President Donald Trump failed. He failed to keep Americans safe by underestimating a pandemic that killed more than 370,000 Americans in fewer than twelve months. He failed to build on the prosperous economy built by the Obama administration, producing the highest levels of unemployment since the Great Depression due to inaction during the pandemic. This past week, we witnessed his worst failure of all: he provoked and incited the first violent breach of the United States Capitol since 1814.
Yet, as a club and as a party, we have never been more hopeful. The day before Trump supporters attacked our Capitol, Stacey Abrams and organizers across Georgia delivered America a gift: a unified government. When President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, the Democratic Party will control both the legislative and executive branches of government. This was a strong repudiation of Trump and a sign of America’s readiness for bold, progressive policies. But we have to hold our new government accountable. The legislative majorities in both houses are not large and may be lost in two years. Biden needs to work quickly.
Here are five things we feel he must do in the first hundred days to enact the change America needs:
Make Education a Right
In the 2020 election, Biden ran on a platform that promoted college access and affordability. He has committed to canceling $10,000 of debt for all borrowers. But that’s not enough. Such an action would only provide substantial relief to about half of those with student loan debt. On the first day of his administration, Biden should answer the calls of those like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and forgive $50,000 of debt per borrower through executive action.
The Biden administration should also work toward making public colleges and universities free. It’s a plan that would largely pay for itself, as college graduates make higher earnings, decreasing their need for welfare programs and increasing the money they pay in taxes. It’s also the right thing to do. Education is an internationally recognized human right, so it’s time for our country to stop treating it as a privilege.
Lead the Fight Against COVID-19
The Biden administration needs to follow their commitment to instituting a nationwide mask mandate. They should also incentivize officials to do the same at the state and local level. In addition, Biden must deliver on his promise to strengthen our connections with the United Nations and the international public health community and rejoin the World Health Organization.
Additionally, at the current rate that vaccines are being distributed, it would take almost 10 years to vaccinate enough Americans to get the pandemic under control. Biden must accelerate vaccine distribution and take control of America’s inoculation strategy through the federal government.
Eliminate the Death Penalty
This year was one with activism born from intense pain. Racism and police brutality sparked national protests. The outrage and sadness has been intensified by the Trump administration’s decision to repeal a 17-year suspension on federal executions. In the final months of his administration, Trump has authorized the killing of 13 people.
Black people make up 13% of the nation’s population, but 42% of federal death row prisoners. Furthermore, for every nine people executed, one person on death row has been exonerated. The death penalty is immoral, inconsistent, and racist in its origins and impact.
Trump’s ability to commit state-sanctioned murder is evidence that a symbolic moratorium is not enough. Biden must singlehandedly commute federal death row inmates’ sentences, instruct federal attorneys not to pursue the death penalty, and provide federal incentives for state and local prosecutors to stop seeking capital punishment. He must also work with congressional leaders to enact the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act.
Support Immigrant Families
The Trump administration has been particularly cruel towards immigrant communities. Under Trump, we have seen immigrants put in cages, separated at the border, and denied their right to seek asylum. He has used COVID-19 to strengthen restrictions on immigrants, disguising xenophobic policies as decisions made for public health. And this year alone, non-citizens have died or been infected in ICE custody, have been denied emergency grants, and have even been deported in the middle of a pandemic.
Biden must immediately remove these restrictions, and help provide all people in the United States with economic and healthcare relief during this time. With the new legislative majority, Biden can also continue building on the work of the Obama administration. DACA needs immediate reform. Biden should move forward with providing DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship. He can also work to pass DAPA, a bill focused on undocumented parents, which could help millions of people receive legal status.
Confront the Climate Crisis
Before the election, the Biden campaign laid out an ambitious, nearly $2 trillion plan for climate reform. Biden must rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and follow through on all of his climate promises.
Scientists say the climate crisis is becoming a deeper, increasingly irreversible problem. During the campaign, Biden was clear that he would not significantly reduce fracking. This is a mistake. Fracking is dangerous and contributes greatly to our climate problem. Biden should ban the practice.
Moreover, Biden must go further than reversing the Trump administration's damage through executive action. Trump’s four years in office showed that regulating the climate through executive power is a short-term fix that can easily be undone. Biden must work with the legislature to solidify meaningful climate policy that will survive a change of power.
Biden won by a landslide. Further democratic victories in the House and Senate provided him with a mandate. He has been given a rare opportunity to leave a deeply transformative, enduring, and progressive legacy. We will continue to push him to do so.
The Executive Board of Penn Democrats sets goals for the organization and is made up of nine students.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.