November 3rd was a historic election day in the United States, which melted into a week of waiting and commentary. What political victories did the Democrats score and what is the future for them as a party? Diego Rivas unpacks the election week with a review of the stories that defined this historic vote.
The nation has spoken and they have given Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a mandate to build back better. The election was widely viewed as a referendum on Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his character. Now it is up to the Democrats to repair a country – no easy task, when there will be a razor-thin majority in the Senate (if at all) and a Republican party that has obstructed progress since the Obama years. Yet, progressives in the United States should be proud of defeating Trump and channel this momentum into bold and visionary policy. It will not be easy, but a politically awakened electorate may just have the civic courage now to manifest a just, green and fair society.
With the rights of so many members of society on the line, this election saw communities come together and deliver a victory against Trumpism when it was needed most. Community activists in Arizona who had been organizing for the security and rights of Latinos, helped deliver the state to Biden and a Senate seat to the Democrats.
In Georgia, Stacey Abrams is being labeled a hero after 800,000 people were registered leading up to the election – the state may unexpectedly turn blue, and the fate of the Senate lies in the two too-close-to-call run-offs that will take place in January. It is difficult to ignore how Black leaders, organizers, and voters won the race for the Democrats.
The election result was also a mandate to act on climate change. Even without Congress, Biden can issue executive orders to begin addressing this global crisis. Urgent action against the climate crisis is in Biden’s platform. Green infrastructure projects and creating green jobs must be intertwined with building back better. A new political era that is green, yet focused on the domestic workforce could perhaps be a place for compromise.
The future of the Democratic Party is still unclear. Will the party take a more progressive, centrist, or new, distinct path forward? This question is emerging within the Democratic party regarding how to reconcile the party’s national image with politically diverse districts across the country. Complicating the matter were several notable wins from the left wing of the party: Cori Bush won by campaigning on progressive issues in Missouri – and will now be the first Black woman to represent that state in Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocates more digital campaigning and community, place-based organizing around progressive issues.
This election also showed that voters cannot be reduced to a Trump vs. Biden binary. Trump-friendly Mississippi voted to remove the confederate flag from their state flag and voters in conservative Florida passed an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour – both ideas associated with progressives. Meanwhile, leftist California voted against labor rights! There is one issue though voters seem to be able to agree upon: wherever they had the opportunity, US-Americans legalized Marijuana.
The United States remains in crisis, but has taken an important step away from despair and towards progress. Immediate relief to the detrimental effects of the pandemic will be a priority that may very well exhaust most of Biden’s political capital. The key question will be how well the administration can tie the equally important issues of healthcare, the climate, international collaboration, and social justice to tackling the coronavirus. If answered, we can take the first step towards a new progressive era in the United States.
„Unpacking the Week“ was released as part of our mini-series #USinProgress, in which Diego Rivas analysed the US Elections and opportunities for progressive change.