It’s a day many of us will never forget. After what seemed like endless updates on vote counts in key states, the announcement finally came that former Vice President Joe Biden is President-elect of the United States and California Senator Kamala Harris will be the first woman Vice President. For millions of women, Vice President-elect Harris’ ascension to the White House represented, at least partially, the culmination of a long, centuries-old struggle to reach positions of power.
Across the country, voters, organizers, activists and candidates, many of them women, mobilized and did the work to change the direction of our nation. And for the first time in four years, we gave a collective sigh of relief because we will finally have leaders who are equipped and prepared to take on the monumental challenges that currently face our country. With Inauguration Day quickly approaching, the Democrats’ victory in taking back the White House represents a new hope for us as a nation.
But now is not the time to get complacent about our political future. We, especially as women, must not take for granted that this win took years of hard work and that our efforts must continue beyond 2020. There is still so much at stake and our win at the top of the ticket shows what happens when we continually invest in the grassroots and empower people to create change.
Although we are still learning more about the coalition of voters that made history and blocked Donald Trump from a second term as president, early data shows that women, people of color and young people were the deciders. Nine in 10 Black women said they voted for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, and 7 in 10 Latinas reported the same.
There is also emerging data about the Indigenous vote and how strong turnout in tribal communities likely impacted election results. In states like Arizona and Wisconsin, Native Americans undoubtedly helped tip the scale for President-elect Biden. Turnout among young people saw significant growth, with 53 percent of them heading to the polls this year compared to 45 percent in 2016.
And the election isn’t over. In just a few weeks, voters in Georgia will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, and all eyes are on women of color who are poised to have a strong showing at the polls. The Peach State has become a fixture during this election year not just because it flipped for the first time in close to three decades for a Democratic U.S. President but also because it is a case study in active democracy. It demonstrates why being intentional and relentless about safeguarding our values can produce the outcomes we desire. Organizers and activists are again pushing hard to get voters to the polls on January 5 to deliver another crucial win to ensure that our nation’s leaders deliver on their promise to serve the American people.
In battleground states and key races across the country, Democrats were able to move the needle just a little bit more in the fight to make our government more representative and it is absolutely possible for us to replicate the success and enthusiasm of this year up and down the ballot in the future. The key is to not let up.
There are so still many issues that we must confront in the coming months. While the nation mobilized and protested the loss of Black lives this summer, we have not dismantled centuries of institutionalized racial discrimination. Republican gerrymandering remains a threat to our democracy, and many communities that have historically been disenfranchised could feel the brunt of their actions. Thousands of women have been pushed out of the workforce because of the pandemic and face an uphill battle for reentry. Children nationwide have fallen behind in school because of a lack of access to the internet and millions of families are struggling to get by. There will continue to be attacks on women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ protections, the environment and more. It is critical that we remain vigilant and focused on building the America that we want to live in.
Part of the solution is to also run for office. Democratic women from all backgrounds were not just a critical voting bloc in the 2020 election. They were also some of the most exciting candidates running at every level of the ballot. Consider that the next step you might take in your advocacy and determination to change things is to claim your own seat at the table. We’ve seen what happens when more women are shaping the policies that directly impact our lives. Women bring fresh perspectives to conversations in the halls of power and the evidence is clear: the future of political leadership lies with us.
If we ever want to have a government that is truly responsive and accountable to every single American, the work cannot stop after this year. Progress takes time and if we remain dedicated to the cause, we will win.
A’shanti F. Gholar is the president of Emerge, the nation’s premiere organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.