The fight isn’t over

Don’t become complacent during the Biden administration — he’ll only be as progressive as we push him to be.

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Christina Xiong

It’s easy to be relieved at a Biden presidency, but don’t get too comfortable; progressives must continue the fight for change.

By Alex Schupak

Just today, Biden was sworn into office, marking the end of four years of Trump’s hateful and divisive presidency. Outside the Capitol, people on the streets proudly waved American flags as Biden swore to uphold the oath of office. Biden is now the 46th president of the United States, and many Whitman students couldn’t be happier.

But, while the election results may bring joy to most Whitman students, it’s important to remember that it will not end all our country’s problems. COVID-19 is still surging, millions of Americans have no access to healthcare and little has been done to check climate change — we should not be celebrating yet. Solving these critical issues requires strong, decisive leadership, and Biden may not be up to the task; his unremarkable career in politics and aversion to progressive policy should still concern students.

If student activists want to see progressive policy realized in the Oval Office, now is the time to fight tooth and nail. We need to snap out of election euphoria and start demanding action.

During the primaries, Biden’s checkered political history was one of the reasons progressive Democrats found it difficult to support him.

“He was definitely one of the worst choices that they could have made,” said sophomore Jacopo Villani, co-leader of the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at Whitman. “His track record is awful.”

While in Congress, Biden was friendly with segregationists, drafted the 1994 Crime Bill that led to the mass incarceration of African Americans and, like many moderate Democrats, chose not to support gay marriage and transgender rights until it was politically convenient.

His past actions — or inactions — are not the only thing worrying young Americans. For many students, Biden’s recent cabinet appointees have been disappointing; his selection represents largely either establishment politicians with connections to large corporations or Obama era holdouts.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, whom Biden appointed to be his “climate liaison,” has received significant funding from the fossil fuel industry. Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has ties to venture capital funds, which could signal conflicts of interest. The president-elect’s choice for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, oversaw a drone strike program in the Middle East which killed hundreds of civilians, and helped cover up a CIA torture program; both are widely regarded as human rights violations.

That’s not to say that all Biden’s picks have been missteps. Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve and Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary, has received public support from Elizabeth Warren and will be the first woman to take this position. Biden’s pick for Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, will be the first Native American cabinet secretary and has a proven track record in environmental protection policy. Still, the more bureaucratic corporatists Biden selects for his inner circle, the less willing he may be to embrace necessary, progressive and sometimes controversial legislation.

Biden has already shown a disappointing tendency to shy away from progressive policy. Instead of Medicare-for-all, he plans on creating a public option that will lead to unequal healthcare coverage. As an alternative to the bold environmental reforms of the Green New Deal, he has unveiled the “Biden Plan,” which attempts to compromise with an existential climate crisis instead of tackling it head on. Though the plan is comparatively ambitious to those of past administrations, it fails to ban fracking, which pollutes groundwater and destroys wildlife. Additionally, Biden’s immigration proposals stop short of creating robust and lasting change in a system that is in dire need of reform. The incoming administration’s immigration policy seems to simply reverse Trump’s policies, rather than offering new proposals.

“I feel like these policies, they’re just not the solutions,” Villani said. “They’re putting a Band-Aid on the actual problem.”

Biden’s agenda, or at least a great deal of it, falls under his mantra of “bridging the gap” with Republicans. This sentiment, while upstanding and neighborly in day-to-day life, only gives more leverage for congressional Republicans to obstruct progressive efforts.

Middle-of-the-road compromises will never be able to move our country forward. In fact, decades of ineffective moderate policy is one reason why an outsider like Trump appeals to large portions of the electorate. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to move past hating Trump and start critiquing the system that put him in power.

There’s a reason the foundational inequities of our country — the electoral college, gerrymandering, mass incarceration — have withstood decades without reform: many well-off Americans are simply not impacted by these inequities, so they do not care enough to advocate for progressive policies to solve them. However, America now faces a series of existential crises that could puncture the suburban bubble.  Without action soon, every American will feel the effects of far-reaching problems like climate change and COVID-19. We must push for a progressive agenda as a community, not solely for our own interests, but for all the people of our country.

In the political arena, legislators weigh the competing interests of money and public backlash. Our job should be to make it clear to politicians that progressive policy will garner them public support. We should critique Biden with the same political fervor we had to critique Trump; we must stop attending celebrations and start attending protests.

With Trump soon to be out of office, it’s time to face even larger challenges. Find an issue, a club or a protest, get involved and spread the word. Explain so-called “radical changes” so they sound reasonable and necessary. Most importantly, when Biden assumes office, don’t allow yourself, or anyone that voted for him, to become politically apathetic. It’s your responsibility as a citizen to demand the best from your government.

“Nothing gets done unless there’s enough people out there, loudly, asking for it,” junior Jack Scheetz said. “Liberals and progressives want similar things. You just have to show them there is a much more effective way of going about and actually achieving those things.”