This past weekend marked the beginning of the end of what may be the one of the most controversial presidencies in history. Seeing as our current president has been accused of sexual assault, fraud, and racism continuously during his four years in power, it’s clear why this was such a high-stakes election for a large number of Americans. Many of us sat by the TV each night, anxiously watching as the ballots were counted. Many of us obsessively checked the election map on our phones during the day. And many of us developed an emotional attachment to John King and Chris Cuomo, or maybe that was just me.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that a large number of Americans let out a sigh of relief when the results were finally announced last Saturday morning, confirming Joe Biden as president-elect. Although some states are still counting or recounting ballots, Biden was announced victor because he was the first to surpass 270 electoral votes, despite several high-ranking Republican officials refusing to acknowledge his victory.
There’s a lot to celebrate about this result for many, as it confirms Kamala Harris as the first female vice president and the first Vice President of Black and South Asian descent. However, it’s crucial to remember that the fight for social justice does not end just because the presidential election has. While many viewed Biden’s win as a win for equality and justice for all, the work is far from done. It can certainly be argued that the removal of President Donald Trump from office in January will do a tremendous amount of good for communities of color and minority groups, seeing as roughly 50 percent of Americans believe him to be racist. But it is still important to remain educated and involved in local and state elections, not to mention hold the president-elect and vice president-elect accountable for their actions and promises once they assume power.
First off, while the results of the presidential election flooded just about every popular news station, it’s likely that the results of your local or even state election didn’t. So look them up!
Learning what candidates and propositions were passed not only shows the results of your vote, but also presents you with the opportunity to remain involved. If you don’t know much about a certain person or stance, do some research. Being an educated citizen is part of your civic duty. Not only will it help you formulate political opinions on a smaller level, but it’ll also allow you to push for any change that you are passionate about.
The past eight months have been filled with insurmountable injustices, from the continued exposure of inequalities in the justice system to the violent tear-gassing of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. This makes it all the more important to speak up when you witness wrongdoings and corruption.
We need to keep this fervor for equality and justice at the forefront of our nation, and use it to encourage legitimate change on all levels, not just the national level. Considering that changing legislation on the local or even state level is oftentimes a lot easier to accomplish than at the national level, we need to make sure to focus our attention there even after a large election.
A prime example of this is the gradual implementation of chokehold bans across the country after the murder of George Floyd by chokehold. States such as Florida, California, and New York were quick to ban the restraint across all police forces within the state, whereas other states have only managed to ban the chokehold in specific cities, such as Denver, Houston, and Minneapolis. Most of these policies were implemented back in the summer, as the process for putting city- or state-wide legislation into action is a lot quicker than that of the national level. So while the entirety of the U.S. has yet to ban the chokehold from police practices, it was the voice of the people that pushed so many states and cities to do so immediately.
Holding the president and vice president-elect accountable for their actions and promises is equally as important, especially considering that roughly 56 percent of those who voted for Biden did so because “he is not Trump” rather than because they supported his policies. Some organizations have already started on this. For example, the leaders of the Black Lives Matter Global Network recently wrote an open letter to Biden and Harris regarding their plans to tackle systemic racism in America, and even requested to meet with them in person. Additionally, there are sites such as BidenJusticeDemands.com that list out potential executive orders and actions that Biden and Harris can implement, even without winning the Senate, that would champion justice and equality for all.
The 2020 election broke many voter records, with 101 million early ballots cast and roughly 150 million voters in total. It has been estimated by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement that the youth vote, ages 18–29, has made up almost 20 percent of all votes, so we’re looking at around 30 million youth votes.
This level of civic engagement is wonderful, as it means that our democracy is functioning properly and incorporating as many Americans as possible. But now is not the time to drop your guard; this momentum that has built up, this surge for education and reform is just as important post-election as it was before it. Continuing forward as an educated and involved citizen will help push for that.
At the end of the day, this may have been the first presidential election that many of us have been able to vote in, but it won’t be the last. As college students, we are the future of America, and whatever policies that get implemented or actions that are taken will be present in our lives moving forward. So it’s crucial that we remain involved and vocalize how we want the future of our country to look. The wheels have already been set in motion by the sheer turnout of the 2020 presidential election, now it is up to us to keep that momentum going.
Art by Angela Liang for the UC San Diego Guardian