Joe Biden’s election to the presidency is a restoration of democracy as we know it. However, the road to a truly progressive future remains steep.
Throughout the Trump Era, America experienced an erosion of its political institutions through a variety of forms. In a series of premeditated offenses, disinformation was used by the Trump administration to disillusion Americans’ trust in reality itself.
From discrediting the press, legitimizing conspiracy theories and lying about the coronavirus, to nominating a Supreme Court justice in record time to ensure a contested election fell in his favor, President Trump jeopardized the powers of the government and safety of the American people for the benefit of no one but himself.
Repeatedly, hegemonic forces unique to the presidency were used as an instrument to invigorate political support, teetering the country the closest it’s ever been to an authoritarian regime.
If not for the dangers of his unabashed racism and alignment with white supremacists, the 45th President of the United States alone was an enduring crisis against its institutions and the public’s faith in them.
A Joe Biden presidency will not threaten the fabric of democracy itself, nor will it empower neo-fascist groups to commit acts of violence against marginalized communities. The forbearance and respect necessary to preserve the health of our institutions will be rehabilitated. And that’s a victory worth celebrating.
However, the President-elect’s determination of a return to “normalcy” is misguided and an insufficient interpretation of the moment we are in. The political architecture of this country has been upended.
As the fight for Black life rages on, 241,500 people have lost their lives to the coronavirus and the economy stands on the brink of the biggest collapse since the Great Depression–there will be no return to normalcy.
The President-elect need not re-install the status quo, but rather construct a completely new one. If not for the sake of progressivism alone, Biden must design a transformed vision of the United States on the behalf of the Black and marginalized communities directly responsible for putting him into office.
Receiving 87% of the Black vote nationally, predominantly Black cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia are accredited for allowing Biden to capture the electoral votes necessary to win the contentious swing states.
If not for the efforts of Black organizers, activists, and community members in key states throughout the country, the United States would be a victim to four more years of quasi-authoritarianism.
Black Americans are the perfecters of our democracy, and President-elect Joe Biden’s administration must recognize that not only through its words but through its actions.
This means allowing leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement to participate in the President-elect’s transition process, expanding access to health care, raising the federal minimum wage, giving D.C statehood, and eliminating student loan debt.
Advocating for legislation that will directly improve the welfare and socio-economic circumstances of Black Americans across the country should be one of the administration’s central focuses.
Furthermore, addressing the pandemic head-on through pumping immense federal support into supplying PPE, COVID-19 tests, and treatment into marginalized communities can help redress its disproportionate effects on Black and Latinx populations.
Regarding the economy, extensive financial aid through the form of stimulus relief packages will be required to stabilize the recession and assist millions of Americans in affording basic necessities.
However, the effectiveness with which Biden can govern outside the powers of the presidency is yet to be determined. With two contested Senate elections in Georgia, the fate of the chamber has the potential to fall into either party’s hands. This factor stands essential to understanding the capacity to which Biden can fully address the aforementioned grievances.
Outside the practicality of passing legislation, the vigor with which President-elect Biden will address the issues most important to the communities that forged his path to the presidency thus remains questionable.
The Democratic Party has historically been reluctant towards adopting progressive policy and transformational visions of the future. This hesitancy can only push so far, though.
Both the demographics and Overton window in the country are shifting, as support for social programs such as Medicare-for-all are the highest they’ve ever been all while Americans turned out in historic numbers this summer to protest against racial injustice and police abuse. The American public has already undergone a transformation; it is simply a matter of whether President-elect Biden and his party can keep up. In the meantime, youth and BIPOC activists will be on the other side, continuing to agitate for the future they’re entitled to.
Thus, it will ultimately be the people, not the Biden administration, that create a progressive future beyond the confines of legislation. Ambivalence and modesty cannot match an impassioned commitment to reconfigure democracy.
Through the tenacity and pressure forged by grassroots organizers around the country, I hope Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can fully address the matters of our time with the severity and attention they each deserve.
After all, reformation is on the horizon, and the executive branch stands indebted to the Black electorate that chooses to protect democracy time and time again.
Photo by Reuters.