Just when we thought that 2020 could not get any worse, the US Election brought us the tensest week of the year. With the Coronavirus pandemic as a backdrop, the world’s second-biggest democracy was called to the ballots to decide who would lead the country for the following four years. So much was at stake during this election that it would not be bold to call it a generation-defining moment.
This race was as much about Trump and Biden as it was about two radically different ways of seeing and understanding America. The fact that the forward-thinking America, moved by integrity and science has won is a victory for progressive politics as much as it is for the Democratic party. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said, progressive policies can indeed turn elections around. America now faces a historic moment, not only because Harris will be the first female Vice-President of colour in the United States, but also because it has been the election with the highest voter turnout; although a moderate one, it looks like a step forward in the country’s fight against its political apathy problem.
By electing the Biden ticket, US citizens have made a clear statement of the country’s need for radical change in a wide variety of issues, from race relations to healthcare and climate change. Donald Trump’s defeat is not only a victory for progressive America: it’s a warning sign for populism around the world, which has now lost its most vocal strongman.
As expected, Donald Trump will not go without a fight. In fact, Senator Bernie Sanders called out what the President’s strategy would be in case the election didn’t turn out as he expected at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, back in October 23rd. Just like an animal is most dangerous when threatened, Trump is launching its most serious attacks towards American democracy now that he sees his presidency come to an end. His baseless claims of voter fraud should not be taken lightly, as Trump is actively attempting to undermine and invalidate the democratic process using his presidential platform. Given the current context, where tensions in America are at an all-time high, his allegations are a call to arms – let’s just hope not in the most literal sense. Trump is playing with fire and high emotions, with Republicans mobilising around the country to protest the alleged voter fraud – humorously enough, asking both for votes to be counted and for the counting to stop.
Biden and Harris winning the election is indeed good news. However, it’s important to not stay in the “honeymoon phase” for too long. It is okay to revel in the success of progressive ideals, but that is not enough. When the time to build back the country comes, the American people ought to ask for more than just going back to normal. If there is something 2020 has taught us, it is that our neo-liberal society is too delicate, and systematically leaves behind the most vulnerable individuals. Asking for normal is to ask for a perpetuation of the structural power inequalities embedded into the American system, as well as for its negative impact on people to continue.
The President and Vice-President-elect now face a difficult task, taking into consideration the current social and political climate: bringing the country together. The last four years have cut deep though America, leaving an open wound that no one can tell for sure how long it will take to heal. Although America, like many other countries, has faced division in the past, the level of mistrust and hostility between both sides has reached a truly concerning height. While Democrats around the country celebrate their victory, a considerable sector of Republicans cannot seem to comprehend what went wrong and refuse to accept the result. The problem here is not about ballots, legal votes or voter fraud; the issues is that these people have been lied to and refuse to accept the reality they are now being presented with. During his presidency, Donald Trump has systematically manipulated its follower base into believing that everything he says is true, and whatever information that goes against his discourse is “fake news”. According to Trump, this election was going to be an easy win against “Sleepy Joe” and a “red mirage” was incoming. Instead, he has lost the presidency by failing to secure states he was victorious in back in 2016, making him the first American president in decades to lose his re-election. For many of his followers, the result of the election is so far away from what they were told to expect, that the only possibility is systemic voter fraud.
Democrats are now posed with an interesting question: how is one supposed to lead a country forward, when half of its population refuses to believe what is being told by the Government and media, leaning instead into conspiracy theories and claims with little to no factual evidence? Donald Trump has planted the seed of mistrust amongst his followers, and Biden and Harris now face the extremely difficult task of not only getting them to listen but also to comply.
Just because Biden and Harris have been elected to office doesn’t mean that everything is suddenly going to change. At the end of the day, they are both products of the American political system, which will always look out for the interest of big corporations and fortunes rather than for its people. This election has been a win, but not ultimately a victory. In fact, both Biden and Harris’ track record should serve as a reminder that they are everything but ideal candidates. If progressive America wants to see real change for the better, it must be able to hold the government accountable. The drive that has pushed the American people through the last four years shouldn’t die out; instead, it should move forward with the hope that their ideals will finally echo in the White House. Just as it was important for those who supported change to show up for the election, it is paramount that these same people continue to show up on the streets and make their voices loud and clear. Congratulations, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Now, for the American people and a better future for the country, get to work.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons