After living through four years of an endless horror franchise, Joseph Biden gets sworn in today as commander in chief. Kamala Harris, in a historic moment for the US, gets sworn in as the first woman of color Vice President. And they have so much wreckage laying before them. No easy reset button will fix it or spirit it away. The pressure is on their administration to do right by a country reeling from a traumatic relationship with a white supremacist tyrant, and rightfully so. We reached out to our authors to ask what they want Biden and Harris to know, understand, or be aware of. On Inauguration Day, we share their responses with you.
By J. A. Mills | I’ve lived in Washington, DC, for twenty years, but I’ve only been inside the US Capitol a handful of times. For meetings, hearings, and receptions related to protecting wild tigers, rhinos, and bears. I love this city for her vast green areas and restrictions on building height that bring attention to the sky, the dome of the Capitol, and the soaring Washington Monument. I also love her for her residents of all colors and beliefs, whom I overhear on the sidewalks speaking many of the languages of the world.
By David R. Dow | According to reporting from Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, President Trump was already exploring the possibility of pardoning himself, even before a riotous mob incited by Trump’s tweets and baseless charges of a stolen election stormed and defiled the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, the day Congress was meeting to fulfill its duty under the Twelfth Amendment to count the states’ electoral votes for President and Vice-President.
New Year, New Attempted Coup. Just as we were celebrating the triumphant results of the Georgia runoff election, the insurrection at the Capitol began. And we looked on with anger and weariness. Not disbelief, though. Less than a month before his Twitter account was suspended, the tyrant in chief rallied a mob of low-bar Civil War cosplayers for the “big protest” on January 6. It would be foolhardy to claim we did not see this coming a mile away after four years of a president inciting violence and race-baited backlash in white nationalists and scores of his other supporters. Here’s what our authors had to say about it.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | It seems eons ago, the youth-led climate strike of September 20, 2019 that brought four million people onto the streets worldwide. I was on the sidewalk outside Seattle City Hall, watching thousands of school-skippers march by. And then behind the teens came waves of exuberant people, no more than a decade or two older, their homemade signs held aloft: tech workers, including hundreds of Amazon workers who had stepped out of their comfortable cubicles and palatial glass towers to join the global walkout.
By Eileen Truax | “Good afternoon, Senator Sanders. My name is Odilia Romero, Indigenous Bene Xhon.” Standing onstage at the Casa del Mexicano in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in east Los Angeles, Odilia holds a microphone in one hand and in the other her speech for Bernie Sanders, then a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. It was May 4, 2016, and in the auditorium beneath the fifty-foot-high domed ceiling, four hundred people had gathered, a mix of pro-immigrant organizations, young activists, and members of the Latina community.
By Kyle T. Mays | African Americans and Native Americans in urban districts and on reservations were major reasons why Joe Biden won the presidency. To be sure, Trump’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus and racism were fundamental reasons why people voted him out. But the people in Detroit, Philadelphia, the Navajo Nation, and other locales put Biden in office. The importance of the Black and Indigenous vote underscores their importance to American democracy—a democracy that many, including French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville believed would never happen.
Senator Kamala Harris’s win in the 2020 presidential election is an intersectional triumph. As she expressed in her acceptance speech, she will be the first woman, first Black American, and first South Asian American to serve as vice president. She also brings interfaith cred to the Oval Office, the likes of which we last saw when Obama was commander in chief. Her success means so much to so many people, and we are anxious to see how she and President-elect Joe Biden plan to undo the damage of the reality-TV administration. Here is what some of our authors had to say.
By Susan Katz Miller | With Kamala Harris as our new Vice President elect, interfaith families reach a new level of prominence in America. Harris is not only the first woman and the first Black person to be Vice President; she will also be the first interfaith kid and the first person in an interfaith marriage. Harris epitomizes Generation Interfaith: she represents a religious trifecta with a Christian parent, a Hindu parent, and a Jewish husband.
A Q&A with Hilary Levey Friedman | The organizers could make it happen, and the contestants wanted to compete (one exception is Miss Wyoming USA, who had to withdraw due to school obligations and her first runner-up stepped in a few days before the competition started). How could they make it happen? Endeavor, which owns Miss USA, also owns UFC and manages other sporting events, and they have been successfully organizing events since May. They were able to find a network and venue—FYI and Graceland respectively—where production and contestants could be safely housed together on a timeline that worked.
