The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy.
— Isaiah 9:2–3
After four long and horrible years, the Trump error has come to an end.
Today, at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as the forty-sixth President and forty-ninth Vice President of the United States of America. Both are history makers: Biden is the oldest person ever to be inaugurated as President, while Harris is the first woman, the first Black person, and the first Asian American to serve as Vice President.
The Biden-Harris inauguration comes at a pivotal and perilous moment in American history. Everywhere we look, our country faces grave threats, from homegrown fascist movements to climate damage to system racism, poverty/income inequality, and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Rarely has our country so badly needed steady, competent, and effective leadership as it does on this day, January 20th, 2021.
For me, this long-awaited occasion brings to mind another date in American history, nearly a century ago, when America was at another nadir: March 4th, 1933. On that day, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the oath of office to become President of the United States and declared to an anxious nation:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
– Excerpt from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address (March 4th, 1933)
We need that same New Deal spirit today to rebuild our broken country.
01/20/2021 may well be remembered as a day that served as a bridge between two historic presidencies: one that could rank as the worst for a very, very long time, and one that our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute hopes will be remembered as restorative and a model of responsibility.
For four years, we have walked in darkness towards a better future, resisting and persisting. We have seen the light before today, but now we actually get to step into it. And oh, how wonderful and warm it feels!
Just think: Donald Trump no longer has the nuclear codes. Stephen Miller no longer works in the Executive Office of the President. Mike Pompeo no longer speaks for this country as its top diplomat. America’s wrong wing no longer has the power to sabotage the census, suppress science, put kids in cages, start wars, or loot and plunder our public lands from within the White House.
That’s worth celebrating. We had to overcome a lot to get to this moment.
Last night, as I was contemplating what to write today, an email came from the Biden-Harris transition press office: the Daily Guidance and Press Schedule for Wednesday, January 20th, 2021, the first day of the Biden-Harris administration. Opening that email and looking through the schedule for today was incredibly gratifying. This is real, I thought. This is happening. Our nation will have real leadership again from people who understand the value of service.
We cannot, of course, forget that over 400,000 Americans have died from SARS-CoV‑2, a virus that the now-ended Trump-Pence regime barely bothered to combat. We cannot forget the crimes against humanity perpetrated at our borders, or the aid and comfort given to American fascists and autocratic regimes around the world by the people who occupied our executive branch for four years, or the thirteen barbaric executions they arranged, or the continuation systemic racism that they endorsed, or the environmental destruction they plotted.
But we must and should commend ourselves for all we did to fight against all of the above and reach this moment. When you’re going through hell, keep going, the old adage goes. And so we did. For four years, we kept going, with the understanding that we would need to fight until we couldn’t anymore.
Some of companions on this journey, sadly, didn’t make it.
When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oath a short time ago, I thought of the stalwart progressive activists we’ve lost over the last few years. People like Al Garman, Elaine Phelps, Priscilla O’Leary, and Alex Hendrickson. They didn’t live to see the end of the Trump error, but they’re with us in spirit nonetheless.
In electing Biden and Harris, those of us who remain have fulfilled our obligations to them to carry on their work, and put our country on a path to a better future.
Today, in their honor, and in the memory of everyone we’ve lost to COVID-19 or police brutality, we begin a new chapter in America’s story. A chapter that we hope will be characterized more by progress and possibilities realized than by tragedy and suffering. Let’s go forward, further into the light, together.