By Benjamin Jealous, president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation
After four exhausting years of President Donald Trump and four excruciating days of vote counting, the election was called for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Saturday. Hallelujah!
Those days of counting felt agonizingly slow to many of us, but the momentum was always on our side: Democratic voters—mostly Black voters—in and around Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta delivered the battleground state votes needed to deny Trump a second term. In Nevada and Arizona, Latino and Native American voters provided crucial votes.
News that Pennsylvania put Biden over the top sparked dancing in the streets and tears of joy in many households. So did the sight of Kamala Harris making her historic appearance as our next vice president—the first woman, first Black woman, first South Asian woman, to be elected to the White House.
In his speech Saturday night, Joe Biden made it clear that he understands how much he owes to Black folks. “The African American community stood up again for me,” he said. “They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.”
We will all need to help Biden make good on that commitment with policies that address our communities’ needs.
There’s a lot to do.
We need a more effective response to COVID-19 pandemic and its particularly hard impact on the health and economic well-being of people of color.
We need a vision and a plan for an economy that does not leave Black communities behind, an economy where opportunity is widely available and prosperity is widely shared—not one that strips wealth out of middle-class and lower-income families and funnels it to the richest people in the world.
We need to eliminate voter suppression strategies—and resist ongoing efforts by Trump and his allies to delegitimize and overturn his decisive defeat.
We need to confront the systemic racism that leads to police killings of Black men, women, and children—killings for which justice far too often is delayed and denied.
We need to address the corruption of our federal court system by Trump and Senate Republicans and the hard-right judges they have spent four years packing into our federal courts, which we can no longer count on to uphold our constitutional and civil rights.
All those jobs will be made so much harder if Republicans maintain control of the Senate. The unprincipled obstructionist Republican leader Mitch McConnell has turned that half of Congress into a graveyard for legislation the American people need to advance the vision of a more just society for which we just voted.
So, we have work to do, right now, in Georgia, where two U.S. Senate races are headed for runoffs in early January. Both races feature corrupt, Trump-enabling Republicans who represent the worst kind of politician. Both are being challenged by smart, progressive Democrats who will help Biden and Harris achieve good things for the American people.
Those victories in Georgia are achievable, largely in part to the brilliant organizing work of my dear friend Stacey Abrams. She responded to her own unjust defeat in Georgia’s race for governor in 2018 by leading a coalition that registered hundreds of thousands of new voters and turned the state blue this year.
She believes Democrats can absolutely win the Senate runoffs, and that the outcome of those races will help determine whether we have access to health care and access to justice in the U.S. The excellent Democratic candidates, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, need and deserve all the support we can give them.
Defeating Trump and electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was a huge victory. Let’s celebrate, get a good night’s sleep or a long nap, and get back to work.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. Jealous has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.
This article originally appeared in the Jacksonville Free Press.