This past Saturday afternoon felt like a firecracker detonating in a cave. The brilliant sparkle splattered against the black walls, illuminating the space for what seems like the first time in a long while, reminding us that darkness can be driven out by light. The Wake Forest College Democrats’ group chat was exploding with messages; students shared snaps of them celebrating with friends; a meme of President Donald Trump leaving office was sent multiple times, and (most notably) people expressed what this election means to them. I can’t help but reflect on their words and realize that President-elect Joe Biden’s election means several things.
For starters, Biden’s running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will be the first woman, first African American, and first Indian American to hold the office of Vice President of the United States. Over 100 years after women secured the right to vote, we can now look at the White House as a place of opportunity and possibility. Biden’s election also means the end of the Trump presidency. Under Trump, the past four years have been marked by bigotry, division and the repeated assault on our democratic institutions. Biden has promised a welcomed call for unity, a shift from his predecessor’s commitment to divide the nation into “winners and losers,” and to be a president for all Americans.
But despite the excitement of a Biden victory, it’s important to point out what this election symbolizes on a broader scale — and that is how much more work Democrats have to do to ensure that every American has the potential to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While Biden garnered the most votes of any candidate in U.S. history, Trump secured second place, illustrating that the election was not a repudiation of the past four years. And even though Biden surpasses the electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Trump challenged him in several key states. It’s not clear if Democrats will take control of the Senate. We did not expand our majority in the House of Representatives. We lost several state legislature races at the local level, which determine issues like gerrymandering, school funding and environmental regulation. There’s no doubt that it’s worth taking a minute to breathe and celebrate the end of a dark chapter in American history. But the real work is just beginning.
Biden will have to lead a divided government, all while trying to heal the wounds of a fractured republic.”
Biden and Harris will take office facing a number of issues. The impact of COVID-19 has exposed the failures of the healthcare system; outrage against police brutality has shed light on rampant racial inequalities that exist in most of our institutions; the fact that this election came down to an obsession with Pennsylvania and Georgia (even though Biden leads the popular vote by over 4 million) is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities of the electoral process. With control of the Senate favoring Republicans, Biden will have to lead a divided government, all while trying to heal the wounds of a fractured republic.
In the face of these challenges, I am comforted by my fellow Democrats at Wake Forest. When the race in Georgia and Pennsylvania was too close to call, multiple students sent volunteer links to make calls in those states to remind people to check their ballot status. Even though the voting period was over, Democrats still put in the work. Leaders across the country need to cultivate that kind of determination — one that’s grounded in the boundless promise of the American experiment.
People cannot lose interest in the political process simply because Trump is no longer the face of our nation. His message of fear and hate will not disappear and may find renewed energy in terrorizing the incoming administration. However, as Americans, we must find ways to come together and move forward. Our democracy demands constant participation. To help restore faith in the America I know and love, we need to be willing to work harder than ever before. So celebrate this victory with unfettered jubilation today, and prepare to get back to work tomorrow. Onward!