In the wake of the deadly mob attack on the Capitol, the second impeachment of Donald Trump, and the massive presence of the National Guard in Washington, it will be easy to overlook the significance of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
When Harris is sworn in as vice president, she will become the first woman to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. The fact that Harris, the daughter of Black and South Asian immigrants, will assume the nation’s second highest office is of enormous historical importance.
It is a tangible sign of progress.
So too is the election of Rev. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate from Georgia. Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, will be the first Black senator from Georgia.
He will be joined by Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s first Jewish senator, who was also elected Jan. 5, the day before violent insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.
Their election will give Democrats control of the Senate with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote.
It is easy to be cynical about politics, especially after the dark days of the Trump presidency. The country stands at a dangerous crossroads. The potential for violence from white supremacists, armed militia members and other domestic terrorists is real.
For those who are deeply skeptical that positive change is possible, I offer this: Having grown up in the 1960s, I’ve seen the progress made by the Civil Rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the LGBTQ movement, and the environmental movement.
Systemic racism is so deeply ingrained in our history that it will take many years of hard work and commitment to move our country toward racial, economic, and environmental justice.
There’s reason for hope that the Biden-Harris administration and a Democrat-controlled House and Senate will confront the multiple crises facing the nation.
The incoming president and vice president have promised to act quickly on coronavirus relief and vaccine distribution.
Biden and Harris understand the suffering inflicted by the pandemic. By Inauguration Day, COVID-19 will have killed more than 400,000 Americans, infected more than 24 million, left many millions unemployed and forced closure of countless small businesses.
As president, Biden will bring experience, competence and empathy to the battle against the virus. He and Harris know the pandemic has disproportionately impacted lower-income communities of color. I’m confident they will direct aid to those communities.
Biden’s cabinet choices reflect the diversity of the country. The Biden-Harris team will rebuild federal agencies gutted by Trump, starting with the Justice Department, the State Department, and our national security apparatus.
Belief in science will guide decision-making at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Centers for Disease Control and a host of other federal agencies.
I believe Biden and Harris will address racial injustice, expand health care and confront climate change.
Legislation that ran into a brick wall in the Republican-dominated Senate, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, could become law. The sweeping police reform measure would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It would create a national registry to track police misconduct and would make it easier for victims of excessive force to sue and collect damages.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late Georgia congressman and civil rights leader, may win approval. That bill would reestablish federal review of proposed changes in state and local election procedures and redistricting that disenfranchises voters in communities of color.
After the chaos of the last four years, just having a compassionate and caring human being in the Oval Office will be a change for the better.
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