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The more I ponder on what is happening in America, I see not just political tensions and terror, but a structural and systemic decay of the society. It may sound like a worn-out cliché but, indeed, American capitalism is in deeper crisis.
Joseph Biden, who will be sworn in as America’s next President on Wednesday, January 20, admitted this much when he recently outlined his plan to address the “health and economic crises” facing his troubled country.
Instead, he outlined with facts and figures the disgraceful levels of income disparities between the handful of the dirty rich and the many poor and impoverished people; rising unemployment, homelessness and extreme poverty and the painful social impact of these crises mainly on coloured Americans. Though he fell short of giving a label to these ‘crises’, his presentation was a passionate indictment of a moribund capitalist system whose shelf-life has long expired.
His proposal for a US$1.9 Trillion package is a bold initiative to keep the economy floating, create jobs and put food on the table of workers and small business people. At the minimum state intervention will give oxygen to productive life until the pandemic recedes but it will only tinker with the sick system.
Biden was also very realistic when he warned that the added stimulus would go nowhere if it does not attract bi-partisan support. This is what distinguishes him from most conventional politicians. If nothing else, Biden has a consistent advocacy of and irrefutable record for bi-partisan cooperation.
With the electoral system in both Guyana and the United States rooted in the winner-takes-all system, there will be in effect one-party rule. In the majoritarian numbers game that passes off for democracy in our multi-racial states, many people would feel locked out from the governance process. This will become increasingly a recipe for extremism and violence.
The 2020 elections in Guyana and America have further divided our peoples. In both of our countries therefore we need radical constitutional reforms for inclusive governance.
LOOK AND LEARN
In Guyana the two dominant political parties, the PPP and the PNC, have in some ways subscribe to the concept of multi-racial and multi-party governance by partnership. However, so far, we lack the political will to introduce such a system. When he had a chance of building this type of broad-based unity, one former President tactlessly demanded a show of “trust” as a pre-condition for such unity.
In a new book titled “Joe Biden – The life, the run, and what matters now”, Evan Osnos gave a graphic account of Biden’s rejection of the usual argument that “the canyon between Republicans and Democrats has widened to the point that even basic negotiation is impossible”. He quoted Biden’s simple mantra: “try to work with the other side…you don’t start by saying ‘I don’t trust this person’”.
The deepening crises in America in my view is an opportunity for us in Guyana to look and learn. We need not be a genius to see the importance of bi-partisan cooperation at a time when we face the grim twin menace of a pandemic and a threat to our sovereignty.
It is in this context that I welcome the re-establishment of the bi-partisan Constitutional Reform parliamentary committee, which ought to spearhead the drive for much needed reforms.
This committee is headed by the new Attorney General, who was on the previous body which strangled the possibility for any change. It killed my Constitutional Reform and Consultative Bill.
I hate to think that under his leadership that constitutional reform would again be a “dead cock in the pit” (an unflattering description of Harry Truman during his bid for senate re-election, cited in “Saving Freedom” by Joe Scarborough).
This process must get underway as a matter of urgent national importance as, without it, we risk a descent into racial and civil unrest.
(The author, a journalist and attorney, is the former Prime Minister of Guyana).