It’s been less than 10 days since Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President. When President Biden signed 17 executive orders on his first day in office, many of us experienced both immediate relief and an almost whiplash-inducing change in direction. Our bones are creaking a bit as we stand up from the defensive crouch of the last four years. As organizers and advocates, we know the new administration won’t magically solve all our problems, but it sure feels nice to have the wind at our backs for a change.
As heartening as it was to see the Muslim ban rescinded, the end of the Keystone (KXL) pipeline, a mask mandate, DACA reinstatement, rejoining both the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, and temporary freezes on student debt and evictions, many of these actions represent only small steps toward the big systemic change we need. This is the time to dig deeper and kickstart our boldest demands for the abundant, just, prosperous, verdant future we want. The new administration will only be as bold as we call on them to be.
The first 100 days of a new presidency are a time of great focus and attention, and they can make or break a new administration. For people who care about justice – particularly for immigrants, women, people of color, and countless other groups that have been systematically targeted these last four years (and frankly the whole of U.S. history) – this time also presents an important opportunity to show the country and the new administration what we stand for and what we are willing to do about it.
This is an inflection point in our nation’s history. Many of the systems we depend on, from earth’s natural cycles and feedback loops to voting systems to healthcare systems, are failing. Other systems are showing themselves to be deeply flawed, (or worse, working perfectly as designed), such as white supremacist housing policy and approvals of industrial plants adjacent to low-income housing and schools. Our incarceration system has grown like a cancer for the last 50 years: today 1 out of every 100 people in the U.S. are in prison or jail. The previous administration built concentration camps at our borders, imprisoning desperate refugee families and children. Student debt is crippling a generation. Climate change is racing ahead, causing record superstorms, terrifying megafires, and billions of dollars of damage every single year.
As our systems of governance and government (and our planetary systems) face a reckoning, we need big, fundamental change. At this inflection point, we must summon all our knowledge, and our biggest vision for an abundant, just, inclusive future. And we must peacefully bring our demands to the new Administration in our nation’s Capitol, and to our representatives in state houses and city halls across the nation. This is not a time for half-measures. While the far-right has held the nation hostage for too long, fueled by white supremacist ideology and hate groups, moving significant parts of political discourse far to the right, the idea of our moving even further to the right to meet them “half-way” is not workable or ethical.
In fact, the Movement for Black Lives has amply demonstrated the opposite: setting our sights on a big vision of justice, pointing the way there with bold policy proposals, and making their case simultaneously inside staterooms, outside on the streets, and online worldwide, has blown the Overton window of what is possible for justice wide open. We need to paint a vibrant picture of the world we want, the values that ground us, and the multi-racial, multi-faith coalition that’s going to get us there. This is the moment for our moon shot. This is the moment to share, as Martin Luther King Jr. did, our radical dream for the future. It’s time now to cancel all student debt. It’s time for healthcare for all. It’s time to demand an immediate closure of all ICE concentration camps and all for-profit prisons.
Need some inspiration from groups who were determined not to throw away their shot?
- Even as President Biden signed his Executive Order preserving and fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the National Immigration Law Center was ready in less than 24 hours with a call for urgent immigration reform and pathways to citizenship.
- When Biden directed federal agencies to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, responded: “By signing this executive order on his first day of office, President Biden is boldly demonstrating that his administration will prioritize the civil rights of all Americans. Alphonso David, of the Human Rights Campaign added, “By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock1, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life.”
- Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation wrote to its membership, “Divestment from law enforcement and investment in our communities have been at the root of our fight for the future of Black lives.” The Foundation added that Biden’s day one actions “include key provisions inspired by the BREATHE Act, including requiring federal agencies to: center equity; eliminate systemic policy discrimination; and re-examine federal data collection on diversity grounds. The Biden administration wouldn’t have done this without your efforts.”
- And as the Administration signaled its move toward powerful executive actions to address climate change, Sunrise Movement held a protest action at Speaker Pelosi’s office, positioned Biden’s new policies as a “floor not a ceiling,” called on the President to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and beat the drum for Congressional actions that further bolster the foundations of the Green New Deal, to “put a halt to the climate crisis through a historic green recovery.”
So: we want to hear from you! What are your biggest, boldest demands for these 100 days? What support could we give you in getting your message crafted and out to the world? Comment on our Facebook page or tweet at us.
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The featured photo is from NASA. Did you know that many government agency photosets are free for most non-advertising uses?