Last Sunday morning like so many Americans and people around the world I woke up able to take a deep breath of fresh air and consider a host of new possibilities. When the networks finally called the election on Saturday and told us Joe Biden was president-elect and Kamala Harris was vice president-elect we could finally believe we are moving forward into a brighter future.
We took to the streets to celebrate. Living in D.C., I headed to the White House with thousands of others. We cheered each other, touching elbows with strangers, all the while wearing our face masks. The same scene occurred in cities around the country; spontaneous, jubilant crowds celebrating Biden and Harris’s win and Trump’s loss. Many have worked for this result since he defeated Hillary in 2016. We celebrated Harris because for the first time a woman was elected on a national ticket; the daughter of immigrants, an African American with Indian heritage. I only wish the congresswoman I worked for, Bella S. Abzug (D-NY) had lived to see this. She would be so proud.
On Saturday evening the president-elect and vice president-elect spoke to the nation. They both made it abundantly clear they were speaking to everyone. Biden said “I am a proud Democrat but I will govern as an American.” He made a plea to those in both parties to stop the demonization of each other and realize we are all Americans. I applaud him for saying that but know for many it will be hard to do. I will try to follow his lead.
What comes simultaneously as Biden begins to lay out his first 100-day plans will be the dissection of the campaign by each party, and the factions within the parties. I read an interview the New York Times conducted with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) the proud Democratic Socialist who has become a leading voice for the left. It was disappointing to say the least. She discussed what she called the hostility to her and her views by the Democratic Party. She challenged moderates who said some of their losses were the fault of progressives like her. At the end of the interview when asked if she would consider a Senate run in two years she said “I genuinely don’t know. I don’t even know if I want to be in politics. You know, for real, in the first six months of my term, I didn’t even know if I was going to run for re-election this year.” What bothers me about this is the apparent lack of understanding of how American democracy and our Congress work. What it means to fight for what you believe and to do so for as many years as it takes to win. What would have happened if women gave up before they got the right to vote, or African Americans and the LGBTQ+ community didn’t stay in the fight demanding full equality?
We will dissect the results to determine why some Democrats lost their seats and others won theirs and why we didn’t win Florida or take the Senate.
While this is happening Democrats have another chance to take over the Senate with the two run-off races in Georgia on Jan. 5. Those races will determine whether President Biden is forced to negotiate every issue with Mitch McConnell or whether Vice President Kamala Harris as president of the Senate can break a tie and give Democrats a win.
While this happens, President-elect Biden will be planning his coronavirus task force and determining how he will fight the pandemic, which is out of control around the world, and how to rebuild the American economy. He is right when he says unless we get the virus under control the second issue will be more difficult. President Trump apparently will not cooperate with the president-elect and this will be the first time in recent American history a losing incumbent hasn’t worked toward a smooth transition.
So as we celebrate Joe and Kamala, let us as Americans do all they ask of us so we can “Build back better.”
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.