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COVID is America’s Chernobyl

The failed state will still be a failed state after November 3

by David Bernans

Will the people break the Democratic-Republican duopoly?
Will the people break the Democratic-Republican duopoly?

The ravages wreaked by COVID-19 across the United States have been facilitated by the short-sighted, highly partisan and incompetent Trump administration and the bizarre racist ravings of the narcissist-in-chief at its head. But this is not Trump’s failure. This is America’s failure, or more accurately, it is the failure of the corporate-dominated failed state that rules the USA. And the long-term consequences of this catastrophic crisis-management failure are likely to be just as profound for the USA as the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown were for the Soviet Union. Very few people knew it at the time, but Chernobyl signaled the beginning of the end for the USSR. COVID signals the beginning of the end for the USA.


The one-party bureaucratic regime’s inability to understand and respond to the nuclear catastrophe, as recognized later even by Mikhail Gorbachev himself, was an historic turning-point for the Soviet regime.


Pundits, like Brian Klaas in the pages of the Washington Post, have been quick to draw parallels between Chernobyl in the USSR and COVID in the USA, but they conveniently place all the blame on Trump. If COVID is Trump’s Chernobyl rather than America’s Chernobyl, the problem can be easily solved by voting the bum out of office, as it were.


Unfortunately, America’s problems are much more profound than that. The tens of thousands of COVID deaths, the millions of COVID infections, mass unemployment and suffering, all of which are disproportionately affecting Black and Brown people, are not simply the fault of one man.


Trump has certainly exacerbated America’s grotesque wealth and income inequality, but he did not create them. He did not create the Apartheidesque prison-industrial complex. It was not Trump who was in power over the past seven decades which saw the United States fail to create a public healthcare system like every other industrialized country in the world while spending trillions to fight wars across the globe. It was not Trump who tied access to healthcare to people’s employment status. It was not Trump who created the incestuous bipartisan system of money and politics that guarantees bailouts for the super-wealthy and breadlines for the masses in every economic crisis, creating massive pressure to re-open the economy despite the dangers of a deadly and highly-contagious virus.


These are the problems of the corporate neoliberal Democratic-Republican duopoly. Of course Trump has been making all of these problems even worse. He is working to push bi-partisan neoliberalism towards a kind of Republican neofascism, and that is a dangerous enough prospect to push many to vote for Joe Biden as the lesser of two evils. Sure Biden is a corporate shill but at least he’s not a fascist: #SettleForBiden.

The reckoning for America’s Chernobyl will not take place on November 3, 2020. The corporate-friendly democratic presidential ticket has promised not to challenge the private healthcare industry. It will not take on Wall Street. It will not defund the military and the police. It will not end mass incarceration. Poor people, disproportionately Black and Brown, will continue to be exploited, get sick without healthcare, go bankrupt, get sent to wars, get locked up and suffer the consequences of the ecological crisis while the rich continue to get richer.


Over the past two election cycles, a people’s movement has being looking to challenge the powers that be and bring about fundamental change through an insurgency within the Democratic Party, but with very limited success (the “squad” has taken root, but Sanders has been shut out). If COVID is a Chernobyl-like turning point for the USA, it will mean a fundamental break with the past. Will there be a third attempt to transform the corporate-dominated Democratic Party by wresting control from the all-powerful corporate establishment? Or will a new People’s Party take shape to break the Republican-Democratic duopoly that produced the COVID crisis?


Many of the people who were part of the insurgency, from Cornel West and Nina Turner to Jimmy Dore and Lee Camp, seem to be leaning towards the second option. They are participating in the Movement for a People’s Party. The People’s Convention will take place online on August 30. See


David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

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