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Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Most Impactful People of 2020

F
or 93 years TIME magazine has awarded some form of the “Person of the Year.” It started out as Man of the Year (Charles Limbergh) in 1927 and evolved over time to select women, groups, machines, ideas and other recipients. Its criteria have been “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”  

For example, Adolf Hitler was chosen in 1938 having met TIME’s criteria.

While I am not making a selection for THE person of the year, I am offering some candidates who, in my view, deserve consideration, for better or worse, for having the most impact in an extremely impactful year. They are listed below in no particular ranking:

Joe Biden. The president-elect is Joe Biden, capping a long political career. Winning the presidency is consequential enough but in doing so, he rescued the United States from another four and likely dangerous years of a second Trump term.

Biden garnered a record 80 million votes and regained the crucial Democratic “blue wall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that were lost in 2016. Moreover, he flipped two perennial red states Georgia and Arizona. It was a decisive victory with 306 electoral votes amassed.

Biden exercised sound judgment by avoiding rallies and large crowds during the pandemic—something Trump irresponsibly engaged in. Trump and his cohorts considered Biden a lightweight though he got himself impeached for trying to find dirt on Biden and his son Hunter by bribing Ukraine. This attempt indicated that deep down Trump feared running against Biden.

They also tried to scare the voters into thinking Biden is suffering from dementia, but by allowing the bar to be so low, Biden easily overcame it.  He also committed very few of the gaffes he is famously known to spew during his past campaigns, which seemed to have nullified the Trump campaign's attacks.

As a refreshing elixir from the past four years, Biden will re-install honesty, competence, experience and humanity to the presidency. During the campaign Biden demonstrated a measure of responsibility that Trump lacked in his urging Americans to follow CDC's guidelines as they pertain to the coronavirus.

Kamala Harris. When inaugurated, Kamala Harris will become the first ever U.S. woman vice president and the first Black and Southeastern Asian to hold the position. Biden’s pick of Harris as his running mate was not unexpected as he had promised it would indeed be a woman. However, her election energized his campaign and led to the raising of millions of dollars to counter the Trump smear machine.

Kamala Harris’ most significant impact was galvanizing the African American vote, which was arguably the defining factor in the Biden-Harris win.

Donald Trump. Most, if not all, of Donald Trump’s weaknesses as a president and as a human being surfaced in a perfect storm during 2020. First and foremost was, and still is, his incompetence and narcissism in “managing” the coronavirus pandemic that has so far claimed some 265,000 lives in the U.S. and climbing at an alarming rate.

Not only did he deceive the American people when he learned of the deadly nature of the virus by downplaying it and predicting it would disappear on its own, he was instrumental in its spread when he politicized it. Trump could have spoken to the American people from the beginning about the seriousness of the virus and urged everybody to help mitigate its spread by wearing masks and maintain social distancing. Instead, he bungled everything about it by not putting a national plan in place to combat the pandemic.

Fearful that the pandemic, which he dubbed as the “China Virus,” would spook the stock market and hurt his re-election bid, Trump pressured governors to re-open businesses prematurely and mocked those who wore masks. Trump’s fervent supporters took his cue and refused to wear face coverings and to social distance as a bizarre sign of strength and to trigger liberals who were committed to stopping the spread. Selfishly he held numerous super-spreader rallies that led to a surge in cases.

In addition, Trump’s long history of racism became more evident in 2020 (see below). He could not bring himself to denounce white nationalism and racist vigilante groups like Proud Boys. During the campaign he tried to scare white suburban women with louder than normal dog whistles about how their neighborhoods will be threatened by you know who. He played to the racists among his base.

Over three weeks since he lost the election, Trump has refused to concede displaying his selfishness, narcissism, petulance and disconnect from reality. Only recently did he grudgingly allow the transition to proceed while taking baseless, almost comical, legal action to the courts by maintaining only widespread voter fraud defeated him. Somehow he conflates Black people voting with a fraudulent act.  Trump lost handily; in fact, Joe Biden’s Electoral College totals are the same as Trump’s in 2016 in which he declared a landslide then.

The impact of Trump’s refusal to accept reality has been an assault on our democracy that could produce long-lasting detrimental effects. America First? Not so much.

Rep. James Clyburn.  Civil Rights champion and highest ranking African American in Congress Rep. James Clyburn gave one of the most consequential endorsements in modern political history. Joe Biden had badly lost primaries/caucuses in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire and seemed at the precipice of ending his long political career. Three days before the South Carolina primary, Clyburn endorsed Biden, which figured strongly in the former vice president’s landslide victory there.

An exit poll found that 47 percent of voters stated that Clyburn’s endorsement was significant in their decision while 24 percent indicated it was the most important factor.

“You brought me back,” Biden told Clyburn after he hugged him on the stage following the results. And so he did. Biden essentially ran the table in the remaining primaries with this newly found momentum he acquired out of South Carolina powered by the support from Black voters to easily win the nomination.

George Floyd. “I can’t breathe” may have been the most significant three words said during
2020. When George Floyd, an African American, was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis during an arrest this summer, his neck was under the knee of Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes as his life was agonizingly snuffed out while the heinous act was captured on video footage for the world to see.

This tragic incident set off protests not only throughout the U.S. that transcended racial lines but also in foreign countries. The killing reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement aimed at exposing systemic racism that exists in police departments and the disparate treatment Black people receive as opposed to whites when interacting with law enforcement. 

The killing of Floyd and the subsequent protests revealed the true belief systems of our presidential candidates. For President Trump, it uncovered his innate racism by siding with the police and labeling the protesters as rioters. For Joe Biden, it demonstrated his compassion by visiting with the Floyd family and denouncing racism while at the same time he condemned any violence that grew out of the protests.

The impact of Floyd’s death is a renewal of the conversation about race and policing in America. 

Front line health professionals, scientists and essential workersAs bad as the pandemic has been, it would have been exponentially worse had it not been for the dedicated work of the front line doctors, nurses and technicians who have risked and lost in many cases their own lives. Furthermore, scientists searching for therapeutics and a vaccine as well as essential workers like truck drivers, supermarket employees, police, teachers, fire fighters and others have kept the country moving throughout the ordeal. They have prevented a catastrophe beyond description, and their impact will be felt long into the future.

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