So We Settled For Biden: Now What?

After a harrowing week or so of waking up at odd hours every night and Googling “US election” only to see the disappointing “264” in Pulp Display Light font size 18, I was finally able to witness Joe Biden becoming the 46th president-elect of the United States. 

election Photo by Clay Banks from Unsplash

My first reaction? To an extent, relief. His victory is a symbol of change, and the elections as a whole indicate that millions of US citizens are united in their desire for this change. In his recent speeches, Biden has certainly made claims and promises of a future that appear to appeal to many people of our generation. Harris’ win is interesting too: as the first woman -- particularly a woman of color -- to be elected as Vice President, she proves that the role can exist for people who aren’t middle-aged white men.

However, the symbolic nature of these victories is what made my relief intensely short-lived. While the Biden administration is supposedly the “better” choice, and therefore not bad as such, it definitely cannot be classified as a good outcome. America is a pseudo-democracy: it claims to give us the brilliant option of voting, while actually giving us only two options, neither of which can ever represent our ideals. Yes, I’m a democrat on paper, and yes, I voted blue. But do I truly feel represented by Biden or Harris? Do I really feel represented by people who refused to defund the police, have a history of racist and homophobic rhetoric, are supporters of Israeli occupation in Palestine, and just generally don’t stand for the same things I do? Even though they seem to have more recently changed their stance on some (but not all!) of these, it is understandably difficult for me to have complete faith in them.

The point of this isn’t to be a call-out post, nor is it to be a superficial list of Biden and Harris’ wrongdoings, since we are all aware of most of these -- plus, Google is a great resource for all of that anyway. My real intention here is to remind us all that while the excitement is understandable, the excitement shouldn’t be the end of it. Because while I do not support Trump in any way, shape or form, I must also acknowledge that the real problem with America has never been just Trump: he’s only one evil, vicious reminder of it. 

Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

Everyday the words “systemic” and “institutionalized” show up on our timelines to describe forms of discrimination, and although some may consider them overused or misemployed, they are usually pretty honest and accurate qualifiers. The disproportionate treatment of BIPOC is unfortunately such a significant aspect of American history that it has rooted itself in the US “system”. And it’s so deeply ingrained in this system that it is perpetuated by all institutions across the country, those of academia and medicine just being a few basic examples. Biden being elected president as opposed to Trump does not erase or diminish these problems: all it does is associate a different name with them. America is still flawed: a system that was invented by rich white capitalists, and continues to be run by -- you guessed it! -- rich white capitalists.

This isn’t me being pessimistic at all. If anything, the events of this year have shown us strength and solidarity hardly seen before in history, including an impressive series of progressive victories and of course, the undeniable accomplishments of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the fact that over 70 million people still voted for Trump just proves that a huge population of America is not quite ready to embrace these changes.

black lives matter protester holding sign Photo by Jason Hargrove from Flickr

There is a pressing need now more than ever before to demand action. We have the privilege of regarding a moderate president as a good, comfortable choice; the privilege of speaking up for those who can’t. With a privilege like this, it’s dangerous to blindly “stan” any politician. There are ways of getting involved as a student, whether it’s joining the Democratic Socialist of America, organizing political groups within our communities, participating in teach-ins, participating in other on-campus advocacy or volunteer programs -- the list is endless! Even something as easy as attending (free!!) online lectures and discussions about social issues on Eventbrite has a meaningful, personal impact.

While we have reluctantly settled for the lesser of two evils, let’s not settle any further. It is a beautiful power to be able to criticize politicians, to be able to hold them accountable for their actions, and I definitely look forward to using this power as much as I can over the next four years.