Biden and Harris 2020

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del.

Let’s not kid ourselves: after the most historic election in recent memory, the past two weeks have been absolutely tiring.

Following the Nov. 7 consensus that Democratic candidate Joe Biden would become the 46th President of the United States, a sense of relief seemed to sweep through the nation.

Like a climactic scene straight out of “Return of the Jedi,” U.S. citizens from New York to Los Angeles took to the streets to celebrate Biden’s victory — and Trump’s defeat — and pop bottles of champagne in between bouts of celebratory dancing.

Yet, between delayed polling results, the sitting president and his supporters refusing to concede to the victor and widespread misinformation about nonexistent voter fraud, the American public’s faith in the democratic system is fraught. 

As momentous of an occasion it is to see the incumbent defeated, Trump’s defeat and Biden’s victory will not solve our nation’s ongoing problems. An ongoing pandemic, a deluge of racial and class divisions and an environmental cry out for help don’t just go away once the man Sen. Bernie Sanders called the “most dangerous president in modern history” leaves office.

Sure, Biden wields old-school charm to combat Trump’s galvanizing rhetoric, but Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris both have pasts that cannot be ignored. After all, the Biden-Harris ticket came from the same polarized political environment that created a runway for Donald Trump’s far-right populism.

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, a protest to the death of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, we should consider the track records of those inheriting the Oval Office before we celebrate them as progressives just because they aren’t Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

Yes, people change -- but for political figures like the Commander-in-Chief, their past actions have changed the face of this nation in ways still felt to this day.

One source of scrutiny along his journey to the White House was the 1994 crime bill Biden authored under the Clinton administration. The bill “was meant to reverse decades of rising crime, [but] was one of the key contributors to mass incarceration in the 1990s… [that] led to… more aggressive policing — especially hurting Black and brown Americans.”

Harris' record is blemished as well. As Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2017, Kamala Harris “avoided intervening in cases involving killings by the police… she did not step in. Except in extraordinary circumstances, she said, it was not her job.”

The political reputations of the White House’s newest residents, while better than their predecessors', are far cries from that of an empathetic former vice president and a “progressive prosecutor.”

Both Biden and Harris used the campaign trail to make amends with their pasts by appealing to progressive constituents with key endorsements. Already, this is far more than the current president has ever done — or ever will ever do.

Yet, as much as endorsements from former rivals like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren helped boost the pair's progressive messaging, it doesn’t seem their actual administrative policies will follow suit, seeing as both Sanders and Warren are likely to be "frozen out of [the] cabinet” due to Democrats' fears of losing more congressional power.  

With Trump voted out of office in a record turnout, we cannot become compliant with the state of our country. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are an improvement for sure, but that does not mean their administration will be actively progressive — based on their histories, actually, it could be far from it.

As Americans, we must hold those in power close to the fire. After all, they work for us. We gave them the job; let’s make sure they do good by us.

Domenic Purdy is a 19-year old journalism sophomore from Prairieville.

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