Anyone trying to find the edges of the U.S. Overton Window right now must feel like they’re tracing an amateur rendition of an early Picasso. After a summer spent chanting “defund the police,” self-identifying progressives applaud the pouring of some 25,000 troops and busloads of out-of-city law enforcement into the streets of Washington, DC. Those eager to cheer the departure of a racist, sexist, war-hawking elitist from the White House were quick to welcome a new racist, sexist, war-hawking elitist. Those who lambasted Trump for dragging more swamp creatures into the swamp rather than draining it are applauding Biden for his diverse cabinet appointments, ignoring the revolving door of corruption and oppression they represent. Those who (correctly) decried the Paris Climate Agreement for being flimsy and non-committal are celebrating Biden’s executive order to rejoin it.
Indeed, anyone applauding Biden’s first flicks of the wrist as President would do well to look beyond the window dressing. Of the 15 new executive orders that aren’t merely a light Trump-eraser, they herald the return of the classic Democratic practice of sprinkling progressive-tasting garnish around deep systemic problems. For example, Biden’s executive order to once again kill the Keystone XL pipeline project, a project that Obama had already killed (that Trump then revived) is at best a step sideways, not forwards. Biden has said outright that he has no interest in a Green New Deal, despite the fact that the watered-down version that bounced around Congress left gaping holes in truly addressing climate chaos. He has also ignored repeated calls to kill both Line 3 and the ill-fated Dakota Access Pipeline.
Meanwhile, the executive order to “advance racial equity” in the federal government grinds sharply against Biden and Harris’ own political histories while, much like Pelosi’s toothless Climate Crisis committee, it offers up no real action to address the issue at hand.