Detroit Will Breathe demonstrating after the win of President-elect Joe Biden. Photo by Brian Rozman
Detroit Will Breathe demonstrating after the win of President-elect Joe Biden.

Even with the votes all counted and a new President preparing to take office, for progressive activists in Michigan “the work continues.”

PORT HURON, Mich.—The rising blue tide in Michigan helped cement the position of President-elect Joe Biden, but the work for Michigan’s activists is far from over. 

There were no surprises in Port Huron when St. Clair County, for which the city is the county seat, went for President Donald Trump on election night. What might be surprising, though, is the margin. Data compiled by the New York Times shows a small but significant leftward list in the deeply red county. 

That small shift is the start of something more, local activists hope, but it isn’t enough to just rest on the victory of Nov. 3. 

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Bridget Huff is a mother, wife of a service member in the armed forces and a passionate political activist from Port Huron. She has been on the ground this election for candidates up and down the ballot across Michigan, and was helping coordinate responses to the flash point at the TCF Center ballot-counting site as efforts to disrupt the count unfolded. She fought for the blue tide, both to create it and to protect it. 

And she isn’t finished fighting.

“I don’t think any true, activist-minded progressive thinks for one moment that Biden’s win means our work is done,” she told The ‘Gander. “While I will acknowledge that he appears to be willing to listen and take a few stands we believe in, by and large our fights have not changed.”

The Work Continues

For a lot of people on the left, Joe Biden was a consensus candidate. His primary appeal was his perceived ability to defeat Donald Trump, and it was largely a common goal of doing that which propelled both his nomination and eventual election, explained the Intelligencer. This leaves activists like Huff to make the next president a candidate she supports, and not making the candidate she supports the next president. 

In a year filled with upheaval and uncertainty, that’s a spot of normalcy. For someone as politically engaged as Huff, the election isn’t the end of fighting for a cause, just the start of a different battle. 

She’s hardly alone, and the voices calling for continued diligence from activists carry nationwide. 

“This is just the beginning of change and the election of any one administration does not mean the work is done,” said civil rights leader Martin Luther King III, who noted the vision of his father, Martin Luther King Jr., has yet to be fully realized in America, 57 years after he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. “Dad and Mom wanted to eradicate poverty, racism and violence from our society and that will take a monumental effort. A Biden-Harris administration has to constantly be challenged and pushed to move.”

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Huff thinks that battle will only be more passionate under a Biden administration, not less. Largely, she attributes this to the kind of disregard for the safety or even lives of protesters shown by Trump, particularly during a summer and fall marked with public outcries against police violence against Black Americans. 

“Trump was happy to murder protestors, because to a dictator everyone looks like a dissident,” Huff said. “Knowing our opposition in the White House will at least think twice before ordering we be harmed will embolden organizers.”

She sees the Biden administration as persuadable instead of disinterested, but also as something that still needs to be held accountable to activists, and to voters. And those activists and voters aren’t going anywhere. 

“What I think the right and the center never understood is that we will never stop fighting, because as long as this society and this government exist we will be pushing them toward a ‘more perfect union,’” she said. “No one election or change will placate us because no one thing will fix all this. It’s a marathon, and we are all in this until our dying day. Our children will carry this on for us.”

And she already knows what activists will be calling on President-elect Biden for Jan. 20, 2021.

The Fights Ahead

The serious problems America faces won’t disappear instantly when Trump is out of office. And while the ongoing pandemic is the most critical issue of the day, Huff argues that a host of other pressing issues can’t be ignored. 

An equally critical example is the environment. While Biden has a plan for a more green economy, the kinds of actions needed to prevent human extinction as a result of global climate change are dramatic, and on this subject Huff is grateful that Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel are such stalwart allies.

Huff also plans to continue pushing for family reunification. As explained by the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), the full picture of family reunification is a lot larger than just migrant children separated from their caregivers at the border and while all of the kids who were sent from the Trump administration policy of zero tolerance have had their cases addressed, that larger picture remains an issue for the Biden administration to address. 

And the broader structural realities creating other forms of family separation not ending with Trump’s defeat means work is left to be done for immigration advocates.

“The frustrating reality is that family separation happens every day, and it happens through the immigration enforcement system,” MIRC Staff Attorney Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez told The ‘Gander. “Just because there’s a lack of public outcry and it doesn’t look the same, it’s [still] a really big lived reality for people.”

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Not to mention the ongoing protests regarding police violence against Black Americans or the way the coronavirus has exposed systemic problems in American health care, fights which Huff also says must continue. 

And regardless of who won the election, the Supreme Court has been reshaped to ensure Donald Trump’s legacy. That includes risks to rights granted largely by various Court interpretations of law, like the rights of LGBTQ Americans not to be fired, evicted or denied marriage. 

“The protections that we have in Michigan that are only granted through those Supreme Court cases could be at stake,” said Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo in an interview with The ‘Gander. “That’s why it is critical that we’re electing pro-equality advocates up and down the ballot.”

Hoadley has been a state representative following his time as an activist leading the OneKalamazoo campaign, which passed a local non-discriminarion ordinance in the city in 2009.

“The fight for affordable housing, childcare, worker’s rights, Indigenous Sovereignty and safety, Black Lives Matter, carceral change, LGBTQ+ rights, COVID financial relief, education system reform, debt relief, stopping the [travel] bans, and so much more continues,” she said.

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As other activists have suggested, engaged Michiganders can get involved alongside Huff on one or all of those issues by working together with others in their community. The leftward list in Port Huron shows that even in rural Michigan that organizing has impact. 

And as groups like Michigan Climate Action Network, Detroit Will Breathe, the Committee to Protect Medicare and many others come together those goals can press a persuadable president to take more decisive action.

“Our priorities have not changed, and neither has our resolve,” she said. “There are incredible groups doing phenomenal work all across this country, and firing Trump was just the first box on their very long checklists. The work continues.”