It’s safe to say that many Americans exhaled a sigh of relief after the recent presidential election results trickled in, declaring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the next President and Vice President of the United States.
For many, this feeling of relief was the result of watching the Trump administration disgrace the position of President of the United States by fostering hatred and xenophobia throughout the nation over the last four years. For most left-leaning individuals, this election was about choosing the “lesser of two evils,” or essentially doing whatever we could to remove Trump from office.
And while this is an achievement worth celebrating, many across the nation were also celebrating Biden and Harris’ win claiming that they will solve systemic oppression within the country. But the reality is, they won’t.
Both Biden and Harris have questionable records that deserve to be probed and for which they deserve to held accountable. For example, Biden’s support for the 1994 Crime Bill resulted in a rapid increase in rates of mass incarceration, specifically within Black and Brown communities. Another example is Harris’s denying an incarcerated transgender woman gender affirming health care. At the end of the day they are just two people, and expecting them to end systemic oppression in just one term is incredibly naïve.
The effects of the last 400 years of systemic oppression existed long before Biden and Harris were born, let alone became elected officials, and will continue to exist long after they leave office. And while it is clear that they were better choices for office than Trump and Pence, and want to remedy these issues, the responsibility of managing these issues cannot solely fall on them.
First, placing the enormous responsibility of dismantling systematic oppression on the President and Vice President ignores the impact that the other branches of government have in lawmaking and eradicating injustice. It is crucial that we as a people pay attention to elections specifically in the legislative branch, as it is incredibly difficult for any president to enact change without support from both the House and the Senate. This is especially true this election year as the Georgia Senate runoff elections will determine which party has the majority in the senate.
Right now, winning the senate is crucial for Democrats because it increases the likelihood of progressive legislation being passed. The senate also confirms Supreme Court justices and having the majority would allow more liberal judges to be appointed, confirmed and interpret the law in ways that would likely protect marginalized communities.
While it is any elected officials’ job to serve in the best interests of their constituents, we the people elect them, which also places a large responsibility on us in ending inequality. It is our job and our right to hold politicians accountable for their actions and any legislation they may enact that is unfair or may negatively impact us.
It is also incredibly important to remember that the President and Vice President address issues on a national level. Therefore, injustice will still exist within our towns, cities and communities, and there is little our national government will be able to do to address it, leaving us with the brunt of the responsibility.
This is why state and local elections are crucial in the fight to eradicate injustice. The President and Vice President only have time to be concerned with national issues, and therefore will often be unable to address concerns within smaller communities throughout the country. By participating in these elections, we elect officials whose primary concerns and responsibilities are to better the community they serve, giving us a better chance of cultivating a more inclusive society.
At the end of the day, while we can and should be hopeful of what a Biden and Harris administration can bring to our country, we must remember that politicians cannot and should not be expected to save us, and that sometimes, it is our responsibility to do so.