A similar takeover of a ruling party took place in India in 1969, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat
SARS-CoV-2, the pandemic which was revealed in its horror to the world in Wuhan towards the close of 2019, has the capability of killing not just human beings but the political careers of leaders who thought themselves unmatched by their opponents. President Donald Trump was headed for victory until the virus struck his country and damaged his reputation as a manager, a perception that had overshadowed the reality that the Trump presidency gave a bonanza to exactly the same segment of society in the US that had benefitted hugely from multiple Presidents from Reagan onwards.
The US Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has ensured that Big Money remains the dominant influence in electoral contests, and this has ensured success to several candidates who place the interests of the hyper-wealthy few above that of the rest. President Joe Biden has put forward a plan of action that can transform the US for the better, much as Franklin D. Roosevelt did. This is in danger of being stillborn as a consequence of the power of Democrats in Name Only (DINOs) such as Joe Mancin to block the legislation needed to bring Biden’s vision of Opportunity for All to fruition
In his final months as President of the US, Donald Trump understood that it was not just the billionaires that counted but ordinary citizens as well. Had he put forward the same measures as Joe Biden is now placing before the US Senate, the Republicans in that august body would have supported them. Because it is no longer a Trump but a Biden presidency, they oppose the very measures that Trump had veered around to suggesting. After having given trillions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to the hyper-rich, Trump was prepared to spend as lavishly on the rest of society.
After all, it was not his money that was going to be spent, but more of the dollars printed by the Federal Reserve Board. Despite this willingness to play the role of Santa Claus, Trump was defeated because of the Covid-19 pandemic that seemed out of control throughout much of the final year of his term in the White House. The spread of the pandemic ensured the victory of Joe Biden. It is true that vaccines were developed at warp speed because of the huge amounts of money thrown in the direction of Big Pharma by President Trump. Had he directed such funds to universities and research institutes instead, more and better vaccines would have been the result. But few universities or institutes have the lobbying capacity of Big Pharma, which has long profited out of the research of others and the blocking of substitutes that are either imported from countries such as India or produced domestically.
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The other country that could have emerged as a vaccine superpower is India, had the regulatory and other bottlenecks to output and innovation been removed sooner than many of them were during March 2021 through the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The country he has led since 2014 awaits the bringing to justice of those responsible for so many deaths and so much misery that has clouded the first months of 2021 in India. If the cause is a bio-terror attack, it came from a predictable source, and barriers to disaster ought to have been built, such as a sufficient number of oxygen concentrators dispersed across the country as well as substantially more vaccines and medication than had been the situation even after the pandemic had struck.
It is difficult, often very difficult, to actually do something beneficial in India, but very easy for interested parties to block such actions from taking place, so dense are the constricting regulations and so immense are the powers of the officials administering them. After every failure caused by a surfeit of regulation that slows or stifles, the standard response is always more regulation. Cronies love such a system, while others despair.
Now that the Republican Party has become the Party of Trump, the definition of Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) has been changed to those who objected to such a transformation. It needs to be remembered that a similar takeover of a ruling political party took place in India as well. In 1969, Indira Gandhi converted the Congress Party into a family-owned enterprise, and the other (once?) consequential national party besides the BJP has been a family enterprise ever since.
As Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao sought to bring his party back to where it had been before its complete takeover by the Nehru family, and was defeated at the polls in 1996 by the formation of the Tiwari Congress. The toxic effect of this on the Prime Minister combined with the incessant personal attack on Rao by what was called the Sonia Duo (Arjun Singh and N.D. Tiwari) that lasted from the time Ottavio Quattrocchi was permitted by Rao to leave India to almost the final days of Rao’s life, when he was not sure whether the next night would be spent at home or in jail as a consequence of criminal charges hanging over his head.
Donald Trump has a ruthless streak in him that has helped ensure that most of his party leaders remain faithful to him. Should the Republican Party escape being a Trump franchise, a beneficiary could be Ivanka Trump. She who will be helped by Jared Kushner’s success in fashioning the Abraham Accords, which represent a breakthrough as important as was the 1978 Sadat-Begin Camp David accord. Should the 2022 mid-term elections go badly for the Democrats as a consequence of sabotage of Biden’s plans by DINOs, Trump would dominate the Republican Party. This would weaken the GOP substantially. Despite the Roberts Supreme Court, folks in the US are not ready to move backwards rather than forwards societally.
More than her father seems to, Ivanka may understand that any effort at replicating the racial supremacy doctrine that has been woven into too much of the policies of the Trump administration would be futile. Even among white citizens in the US, the majority accept the reality of a multi-racial society. Friendships and marriages are now commonplace. US Presidents such as Lyndon B. Johnson and now Joseph R Biden are enacting measures that take account of such an inevitability. Biden Democrats winning in 2022 will be good for the US even as a loss for them would rescue Republicans from becoming a family-run enterprise. It was among the disappointments of the Clinton-suffused Obama era that the symbolism of the first black President of the US became a substitute for many of the actual steps that were needed to ensure social justice through good economic policy.
The wealthy were bailed out by Obama at the expense of the poor and the middle class in the way that first Hank Paulson and later Larry Summers wanted. Should President Biden succeed despite the DINOs, his societal legacy would be far more consequential than that of the first non-white US President. The US needs to fix its socio-economic issues, if it is to successfully confront the existential challenge posed by Cold War 2.0, just as India needs to do. Should the DINOs succeed in blocking the Biden plan, they would cripple their own presidency and the Democratic Party. Should the RINOs succeed after a 2022 Republican setback, they would ensure that the Republican Party gets oriented towards the future rather than remain fixated on the past.