Our work has just begun
Saturday night, we saw a new era in America ushered in. Joe Biden took the stage for the first time as President-Elect of the United States with a message of unity, hope, and most importantly, reconciliation.
We will need this ethos as we begin to pick up the pieces of a post-Trump America. The election of Joe Biden doesn’t erase the fact that over 70 million Americans looked at Donald Trump’s first-term performance and affirmatively said he deserves another shot. The election of Joe Biden doesn’t change the fact that the United States has hit its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic first arrived on our shores in January. And despite our best efforts to demonstrate otherwise, Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, will not change the opinions of perhaps millions of Americans who believe without cause that his election was won on fraudulent grounds.
This country has deep wounds, but I believe Joe Biden is the right person to begin the national healing.
Whether or not he was your first choice in the Democratic primaries, and whether or not you agreed with the platform on which he campaigned, Joe Biden had credible motivations behind his message. As a 77-year old politician 3 years into his retirement after a 47-year career, he could’ve rested on his laurels as a successful Vice President of eight years, done the lucrative speaking circuit part-time, and spent the best remaining years of his life with his immediate family, children, and grandchildren. He instead chose to come out of retirement not for personal glory, publicity, or financial gain, but for duty to the country he so faithfully served for so long. When he campaigned on “restoring the soul of this nation,” there is a clear idea in Joe Biden’s mind of what that soul is, and he — like many of us — was keenly aware that another four years of Donald Trump would deteriorate the fabric of our society, institutions, and democratic systems in irreparable ways.
I personally had been involved with the campaign since April — first as a volunteer in New Jersey and later as full-time staff in Ohio as a Field Organizer. I got involved because Donald Trump’s unforgivable response to the COVID-19 pandemic left my industry — music, arts, theatre, and entertainment — decimated, and I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I saw the uncertainty many of my talented colleagues faced with Broadway shut down indefinitely, touring unable to continue, and people unable to gather. Incredible talents passed too soon from the virus. People whose means of self-expression and affirmation, be it singing, dancing, or playing an instrument, now have to worry that sharing these passions will turn themselves into disease vectors.
That made this election personal. I felt as though I carried an obligation to my friends, mentors, and colleagues to help create positive change so we could begin to get our lives back on track. Pretending the pandemic is over prolongs the shutdowns. Lack of a proper continuing stimulus package forces many to find work in other fields. I recognize my lucky position as a young person out of college with a stable family to live with. For those older than me, less financially fortunate, or with immediate needs like children or debt, many may leave the industry and never return. With every person I met on the campaign trail, every call I made, and every event I organized, I carried the burden of these realities with me.
As my work on the campaign unfolded, I was inspired by everyone who came along on this journey with me. Group chats of college friends initially meant to organize Thursday night trivia games turned into a message board for political action. People who never phone banked before in their lives (looking at you Gen Z) put their heads down and did the work to talk to voters across the country.
On the ground in Ohio, I helped mobilize grassroots coalitions of local residents, connect with candidates in key down-ballot races, provide communities with the tools to put their aspirations into action, and develop a grassroots political infrastructure that will hopefully last long past my time working in the state.
The amount of people who stepped up for this cause — from the hundreds of volunteers on the ground in Ohio to the hundreds of people out-of-state that helped contact voters in key states, to the many longtime friends in my personal networks — is awesome in the most literal sense of the word. We became the change we wanted to see, and I hope that we continue developing these civic habits so we never have to watch our country slip so far again. After all, getting Joe Biden elected was simply “getting the ball back.” Now the real work has begun.
For as much of a victory this election was for Democrats, it still exposes weaknesses in our country and party. Over 70 million Americans still voted for Donald Trump. As Joe Biden pointed out, these are Americans. Not “deplorables,” but neighbors. We live with them and they live with us. If we as Democrats want to have any chance at continuing to enact lasting, positive change, we must figure out a way to reach some of these voters — not by watering down liberal policies, but by leaning into policies that have popular opinion on our side. Accessible healthcare, workers’ rights, good education, a living wage, fair trade deals. Many of these issues Trump pretended to campaign on at various points, but these are issues Democrats can actually deliver on. Many people smarter and better-paid than me will spend the next two to four years figuring out how to sharpen that message, and I hope we figure that out soon.
For now, we breathe, and we celebrate. I’m proud of Joe Biden, who has waited for this moment for decades. I’m proud of Kamala Harris, a daughter of immigrants who has broken one glass ceiling after another. I’m proud of the volunteers who gave countless hours and days to this cause. I’m proud of the victory we fought for. And most importantly, I’m proud to be an American.
Let’s remember this fight and use that to propel our future activism.