This weekend marks two anniversaries that, for me, point a way forward through the accumulated wreckage of the past year.
The first is personal. Twenty years ago, I ended my presidential campaign after the Supreme Court abruptly decided the 2000 election. As the incumbent vice president, my duty then turned to presiding over the tallying of Electoral College votes in Congress to elect my opponent. This process will unfold again on Monday as the college’s electors ratify America’s choice of Joe Biden as the next president, ending a long and fraught campaign and reaffirming the continuity of our democracy.
The second anniversary is universal and hopeful. This weekend also marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. One of President Trump’s first orders of business nearly four years ago was to pull the United States out of the accord, signed by 194 other nations to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases threatening the planet. With Mr. Trump heading for the exit, President-elect Biden plans to rejoin the agreement on his Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
Now, with Mr. Biden about to take up residence in the White House, the United States has the chance to reclaim America’s leadership position in the world after four years in the back seat.
Mr. Biden’s challenges will be monumental. Most immediately, he assumes office in the midst of the chaos from the colossal failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation that has resulted.
And though the pandemic fills our field of vision at the moment, it is only the most urgent of the multiple crises facing the country and planet, including 40 years of economic stagnation for middle-income families; hyper-inequality of incomes and wealth, with high levels of poverty; horrific structural racism; toxic partisanship; the impending collapse of nuclear arms control agreements; an epistemological crisis undermining the authority of knowledge; recklessly unprincipled behavior by social media companies; and, most dangerous of all, the climate crisis. [Continue reading…]