After a very stressful and tense election, Joe Biden has been declared the winner. Barring a successful lawsuit, he will be inaugurated as President in January 2021. Over the weekend, many took to the streets to celebrate this victory. For many, Biden’s success marked the end to a largely incompetent and malicious regime. From calling white supremacists “very fine people” to literally getting impeached, Trump has become a symbol of ineffectual leadership. While I won’t claim that it was inappropriate to celebrate, it was perhaps a bit naive. Fortunately, Trump’s blatant disregard of democratic institutions and general lack of politesse will be gone, but what will it be replaced with? In the coming years, we might find that the overt injustices of the Trump regime will be replaced with more subtle ones.
To be clear, I’m not going to attempt to make a “both sides are equally as bad” argument. Positions like these are, in my experience, often reductionist and unhelpful. I simply want to point out that the pursuit of justice is never finished. The injustices people protested during the Trump administration will likely continue, albeit, to a lesser extent and in a more subtle manner. For example, one of the numerous scandals of Trump’s presidency related to ICE concentration camps on the Mexican-American border. It was made apparent to the public that ICE was detaining migrants and imprisoning them in terrible conditions. Other scandals involving forced vasectomies in the camps also emerged. While this information came to public attention during the Trump regime, the camps were established under George Bush in 2007. Surprisingly, the program was greatly expanded under the Obama administration. Despite Obama’s outwardly progressive stance on immigration and support for the expansion of DACA, his administration deported more migrants in 4 years than the Trump administration. While Democratic politicians outwardly encourage immigration, it seems that deportations continued while they were in power, and Biden will likely not be an exception.
Similarly, the killing of civilians via drone strikes remains a constant across both the Obama and Trump administration. The Democratic party is, on the surface, a party that favors peace over war; Republicans are typically the ones characterized as warmongering. In fact, Obama spoke at an anti-war rally in 2002 and maintained a largely pacifist stance before being elected. However, the extrajudicial killing of individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria continues regardless of party affiliation. During Obama’s presidency, 724 civilians were killed by drone strike in Pakistan, 190 of which were children. While the number of civilians killed by the Trump administration greatly exceeds that of the Obama administration, it’s a war crime in both cases.
My point here is to show that although Trump’s actions are consistently despicable, the opposition is not free of blame. While they are not “equally as bad” they are both responsible for gross injustices. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that when given the chance, Americans will stand up for what is right. That being said, I fear that with the election of Joe Biden we will slip back into political complacency. On his campaign website, Biden openly supports dissolving the ICE detention centers. But if he’s against them, why was he complicit during his time in the Obama administration? Similarly, Biden condemns war crimes in the Middle East while, at the same time, remaining complicit in extrajudicial drone strikes. Trump may be gone, but injustice remains. I hope that the political activism of 2020 will extend into the years to come because there is work to be done.