A future to fight for

Learn what a student has to say about the election outcome and his hopes for a brighter future.

Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

In my eighth grade classroom, two days after the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, I sat down to write a letter to myself. Being so distraught, I wanted to write to remind my future self of the pain that I felt, the fear that was prevalent, and the countless scenarios that were going through my head about how the next four years could play out. And, as to be expected, much of what I feared came true.

Earlier this month, when the election was officially called for President-elect Joe Biden, I was exuberant. Biden’s election put an expiration date on this dark era that I contemplated in November of 2016. As someone who is a part of a group that was marginalized by the Trump administration, who has family and friends who suffered under its policies, I can breathe in a way I couldn’t for the past four years knowing that the target placed on my back will soon be gone for good. However, though I felt relieved that Americans had rejected another four years of bigotry, I still felt unfulfilled.

In 2020, we had a chance to reject Trumpism at every level of the ballot. We had a chance to punish a political party for standing by the pain he caused for the last four years. The chance to hold accountable a political party that supports a president who called white supremacists in Charlottesville “good people,” who tried to take away healthcare from millions of citizens in need, who refused to wear masks en masse, and who denied that Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, we saw nothing like that.

Republicans have gained seats in the House of Representatives. They have a great shot to hold onto the Senate, something that wasn’t expected going into the election. Democrats have failed to flip either state legislative chamber in Pennsylvania, despite being on track to win at least one, and they’ve lost two of three statewide offices, despite Biden carrying the state’s twenty electoral votes. These may seem like trivial losses compared to the presidency, which undoubtedly is the biggest prize on the ballot, but they matter more than some may realize.

With the 2020 census now complete, Republicans will have a greater influence in redistricting not just Pennsylvania but the entire country. They will allow gerrymandering to run rampant for another ten years in critical swing states. Even while President-elect Biden may be in the White House, Republicans will have a good shot at blocking any agenda to rebuild the country after the Trump presidency, and if they take the Senate, Biden’s plans are as good as dead on arrival. So while I’m obviously glad to see Trump ousted, in a repudiation that few incumbent presidents have received, I can’t help but feel devastated at the losses that have occurred lower on the ballot, and what it means for progress in this country.

In that 2016 letter I wrote to myself, I asked future me a simple question: “What did you do?” I’m glad to answer today that since then I did everything I could. I volunteered, organized for candidates and platforms, and I hope that I’ve encouraged more people around me to pay attention to what’s going on in our nation. But even with Trump gone, this isn’t a time to get complacent. The Republican Party will not suddenly become more moderate with its positions on social and economic issues just because its rhetorically abhorrent leader is gone. The Republicans are still going to push the same policies they did for the last four years, especially since 2020 didn’t deliver them a great enough rebuke at the ballot box to remove them from the positions of power to enact these policies.

The message is this: we can celebrate today. I will say the word “former” before President Trump’s title with pride. But we cannot get complacent. There is too much at stake and too much that threatens the rights and success of too many in this country for us to stop the fight here. So enjoy the new dawn come January when Biden steps into the White House. But don’t think it’s time to go back to normal. We still have to push the Biden administration on key priorities and stop Republicans from keeping the policies of the past four years alive. We still have to ask our future selves, “What did you do?” If you didn’t do enough the last four years, get involved now and make the next four count. Hopefully in a few years’ time, you’ll have an answer you’re proud of.