A Discussion with Frances Moore Lappé, Adam Eichen, and David Daley | I know that Biden has said that democracy reform is important, and I wish he had highlighted it more. And who knows? It may take another march or several more marches. But I feel like we are in a different world today. President Trump is such an alert. Most people understand that this was a presidency that was not a fluke, but rather a direct product of a highly broken, warped system not in favor of the people. That’s clear now, and that’s a big gain for us. People are more awake.
By Polly Price | Well, it’s official. A presidential administration that left US citizens to sink or swim when facing the worst pandemic in a century has finally admitted what we already knew. It has given up. Saying the quiet part out loud, White House Chief-of-Staff Meadows acknowledged the coronavirus task force no longer even pretends to address the spread of the virus. But this is no surprise to anyone paying attention. This presidential administration was never interested in using the full power, resources, and authority of the federal government to combat COVID-19. And shamefully, it shows.
A Discussion with Andreas Karelas, Katharine Hayhoe, and Bill McKibben | Bill, I was recently flipping through your book Falter, and one of the things you write that speaks to a big portion of Climate Courage is that we have two technologies that, if employed, could be decisive to the era: the solar panel and the nonviolent movement. RE-volv, the nonprofit that I founded, finances solar-energy projects for nonprofits that otherwise couldn’t go solar. Those nonprofits can then reduce their electricity costs, benefit the people they serve even more so, and demonstrate to the community the benefits of solar energy.
By Gustavus Stadler | I knew that when my book came out, I would inevitably be asked questions like, “What would Woody Guthrie do today? Where would he stand on this issue? What would he think of this candidate or that elected official?” I’m mostly accustomed to writing about topics at least several decades distant from the present, and I try hard to honor the otherness of the past, rather than portray it as a simpler version of the now. Plus, responses to such questions so often depend more on the projections of the answerer than on historical evidence.
By Enrico Gnaulati | Under normal circumstances, family life in America is a “fire shower of stress, multi-tasking, and mutual nitpicking” according to journalist Benedict Carey, covering the results of a four-year-long UCLA observational study of thirty-two urban families for the New York Times. A survey funded by Sleepopolis a few years back discovered that kids have an eye-popping 4,200 arguments with their parents before they turn eighteen, averaging fourteen minutes long, with parents “winning” upwards of sixty percent of the time.
We were hoping Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would hold out through November. After serving twenty-seven years on the nation’s highest court, she passed away on September 18. She was eighty-seven. A legal, cultural, and feminist icon and champion of gender equality, she was an inspiration, a bastion of strength and courage. We asked some of our authors to reflect on her legacy and share their remembrances here.
A Q&A with Sumbul Ali-Karamali | I grew up Muslim and bicultural (Indian and American) in a time and place where I happened to be the only Muslim most of my acquaintances knew. So I got saddled with answering all their questions! Not only did I become good at answering questions about Islam in a way that those around me could understand and relate to (starting in elementary school!), but I also found I really loved coming up with answers that built bridges between my religious-cultural community and theirs. The questions I got were never addressed in the media and still aren’t.
President Ronald Reagan won over voters with his Midwest wholesomeness, his rehearsed charisma forged from years as a B-movie actor, and more importantly, his “old-fashioned” American pride. His sense of American pride appealed massively to white conservatives, as well as converts to Republicanism, and threw obstacles in the path of civil rights legislation. His racist policies were devastating for Black and Brown Americans during his presidency, and the effects still resonate today.
By Philip Warburg | In his newly released $2 trillion energy and infrastructure plan, Joe Biden set a nationwide goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. Solar power figures prominently in his plan, but it’s not clear whether low-income households will share in this historic opportunity. With racial injustice and economic inequality gaining long-overdue attention, we need to look at the gap between established homeowners who have solar power on their homes and people living in more modest circumstances who can’t afford this climate-friendly investment.
By Kavita Das | America, “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” has long been a beacon to people around the world who journeyed to this country seeking freedom from political, cultural, or religious tyranny. We tout ourselves as a country where everyone is free to be who they are and live out their ideals. But America’s brand of absolute freedom can be lethal. Our red, white, and blue banner of freedom cloaks selfishness and greed.