On January 20, it was hard not to feel anxious. Would Trump really leave? Would right-wing demonstrators disrupt the inauguration in D.C., now an armed camp with 25,000 national guards patrolling, and fenced-in government buildings? Would armed right-wingers appear at capitols all over the country? So there was a big sigh of relief when Trump actually departed.
There are many good reasons to be glad to see the chaos and hatred of the Trump presidency end, with its racism, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and Muslim attacks, its denial of climate change and science, its nastiness and lies, its corruption and support of get-rich schemes for the One Percent, its lifting of job safety and environmental protections. And most of all, its refusal to organize the necessary response to COVID-19, and provide support for poor and working people hit by both COVID-19 and a major economic crisis.
The inaugural celebration gave the Democrats a day in the sun. How could we not appreciate the civility of Biden’s words in contrast to Trump’s nastiness, the empathy, the good music, showcasing of the talents of people all over the country, honoring essential workers and those who have helped others in need during the pandemic? The election of Harris, as the first Black, South Asian, and woman Vice President feels like a repudiation of the last four years of Trump’s bigotry.
The Biden administration hit the ground running, with a ramped-up campaign for vaccinations and other steps to combat the pandemic, as well as executive orders on climate change, immigration, the minimum wage, lifting the Muslim travel ban, the extension of relief for food insecurity, unemployment benefits, some relief from rent and student loan debt and many more. Many expressed that it felt like a return to “normal.” It made people feel hopeful again. There were comparisons to the inauguration of Obama who ran on a platform of hope after the Bush years.
No doubt some of the executive orders are good steps — but so small compared to what we need. We cannot be lulled into thinking that having the Democrats back in power is our solution. How many decades of experience do we have, including the disappointment of the eight years of the Obama presidency, to make that clear? Any U.S. president and administration is just a tool in a system that values profits over everything else. Politicians are beholden to this system, to uphold its laws and guarantee the profits of the One Percent. Yes, they may differ as obviously as Trump and Biden do, but in the end it is the bosses and the bankers that call the tune, not these politicians. No. A return to “normal” is not a solution. Normal was already the problem. Normal is how we got where we are right now.
Changes do not come through elections. They come when ordinary people organize and mobilize to make it clear in the streets that we need real change. The fights that we have made against racism and prejudice, to stop climate change, for immigration reform, a minimum wage, healthcare for all, women’s and LGTBQ+ rights, and more are the reasons that pushed Biden to make the kind of inauguration speech that he made. If he rushed to pass these executive orders, it is because of our past struggles.
And here lies the key to how we get the changes we need, want and deserve. It lies with us, with our decisions, our determination, and how well and how quickly we organize and fight — from today on.