No matter the outcome after voting ends on November 3rd , we cannot afford to stop our civic activism. The times are too critical.
Since the 2016 election we have seen an enormous amount of civic participation. From protest in the streets to an increase in candidates for local and federal office, there has been an explosion of engagement in our political process. But civic engagement does not begin and end on Election Day. No matter the outcome after voting ends on November 3rd , we cannot afford to stop our civic activism. The numerous challenges put upon us due to the pandemic on the federal, state and local level combined with redistricting and social justice reform will require our continued involvement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has colored our lives in so many new ways. The way our children attend school to how we work down to how we have funerals to honor our loved ones. While we may have to continue to exercise caution to protect everyone around us, the world outside has not stopped. The accumulating debt and loss of revenue that states and local communities are facing will have a direct impact on our economy. Wall Street is not the economy. The market may have appeared unscathed from the impact of COVID-19, the same cannot be said about main street and the small and medium sized businesses that employ nearly 50% of the private workforce.
It does not matter if the occupant of the White House presents hostile or friendly, we will still have to continue to raise our voices to ensure the post-COVID economic recovery doesn’t unjustly favor the wealthy and large corporations like we’ve seen in the past. The budget shortfall that states and local governments are facing fiscal years 2020-2022 means we will have a battle with Governors and state legislatures to preserve programs and services for the most vulnerable so that they do not plunge further into poverty.
The economic recovery isn’t the only battle to fight. With the 2020 Census count process now complete after the shortened time frame, the next step in the process is reapportionment and redistricting. In the early part of 2021 states will be notified of their population numbers and congressional political strength which will begin the process of drawing new lines in the states. We must be on the offense during this process to ensure we are not saddled with gerrymandered districts that leave communities politically disenfranchised. At the same time, a number of the voting issues we are experiencing will also need to be addressed in state legislatures and by also passing a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in Congress.
While people are engaged now, turning out in record numbers to vote, we need to remember that putting a new administration in the White House and electing a new Congress is not in and of itself enough to rectify so much that has gone wrong. The pitch is for normalcy versus the chaos we experience now daily. But the old normal is not enough. We need to continue pushing those who represent us to take it much, much further. We cannot go back to the status quo. The status quo was not enough before and it surely will not be enough now.
We did not have a justice system that held police officers accountable for unjust deaths before Trump but we must continue the demand for accountability and completely reimagine the role that law enforcement plays in community public safety. There are a whole list of things that law enforcement responds to that I am sure we can all agree does not require an officer with a deadly weapon and qualified immunity to show up for. That work must begin with us and we cannot rely on either of the presidential candidates to do that work on their own.
Lastly, our children will need our civic activism more than anyone else. The pandemic has completely disrupted their education and their social and emotional wellness. Public education and childcare were already inequitable and the novel coronavirus has only exasperated these issues. The economic strain on states will also put resources for enrichments programs, summer youth employment and extracurricular activities at risk. We will have to speak up for them the most.
So how do we do this? It seems like a lot to ask given the stress and economic strain we are all experiencing during this unprecedented time, but the answer is simple. We stay engaged. No matter who is in power, we need to stay in the fight, or we can easily be in this same place again.
We must continue to be the consistent voice in their ear of those who represent us telling them not to go back to status quo but to seek a new normal where the health and prosperity of all of the American people are prioritized over greedy corporations and the ultra-wealthy who do not pay their fair share.
If after November 3rd the same administration is in power the fight for our lives will continue. If leadership in Washington changes, we still cannot afford to celebrate and just go home. We keep fighting because the fight was never over party or one person, it has always been a fight for our lives and a future for our families.
L. Joy Williams is a national political strategist and host of #SundayCivics of SiriusXM Urban View.
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