Time to Deliver: How Biden Should Respond to the Insurrection


“The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches – with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone – was once at the core of the American Dream.” –Robert Reich, economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” –Dante Alighieri, inscription on the gates of Hell, The Divine Comedy, circa 1321

For those trying to make sense of the horrifying pictures of our neighbors and friends from all over the United States engaged in an armed attack on the U.S. Capitol one should look no further than a topic familiar to this blog. We have witnessed a decades-long, insidious, and relentless erosion of hope among tens of millions of people who no longer have faith in the American Dream. And as Trump’s rise to power demonstrated, hopelessness undermines trust in government, fosters nationalism, fuels division, and may result in further insurrection.

Arresting those responsible for the attack on the Capitol and the masterminds of the well-orchestrated insurrection inside and outside of government would be a first step toward restoring that hope. But it is naive to think that declaring a war on domestic terrorists is enough. President-Elect Biden needs to set aside the conciliatory and centrist instincts that kept both the Man from Hope and the President who promised “hope and change” from living up to their rhetoric. To recapture the imagination of people who have lost faith in government and the Democratic Party, Biden and his party must deliver on big, bold initiatives that address the problems that inspired the insurrection.

A critical first step will sound familiar to readers of our previous WCP posts: the Biden Justice Department must not allow CEOs and corporate officers to walk away scot-free when they break the law. Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump all refused to slap cuffs and orange jumpsuits on corporate miscreants. The Sacklers, who touched off the opioid epidemic that has killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people, the Wall Street CEOs and speculators who devastated Main Streets in working and middle-class communities across the United States, and the Boeing executives responsible for the deaths of 346 passengers flying in planes the company knew were unsafe — all walked away from deeds that would earn street dealers and con men life without parole or even death. Failure to hold them and other white-collar criminals accountable for their actions has undermined public trust in the judicial system and government itself.

To restore that trust, Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland must pursue and prosecute corporate criminals who commit such acts with the same zeal and vigor he used to apprehend, convict, and punish Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The new AG will use his considerable experience and resources to punish domestic terrorists and white supremacists, but he should devote equal attention to the white-collar criminals who have blithely terrorized everyday Americans for far too long. Millions of people who lost their homes since 2008 or their loved ones in the opioid crisis are just waiting for our government to punish the perpetrators of those crimes.

To his credit, President Elect Biden has laid out an ambitious economic stimulus plan that will provide a foundation for the fight to win back the hearts, minds and hopes of working-class America. Income inequality has expanded rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. As unemployment remains distressingly high, 40 million Americans edge closer to eviction, and another six million are about to lose their homes to foreclosure, but Elon Musk’s wealth jumped $150 billion, making him the world’s richest man. Biden can’t make everyone a billionaire, but he can prevent tens of millions of Americans from being kicked to the curb.

Read the rest of this piece at Working-Class Perspectives.

Marc Dann served as Attorney General of the State of Ohio and now leads DannLaw, which specializes in protecting consumers from various forms of predatory financing.