracy theorists use this to discredit his scientific authority.

This highlights three problems. First, when bipartisan politics are captured by financial interests, who is to say those who disseminate health advice aren't also swayed?

Second, science is "fluid." Different research can result in different conclusions. Time leads to research accumulation and changing circumstances lead to different advice.

Third, scientific advice reaches the public through corporate media gatekeepers whose loyalty lies with capital accumulation, not public health. Considering the class interests and the bipartisan confusion at work, science can easily be manipulated for vested interests, which may be disunited depending on which faction of capital they belong to.

With an invisible foe like COVID-19, the problem is further abstracted from physical reality. Its "nonmaterial" nature means it can be used in the service of any snake-oil seller both medically and ideologically.

With material reality, like the economic system and foreign policy, beyond the reach of democratic control, COVID-19 becomes the plaything of "democracy" at the expense of the people. In turn, the arising COVID-19 confusion is legitimized by the "gatekeepers of democracy" as a sign of a "healthy democracy."

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