Levy: Stop and Smell the Biden-Harris Roses

Despite the hurdles ahead, Americans must remain optimistic.

by Gabrielle Levy | 11/9/20 2:00am

This year’s presidential election was fraught with fear — fear that partisan hostilities would collapse into full-on riots and violence, fear that President Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine American democracy and values would succeed, and most of all, fear that we would be stuck with another four years of Trump’s immorality, incompetence and idiocy. As a result, media coverage leading up to the election and throughout the ballot counting was largely cynical. 

For instance, as votes rolled in, many cautionary comparisons were drawn between Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 and President-elect Joe Biden’s slow start on election night. Even after Biden’s path to victory became clear in the following days, opinion pieces urged Americans to look past Biden’s success and take stock of what Trump’s better-than-expected performance means for our nation. And yes, it is vital that we acknowledge the significance of Trump managing to retain a broad and loyal support base in our country despite his failure to formulate an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, continued support for white supremacist groups, etc. But it is also important that we relish in the sense of joy and relief that last Saturday’s news of a Biden-Harris victory brought many across the nation and world. Although the road ahead for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will in no way be easy, we need to celebrate their victory as a true win for American democracy and hold onto the sense of optimism it has provided.  

First off, the electoral process itself was a win for the United States. Despite the fact that the president of the United States went to great lengths to suppress votes — for example, suing election officials to force them to reexamine ballot signatures for disqualifying discrepancies and suing to prevent the expanded use of ballot drop boxes — the recent election saw the highest voter turnout in 120 years. This record is a huge win for America — more voters equals a more representative result and a better functioning democracy. 

As for the future president and vice president themselves, there is also great reason to celebrate.  Harris is not only the first woman to be elected as vice president within the United States, but also the first woman of color and the first Black or Asian American person to be elected as vice president.  Her win is a win for the representation of women and minorities across our nation. And although Biden was by no means many Democrats’ first choice, he is a “tried and tested hand,” as Harris remarked in her victory speech, who represents a return to legitimacy and normalcy. As CNN commentator Van Jones put it on Saturday morning, Biden’s win makes it “easier to tell your kids character matters … telling the truth matters. Being a good person matters.”

Indeed, under Biden and Harris our country will no longer be the laughing stock of the world. They will prioritize passing new policies for responding appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic and to other important issues, such as the rapid destruction of our climate. Importantly, we will also have the chance to escape the intense partisan hostilities that are tearing our country apart and go back to “see[ing] each other again [and] listen[ing] to each other again”, as Biden emphasized in his call for an end to the “grim era of demonization” during his acceptance speech. 

The Biden-Harris victory has given our country a chance to become more representative of minorities, adopt policies that can save lives, regain a sense of global legitimacy,  heal our partisan divisions and repair our democracy. So, while it is important to consider the very real challenges facing our future leaders, we must also hold onto our optimism and hope for the future to give them the best shot at enacting long-lasting change. For the first time in four years, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for American democracy and governance — let’s not lose sight of it.