Published January 25, 2021
As Kamala Harris, America’s first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President, takes on the challenges of her office, President Biden faces seemingly insurmountable hurdles: divisions within his own party and even greater fissures in the nation as a whole. Rutgers experts weigh in on those political narratives, the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and other issues in news outlets across the media landscape.
Kimberly Peeler-Allen of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers tells Vox that, by her very presence, Vice President Kamala Harris will use her distinct and varied background to aid in governing. “Harris will draw on her full life experience as a Black woman in America…to inform the decision-making process of the administration. This is a unique opportunity to uplift and draw focus to underrepresented, underresourced, and marginalized sectors of our society to create systemic change.”
As many of his predecessors have, President Joe Biden stressed the need for national unity in his inaugural address last week. But Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker tells The Record that he doesn’t expect those good feelings to last long. “Now we get down to the particulars,” Baker says. “It’s like you have a big Christmas dinner and then you argue over whether it should be roast beef or turkey or whether the cranberry sauce is fresh or from a can.”
Are leftist extremists the mirror image of far-right Trump supporters? Could their activities lead to major rifts between progressive and moderate Democrats? The Washington Post reports on the topic with insight into anti-fascist ideology from School of Arts and Sciences professor Mark Bray. Groups that oppose mainstream, centrist liberalism tend to “want directly democratic, self-managed communities at the regional and macro-regional levels,” says Bray. “They want decision-making from the bottom up versus the top down. They reject capitalism.”
Rebecca Kolins Givan of the School of Management and Labor Relations appears in a MarketWatch report on a key move by President Biden: the firing of National Labor Relations Board general counsel Peter Robb. “In most cases a president’s administration will allow the general counsel to serve the remainder of the term, but they do have ability to fire a general counsel,” says Givan. She adds that the removal of Robb, a Trump appointee, will likely give a green light to more labor-friendly advocacy.
A Star-Ledger op-ed by XinQi Dong, director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers, focuses on an alarming trend during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The data show a spike in xenophobia and racism against Asians,” writes Dong, “and reports indicate such incidents have increased more than 800 percent over the previous three years combined.” Using a wider historical lens, however, Dong shows that “this is not a new trend” and draws parallels between the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the use of racist terms by elected leaders in recent months.
Angus Kress Gillespie, a professor of American studies at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, acknowledges that pivoting to remote teaching in March 2020 wasn’t easy but he’s grateful that he learned new skills from the experience. “Remote teaching is difficult,” he writes in an op-ed in The Star-Ledger, “but I take pride in having adapted.”