Things That Matter

Black Women Proved They Are the Backbone of the Democratic Party This Election

Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The election is finally over and the people have spoken. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States.

When Joe Biden took the stage to give his acceptance speech after being announced the project winner of the 2020 election, he thanked his supporters, which he called “the broadest and most diverse coalition in history.” And finally, he said this: “Especially at those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the The African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

But it was one group in particular that went above and beyond when it came to showing up for Joe Biden: Black women.

Exit polls show that 93% of Black women cast their vote for Joe Biden this year–more than any gender and ethnic subgroup. Because Black women showed up in large numbers and overwhelmingly cast their vote for Joe Biden this election, they may have single-handedly tipped the vote in his favor.

If you’ve followed the news closely, you know that it was key battleground states like Georgia and Pennsylvania decided this election. These states have major metropolitan cities like Atlanta and Philadelphia that have large Black populations. The Black women of these battleground states put in the work of organizing, campaigning, and rallying for the Democratric nominee.

As the news rolled in that Georgia–a state that has reliably gone red since 1992–was projected to flip blue, pundits and online commenters felt the need to give credit to Stacey Abrams. Abrams was the 2018 Democratic candidate for Georgia’s gubernatorial election.

After Abrams lost the election, she founded Fair Fight Action, an organization that aims to promote “fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.” Since its inception Fair Fight Action has registered an estimated 800,000 new voters.

The promising news is that it appears that Black women will no longer have to carry the Democratic party alone. In Arizona, Latinas also organized en masse, mobilizing their community with the express goal of getting Trump out of office. Latina activists helped to flip Arizona blue [note: as of November 9th, the AP still projects that Arizona will go blue).

The model of grassroots organization goes back to Black female activists like Stacey Abrams who believed in her community enough to fight for it. Abrams knew she was only one of thousands of women like her who wanted a better country, so she set about mobilizing her community of like-minded people. And because of Abrams and Black women activists like her, we have a new president.

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Student Loan Debt Relief Is Trending But What Can We Expect From An Incoming Biden Administration?

Things That Matter

Student Loan Debt Relief Is Trending But What Can We Expect From An Incoming Biden Administration?

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We still have over two months until President-Elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20, 2021. However, that hasn’t prevented people and pundits from discussing what needs to change (and how quickly) once he’s sworn in.

Obviously, the new president will have a lot on his plate. Thanks to an unprecedented four years under a Trump Administration which has largely gutted several government agencies and enacted dangerous policies for Americans, Biden will have to act quickly and decisively.

One possible agenda item for Biden’s first days in office involves the student loan debt crisis. Currently, our collective student loan debt stands at $1.7 trillion (the second largest debt behind mortgages), so it’s no surprise that the Biden team are looking to address the crisis.

Biden signals he’s open to student loan debt relief but is it enough?

During a Monday press conference, President-Elect Biden confirmed his support for forgiving some student debt “immediately.”

He repeated his support for a provision passed as part of the HEROES Act, which the Democratic-controlled House updated on Oct. 1. The provision calls for the federal government to pay off up to $10,000 in private, nonfederal student loans for “economically distressed” borrowers. Biden specifically highlighted “people … having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent,” and said the debt relief “should be done immediately.”

Student debt forgiveness was a major campaign plank of some of his more progressive rivals for the Democratic nomination, but it remains controversial even among some Democrats. 

However, many point to it as a plan he can execute quickly and on his own. Attorneys at a Harvard legal clinic argue that the power to cancel federal student loan debt rests with the president and his or her education secretary, since it’s the Education Department that actually originates these loans. That means it can be done regardless of who controls the Senate without passing any new laws.

According to many experts, canceling student debt could have a major positive impact on the economy.

Credit: Tom Williams / Getty Images

Although it sounds like forgiving student load debt would be an easy move, some are asking should it be done? Most economists agree that canceling student debt will boost the economy, freeing up younger people to start businesses, buy homes and even start families. 

In fact, Elizabeth Warren, in her presidential campaign proposal, cited arguments that debt forgiveness would reduce the racial wealth gap, reverse rural brain drain and allow more people to complete their educations.

Activist groups such as the Debt Collective go further, arguing that student debt is wrong in principle. “We must return education to the status of a public good,” the organization says on its website.

Progressives like AOC and ‘The Squad’ are pressuring Biden to expand his plan.

The Squad (the nickname given to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) have strongly supported wiping $30,000 off student loan debts, which they outlined in their Student Debt Emergency Relief Act in March.

