Yesterday was a joyful day for those who supported President Biden, and a mournful day for the few who support Former President Trump. However, the reality still remains that COVID-19 is a major concern, even though we have recently seen a new President of the United States sworn in.
In the United States, we learned on Tuesday that we have surpassed 400,000 deaths. That is a sobering number, and there’s no way to spin it. I remember when many of us were shocked of the talk of the potential for 100,000 deaths from the pandemic, and now we are at a death toll four times that.
In my neighborhood, the COVID positivity rate has ticked down slightly, but has remained way too high for comfort. The positivity rate is now just over 13% in my zip code, which is down from the 15% or so we were at as of last week but nevertheless uncomfortably high. Furthermore, data seems to indicate that Jamaica Hospital in Queens–the hospital closest to where I live, continues to be under immense stress from COVID-19 patients.
Also of concern is that, at least according to our mayor, New York City is going to run out of COVID vaccines by the end of this week. We are now to the point that New York City is canceling vaccine appointments due to the shortages. So that is concerning, particularly for those vulnerable to experiencing severe consequences from the virus.
The one sliver of hope is that the Biden administration will employ the Defense Production Act in order to ensure a quicker vaccine rollout. Seeing the impacts of the Defense Production Act on vaccine distribution in New York City, and nationwide, cannot come soon enough.
He hasn’t even taken his oath of office yet, and I’m already writing about a concern I have with the Biden administration. Yes, I voted for him (and even wrote a blog post about my planning to vote for him), but this doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) should avoid holding who we vote for accountable.
The offense? President-elect Biden nominated former Secretary of State John Kerry to be Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry, who is also a former United States senator and the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States back in 2004, is a believer in climate change and taking measures to address it. However, people should have concerns about whether Kerry will be as bold as he needs to be (and by extension, concerns about whether the Biden team will be as bold as it needs to be) on climate change, which is a major crisis.
Why am I concerned? Just look at Kerry’s investments. I don’t know about now, but at least as of 2013, Kerry had investments with dozens of companies in the oil and gas industry. And these are not all small investments, either—at least six of those companies he had investments in were of $100,000 or more. At the very least, in the recent-ish past, he was benefitting from big oil money.
I hope that between 2013 and now, Kerry has dropped all of his oil and gas investments. If he hasn’t, then people should definitely be concerned about his investments keeping him (and, by extension, the Biden administration, potentially) from being as aggressive as he should be on the issue of climate change. That concern should be present because aggressive action on climate change would go against the best interests of what’s potentially profitable for many of these companies Kerry has invested in, and by extension for Kerry himself; because of that, it’s reasonable to be concerned that this conflict-of-interest could result in Kerry not advocating for actions as bold as they should be.
Let’s be real though—Kerry is only a microcosm of a larger issue, which is the concern that money, and particularly receiving of money from certain people or entities, could influence politicians in unjust ways.
This problem can manifest itself in many major issues, ranging from climate change to income inequality. From Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma saying odd things about environmental issues and then having the oil and gas industry as his second largest industry of contributions, to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer being criticized for being cozy with Wall Street (with Wall Street being accused oftentimes as being a big reason for our current income inequality) and then having big banks as four of his five largest lifetime contributors, there are serious concerns about money having a major influence on our politics and politicians.
However, these concerns about big money polluting our politics in unjust ways can only be recognized if we follow the money. If we learn about the monetary connections to the policies of the Kerrys, Schumers, and Inhofes of the world, we can start to recognize how it might be the large donor class, and not so much the constituents these politicians are supposed to serve, that influences the work that is done (or the work that is not done).
As to how we can learn about these monetary connections, I would strongly recommend starting with a website called Open Secrets for national candidates (presidential candidates, as well as members of Congress). This website can allow you to learn about what sorts of companies contribute to individual candidates, as well as which companies a candidate has investments in. That way, you can learn, for example, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot of money invested in the technology sector, so if she ever sounds tepid about holding Facebook accountable for certain things, maybe it’s because of the $500,000+ in investments she appears to have in Facebook. As for holding local and state-level candidates similarly accountable, it varies from municipality to municipality, and from state to state, but in many cases there are ways to find out even at the local and state level who your elected officials seem financially beholden to.
By learning to follow the money with our politicians and their actions, we will hopefully also learn how much big money can result in some of the positions our elected officials take, even if some of those positions are unjust. Recognizing this might not solve any injustices, but it could offer one explanation of how we ended up where we are in the first place with issues like climate change, income inequality, and many others.
