Four days after Election Day, Joe Biden was projected as the president-elect. For the first time since 2016, it finally feels like we can breathe again—I certainly feel that way. Thinking that things will return to normal is appealing; we won’t have to worry about our president starting World War III through a tweet, right? Sounds pretty normal. But maybe our pre-Trump conception of normal wasn’t actually as good as we remember it.
Looking back on the pre-Trump years of American politics feels nice. There’s a sort of nostalgia about the days when it felt like Republicans were respectable, when we had a progressive president like Barack Obama. But really, that perspective is equivalent to looking back with rose-colored glasses.
Donald Trump’s presidency has revealed an underbelly of American politics that is disgustingly cruel. During the past four years, we have turned on our televisions to see children in cages at the US-Mexico border, thousands dead from COVID-19 and explicit white supremacy from our leaders.
But we shouldn’t just ignore that side of America because Trump won’t be president in a few months. Trump’s leaving office doesn’t mean the cultural shift he brought to America is leaving, too.
Seventy-five million Americans voted for a man who refused to denounce white supremacy. A concerning number of Republicans believe in the debunked conspiracy known as QAnon that claims that Hillary Clinton ate children. Those people aren’t going away, and neither are their beliefs. Donald Trump’s actions have left lasting effects on the United States, and we need to work very hard to right those wrongs.
The distasteful aspects of Trump’s presidency are not exclusive to his administration, or even to the Republican Party. Donald Trump’s treatment of immigrants was not an outlier in American immigration policy. Under Barack Obama, for example, immigrants at the Southern border were kept in overcrowded, inadequate facilities eerily similar to those overseen by Trump,, though Trump’s were significantly worse. Both Obama and Trump approved of drone strikes in the Middle East, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, continued to exist under both presidents.
Joe Biden isn’t going to fix everything that Donald Trump broke, especially with a Republican-led Senate. When he is in office, we need to hold him accountable.
It’s fine to feel relieved that our president isn’t Donald Trump anymore. It’s fine to even celebrate—a Biden-Harris presidency will certainly be historic. We cannot stop advocating for what you believe in simply because there is a candidate you support in office. Now, more than ever, is the time to advocate for progressive policies, since there is now a higher likelihood of their getting passed under a relatively progressive administration.
Remember: Our elected officials are meant to serve us. They should be listening to us, their constituents. That applies to every politician, from local city council members to the president.