Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.

We made it.

Four years of media overload and drama relating to the Trump presidency is finally coming to a close, and it seems like many Americans are expressing a collective sigh of relief.

This is especially the case in blue counties like ours, where 72% of voters cast their ballot for the Democrats, according to Politico.

Still, even though some voters are just glad to have a president that isn’t Trump, there’s clear apprehension about whether a Biden presidency will actually bring the kind of changes they want. To find out what people think about the upcoming Biden administration, I decided to seek out diverse voices from Hudson County, and ask them their opinions on the new president; and whether they were hopeful that this change in leadership for our country will produce the results they want.

Who Are They?

In order to gain a variety of opinions, three people ranging in age from different towns in Hudson County were interviewed.

Although they are all registered Democrats, two of the three feel that this label is limiting and they only chose their party because it was required to vote in the presidential primaries.

Dillon Rivera, a 24-year-old dog walker and resident of North Bergen, considers his politics to lean more towards the independent side.

Although he is a self-professed progressive, he feels the Democratic Party doesn’t go far enough, and that they are more concerned with preserving the status-quo than making any real changes that will affect the lives of working-class people.

Karin Smith, a 51-year-old Union City resident, and an employee of 1199 Health and Hospital Workers’ Union, is a life-long Democrat.

She is excited about a Biden administration, mostly because she hopes that we can return to a sort of normalcy in the political discourse, although she has her reservations about whether supporters of Trump will quiet down their racially-charged rhetoric.

And finally, Jasmin Valverde is a 27-year-old registered nurse from Jersey City.

She told me she is not too invested in the specifics of American politics, and just wants people to have more chances to succeed and live a decent life. However, she said she is very anti-Trump, and believes his entire presidency was built on division, identity-politics, and stoking fear within white, working-class communities.

What Are You Looking Forward To?

Dillon: “Personally, I’m not looking forward to anything other than not having to hear Trump getting such a large platform anymore. I don’t think Biden is going to bring about any real changes. He was the conservative VP of the Obama administration, and has shown that he’s more interested in austerity measures that keep things pretty much the same for working-class voters. Even though he claims to be liberal in the social sense, we’d probably have to force his hand to make gains on policies that expand the social safety net, like Medicare-for-all and better wages.”

Karin: “I’m looking forward to hopefully returning to a sense of normalcy, and Americans feeling a sense of leadership from our president. Trump is a racist, and a hateful person. I still believe he didn’t even know what he was doing as a president, he just liked the attention. Hopefully, Biden can make some progress when it comes to COVID too, because throughout the pandemic, Trump has shown that he doesn’t care about the lives being lost.”

Jasmin: “My hope is that Biden can make some changes when it comes to immigration policy, because I think Trump’s stance on this has been needlessly cruel and has hurt many people; not only the undocumented but their families, friends and employers too, many of which are American citizens themselves. Immigrants, even the undocumented, contribute to the economy, so a harsh immigration policy like Trump’s hurts all Americans.”

What Do You Fear?

Dillon: “I worry that the Biden administration will not make any real changes, and will continue the corporate-bailout policies of previous administrations on both sides. He’s been reluctant to take a strong stance on social issues like marijuana legalization, Medicare-for-all, and a livable wage, and I think these kinds of policies are the ones that actually make life better for all Americans. We’ve seen that letting the ‘market decide’ often leads to exploitation and a higher concentration of wealth at the top, and I get that people are reluctant for more government control, but it’s been shown to work in many other countries already.”

Karin: “My biggest concern is continued unrest. After seeing how strongly the Trump-voting portions of America support a man that wants so badly to be a dictator, I’m nervous that they’ll continue obstructing democracy, and will continue taking part in radical actions like what we saw recently at the Capitol, even with a new Biden administration.”

Jasmin: “I don’t have a single, big worry really. I’m cautiously optimistic about a Biden preisdency, and even though I don’t believe we’ll see huge changes, I think that voters and members of the government can help push for better policies than we’ve seen in the past. If anything I’m just concerned about the continued division in America along political, social and racial lines. Trump played into a divide that was already there and gave certain parts of America a voice to release their frustrations. I don’t think that’s going away any time soon.”

President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris after their election victory. | AP Photo

What’s the Best Thing Biden Can Do For Your Community?

Dillon: “Well, right now the most pressing issue is the pandemic. I feel like economic relief would be the thing that would help residents of Hudson County most, because people are losing their jobs, and can’t pay their rent, student loans, and in many cases can barely afford food for their families. This can have a domino effect on our society, and soon will affect all levels, which is why Biden should be concerned, but right now I see my community and communities like mine suffering the most.”

Karin: “First, I’d like to see the whole country shut down and people being paid to stay home. This would save lives. Aside from that, I think our community would benefit most from investment in schools, and programs for our children. They’ve been cutting [them] so much forever. I want school-age kids to have access to better education, after-school programs and extracurricular activities so that they can find their interests and start believing in themselves instead of just hanging out with friends on the street getting into trouble. I think that the upcoming Biden administration should add some funding for these.”

Jasmin: “In my community, I’m really concerned about housing. I’m not against building newer, more expensive housing, and Jersey City being “up-and-coming”, but in my neighborhood especially, of Bergen-Lafayette, these changes are happening without giving consideration to the people who are already living there. Increases in rent because of the desirability of the real-estate and in cost-of-living because affordable shops are being replaced with newer, trendy ones catering to newer Jersey City residents are hurting a lot of my neighbors. Most of the people I grew up with don’t live in Jersey City anymore, and this makes me sad. I think Biden’s administration can look into something like giving housing credits, or a federal affordable-housing mandate, to ensure that communities like mine aren’t abandoned and left to fend for themselves, when they’re the ones that built their communities into what they are today.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

Rivera, Smith and Valverde seem generally hopeful for the upcoming Biden administration, albeit with some reservations.

It’s important to remember that these three voices alone don’t speak for all of Hudson County, but similar issues are on the minds of many other Americans as well; we can see this in national media coverage surrouding politics in the last several months.

Despite their differences in opinion, the one thing they all had in common was that they felt like the most important thing right now is dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If we are to move forward as a country, this new administration should work quickly to undo the harm caused by the inaction and harmful policies of the federal COVID-response under Trump, and ensure that the lives and livelihoods of Americans are protected while we wait for a country-wide rollout of the vaccine against the virus.

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