One of the signature issues for both major political parties is health care. Many Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that passed in 2010. President-elect Joe Biden, who was Vice President in the administration under which Obamacare was passed, says he wants to expand it. These are two wildly differing views on what to do with our health care system.
However, given the current climate of racial unrest in the United States, as well as the potential repeal of the law being considered by the United States Supreme Court, it seems timely to talk about Obamacare from a racial justice standpoint.
So, where does Obamacare stand from a racial justice standpoint? Well, I have some good news for proponents of Obamacare, and some not-as-good news:
Reductions in uninsured rates were significant among minorities.
Among the highlights of those gains:
21.8% of American Indians and Alaska Natives were uninsured as of 2018, down from 32% in 2010.
19% of Hispanics were uninsured as of 2018, down from 32.6% in 2010.
11.5% of Blacks were uninsured as of 2018, down from 19.9% in 2010.
9.3% of Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders were uninsured as of 2018, down from 17.9% in 2010.
6.8% of Asians were uninsured as of 2018, down from 16.7% in 2010.
These are undoubtedly significant gains. However…
The aforementioned gains I mentioned have stalled out.
Most of the gains that occurred were between 2014, when important provisions of Obamacare were implemented, and 2016. Those gains have stalled since then, and for Blacks the rate of those uninsured has started to tick up in recent years. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care issues, attributes this to certain policy changes in the Trump Administration “that affected the availability of and enrollment in coverage.” But whatever the reason for this stall, it has happened, and this stalling trend is one that a President Biden will need to address (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t repeal the law).
However, the gaps in insurance by race are about more than just what’s coming out of Washington, DC. It’s also because of policies at the state level.
Many states with large Black populations have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
As a result of this, even though there appear to be modest gains in racial disparities among the uninsured overall as a result of Obamacare, the gains are not as big as many might like. Additionally, the result of this is that about half of the remaining uninsured Americans are people of color. This goes to show that elections have consequences—not just federal elections, but state ones too. This is worth keeping in mind for future elections at the state level.
In spite of the issues I’ve mentioned, the racial gap among the uninsured has closed somewhat.
The rate of those without insurance has dropped among whites too, but as there were fewer uninsured whites than uninsured people of any minority group to begin with, the rate among whites of those lacking insurance dropped more slowly than among any other racial group. As such, the racial gap among the uninsured has closed somewhat, even if there are disparities that still exist.
In spite of all this data I’ve shared, there are some unanswered questions.
So far, I have painted a mixed picture of what Obamacare has been like for minority groups, particularly from an insurance coverage standpoint. But there are some unanswered questions about the true impacts of the health care law, too. Here are a few such questions:
While the number of uninsured Americans has decreased significantly since Obamacare was passed in 2010, the number of underinsured Americans has also increased. To what extent does this underinsurance issue affect people of color?
Is there anything about Obamacare that might, even unintentionally, contribute to the continued (if somewhat decreased) gap in the uninsured between some minorities and whites?
There are mixed messages about how Obamacare affected health care costs—out-of-pocket health care spending decreased, while premiums increased. To what extent are people of color getting the benefit of reduced health care spending, or the drain of increased premiums?
The unanswered questions are so numerous that I may need to republish this post at some point, as a version that hopefully answers some of the questions that I’m asking here.
Over the last several hundred words, I have painted a rather mixed message on the question of Obamacare and racial justice. But where does this leave us?
For those in the United States who care about American health care, this raises some questions. For the Republicans, who are proponents of repealing and replacing the law, how does the law get repealed and replaced without erasing all the gains that people of all races, particularly minorities, have seen as a result of Obamacare? For Biden and his supporters, how can we continue making progress in increasing the number of insured Americans, and how might the issues with underinsurance and health care premiums be addressed (assuming, once again, that the Supreme Court doesn’t strike down the whole law)? And for all sides of the debate on this law, how can we ensure that every American is insured?
The last question is maybe the most important one of all, because access to affordable health care should be a human right, not just a privilege to those fortunate enough to access it.
We found out today, November 7, 2020, that Former Vice President Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States.
I am glad that Biden won. While his record is not perfect (far from it), I believed that out of all of the candidates for this position, he was the one most capable of leading the country justly through these difficult times. While I know I have written on here about issues with Biden’s past record, I do wish that his presidency is a successful one. To take from the words George H.W. Bush wrote to Bill Clinton upon Clinton becoming President, his success is now our country’s success.
