Opinion: Celebration, Vigilance, And A New Burst Of Energy

Into The Fall Mists. Photo: Monica Cage

Russ Vernon-Jones

We have a President-elect!  We have a President-elect who has named four major priorities for his incoming administration: climate change, racial justice, jobs and economic recovery, and COVID-19.  We have a Vice President-elect who is a woman of color — a Vice President-elect who co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution in the U.S. Senate.  It’s time to celebrate!

I’m well aware that Trump is refusing to concede, fighting to stay in office, and making moves that are damaging to both our democracy and the incoming Biden-Harris administration.  I know not having taken the Senate (yet?) is a major obstacle to progress on all key issues.  I’m as upset as you likely are that over 70 million people voted for the lying, climate-destroying, abuser of women, pandemic-exacerbating, white supremacist Donald Trump.  I’m clear that Joe Biden’s proposals are not as bold as we need.

Celebrate
Nevertheless, we get to celebrate.  We can’t know how messy things will get, and we must remain vigilant, but I think it is most likely that we will get Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into office.  As is being widely reported, Trump’s lawsuits are without evidence.  Recounts are unlikely to undo the substantial Biden margins of victory. Republican legislatures do not appear to be planning to substitute their own slates of Electors to the Electoral College.  While Republican members of the Senate and House have mostly refused to acknowledge Trump’s defeat, no major institutions of the society are actively backing a coup.

Gratitude
I think we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude all those young people, people of color, and people of all identities who organized, persuaded, donated, wrote postcards and letters, and turned out the largest number of voters in history to defeat Donald Trump.  The mainstream media really stepped up and consistently labeled Trump’s charges of fraud in mail-in ballots as baseless and false.  They helped educate people to expect it to take time to count all the ballots, and for there to be a shift toward Biden as more mail-in ballots were counted.  Local election officials of both parties in counties all across the country performed their duties admirably — counting all the ballots with transparency, integrity and remarkable grace.

It could have gone very badly.  Had the Fox News Decision Desk called the election for Trump on election night, had violence erupted in the streets, had the ballot counting been disrupted, and had the news media reported statements from Trump and the Democrats as if they were two legitimate, differing points of view (as they so often have over the last 4 years), we could be in a horrible mess right now.  I think it also mattered that there was a lot of good organizing around “Count every vote!” and people ready to spring into action on that basis if needed.

Continued Vigilance
Trump’s options for disrupting the election results are not exhausted.  Jeannie Suk Gersen’s column in The New Yorker, “How Far Could Republicans Take Trump’s Claims of Election Fraud?”, lays out some troubling possibilities of Republican state legislatures and Congress meddling with the Electoral College votes. Trump’s current efforts to lead his 70 million voters to believe that the election was not legitimate and was stolen from him/them is a disastrous undermining of the faith and trust upon which democracy is built, with potentially very serious long-term consequences.  We must be ready to raise an uproar of protest and resistance if there is yet a significant coup attempt, however unlikely that appears at the moment.

Energy For The Tasks At Hand
The prospect of not having Trump in the White House after January 20th is truly a joyful one.  We can allow it to lift our spirits and renew our energy.  With a renewed sense of our significance and meaning we can turn our attention to the tasks now at hand.  

  1. Winning the two Senate run-off races in Georgia would dramatically transform the next few years of our existence and is critical to the climate action needed for this planet to be livable.  If you’ve written letters or postcards, made phone calls, donated money before, or if you’ve never done those things, now is the time!  Rarely has an election in one state had such global implications.  Let’s all get involved.
  2. Joe Biden is a good man, but he is unlikely to be as assertive and visionary as we need him to be unless there is a groundswell of demand for bold action on both climate and racial justice Now is the time to join a local climate organization; write to your newspapers, representatives, and business leaders; organize an online teach-in or book group; and get people around you talking.  Let’s get people talking about a Green New Deal, about concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy, and about a just transition to a society grounded in sustainability, love, and equity.

This election has lifted a burden off of us.  With renewed hope and energy let’s connect with each other, support each other, and work together to build the world we want for everyone.

Russ Vernon-Jones was the Principal of Fort River Elementary School from 1990-2008.  He is a co-facilitator of the Coming Together Anti-Racism Project in the Amherst area.  He chairs the Racism, White Supremacy, and Climate Justice working group of Climate Action Now of Western Mass, and blogs regularly on climate justice at www.RussVernonJones.org.

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1 thought on “Opinion: Celebration, Vigilance, And A New Burst Of Energy

  1. I absolutely agree with russ. Social change is always a mini step process. This particular step is enormous. Yes, there will still be much work to be done. Yes, if we are lucky, fighting will at least undo the vast damage DT has inflicted. Yes, he is a moderate centrist. And yes, he can be pushed to the left. We’ve seen that over and over during this campaign. So we have our work cut out for us!

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