The vote that counts by Angela Caldin

Right now, 6 January 2021, Georgia is most definitely on my mind. I can’t think of another local election which is of such importance to the future of the United States and of the whole world. There’s rarely been a clearer illustration of how much each individual vote counts. The Democratic candidates need to win both Georgia Senate seats if the Democratic Party is to have a majority in the Senate. If it loses both or one of those seats, it will not have the majority that it needs and it will be extremely difficult for Joe Biden to get his planned reforms passed into law.

Dealing with the pandemic

Biden says he will immediately put a national strategy in place to deal with the coronavirus with a nationwide mask mandate, free and widespread COVID-19 testing, boosting of medical equipment manufacturing and making any future vaccine free to everyone. He would also cancel the process to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization, which Trump initiated in July.

He would seek agreement for a huge coronavirus relief package to assist struggling families and small businesses. In July Biden unveiled his “Build Back Better” strategy, a $700 billion blueprint to create millions of jobs. Financing would come through tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans and on major corporations.

Climate change

Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidates for the US Senate

He has pledged to invest heavily in renewable energies and has long called for comprehensive action to combat climate change in the United States. He has promised to rejoin the Paris Accord which Trump left in 2017. He intends to convene a climate summit of the world’s leading polluters to push them to further reduce carbon emissions.

Biden has adopted an ambitious $2 trillion climate change plan including a “clean energy revolution” that aims to achieve net zero emissions economy-wide no later than 2050. He has also promised to reverse several of Trump’s rollbacks of regulations on environmental standards.

Judicial system

Biden intends to appoint a bipartisan national commission that would have 180 days to study the judicial system and propose reforms. He is also calling for sweeping criminal justice reform including creating a grant program to reduce incarceration and crime, ensuring housing for formerly incarcerated individuals and strategies to reduce repeat offending.

Immigration

Biden has promised a substantial set of immigration reforms. He plans to create a federal task force to reunite more than 500 children who were taken from their parents by the Trump administration at the US-Mexico border. He will also rescind the travel bans that prohibit foreign nationals from several majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.

One of his more controversial steps could be action on the millions of undocumented people living in the United States. “Within 100 days, I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people”, Biden said in his final debate with Trump, on October 22. He also pledged to let minor children who entered the country with their parents illegally (a group of about 700,000 young people known as Dreamers) to stay legally and take steps toward US citizenship.

The success of these vital reforms depends to a large extent on Democratic victory in the Georgia runoffs. A voter in Atlanta called Stephanie Aluko was interviewed outside her polling place and noted how remarkable it was that the entire world was paying attention to her state. “It made people in Georgia see how important it actually is to vote,” she said, “If the whole world is looking at you and paying attention to you, suddenly, maybe your vote matters.”

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