It has felt as if the whole world has been on tenterhooks, waiting for the inevitable confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory as President-Elect of the United States.
Nothing can take away from the fact that this is a truly historic moment, attributed to the election of Kamala Harris as the Vice President-Elect. On the other hand, Biden is a continuum of the American normal which is a well-earned relief considering what we’ve had for the past four years. Although a Biden Harris victory was needed, we should be cautiously optimistic for what’s to come.
America remains as divided as ever, and has been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic ignored by President Trump. It needs radical change, which is never going to happen overnight, nor with this administration. But certainly, this is a step in the right direction. It feels incredible that America has changed its path and of course, we should be celebrating this – but not without forgetting the type of politics these two people embody.
This future Administration has a difficult battle, as the first two years will be spent un-doing what Trump has done and will be preoccupied with dealing with the ramifications of a deadly pandemic, which was allowed to run rife through every state in America. They have set the country on the correct path to recovery – but the next few years will fall short of delivering the radical change which is needed.
On November 2nd, I predicted that Donald Trump lost the election when he tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” This election was almost entirely dominated by the pandemic, and this experience, uncovered for many Americans, the realisation that politics matters, and it influences their lives.
A lack of action from a President who dismissed this deadly virus as a “flu” has unleashed greater socioeconomic and racial inequality. It is the culmination of four years’ worth of ignorance. It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to shed light on this. Biden would never have won this election if it was not framed by the pandemic, as it has politicised everyday life with greater urgency.
Biden ran his campaign on the promise of unity and restoring agency to “the people” and it spoke to the hearts and minds of enough Americans that it gave him election to the highest office of the land. In his victory speech, Biden proclaimed, “I sought this office to restore the soul of America” which couldn’t be timelier.
This election was won off the back of a poorly handled pandemic which brought to the forefront, everything wrong with America. But it also allowed Americans to realise that political decisions and those in power – have a direct impact on their lives. It made politics personal, and people voted with the hope for change and a return to normality, which is certainly, what Biden will give them.
But there is another reason why we should error on the side of caution. Trump’s popularity, despite everything, remains strong, even stronger than before. Trump won the vote of over 70,804,457 Americans, and their voices won’t be silenced. Biden will have to work hard to not inflame the dividing lines.
It was a close election and not the landslide the polls had predicted which shows that America is still as divisive as ever. It goes without saying – getting a racist and misogynist out of the White House is a cause for celebration. And so is removing the threat to democracy that Trump symbolised. But America can and should do better.
Biden plans to tackle issues that Trump has silenced throughout his years in office – such as taking America back into the Paris Climate change agreement, “[rooting] out racism” and acknowledging the severity of Covid-19 and the socio-economic impacts it has placed amongst American people. This is a significant change – but our optimism should not obscure the reality of what is ahead.
Kamala Harris – for all her historic and pivotal achievements with being the first woman of colour to grace the office of Vice Presidency, has some problematic politics. Indeed, it is hard to comprehend the extent of this historic moment and what it means with her election, but we must be cautious.
Although in support of expanding gun control measures and believing in Medicare for All, her record on criminal justice reform is contradictory towards the “liberal” outlook that people have painted her with. Her hard stance on marijuana disproportionately affected communities of colour. Nobody is perfect, and indeed, in terms of American politics, this is a victory, but we should remain cautious about the prospects of radical change.
Building on the importance of “the middle class” and the American dream – in his victory speech, Biden symbolised the historic problems that lay at the heart of the American worldview. Despite the imperativeness of getting Trump out of office, it is a restoration to normality. But America’s version of normality is problematic. Biden’s prioritisation of the “middle-class” homes in on a mindset that promotes this as the only pathway to success, stigmatising anyone less than this.
The American Dream defines America’s past and present, but its proclamation is inherently problematic. It assumes that through hard work and dedication, anyone can achieve their hopes and dreams. Sure, it’s a nice sentiment, but the reality is different. It ignores the systems of oppression that have been built into the American system and portrays a kind of righteousness that is unattainable for most. Biden’s return to this is, is setting America on the pathway to the status quo.
But, after these tumultuous years, America has gained some stability it can build upon. This is a cause for celebration, but we should not become complacent. We should rejoice because Trump is out of office, but his anti-democratic, dangerous, and reductive politics remains in the hearts of the millions who still support him. A Biden victory is a sigh of relief, but it is the first step in what is to be an arduous mountain to climb.