By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
This year was obviously not the first time in my life that I voted nor was it the first time that I’ve had a strong emotional reaction to an election.
At the age of eight, my dad came in to wake me up for school and he told me that Jimmy Carter lost in a landslide. I began wailing. I loved Jimmy Carter, although I’m not sure how that happened in 1979 growing up in a Republican household. I must’ve had a feeling that Regan wasn’t going to be good for Americans. In 1988, as a senior in High School, I was all in for Jesse Jackson, but he didn’t get the nomination with Democrats selecting sacrificial lamb, Mike Dukakis. Dukakis’ 8-point loss to the first George Bush to unnecessarily wage war against Iraq. I was pissed off again in 2000 when Al Gore lost to the second George Bush to unnecessarily wage war against Iraq and then again when Bush beat John Kerry to secure a second term (the only time, by the way, that Democrats have lost the popular vote in the past 20 years (which includes two Dem losses.
Then after eight blissful years of Barack Obama, I, and most of you, were kicked in the political nuts when Donald Trump would win the White House and spend the next four years cementing his legacy as the worst President in U.S. history. He was impeached twice, used his office in an attempt to further his own political and financial future, and launched an unsuccessful attempt to take down the republic. Joe Biden solidly beat Trump but we had to spend three months listening to nonsense about a stolen election.
I have been eagerly waiting for Jan. 20, 2021 since Jan. 20, 2017. I’ve almost felt like I’ve been living in an enemy-occupied territory for four years. And when the moment came that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were finally sworn in, I knew I’d be relieved, but I actually had a physical reaction. I could feel the stress and tension leave my body, the panic in my chest magically disappeared. As I watched Joe Biden and, especially, Kamala Harris being sworn in, I was proud to be an American for the first time in1,460 days.
I wasn’t alone.
I talked to a lot of people yesterday who felt the same thing. And yes, it was because Trump was gone, but it was also because of the history that took place with Harris taking the oath and because of the 17 executive orders he signed, the first steps in undoing some of Trump’s dangerous and divisive policies.
This election has been the centerpoint of everyone’s life for the past 18 months. It didn’t even matter if you were of voting age. It seems like there are few Americans over the age of five that don’t have an opinion on Trump, one way or another. In fact, a friend sent me a picture yesterday of her daughters proudly watching Harris being sworn in (photo at left).
But while yesterday was a good day for many of us, it’s important that we don’t let our relief lead us to complacency. For many progressives, Biden was far from their first choice for the job and we have to remember that. I think there’s no question that Biden will be good for this country. Maybe what we need is a centrist right now, as long as that centrist doesn’t forget about the progressives that helped get him elected.
Case in point. Earlier this week I wrote about state Rep. Jessica Benham taking issue with an inauguration event held by the Democratic Parties of the President’s home states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The only named sponsor of the event was infamous union-busting law firm Ballard Spahr, who have financially donated to Biden’s campaign.
It was a good reminder that while a lot of good will come from Biden’s presidency. It’s our responsibility to make sure that he advances the country and American politics in a new direction. While we’re glad to be rid of Trump, we also need a leader who is willing to make this country livable for everyone; that everyone has a chance to make a decent living, have affordable housing, personal freedoms and live their lives without fear of being killed by police.
Joe Biden could be that leader, but only if we hold him accountable.