It was a long time coming, but this weekend we were finally able to congratulate Senator Joe Biden on his election as President-elect of the United States of America.
This election has been historic for a number of reasons. It marked the defeat of an incumbent president – something achieved just four times in the past 100 years. It saw record turnout and political engagement across the United States, with more voters supporting Joe Biden than any other presidential candidate in American history. And, crucially, it marked the election of Kamala Harris who becomes the first woman, first Black and first South Asian Vice President-elect to enter the White House.
In her victory speech, Vice President-elect Harris said “while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this a country of possibilities.” While she may have been talking to Americans, I know her words will resonate with young women across the UK and around the world.
Together, Biden and Harris were able to appeal to a country hungry for unity, empathy, and competence after four years of President Trump. The racism, sexism, and vitriolic hate spewed by Donald Trump during his time in office has left many Americans, and many more people around the world, feeling attacked and scared for their futures.
Muslim Americans were the first to feel Trump’s assault on Black and brown communities, with the issuance of his Muslim travel ban just days after he took office in 2017. He has overseen a dramatic and unprecedented rise in hate crime, with anti-Muslim hate crime surpassing the modern peak reached in 2001 following 9/11. The Muslim travel ban was the opening barrage to what was four years of constant pressure and insults aimed at anyone who dared not to be white in America.
With Biden’s victory, Americans of all creeds and colours have the opportunity to breathe and heal. But there can be no complacency. Trump, after all, was merely the symptom of a disease that runs far deeper, and the racist worldview he represented will not magically disappear on Biden’s inauguration.
This victory is not just an important moment for America, but for the world. It is a chance to reassert America’s place as a force for good on the world stage. Renewing its place as a global leader that will work with Britain and other allies to defeat this pandemic, fight climate change, and tackle human rights abuses wherever and whenever they occur. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the Democrats have always shared Labour’s values and the links between our two parties remain strong.
It is true that President-elect Biden faces a mountain to climb. He must deal with a steadily growing pandemic and an economy suffering the fallout. A deeply fractured country. An imminent climate emergency. Ongoing police brutality and racial injustice. And continuing international conflicts and human rights abuses. But, in these unsteady times, Biden and Vice President-elect Harris offer the hope of steady and competent leadership and I wish them the best of luck.