Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Despite vociferous objections, the 2020 election is over and Joe Biden has won. Yet even after the most expensive campaign in U.S. history, it appears the political fundraising circus is far from over.
While millions living in the U.S. struggle to pay for rent, health care and other basic necessities, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recently put out a call asking for the American people to fund their transition team. This comes after the head of the General Services Administration, Trump appointee Emily Murphy, continues to block government funding for the transition even as it becomes more and more apparent that Biden has indeed defeated Trump fair and square.
There is clearly a lot to unpack here, probably because we do, in fact, live in a hellscape. The U.S. currently leads the world in COVID-19 cases, faces an impending housing crisis and has a backward health care system neither major party intends to universally expand. In addition, while the Pentagon has squandered $1 billion in taxpayer money earmarked for COVID-19 preparedness on jet engine parts and body armor, our government has not provided any consistent, reliable financial support for people struggling during a pandemic-driven economic crisis. Last (but not least!) on the long list of essential functions our government is failing to fulfill, our government cannot seemingly execute a peaceful transfer of power.
With this context, it is absolutely insane that politicians like Biden and Harris are practically begging their own desperate citizens for money to fund their transition after blowing billions on a tumultuous campaign cycle and despite having several wealthy tech executives on their transition team.
Just a month ago, amid more debates about whether struggling Americans deserve prolonged financial assistance, Joe Biden tweeted that Americans are not looking for a handout, and that instead they just want a “fair chance to get ahead.” The use of the word “handout” in reference to essential aid that will help keep families clothed, housed, fed and safe was a slap in the face to all those Americans who have lost their loved ones and their livelihoods due to COVID-19, and to the gross mismanagement of this crisis at the hands of politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Yet the painful irony of Biden’s “handout” tweet really emerges when that tweet is paired with his and Harris’ recent tweets begging for handouts from the American people in order to transition into their new roles. When people living in the U.S. demand government assistance to survive, they are abandoned by our leaders, and the aid they need is dismissed as “handouts.” When politicians ask for more money on top of the billions they’ve squandered on campaigns, these funds are framed as an investment in democracy. Instead of worrying about how ordinary people will spend taxpayer dollars, why don’t politicians like Biden and Harris focus on spending the funds they already had access to — funds that could have been used to help ordinary people — more responsibly?
I’m not denying that it’s terrifying that Trump and his officials are doing all they can to block the transition process. While certainly not unpredictable, Trump’s behavior is dangerous and tyrannical and must be seriously challenged. But the Democrats’ response to this cannot amount to just passing the buck onto the American people.
If Democrats want to effectively replace Trump, they need to punch back at him, not punch down at desperate people who have been all but abandoned over the past eight months. American voters elected Biden and Harris. Now it’s time for them to do their jobs and meaningfully challenge Trump’s power plays without siphoning off more money that could be distributed directly to those in need.
Caterina Ieronimo is a junior government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.