History was made this weekend. On Saturday, November 7, four fraught days after election night, Joe Biden was pronounced the president-elect, who will become the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021. Kamala Harris, now vice president-elect, will be the first woman, first Black American, and first South Asian American to ascend to that position. This is historic—100 years after women won the right to vote and 55 years after people of color achieved that goal, we will see a woman of color in the White House. This is a big leap propelling us towards a representative democracy.
Over the past 4 years we have seen our national values attacked and eroded. Democracy, freedom of the press, truth, and civil discourse have been the casualties of an unbridled Trump administration. With some of our most basic institutions dismantled, white supremacists and anarchists emboldened, the edifice of our democracy has crumbled and our standing in the world vastly diminished. Yet, despite active voter suppression efforts and a surging pandemic, Americans turned out in record numbers to vote.
As we go to press Trump is continuing to stoke the fires of hatred, making Biden’s call for people on both sides “to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation” harder. Biden, burnished by endless personal tragedies and defeats in earlier runs for president, now fortified by a surging affirmation of minorities and disaffected Republicans, seems uniquely suited to this historic national moment—a moment when our country’s wounds are deep and raw. Biden seems to understand that leadership sometimes means simply showing humanity in oneself and seeing it in others. In the selfish, hubris-ridden 4 years we have just endured, we have forgotten what compassionate leadership can be. Biden and Harris are showing us that with simple dignity and empathy.
“The battle [is] to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody in this country a fair shot,” Biden said. “That’s all they’re asking for. A fair shot.” And in this quest for decency, fairness, and democracy, he chose his running mate well. A Black, Asian-American woman, Kamala Harris brings her own skills and constituency to the ticket. A former attorney general of California and current senator from that state, she becomes the second-most-powerful person in United States government. The expected attacks by racists and misogynists rose like soap bubbles, but dissipated in thin air. In this centennial year of women’s suffrage in America, there is the sweet smell of vindication that no amount of mean-spirited rhetoric can diminish. Kamala Harris’ presence on the world stage speaks of the influence of Black women in our democracy. Her rise reflects the intellectual might of historically Black colleges and universities and their commitment to telling the story of African Americans as central to our nation’s narrative.
The road ahead will be long and it will be hard. We have an out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic and a hobbled economy with soaring unemployment and growing food insecurity in this land of plenty. We are facing the ravages of global warming in the form of fires, floods, and other natural disasters. We have the challenges of kids out of school, remote learning with unequal access to technology, and long unemployment lines. We have a bitterly divided country. Intolerance and suspicion abound. The art of listening to one another has been lost.
But what we have gained today is HOPE. We know today that together we can work to address these issues, to find redress to these problems. We have regained faith in our government apparatus. But we need to learn to reach out. We can agree to disagree, agreeably! The current impasse between opposing ideologies is unsustainable. Joe Biden is just the man to address that. But he will need our help. We must work hard to win the Senatorial run-off elections in Georgia on January 5 so entrenched opposition by the forces of negativity are not allowed to hobble his progress. The Supreme Court has already been compromised. We need a Democratic majority in the Senate if we are to see this country move forward. The world is watching and hoping for us to succeed. We need to do all we can to help this dream team achieve greatness.
President, Woman’s National Democratic Club
November 9, 2020