Waiting to Exhale!…Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Are Elected

By Charles Emmons

On the morning after Election Day, the nation woke up asking, “What happened?”

Perhaps for many, the shock wasn’t as great as it was four years ago. Nevertheless it was time for a little more head scratching.  As the week dragged on, we anxiously awaited to hear who had gained enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency.  By the end of the week, Biden-Harris supporters were relieved, as reflected in the popular Facebook meme advising us: Breathe. 

While at least half of the country did breathe a sigh of relief that Joe Biden would be our next president and Kamala Harris the next vice president, what does that really mean? The hope of those who voted for this history-making duo is for an end to the endless assault on our democracy, its values and functioning representative government, as well as an opportunity to tackle national crises like systemic racism and the coronavirus. 

The expected blue wave didn’t materialize, and the election’s outcome didn’t indicate that a significant majority of the electorate believe the Democrats can lead us out of the perfect storm created by the pandemic, racial injustice, civil unrest, and a faltering economy.  Seventy million plus voters said, “OK, Trump, you can have another four years.”

Still, the fact is that 78 million-plus voters, a record number, voiced their desire for change through the ballot box. This winning block of Americans is calling upon leaders to marshal the forces of decency and fairness back into the White House. They are demanding that the national government rally the forces of science and hope to overcome the great challenges of our time.

As President-Elect explained in his Nov. 7 victory speech, “Now this campaign is over, what is the will of the people? What is our mandate?

“I believe it is this — America has called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science and forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus. The battle to build prosperity. The battle to secure your family’s health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. And the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control.

“The battle to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everyone in this country a fair shot – that is all they are asking for, a fair shot.”

Biden’s stated mandates are: 1) uniting us, 2) addressing systemic racism, 3) managing the corona virus, and 4) revitalizing an economy decimated by the coronavirus. The belief of those who supported his campaign is that he is up to the task, in part because he appears to have empathy and understands the difficulties and pain that many are collectively experiencing.

How did Biden arrive at his victory? President Donald Trump claimed that his opponent’s 47 years of public service were a detriment rather than an asset. At 29, Biden was the fifth youngest person to be elected to the United States Senate, representing Delaware. Soon after that accomplishment, his first wife and young daughter died and his two young sons were injured in a tragic automobile accident. Overcoming his tragic circumstances, Biden continued his service in the Senate, where he focused on foreign policy and judicial issues, becoming known as someone who could work both sides of the aisle.   

He made two bids for the presidency, during which time he faced another tragedy, the death of his son. Joseph “Beau” Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.   

His apparently deep personal relationships appear to have helped him establish strong political partnerships. Among them is House Majority Whip, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. Biden got to know him through time spent vacationing on Kiawah Island, S.C. Clyburn’s relationship with Biden, inside and outside of Washington, led him to proclaim of the candidate’s credibility, “We know him.”

Clyburn recalls discussing Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka with Biden. Civil rights were always of interest to Biden, as he also witnessed demonstrations and the National Guard in the streets of Wilmington in 1968. One of the five cases combined with the Brown case was filed in Biden’s home state of Delaware.   

As a Senator, he has taken some heat for his positions on criminal justice issues that have had long-term effects on the lives of Black people. But, many have pointed out that his stances matched the context of the times and the nuances of politics when he took them.  Clyburn commented in a PBS Frontline interview that in looking at Biden we should not expect perfection akin to the Almighty. 

Biden has admitted that perhaps his support of the 1994 Crime Bill was mistaken. Clyburn provided context, explaining that Newt Gingrich took over as speaker in the fall of 1994 and tried to strip all of the good points out of the bill, including the assault weapons ban and community policing. Clyburn also noted that his constituents in a 100% Black neighborhood in South Carolina pushed him for greater policing in their neighborhoods and mandatory minimums. Like any American, they wanted safe neighborhoods and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus supported numerous crime bills over the years.

Clyburn has been called a kingmaker, because of the scheduling of the South Carolina primary three days before Super Tuesday. His endorsement of presidential candidates has led to their winning this critically-timed primary, which aided both former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in obtaining the national nomination. Though Clyburn held back his public endorsement of Biden, he eventually said that he believes Biden is the right person for the job of president. 

Clyburn explained, “I think it says something for (Biden), the person, for Strom Thurmond to ask him to eulogize him at his service. Same thing with Fritz Hollings. Two senators, both from South Carolina, poles apart politically, both eulogized by the same guy, simply because of the respect that they had for him. And I know a lot of people who disagree with me on almost everything but don’t hesitate to work with me, so I feel the same way about other people. And Joe ought to be proud of having the ability to do that.”

Clyburn stumped through southern states for Biden. And Obama stumped for him in the Midwest as he tried to rebuild the so-called blue wall. Having two of the most powerful and influential Black men in the country endorse Biden speaks highly for his leadership qualifications and temperament.

True to the unwritten code among former presidents, Obama has not being particularly vocal in the past four years of the Trump presidency. However, he broke his relative silence by coming out to help campaign for his friend and former White House colleague.

In a campaign video from a speech in Flint, Mich. in October, Obama expounded, “Joe Biden is my brother. I love Joe Biden. And he will be a great president. Now I’ll admit, 12 years ago, when I asked him to be the nominee for vice president with me when I was running, I didn’t know Joe that well. We had served together in the Senate. But he and I came from different places, part of different generations. But I quickly came to admire Joe as a man who learned early on to treat everybody he meets with dignity and with respect, living by the words his mom taught him, “No one’s better than you, Joe. But you’re no better than anybody else.

“And that sense of decency, and empathy, the belief in hard work and family and faith, the belief that everybody counts, that’s who Joe is. And that’s who he’ll be as president. I can tell you; the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it shows who you are. It reveals who you are. And for eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. And he made me a better president. He’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country. And he and Kamala are going to be in the fight, not for themselves, but for every single one of us.”

Clyburn noted on CNN on Nov. 7 that he had urged Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate, saying, “I gave all my advice to him in private. But I’m very pleased that it was a Black woman selected – I think it cemented his relationship to the Black community.”

With Kamala Harris as the first woman, first African American and first South Asian American on the ballot as vice president, Black women turned out in huge numbers with 91% of them voting for the Biden-Harris ticket.

Biden flipped numerous states to blue on his way to his victory, the last two being Arizona and Georgia. He won a projected 306 Electoral College votes compared to Trump’s 232. It appears that the current president has no chance of being reelected, despite his Twitter complaints and lawsuits about a stolen election and voter fraud. 

Many in the nation are trying to move on and exhale joyously, as we learn from our past, move forward into the future and hope to build a more perfect union.

In his victory speech, Biden concluded, “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States. I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. And what presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail. Tonight, the whole world is watching America. And I believe at our best, America is a beacon for the globe.”