The President's Column: We Defeated Donald Trump— Onward to 2021.January 11, 2021
We’ve all got to take our place in the struggles ahead.
Well, we’ve come to the end of 2020.
I can’t say I’m going to miss it. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis in a century, no group of workers has been more needed and more quickly rose to the challenge than the frontline healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes and home care. The country owes you a debt of gratitude.
And of course, in November we saved democracy and pulled the country back from the brink of neo-fascist rule by defeating Donald Trump. For that, every one of you who worked to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris deserves many thanks and congratulations. Donald Trump’s embarrassing refusal to concede simply reaffirms what we already know about him: He is someone who has never believed in democracy. Trump’s tantrums will not alter the fact that Joe Biden received seven million more votes than he did.
And let’s be clear. Working-class voters elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Those who talk about Trump being the working-class choice are speaking mainly of white workers. The majority of the working class is multiracial and multinational. It’s like saying Trump was the choice of women because a majority of white women voted for him. But a majority of all women by far chose Biden. And of course, millions of white workers of every identity voted for Biden and Harris.
We need to understand—and hope that President-elect Biden understands—that we won because of Latinx and Native American voters in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. He won because of African Americans (especially African American women) in Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Atlanta. Which is why Trump’s failed attempts in court to reverse the election results relied primarily on disenfranchising those very voters.
The Trump presidency was based almost entirely on its appeals—subtle and not so subtle—to racism. It appealed to those who could not see Donald Trump as the unashamed, preposterous fraud he is. To his supporters, he was the greatest of great white hopes.
Their refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Biden presidency is an act of disloyalty unsurpassed in American history, except for the U.S. Civil War, when Jefferson Davis and other traitors rose up in violence and tried to destroy the United States of America.
The Trump presidency has been a four-year effort to vandalize democracy. The greatest division in the political life of our country is not between Left and Right, but between fantasy and reality. The Republican Party has become the Cult of Trump.
Republican officials, who knew better, refused to contradict Trump because his base was the Republican base. We are witnessing the decades long descent of a Republican Party that now prefers conspiracy theories to facts, magical thinking to science and delegitimizing elections to substantive and responsible governance.
In the weeks since the election, the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the force of a hurricane. And instead of presidential leadership, we’ve had a thousand Trump tweets complaining about election fraud, in which his lawyers have presented no evidence and more than 40 lawsuits in six states. But there hasn’t been a single tweet about the million COVID cases per week.
And the Republican Party leadership, too, has remained silent.
Their approach has been denial, and a refusal to take even the most basic, low-cost precautions — like requiring that people wear masks in public.
The epidemiological consequences of this cynical irresponsibility have been ghastly and will be still worse until a vaccine is readily available to all. The vaccine news has been very good, and it looks likely that, once available, the Biden administration will distribute it efficiently and fairly.
Defeating Donald Trump was a huge victory, but our work is far from done. We not only have to undo the massive damage Trump has left behind; we are facing ongoing crises that demand immediate, bold action. The first challenge of course is gaining control of the pandemic after 300,000 deaths—100 times the number of fatalities in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In addition, millions of the 15 million-plus COVID survivors in our country will have lasting, even lifelong, symptoms such as headaches, disorientation, dizziness, and gastrointestinal and neurological difficulties.
Joe Biden also inherits a country in turmoil. Unemployment benefits have run out for some 14 million workers. Millions of families have no money for their next rent check or mortgage payment and are facing eviction. Ten million workers lost their health coverage when they lost their jobs in 2020. Food insecurity has tripled for families with children.
With such crises upon us, this will not be a time for half-measures. Among the urgent and imperative needs is a $15 federal minimum hourly wage, rapid expansion of health coverage, cancelation of student debt, the fight against climate change, and comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
Welcome as it would be, we cannot expect any kind of bipartisanship in Congress. The Republican-led Senate did everything possible to undermine Barack Obama and under Trump, it has only gotten worse. Senate Republicans have refused to agree to desperately needed pandemic relief for the poor, the unemployed, and cities and states facing bankruptcy. And we all know how the GOP blocked Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court and other federal courts, only to pack them with far-right judges under Trump. And more than a month after the November election, few leading Republicans were willing to defy Trump and recognize the legitimacy of the Biden-Harris victory.
So if we are going to rescue our country and make it livable for our children and their children, it is going to be up to us to build the kind of coalitions that can force Congress to meet its responsibilities. This means bringing together unions, religious communities, immigrant organizations, civil rights groups, and the many new movements of young people that have risen up in recent years. It was these kinds of movements in the workplaces and the streets that in the 1930s brought us industrial unionism, Social Security, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and an end to child labor. And 30 years later, these coalitions helped secure the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and more.
We are in the midst of a national crisis like those of the 1930s and 1960s and our generation must rise to the occasion like never before. I am confident that you, my 1199SEIU sisters and brothers, will take your rightful place in this fight. Onward to 2021 and the struggles ahead!