The bill aims to provide immediate monthly payment relief to those who have taken out federal student loans and crucially prevent those with student debts from having to make involuntary payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

And in response to many who are against the idea, AOC had the perfect clap back. In a tweet on Tuesday, she dismissed arguments against canceling hefty debts accrued in further education.

“‘Things were bad for me, so they should stay bad for everyone else’ is not a good argument against debt cancellation – student, medical, or otherwise. #CancelStudentDebt,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley further contributed to the debate, adding: “Student debt cancelation will ensure an equitable economic recovery from COVID-19, jumpstart our economy & close the racial wealth gap. One more thing,” she said.

But why are so many others so upset about canceling student debt?

Many opposed to canceling student debt claim that it would create resentment in those who spent a long time paying off their own college debts. The argument goes that they had to sacrifice and suffer and it wouldn’t be fair that current and future college grads might not have to sacrifice and suffer in the same way.

Other critics of debt forgiveness state that a bailout will simply redistribute the debt to other Americans, and will largely benefit those who can afford to go to college, disproportionately helping a well-off segment of society at the expense of the taxpayer. 

Something those people should keep in mind, though, is that their experience of massive student loan debt is not one shared by every generation of students. From 1988 to 2018, the cost of college increased by 213%. Wages, unsurprisingly, did not increase by 213% in that period — in fact, they’ve pretty much remained stagnant since the 1970s.

Perhaps most importantly, canceling student debt doesn’t negatively affect those who’ve already paid off their student loans. Insisting that other people pay off their loans in full, no matter how much of a hardship, is demanding suffering for the sake of suffering. 

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How Latino Organizers in Arizona Helped Flip the State From Red to Blue

Entertainment

How Latino Organizers in Arizona Helped Flip the State From Red to Blue

Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

When Arizona was officially called for Joe Biden this year, a number of think pieces appeared on the internet that assigned the responsibility of Biden’s win to white Republicans. Headlines ran calling the victory “John McCain’s Revenge”–a reference to the late Arizona senator who had a contentious relationship with Donald Trump. Pundits hypothesized that white Republican voters cast their vote for Biden to spite Donald Trump, who had previously insulted the beloved Arizona Senator’s military record.

Soon after this narrative began to trend, Latinos quickly took to social media to set the record straight. “Hey @CNN,” wrote Julio Ricardo Varela on Twitter. “@CindyMcCain is not the only reason that Biden won Arizona. It wasn’t just that. Can you at least discuss the overwhelming Latino support and the organizing history of young Latinos in the time of SB1070?”

In the noise of election pontificating, the media largely ignored the efforts of Latino grassroots organizers. The efforts that ultimately helped flip Arizona. It is not a coincidence that Latinos now constitute the base of the Democratic party in Arizona.

It was no coincidence that so many Latinos mobilized this year. In fact, the event was a deliberate and organized process spearheaded by activist groups like the MiAZ coalition. The MiAZ coalition is a five activist groups that organized a massive field campaign targeting Latino voters. Altogether, Mi AZ reports that they made nearly 8 million calls and knocked on over 1.15 million doors.

Mi AZ reports Latino voter turnout in Arizona was at an all-time high of 50% this year, up from the record of 44% in 2016. The organization also reported to local news website AZ Central that according to their data analysis, “nearly 73% of Latino voters in key Latino-majority precincts in Arizona chose President-elect Joe Biden” over President Trump.

In an in-depth and touching Twitter thread, Arizona-based educator and organizer Reyna Montoya wrote a briefer on what changed Arizona from blue to red “for folks who may be wondering what is going on.”

In the thread, Montoya described her first-hand account of the trauma that Latinos in Arizona faced through the last few decades. A collective trauma that ended up mobilizing the Latino community for Biden.

Montoya described Arizona’s “English Only” law that passed in 2000. She then described Prop 300 in 2006, a measure that forbid students from receiving state financial aid for college if they couldn’t prove they were legal residents of Arizona. The final event was what most personally affected her: the passage of SB1070, a law that required all immigrants over the age of 18 to carry immigration documentation with them at all times.

“This was personal,” Montoya wrote on Twitter. “I remember my mom being scared. I remember being extreme cautions about driving anywhere.”

It was Arizona’s anti-Latino sentiment and, consequently, the legislation the state government passed to curb the rights of Latinos in the state that ended up backfiring. Instead of suppressing a community, the anti-Latino legislation ended up lighting a fire under many young Latinos, prompting them to organize. To fight back.

“In 2011, we decided to organize, build community and focus on rebuilding Arizona.,” Montoya wrote so brilliantly on Twitter. “Since 2011 until now, we have been educating others on immigration.”

“We have decided to no longer remain in the shadows,” she said. “We decided to let our voices be heard.”

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