The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Promise of the New Year

Happy New Year! Finally, we can put 2020, the most difficult year in memory, behind us. And, while 2021 will present its own set of challenges, at least we can begin the new year on a hopeful note.

The first challenge of 2021 will be the Georgia runoff elections. In less than a week, Georgia voters will determine whether the new Biden administration will have the Senate support it needs to tackle head-on the pressing issues of our country. Hopefully, both Democrats will win, and Biden won’t have his legislative agenda stymied by Mitch McConnell and his Republican obstructionists.

Right now, it’s looking good for the Georgia Democratic candidates. But, even if they win giving the Democrats control of Congress and the White House, at least two other dynamics will influence the degree to which 2021 fulfills its promise.

First and foremost, Biden has to fully grasp the historic moment we are in. It’s fairly comparable to 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt captured the White House from another failed president, Herbert Hoover, in the midst of the Great Depression.

Roosevelt gave the American people a positive vision and hope for a better future. He promised them a ‘New Deal.’ And he delivered by getting people back to work, creating prosperity and protecting their savings, providing relief for the sick and elderly, and getting industry and agriculture back on their feet.

Biden needs to offer the country this type of sweeping vision as well. To lift Americans up in these extremely difficult times and give the country an inclusive path to a brighter future, that promise must include conquering COVID 19, establishing social and racial justice, aggressively confronting the climate crisis, developing a sustainable economy with a living wage for every worker, guaranteeing affordable healthcare for everyone, and ensuring the right to vote for all Americans.

Second and of equal importance, like FDR, Biden cannot succeed on his own. Early in his administration, Roosevelt met with a group of labor leaders regarding their policy recommendations to assist the ailing workforce. FDR agreed with them and allegedly replied: “I want to do it; now make me do it.”[1]

In effect, Roosevelt was saying that “change had to come from the bottom up, not just from the White House.” He was indicating that “he needed the American people to continue pressing for the changes they wanted so he could have the strong backing required to ensure their enactment.”[2]

Now, the American people must press Biden for the changes we urgently need. That is the challenge we must undertake to create the just society we all deserve. So, let’s get to work. It will take all of us to fulfill the promise of the new year.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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[2] Ibid

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