Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will head the next administration of the United States of America. That’s a sentence I wouldn’t even let myself think for months in fear of some sort of crazed voodoo vengeance scheme. The hellscape of a choleric, racist white man with an atrocious spray-tan running the so-called Free World is disintegrating. Finally.
But what the hell do we do next?
Be prepared for minimal change after Inauguration Day. Let’s be clear: Donald Trump didn’t create the beliefs and convictions of the more than 70 million people who voted for him. Rather, he was dangerous because his deeply demented agenda resonated with more than 70 million people. He deemed it acceptable to be racist, homophobic and sexist. But despite public attacks on Colin Kaepernick and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, and the president’s call for white supremacists to “stand back and stand by," I would argue that Donald Trump himself was never our biggest enemy. Yes, he is racist, homophobic and sexist. But the far more ominous adversary looming over our country lies in those who continue to support him and his hate-filled ideology.
The issues confronting America today are largely the same as those from decades ago. The wealth disparity between the rich and the poor is growing rapidly – socioeconomic inequality has been on a sharp incline for over 40 years as the top 5% continues to get richer faster and faster. The impact of climate change is verging on irreversible if we don't cut 45% of carbon emissions by 2030. And while I definitely find it comforting that Biden actually believes climate change exists, it lacks potency if substantial action isn’t taken to prevent our planet from dropping into the damning abyss that is eternal environmental purgatory.
The recent confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court bench solidified a wildly unbalanced Court, raising concerns over the implications of such a disequilibrium on the Court’s legitimacy. Long lines at the polls, closed polling locations, new barriers to voting and the contested integrity of absentee ballots in the 2020 election are only the frustrating newest elements in a 150-year-old crusade to suppress the voices of minority groups. We have high-flying politicians (read: the Senate majority leader) disputing the results of the 2020 election—but not the part about Republicans flipping seats in Congress, just the section of the *same ballot* where Trump loses—in a Hail Mary teeming with desperation. Meanwhile, the United States’ total COVID-19 case count sailed past 10 million on Monday, and we are regularly breaking the global case records already held by our country.
And, with the Black Lives Matter movement rising to the forefront of our nation’s consciousness, it’s important to remember that violence against the black body existed long before Donald Trump came to power. The Civil Rights Movement began in 1954 under Eisenhower. Emmett Till was lynched by the white man in 1955. 79 years and nearly 12 administrations later, George Floyd was lynched by the white man in 2020. National trends of police brutality indicate that the number of people murdered by the police today has held steady since 2013. How do we call ourselves a mosaic of free cultures and people while simultaneously failing to consider the hypocrisy in the persistence of systems that incite violence in the name of race and actively prevent minority advancement?
These issues are deeply ingrained in America’s institutions. They’re offshoots of the values this country was built upon, predicated on irrational fears of the ‘other.’ The issues we’re fighting against won’t go away just because Donald Trump’s administration does. Likewise, having Biden in office won’t automatically undo centuries of inequality—at the root of this hatred is a widespread absence of compassion and empathy, and Trump’s populist white rage ideology is unfortunately all too familiar to our country. He aggravated it, gave it a bed to sleep in, yes. But he didn’t create it, and his recent loss doesn’t defang it.
Over five years before his presidency, Donald Trump mocked our already-broken political structure relentlessly. The 2020 election showed us the perils of our electoral system. The nearly-tangible riff that has come to define American politics will perhaps steepen over the next four years. Biden and Harris are now tasked with rebuilding these institutions with dignity, but we must continue to hold them accountable throughout their administration if we stand a chance of improvement.
The painful reality is that the nightmare isn’t over quite yet. For many, the nightmare began long before Trump’s victory in 2016, and it won’t end with Biden’s in 2020. Our goal of a free and equal society remains unchanged and unrealized. The biggest mistake we can make right now is to allow this election to lull us into collective complacency. It should instead function as a push to scream louder and longer and to double down on our efforts because Biden’s triumph is proof that we are capable of change.
I believe that this is a time to be hopeful. We the People of the United States have spoken, and we chose to show up for freedom and equality on Election Day. That’s something. But We the People cannot take that as an excuse to fall silent. There is work yet to be done.