Looking Back to Move Forward: Reflections on the 2020 Election
In the wake of the 2020 elections, the National Council of Jewish Women’s Government Relations & Advocacy Intern and Fellow have each offered their unique perspectives on the historic Biden-Harris win. Today’s post comes from Ryan Greenberg, a graduate student at American University and NCJW’s Fall 2020 Government Relations and Advocacy Fellow.
November 9, 2016. I remember sitting on the train, looking at the faces of others as they sank into their seats while listening to music or reading a newspaper. What were they thinking? The night before, Donald Trump had just been elected President of the United States. We were all thinking something. But all I could see were blank faces. And blank faces are hard to decipher. I had a blank face on that train ride too, but the thoughts I was thinking are as vivid today as they were then.
I wanted out. I was done with politics. Every cynical feeling I had built over my life turned out to be true, I had thought. What was the point? Why keep fighting? It’s easy to look back at my past self and scold him. I’ve done that many times for many things, after all. More so than even my parents (although they may dispute that).
But I won’t scold him. It was natural to feel despair and apathy at the time. It’d be odd if I didn’t feel like that. Again, Donald Trump had just been elected President of the United States. You’re bloody well right I felt horrible. But, eventually, those feelings of despair and apathy would go away as they do. In their place would come the feelings of hope, and eventually — joy.
The road to the election of Joe Biden hasn’t been easy. Okay, maybe not my boldest claim, but true nonetheless. Yet, despite everything the Trump Administration and its allies have thrown at the country, trying to make us feel the despair and apathy I felt on that train ride, we never gave up hope. We never stopped fighting. From the beginning, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) — where I am currently serving as the Fall 2020 Government Relations and Advocacy Fellow — kept fighting for social and economic justice. There is no apathy in advocacy.
And NCJW wasn’t alone. While many, like me, felt disengaged on November 9, 2016, others were beginning to plan for the next fight ahead. And it would be quite a fight. From the Muslim travel ban to the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act to attacks on reproductive health to rushed confirmations of unqualified judges. Like all fights, it didn’t look good at times. But, as Rocky Balboa said, “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give . . . it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.” And we did.
Joe Biden will be our next president. Let’s celebrate that. Done celebrating? Good, let’s get to work. As hard as we have worked in the last four years, we have to work even harder in the next four. We’re in a pandemic and in a recession. These things aren’t easy, but we’re used to that. With the incoming Biden Administration, we now have a window of opportunity to accomplish great things.
NCJW strives for social and economic justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. As Joe Biden noted, “The truth is the economy wasn’t working for folks long before these crises hit. It’s why Kamala Harris and I won’t just build back to the way things were — we’ll build back better. We won’t be satisfied until the economy starts working for everyone.” We can be a part of this effort to build back better. We can be a part of this effort to combat climate change. We can be a part of this effort to fight systemic racism. It just takes a little of that fighting spirit we’ve kept over these last four years. If I can do it, we all can.
November 7, 2020. I remember watching television, looking at the faces of others as they celebrated the election of Joe Biden on the streets all across America. From Los Angeles to Denver to Washington to Philadelphia to Scranton. I thought about that train ride I had taken four years earlier. Unlike then, this time I knew what people were thinking. Joy, happiness, relief. This time, I knew what they felt. As I sat on my couch reminiscing on the fights of the last four years, I was celebrating with them. Our work did matter. It still does. Let’s make use of it.