I also know there is a strong possibility of Republicans holding on to the United States Senate. If that is indeed the case (depending on how the runoff elections in Georgia go), I recognize that I will need to be realistic with what Biden is able to address, given the partisan environment with American politics at the moment. But, I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself either, as there will be two runoff elections in Georgia to help determine control of the Senate.
Election results aside, I think that there are a few thank yous that a lot of us, myself included, owe in light of the election that recently happened.
First and foremost, thank you to we, the American people, for turning out in such high numbers! Reports seem to be indicating that the turnout for this election is the highest it has been in generations. Hopefully, this level of engagement with our elections will continue well beyond 2020.
A thank you must also go to people who’ve worked the polls and counted the ballots. Without the work of these people, it would not be possible to have an election.
I thank those involved in overseeing the operations of this election. Many Secretaries of State (regardless of political affiliation) as well as local Boards of Elections have operated this election, in the middle of a pandemic, about as smoothly as one could reasonably expect. Furthermore, in light of baseless claims of election fraud from President Trump, many involved in overseeing this election have gone to great pains to be transparent about the election process (even to the point of doing things like having livestreams of places where votes are being counted). I hope this transparency will increase the faith some of us have in American democracy—a faith that seemed to be on shaky ground heading into this election.
My final thank you goes to all of the people outside the United States who have expressed thoughts for, and in the case of people of faith, prayers for, us as we go through this election. These have been tense times, so I appreciate the thoughts, well-wishes, and prayers.
Speaking of thoughts and prayers, I will end this post by requesting that people hope for (and, if you’re the praying type, pray for) a smooth transition of power from President Trump to President-elect Biden. I am sadly not confident that the transition will be smooth or that Trump will even accept the fact he lost this election, but given the challenges this country currently faces, a smooth transition of power is desperately needed.
Author’s Note: I am aware that the Trump campaign has made numerous legal challenges regarding the election results. I am also aware that Trump himself has not conceded as of the time of my writing this. However, what I hear from legal experts (which I am not) is that the legal challenges from the Trump campaign are highly unlikely to change the result of this election (even if said challenges succeed, and the overwhelming majority of challenges are not succeeding from what I hear).
Second Author’s Note: I will not publish a post next week as Veterans Day is next week.
Third Author’s Note: This post was written recently, so I apologize for any typos that may appear here.
 Currently, Democrats have 48 seats (a tally that includes two independents who caucus with the Democrats). The elections for both United States Senate races in Georgia are going to a runoff. If Democrats win both races, their 50 seats will be enough to control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tiebreaking vote.
Back in February, I said that on my blog, I would publish posts on major issues relevant to the election that are either misunderstood or not talked about as much as they should be.
By working on such posts, I found myself getting some insights into the upcoming election for President of the United States that I would otherwise not have. Because of those insights, as well as the fact that my blog talks about injustices that need to be addressed, I thought I would end these posts by talking about who I will vote for and why.
I’m voting for Joe Biden because, of all the candidates in the race, I think he gives the best shot at playing a role in addressing injustices. His past track record, while imperfect, gives me that belief.
On the issue of ableism and disability justice, Biden cosponsored some important legislation on this issue. He was a Senate cosponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was landmark legislation for people with disabilities. Earlier in his Senate career, he cosponsored the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which required equal educational access in all public schools for kids with physical and mental disabilities. While there is still much to do to make all corners of our country as accessible as they need to be, the passage of these laws, which was made a bit easier by Biden’s support and cosponsorship in both cases, was nevertheless useful. His support of such legislation gives me hope that with disability rights issues, he would reject the argument that something is “too expensive” or “too impractical” to be made accessible—arguments I often hear against making certain things accessible.
Those who are familiar with human trafficking issues would know that arguably the most important piece of American legislation when it comes to anti-human trafficking laws is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)—without its existence, traffickers couldn’t be prosecuted as easily, and victims wouldn’t be protected as easily. The person who introduced the reauthorization of the Act in the Senate in 2008 was…Joe Biden. As someone who used to help with anti-human trafficking education myself, I think it’s important for me to set the record straight on this issue because it has only come up in this election in the context of a sex trafficking conspiracy theory (one that Trump has praised the supporters of) that has complicated the work of organizations that are trying to combat human trafficking.
