Excuse me while I take a break from fury to celebrate.
We can get back to He Who Must Not Be Named and the white supremacist insurrection he sparked in a bit. Lord knows, it’s impossible to ignore the terrifying events of Jan. 6 at the US Capitol for long: Every day makes clearer how violent it was, how much worse it could have been.
But Democrat Joe Biden is set to be sworn in on Wednesday. And those who care about justice and decency should take a second to revel in this moment. Don’t let them steal that from us.
Record numbers of Americans overcame a crippling pandemic, GOP voter-suppression efforts, and an incumbent who would do anything to win, sending Biden to the White House and tipping control of the Senate to Democrats.
“This was a voting rights election,” said Carol Rose, head of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Now we have an opportunity to reset on civil rights, and civil liberties.”
Across the country her organization and many others worked to protect those rights, and succeeded — even in Georgia, which will now have its first ever Black senator, and its first Jewish one. And because of that, there’s a chance for legislation that will better protect the voting rights that have been under attack for years.
This country will now be led by a grown-up, compassionate president who believes in using government to benefit all Americans. Biden was all of that as he unveiled his pandemic rescue plan on Thursday night.
“Millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck,” he said. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy. ... Out of all the peril of this moment, I want you to know I see the promise.”
How long it seems since we had a leader who talks like this, with kindness, a commitment to the notion that we’re all in it together, and an expansive vision of how to ease our pain; somebody who sees racial and economic inequality as problems we must solve together. His plan would put real money behind the effort to combat the coronavirus, and send help to those suffering most acutely from hunger and housing insecurity as businesses struggle. It might not all come to fruition, but no one can doubt the change Biden’s approach represents.
“I’m looking forward to having a federal government led by someone who believes that government can be used as a tool to help people,” said Thabiti Brown, head of Codman Academy in Dorchester. “Oh yes, thank you! Government for the good!”
Brown’s optimism springs also from what the incoming administration is, not just what it isn’t: Biden has chosen a cabinet that looks like America, with a diversity of experience and identity that can’t help but make its policies more responsive to Black Americans like Brown, and to the students he cares for. It won’t hurt, either, to have an education secretary who actually believes in public education.
Think of the pain and damage a president Biden can ease almost immediately — for immigrants, for example.
“I am hopeful that this administration will see immigrants and refugees not as a problem that needs to be fixed, but as ... part of the fabric of this country,” said Eva A. Millona, president of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. She expects the administration to make sure COVID relief gets to more of the immigrants who have done essential work during the pandemic, and to protect DACA recipients and those who have temporary protected status.
Now imagine similar transformations on climate policy, foreign affairs, justice, housing. Lives will be changed, even saved, because we elected Joe Biden.
It may not be enough for progressives, who rightly believe we are long overdue for bigger reforms than Biden can probably deliver. And it will be way too much for those, like the Capitol seditionists, who see every step toward greater justice as a threat to their supremacy.
But for those of us who still believe in the values this country is supposed to represent, this is a moment for pride, maybe even a little joy, amid the pain of recent events. We’ve earned it.