Connecting the Dots of Yesterday

Don’t ever again tell me “the parties are the same.”
Don’t ever again tell me “non-violent action doesn’t work.”
Don’t ever again tell me “elections don’t matter.”

These are the three biggest lies — the three greatest disincentives to voting and activism — that I have heard during the past four years. Time and time again, I’ve heard them repeated online, by those seeking to minimize the unprecedented non-violent social action of the past four years, or by those seeking — one way or another — to suppress the vote.

Friends, Joe Biden has not been President for 24-hours, and he has buried these lies on the ash heap of history.

I hope you were paying attention.

Yes, the swearing-ins were nice, and cathartic. Yes, the party last night was calming. But I hope you paid very close attention to the seventeen executive orders that President Biden signed yesterday.


With the stroke of a pen, Biden was able to undo many of the continuingly-damaging things that President Trump has wrought over four years.

Here is just a partial list:

— Border Wall construction stops, by terminating the national emergency declaration used to fund it
— Reverses the Muslim ban.
— Cancels the Keystone XL pipeline
— Fortifies DACA
— Rejoins the Paris Climate Accord
— Rejoins the World Health Organization, and sends Dr. Fauci to a meeting of that group…today.
— Requires non-citizens to be included in the Census and apportionment of congressional representatives
— Extends the existing nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
— Rescinds xenophobic 1776 Commission, and instead directs agencies to review actions to ensure racial equity
— Prevents workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity
— Requires masks and physical distancing in federal buildings.
— Extends the existing pause on student loan payments and interest for Americans with federal student loans until at least September 30

Now, take a look at these six pictures. Because I want to draw the line of what some of us have been doing these past four years, and what happened yesterday. Each of these pictures is from an actual non-violent protest with connected to change that has already happened, either through the stroke of the pen, or the swearing-in of Biden/Harris.

From top left, to bottom right, the “protest,” and the outcome already manifested:

“Women’s March” — Election of first Woman Vice-President.
“Border Protest in Matamoros” — Defunding the Border Wall.
“Airport Protests” — Reversing the Muslim Ban.
“Rally Against White Supremacy” — Rescinding of the xenophobic 1776 Commission, and direction on Racial Equity.
“Keystone XL Pipeline Protest” — That project now cancelled.
“Arrest at the White House” — DACA fortified for now.

Again, I’m not posting these to say “look at me.”

Nor am I posting them declare “victory” on ANY of these causes.

I’m posting them because I know how many of you were at one or more of these protests…or how you protested non-violently this past year during the pandemic. I know how much you worked to turn out the vote. The money you gave, the organizing you did.

I know how much each of the disparate non-violent protests in these pictures stand for the real heartbreak you’ve wanted our nation to heal…and the real desire for change that you have in your hearts.

So, I’m not saying: “Look at me.”

I’m saying: “Look at you.”

You marched.
You voted.
It mattered.
Don’t forget that.

Pay attention.

Pay attention to just yesterday and see how…boom…already so many things are different.

Is everything solved?
Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

In fact, let’s be clear…all that’s really happened here is that the most dangerous continuing-harm of the Trump Administration has been wiped away with the stroke of a pen. But, that is also because most of the so-called “successes” of Trump were affected in this same way…through Executive Order.

So, Biden comes in and just reverses them.

There is much more harm to be reversed. There is far more work to do.

But now that the table is reset…the actual hard work begins…through the legislative process. Legislation proves to be change that actually lasts.

Take Obamacare, for example. Do you recall how hard it was to get that passed?
Do recall how much the opposition tried to destroy it these past four years?

Legislation is more resilient than Executive Action. And legislation like Obamacare — though riddled, flawed, and now wounded by compromise and opposition — that is where permanent change happens.

So, yes, hard hard work is ahead to effect more permanent and serious change on all these issues, and more. You can’t do that with the stroke of a pen, or even the election of a more representational executive team.

Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice for President. He actually probably wasn’t my fifth or sixth choice, either. My point today, however, is that even if he was your twentieth choice for President on the Democratic side, he had already proven — in less than 18 hours — why he was a better choice than any Republican.

Which sends me back even further in time, to how we got here in the first place. It sends me back to 2016, and all those on the Left who crowed — time and time again — “the parties are the same…it doesn’t matter who you pick.”

Don’t you dare again — after the example of four years of Trump and just eighteen hours of Biden — suggest that “the parties are the same.”

Fight for your positions.
Push America farther toward what you believe is just.
Organize to elect leaders who will do just that.

But, no, the parties are not the same.
And they never were.

Then, meditate on all those protests.

Yes, the past year…but also the past four years.
All those non-violent actions.

Remember the thousands of times that millions of people have taken to the streets, in order to express their views.

Now, with that image still in your head…remember that in spite of that 72 million Americans still voted for Donald Trump.

In spite of all the bleeding that Biden attempted to cauterize with that pen yesterday, 72 million voted for Trump, with their eyes wide open.

And even with the broken windows as visible reminders of the Capitol Hill insurrection, a goodly number of them would do it again today. (Maybe even a few more once they read through this list of things Biden did yesterday…)

Friends, it took every single one of those protests to get us to Biden’s pen signing those orders.
So, yes, that’s a lot of work to do.

Therefore, before you want to criticize “establishment Democrats,” or Moderates (or whoever your favorite target is…) for not going far enough…meditate again on those 72 million voters.

Imagine the challenging legislative task ahead for Biden/Harris to negotiate change with the legislators those 72 million represent.

I remain quite confident and hopeful that America is “changing” (not permanently changed) and moving to the Left. Elections are where the process of change starts, not where it stops. The struggle for social change that’s been the streets for four years is now a “fight” that now goes on in the halls of Congress, through the challenging compromises that legislation always entails.
(After Jan 06, I believe I should always put “fight” in quotations…)

Finally, never again believe that your vote doesn’t matter.

It makes a difference in terms of who gets elected, representationally, and what they stand for, legislatively.

No stroke of a pen can bring back 400,000 dead Americans.
It cannot reunite those children in the cages with their families.
It can’t repair the damage done to Muslims, Women, People of Color…over the past four years.

But a stroke of the pen can clear the deck and bring us back to a kind of a starting place, where we now move forward.

Now, the work can begin. The hard slog of legislative negotiation begins…not a march in the streets, but a march toward more permanent change.

And, as we take that march:

Don’t ever again tell me “the parties are the same.”
Don’t ever again tell me “non-violent action doesn’t work.”
Don’t ever again tell me “elections don’t matter.”

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