November 7, 2020—Today is a day to celebrate. Next week, we get back to work, rebuilding our country.
Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States on January 20, and Kamala Harris will become vice president: the first woman, first Black person, and first Asian person to hold that office. That’s a win. That’s a big win, even for those of us whose first-choice candidate was someone else. The Biden/Harris win, and especially Harris’ win, is a defeat for racism and xenophobia.
Aztec dancers filled the streets at Lake and Bloomington in Minneapolis this afternoon, joyous crowds celebrate across the country, church bells rang out in Paris, and world leaders began sending messages of congratulations to Biden and Harris. Newspapers began repeating the Gerald Ford line: “Our long national nightmare is over.”
Now as in in 1974: not quite true.
First, we face the deadly, daily pandemic toll. More than 130,000 new COVID cases were reported in the U.S. yesterday, and more than 1,200 people died. In Minnesota, more than 5,000 new cases were reported yesterday and 36 people died, record numbers with hospitalization numbers also at record and unsustainable highs.
Then there’s the fact that Inauguration Day is still more than two months away. Trump and his crew of cronies can do a lot of harm between now and then.
Finally, while Biden and Harris will lead the country, their win was far from a landslide. Democrats did not win the Senate, in Washington or in Minnesota. The lies that have been the basis of Trump’s presidency continue, and the country remains bitterly divided.
Even after January 20, if Republicans keep a majority in the Senate, they can refuse to confirm cabinet members and judges, block COVID relief, vote down a renewed Voting Rights Act, and kill health care legislation. The same remains true in Minnesota, where a Republican-majority Senate opposes the pandemic state of emergency and refuses to confirm Governor Walz’s appointees.
Democrats have a chance, although a very slim chance, of electing two more U.S. senators on January 5. Because Georgia requires a run-off if no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes, both of its incumbent Republican senators face run-off elections on January 5.
As of Saturday evening, Biden has a slim lead in Georgia. If he wins the state, he will be the first Democrat to do so since Bill Clinton in 1992. Much of the credit goes to Stacey Abrams, the dynamic Black politician, lawyer, author, and civil rights activist.
Abrams led a voter registration campaign that registered 800,000 new voters in Georgia. Her organizations also funded and trained voter protection teams in 20 battleground states. While Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff face tough fights, Abrams has changed the face of politics in Georgia and that might boost one or both to a win on January 5.
Tomorrow and next week and every week after that, our work continues. As in 2016, the majority of White voters chose Trump. About 120 years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois identified “the problem of the color line” as the most important problem of the 20th century. This election showed the continuing depth and breadth of fear and racism and xenophobia in the United States.
Dismantling institutional racism is difficult and necessary work; disarming and overcoming individual fears and prejudices may be even harder.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That arc does not bend on its own. Dr. King bent that arc. Stacey Abrams bent that arc.
Hundreds of thousands of people bent that arc: protesting, speaking out, stopping traffic on the highway, having difficult conversations with family and neighbors, making phone calls, registering voters, and getting out the vote.
Today is a day to celebrate the work and passion and commitment of Abrams and thousands of other organizers across the country. Although our long national nightmare may not be over, at least we can awaken and see dawn brightening the window.