On Nov. 7, four days after the most consequential election night in America’s modern history, former vice-president Joseph Biden became the president-elect. Not since the election of 1876, which followed the Civil War and upended America’s short-lived Reconstruction, has an election mattered this much. Accordingly, many responded with celebration: In New York City, people cheered in the streets, alerting apartment dwellers of Biden’s win. In Pennsylvania, the state that tipped the Democratic leader toward victory, some popped champagne, while others cried tears of joy. And in the country’s capital, swarms of people sang “Y.M.C.A.”—a reclamation of the song often played at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies.
The public displays of jubilation were well earned, especially for Americans from marginalized communities. Over the past four years, we have witnessed a disintegration of America’s political norms and values. Trump’s brand of governing has been much like that of his failed businesses: Half-assed—and in the case of our democracy, dangerous. With a pandemic raging and the current occupant of the White House taking zero responsibility for the deaths of nearly 250,000 Americans, the country has been holding its breath. Now, we can breathe a bit easier.
But we cannot lull ourselves into a false sense of security. There’s still plenty of work to do. Throughout Trump’s tenure, we witnessed children in cages, detention centres filled to capacity with undocumented immigrants, unarmed Black people murdered with impunity and a collective uprising against racial injustice that has been centuries in the making. Yet, given all of these misgivings, Trump was able to secure the votes of 70 million Americans. Tens of millions of Americans watched Trump and his family use our country as their own personal piggy bank, celebrate white supremacy, weaponize the military against its own people and ignore a pandemic and still thought to themselves: “That’s my guy.”
What began as a political divide has erupted into two very different realities: Half of the country believes every word that is uttered by a reality TV star who has been recorded as lying on the record more than 20,000 times—most notably when referring to COVID-19 (which he contracted) as a “Democratic hoax.” The rest of us are left fighting in favour of basic human decency, following an administration hell-bent on destroying the hard-won rights of marginalized communities.
This is the America that president-elect Biden is inheriting. That is, if Trump concedes to Biden’s win. While more than 80 million people voted for Biden and America experienced historic voter turnout, Trump still refuses to admit defeat.
But it is with unity—not our longstanding divides—that America will become a more equitable place for all. With the historic turnout in this election by Black Americans and people of colour, millions of voters signalled to the world that Trump’s hold on our country will not go unchecked. While his administration wants us to believe we have no power, what an overwhelming number of Americans proved this month is that we are stronger together. As a collective, we have the ability to rebuild our country.
While we are desperate to turn the page on Trump and this dark chapter in American history, we must learn from this moment so as never to repeat it. We must never forget our power as a people no matter how hard others try to deny us. We can rebuild and reimagine a bigger, bolder and more inclusive America—together.