Joe Biden is surrounded by a clutch of smart women. There is his wife, Jill, a PhD. There is Kamala Harris. There are many others. But the one who doesn’t seem to be in his inner orbit, yet the one who seems to have the most impact on him, is none other than 31-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the youngest woman to have served in the United States Congress. AOC was an organizer for the presidential campaign of US Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016.
She has worked as a waitress and a bartender to help her mother – a house cleaner and a school bus driver – fight foreclosure of their home. A white Hispanic, she is blessed with good looks and strong intellect. But the media concentrates mainly on her looks. As also on her theatrics and her histrionics.
She has 12 million Twitter followers, surpassing her boss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has 9 million Instagram followers and about half a million Facebook followers. She seems destined to run for the US presidency one day, a day not too far away it seems. Joe Biden was a centrist candidate in 2020, but Bernie Sanders pulled him to the left. Sanders was completely overshadowed by his old protégée, AOC, who is anything if not woke woke. In the aftermath of Biden’s victory, it was believed that the Democratic party would cleave between the centre, where Biden stood, and the left pole of AOC.
But Biden has gone woke woke too. He has taken every single one of AOC’s ideas and made them his own. The right is terrified of AOC. More than the right, it is Biden who seems more terrified of her. AOC wants to turn America into a socialist paradise. Biden is helping her accomplish that. When AOC doesn’t get what she wants, she resorts to her considerable histrionics.
She went on a video call with her Instagram followers and showed how threatened she had felt by the January 6 attack on the US Congress. She banged the walls, in simulation of what the protestors were doing to her office. Where is She? she wailed, explaining how they had come after her. I am sure many of her fanatic followers must have teared up. She loves banging walls.
She went to Trump’s Mexican border wall, and banged hard against it, crying for it to be torn down. Let my Hispanic comrades in, she seemed to screech. Biden listened. He stopped any further construction of the wall. And now her comrades are streaming in to the US. She came up with a ridiculous Green New Deal – solar cells and wind farms and electric vehicles and building retrofits everywhere – to combat climate change.
Heaven’s, solar cells and wind farms and electric vehicles have been around for a century. Solar and wind have an Achilles Heel intermittency – that is the first doesn’t work when the sun doesn’t shine and the second doesn’t when the wind doesn’t blow. And since EVs pass emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack, no one really seems to know if they pollute less or more than fossil fuel cars.
Biden wants a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package that is essentially about implementing AOC’s Green New Deal. No innovation could take place. It is all about deploying old technology and labeling it as new wine in old bottles. Lots of the money will go to Democratic party financiers, contractors and constituents. It is so porkfilled that there wouldn’t be enough pigs around to make sausages for it.
Biden has also passed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill that is keeping many unemployed from returning to work because they are getting more unemployment benefits instead. Business establishments are starved for hiring, but people are not joining up. And it’s not only because of the fear of contracting the virus at work. Close to 40 per cent of America’s population has already received one dose of the vaccine, so that fear has come down dramatically. Because of his age – he’s 78 – it’s unclear whether Biden will be a oneterm president or a two-term president. In the past, he has called himself a transitional president, but he has then corrected himself to say that he’ll run for two terms.
That has been one of the many flip flops in his long and illustrious political career. Certainly he seems to be an old man in a hurry right now. He has also unveiled a $1.5 trillion budget. Trillions seem to mean nothing to this man. It’s as if they were going out of style. But that money will only be raised by printing money, or through borrowing, quiet likely from America’s arch-rival, China, to whom the US already owes over $1 trillion in debt, out of the overall US national debt of $28 trillion.
AOC seems to have gone quiescent now. Biden is fulfilling her agenda. Why should she shriek anymore when the president is already doing her bidding? Kamala Harris and all other presidential aspirants in 2028 (or 2024, if Biden doesn’t run then), be warned. AOC is coming after you. She could well be the youngest person to become president in US history, and that too in her thirties. Teddy Roosevelt became president at 42, and JFK at 43.
If Biden hasn’t converted the US into a socialist haven by then, AOC will complete the makeover. There’s no infighting in the Democratic party anymore. AOC has won. Biden has capitulated. The Democratic Party is in thrall to AOC; the Republican Party to Donald Trump, an extreme rightwinger. There is no centre left in America today.
(The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas)