The 2020 election has often been referred to as the election that would define the soul of our nation.
Many on the left saw the election as something that would provide the answer for a simple question: would our nation choose bigotry or progress? Would white supremacy be a deal breaker for the majority of voters? Or would they be able to overlook a candidate’s past of praising white supremacist groups and locking children into “detention centers” at the border if it meant there was a chance they might be able to pay a few dollars less in taxes? Would people vote an openly homophobic vice president into office for a second term? Would we accept leadership from a president who has already been impeached?
There were more voters this year than any other year on record. People stood in line for upwards of six hours (even in the rain) to make sure their voices were heard.
Given the stark contrast between the two candidates, and the extreme polarization and steep echo chambers that the internet allows, everyone seemed to believe that their side would win by a landslide.
But on election night, as the nation sat ready to find out their new president, local leaders and more intensely, the soul of their nation — the result was shocking, eerie and unsettling: the race was close.
This is not talked about often because people are so focused on what the end result was, which is fair.
But even though President-elect Joe Biden ultimately ended up winning, it is still haunting that the race was so close. It’s disheartening that so many Americans voted in favor of white supremacy, fascism and division. In fact, more people voted for President Donald Trump this year than in 2016.
On a positive note, more people once again voted against Trump in 2020. In both elections he ran in, Trump lost the popular vote by millions, which is reassuring despite being at a less dramatic rate than many would expect.
The next most startling and unsettling thing that happened on election night — or, let’s be honest, election week — was some of the new sentiments emerging from liberals regarding activism efforts that needed to happen.
Some breathed a sigh of relief and said “Phew! We’re finally done!” while others were excited to virtue signal that they were “woke” so they said, “Biden is hardly better than Trump so this is no victory at all.”
The key here is in balance. We can simultaneously celebrate the wins of this election along with the losses. We can also choose to simultaneously acknowledge that, although it’s a victory that Trump has been voted out, Biden may not be the most ideal president.
Another set of beliefs we can hold in tandem is both gratitude to finally be able to have something to celebrate in a year that has felt like a whirlwind of bad news, while also understanding that this is not the finish line — there is still work to be done before equity is truly achieved.
While it’s true that Biden may not be the most ideal and progressive president, he is the most progressive president that Americans were willing to vote for. He is the realistic democratic nominee in an America that still does not seem to be ready for a woman in office, or someone with policies as progressive as Bernie Sanders’.
We at The New Paltz Oracle believe that this post-election celebration is much deserved, but it most certainly does not mean that this is the time to become complacent. Activism efforts cannot die down just because racism, bigotry and homophobia have been voted out of the Oval Office; these issues are still prevalent in our country.
If you’re unsure, refer to this map about where the KKK and Proud Boys were still active in 2019 even before the escalation of hate crime activity in 2020. In a modern documentary about prominent hate group Ku Klux Klan, leaders said that the day they received the most calls requesting to join the hate group was when President Barack Obama won the election.
This is not the time to neglect social justice efforts or attempts to support and uplift marginalized groups. This just might be a time where they are especially vulnerable to hate crimes.
If there was ever a moment to keep an extra heavy foot on the gas, it would be now, given that Biden will probably be more likely to succumb to external pressures to make change. As someone who promised to listen to the concerns of the people of America (not just white or straight cisgender America, not just those who voted for him, but everyone in America) it is extremely important that we make our demands very clear — especially now, when there is someone in office who might actually listen.
This doesn’t, of course, mean that we must blindly trust that he will deliver on all (or any) of his promises.
When President Trump got elected, many people committed to staying informed on exactly what was going on in the White House and what political decisions were being made. It is important to maintain this same energy of monitoring what elected officials are doing, because even if we don’t read about the changes, the changes will still impact us — especially the less privileged members of our society.
The people, when united, are one of the least taught about, yet most critical components of America’s system of checks and balances.
Just as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “We are electing who we are going to work with and hold accountable, not our saviors. The work and activism must continue no matter what.”
You’ve heard the campaign asking that people have a clear Nov. 3 voting plan. But another sentiment young activists were pushing is that it is just as important to have a Nov. 4 and beyond plan. What will you be doing to advance the fight for equity under the next president? What cause will you be most focused on finding a solution for?
As aforementioned, the election also did bring about much to celebrate even beyond the presidential race. This victory is personal and couldn’t have been done without the power of the people.
As educational influencer and historian Blair Imani tweeted on Nov. 4, “I’m proud of every single organizer. & every single person that had a difficult conversation. & every single person that voted to make our reality better. & every person that was activated toward positive and progressive action.”
We at The Oracle believe that the results of this election deserve celebration, but that the celebration should also highlight the key proponents who made this election victory possible. This celebration must focus on grassroots organizers and the role that Black women and minority communities have played in the success of this election.
The record-breaking voter turnout could also be partially attributed to the work of some people who are never celebrated as much as they should. We cannot celebrate the victory of this election without celebrating Stacy Abrams, for instance, a politician and voting rights activist who single-handedly registered 80,000 voters.
Beyond the presidential election, the 2020 election made history for the diversity in who will be joining Congress.
A record number of Native Americans will be joining Congress, as will a record number of women. Some other victories, just to name a few, include: Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender state senator in Delaware, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones made history as the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress (the Bronx and Rockland County, respectively) and Cori Bush became the first Black woman from Missouri elected to Congress.
May this election be a reminder that the power of the people may be one of the most powerful, yet understated forces in a democracy. May this power continue to rise with force, fury and fuel to attain justice.