Speaking of Biden authoring things, while his authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill was controversial in many ways, one major positive of that overarching bill was the Violence Against Women Act, which among other things helped establish a Domestic Violence Hotline. A hotline that has come of great use during the pandemic exists in large part due to Biden’s efforts.
On environmental issues, Biden, while not perfect, is still eons better than Trump. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has a scorecard that grades politicians based on which environmental measures they do or do not support, as well as which environmental regulatory rollbacks they do and do not support. Biden’s lifetime score is 83%, which is not as good as the 91% held by Bernie Sanders or the 96% held by Elizabeth Warren. But, his main opponent is Trump, who in LCV’s own words, said about Trump’s environmental grade in his first year in office that: “However, to simply award Trump an ‘F’ does not come close to capturing both the breadth and depth of his administration’s assault on environmental protections and the harm it is causing communities across the country – all to provide favors to the wealthiest corporate polluting interests.”
These are some of the positive things on Joe Biden’s record, and I’m not even coming close to mentioning all the positive things (just a few that should be highlighted). However, as I said, his record is not perfect. I mentioned his Crime Bill on my blog, which is part of a larger dubious record he has when it comes to racial justice issues; there’s also the fact that he supported restrictions that prevented openly gay individuals from serving in the military, supported the Defense of Marriage Act (restricting marriage so that it’s between one man and one woman), and poorly handled the Anita Hill hearing, to name a few of the more problematic parts of his record. A charitable view of Biden’s record is that when someone is in public service for nearly five decades, there are bound to be some major mistakes within that record. A less charitable view would look at his record as evidence of his being a person who would add to injustices, instead of resolving them.
I tend to take a line down the middle—yes, he’s been in public service for a long time, but he does have some injustices to answer to. He has answered by expressing regret for how he handled the Anita Hill situation as well as for past anti-LGBTQ+ positions and the Crime Bill.
More cynical individuals may think that such expressions of regret are just for political expediency and/or are woefully inadequate; I most certainly understand the cynicism because politics can be so cynical at times. However, unlike President Trump, Biden has demonstrated the capacity to not just apologize but back it up with actions to show that he has learned from past mistakes. Of note was the fact that not only did he end up regretting his past positions that were unsupportive of LGBTQ+ rights, but he backed it up by: a) supporting same-sex marriage and b) forcing President Obama’s hand on support of same-sex marriage (by the admission of Obama administration officials). On a number of issues, but particularly racial justice, I sincerely hope that Biden demonstrates a similar capacity to back up his remorse for certain past stances of his (such as authoring the Crime Bill) with action (such as trying to find solutions to the issue of mass incarceration against people of color that many believe he helped create).
Even with the positives I found with Biden, some may be wondering why I’m not suggesting voting for a third party or not voting at all. Especially since I live in New York, some might argue that I could do either without having an impact on the election.
The answer is that I am voting third party, as I will be voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line (a third party that exists in some states, including New York). I think that it is important for me to vote for Biden and I think it is important for third parties to have a voice as well—by voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line, it’s the best of both worlds as far as I am concerned.
I also never considered not voting. I never considered that for two reasons: first, because I was able to distinguish key differences between Trump and Biden on issues that matter to me; and second, because I want my voice to be heard on local elections too (even though all my seats locally are heavily Democratic overall).
So there’s my breakdown of how I judged between the two major party candidates, and how I decided to vote for Biden. While I’m not as enthusiastic about Biden as some people are, I’ve concluded that it’s the best choice out of all the choices presented to me in this election from the standpoint of addressing injustices. And, given the fact that Biden seems more willing than Trump to follow the science when it comes to COVID, it’s a choice that I hope will save some lives.
I will be interested to hear others’ thoughts on the election, though! Feel free to comment below.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are my opinions alone and does not represent an endorsement by any organization with which I am associated.
 I know many people have already voted. But this post is directed at those who have not already voted (or those who have but are curious to hear what I have to say).
 I am focusing on his past track record because I think looking at a track record of nearly five decades can be instructive in determining what sorts of issues he may stand for in the next 4-8 years—potentially even more instructive than looking at his platform.
 I am not going to use tons of space in this post talking about Trump. There are lots of posts on the internet talking about Trump’s negatives. Instead, I’m going to use space here to talk about some positive elements of Biden’s record, because it’s important not just to vote against someone, but for someone.