Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
So this is what it’s like to have a president again. This is what it’s like to have people of passion and principle in office again.
This is what it’s like to have a woman, finally, in the executive branch — to feel the universe of what’s possible expand.
On Saturday night, four days after the Election Day that seemed to go on forever, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden gave their victory speeches. The themes weren’t exactly groundbreaking, but after four years of dangerous divisiveness, bizarre lies, and utter insanity, a president who actually acts like a statesman — even a sane, rational, decent adult human — feels like a tremendous relief. Biden said he will be a president “who seeks not to divide, but unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States.”
It’s been four long years since we’ve had a president who believes he represents all of us, and wants to serve all of us.
After those four years in the abyss, normalcy is back. You wouldn’t think “things are steady and boring again” would be cause for massive celebration, but cities across America are convulsed in joy today because Donald Trump is out and steady, predictable Joe Biden is in.
Biden is a devout Catholic, and his speech was a faith-driven one. That didn’t necessarily resonate with a religion-skeptical atheist like me, but it was, in its way, an interesting reclamation of faith from a liberal. We’ve seen four years of evangelical Christians twisting themselves into immoral knots to support a cruel president who couldn’t behave further from the teachings of Jesus. Now we have Biden, only the second Catholic to be elected to the presidency, reclaiming faith for Democrats and laying bare the emptiness of Trumpist faux Christianity.
A president talking about the Bible isn’t exactly new. But here’s what’s perhaps most unexpected: Biden, as old-school as he is, seems to understand the gravity of this moment. Not just that he will be the president, but that he will be the president after a leader who posed an existential threat to the United States, and who cleaved the American public. And he will be a president who was elected on the energy of progressive movements — including the women’s movement and the Black Lives Matter movement — that have been led by organizers who are not going to be content with head-patting, and who understand that they delivered this victory for Biden and Harris.
“Once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice,” Biden said in his speech, in a nod to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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And most notably, he had Kamala Harris speak first. It’s unusual to have a vice president elect speak at length on election night. But Harris is a groundbreaking candidate: She is the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President. It’s offensive and ridiculous that it took until 2020 to elect a woman to the vice presidency, but finally, we are here — and that significance was recognized tonight as Harris took the podium dressed in suffragist white.
“Let us be the nation that we know we can be,” President-elect Biden said toward the end of his speech. On Saturday night, he gave us the America we know we can be: an America that is empathetic. That is decent. That is kind. That is not just a world of old white men; that is increasingly of color, that is vibrant, that is driven by women’s work. Joe Biden himself may be a symbol of the old America. But here he is, welcoming in the new one.