Americans representing the diverse fabric of our nation turned out in record numbers over the last two months for an historic presidential election – standing with and for each other to overcome unprecedented challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and widespread voter suppression efforts.
Our democracy came under strain and attack, but we emerged with a result that undisputedly recognized the will of the people.
Despite attempts in some areas to make the process needlessly difficult, voting was orderly. While there was little time to plan, elections officials nationwide successfully responded to the pandemic, dramatically expanding in-person and early voting opportunities. Though we were prepared for it, threats of widespread voter intimidation by extremist groups did not materialize.
As the last remaining ballots are being counted, it is clear that the American people have chosen Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – the first woman, Black woman and Asian-American to be elected vice president – to lead the nation. And while some of us may be disappointed in the wider results, the fact is, a majority of voters rejected another four years of Trumpism in favor of a new path.
Beyond the historic outcome in Georgia, Americans ushered in significant change across many states.
In Mississippi, voters replaced a state flag bearing a Confederate emblem with one featuring a magnolia and also removed a discriminatory Jim Crow-era requirement that statewide candidates receive both the majority vote and the most votes in each House district. In Florida, a gradual increase to a $15 minimum wage was approved. In Delaware, the nation’s first transgender state senator was elected, and for the first time in Kansas, a transgender candidate won a seat in the state House. In New York, voters elected the first openly gay Afro-Latino and openly gay Black members of Congress. In New Mexico, voters chose a U.S. House delegation composed wholly of women of color, another first for the country.
In Alabama, voters authorized the Legislature to remove racist language from their state’s constitution, and in Montgomery – the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement – a property tax was approved to raise critical funds for a public school system with a majority-Black student population. In the Sunbelt states, new, multi-racial voter coalitions formed that could finally shift the balance of power. And throughout the nation, we saw rollbacks of the failed war on drugs, which succeeded only in filling prisons – disproportionately with people of color – in a country that is the world leader in incarceration.
We know this election season has been exhausting and overwhelming – mentally, emotionally, even physically, as so many of us put in long hours working and volunteering to ensure that everyone would have the opportunity to be heard at the ballot box.
But we must remember these hard-won victories are only one step in a long journey for our nation. There’s a great deal of work left to do.
It’s time for all of us to tackle the very real challenges our country faces, from the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic to longstanding issues related to health care, economic justice, racial justice and corrosive white nationalism.
We have an opportunity to bring deep, meaningful change to our nation and people’s lives. As our presidential transition memo – Our Vision for a Just Future – outlines, we look forward to working with the Biden administration, our allies and the communities we serve to:
- Confront hate and build trust in democratic ideals;
- Promote a fair and equitable criminal justice system while working to end mass incarceration;
- Promote a just, humane and welcoming immigration system;
- Expand ballot access and eliminate discriminatory barriers to voting;
- Combat discrimination and promote health, safety and opportunity in the workplace, schools and communities.
We expect the Biden administration to bring a sense of fairness, humanity and decency to the White House and to the policies it implements.
We expect the attorney general and Justice Department to promote racial justice and represent the interests of the people. We expect administration officials to actively combat the pandemic, and to trust science and reason. We expect strong federal policies that protect women, immigrants and LGBTQ people from discrimination. We expect a president who works to heal our country’s wounds and stop the destructive spread of far-right extremism and dangerous conspiracy theories.
We want to thank each and every one of you for all you’ve done – no matter how big or small your actions may seem to you personally – to help create a national culture that demonstrated its unwavering commitment to democracy this week. We will never take that for granted. The work we do would not be possible without you.
We hope you’re able to find some time to rest and recharge in the coming days – because we’ll need you ready to join us as we work to ensure this victory fuels our movement to create a nation where there is justice and equity for all.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminded us, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
This story was updated on November 17.
Photo by Andrea Raffin / Alamy Stock Photo