These "precedented" times compelled voters to make their voices heard and demand change
November 20, 2020
Nowadays, the expression “unprecedented times” is evoked frequently. It is used to describe this moment in time as we wrestle an insidious virus that has permeated every part of our country and world. It is used when describing the pervasiveness of our current political divide on the economy, climate change, law enforcement, international engagement, and a host of other issues. And it has been used when describing how resentment and anger at the incessant racial dog-whistling of the Trump Administration inspired massive, multiracial uprisings across the country that vehemently denounced the callous devaluing of Black lives.
The word “unprecedented” by definition, means “novel” or “never before seen or experienced.” Unfortunately, there is nothing novel about these times. While our country has not dealt with such a major health crisis contemporarily, pandemics are certainly not new. And racism is woven into deeply into the fabric of American society; the pandemic shined a light on significant racial and ethnic inequities across the continuum of COVID-19 morbidity, particularly among Black and Latino/a/x populations.
It is, in fact, these “precedented” times that compelled voters to make their voices heard and demand a change of course. Dismayed by the discord sowed by the current Administration, voters turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots, both in person and by mail, buoyed by large swaths of Black, Indigenous and other women of color, as well as younger voters. Their efforts not only produced a new president, but made history in the election of a first woman and woman of color to hold the second-highest office in the land.
We congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. We are confident that, through their leadership, our country will begin reunify to confront and fight the ills that face us. But the road ahead is neither smooth nor direct.
Our country is currently in a recession caused not by problems within the financial sector, but by a public health crisis. The pandemic has arguably yielded the most rapid shutdown of economic activity ever seen in the United States and around the world. American businesses have closed in droves, and a record number of people have filed for unemployment benefits as well as public benefits like SNAP and Medicaid. Moreover, racial discord has worsened considerably, motivated in large part by an irrational but growing fear of the rapidly changing demographics of our country.
The Trump Administration’s refusal to initiate the transition process and instead continue to contest state ballot counts adds an additional layer of risk and uncertainty to the current crisis. These political games certainly threaten our democracy and fundamental being as a country, but they also threaten people experiencing hardship right now. The stalled transition process wreaks havoc on critical efforts to get much needed assistance to the more than 8 million people who have moved into poverty since the start of the pandemic. A new stimulus package is essential to the recovery. The Trump Administration and Congress cannot continue to hold lives hostage.
That is why the work of the Shriver Center remains ever-needed. While the change in administration provides us with potential new opportunities to effectuate policies for communities in need, significant challenges within the federal landscape and the states remain. From the preservation of the Affordable Care Act to the reformation of our immigration system, to ensuring economic stability and recovery, we must seek to make investments in people, while simultaneously dismantling systems of oppression that keep people mired in poverty.
Americans have voted and unequivocally made their choice. It’s time to move forward and push the new Biden/Harris Administration to deliver real solutions. Although we face myriad, massive problems, if we tackle them together, we can solve them once and for all.
PS – Please join me on December 2 for a conversation with David Axelrod on the implications of this election on our continuing mission for economic and racial justice.
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