The 2020 elections were a stressful whirlwind for most. They involved a drawn-out presidential election, high stakes congressional elections, controversial propositions in California, and multiple electoral positions up for grabs in Berkeley.
President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris’ victory allowed many to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. While Eli Bamberger, a senior at Berkeley High School (BHS) in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) does not agree with all of Biden’s views, he is optimistic about some of Biden’s plans. “Even though Biden doesn’t want medicare for all, he still wants better healthcare, and I think that’s extremely important in terms of leveling the playing field,” he said. Bamberger, 18, voted for the first time in this election.
For Devon Magaña, an English teacher in the Universal 9th Grade and Academic Language Development in the BHS Leap program, immigration reform is one of her top priorities for Biden’s presidency. “I really want Biden to totally overhaul the imigration policy that we have. It’s un-American, atrocious, and inhumane that we have children and human beings at the border in cages,” she said.
Niloofar Koushafar, a senior in BIHS and first time voter, echoed Magaña’s hopes for the future. “I feel like the Trump administration has allowed a lot of things to pass, like systemic racism, police brutality, homophobia, and I could go on. [Trump] sets an example that this is okay. With Biden setting the example now, it might change,” she said.
George Shi, a ballet teacher from Contra Costa County who immigrated to the United States from China, found Trump’s platform more appealing. “Four years ago, I voted for Trump. And during these four years, I have seen that Trump has done the things that he has said he would,” said Shi.
However, Shi was concerned about mail-in voting fraud in the presidential election. “I think something happened like this [mail-in voter fraud]. [On Election Day], they counted the votes, and they didn’t say, ‘Oh, this is no good; let’s stop.’ This already shows us that maybe for Biden this works, but for Trump it does not,” he said. The Trump campaign has not provided any substantive evidence supporting its claims of mass voter fraud in swing states. However, Shi expressed that he was willing to accept the outcome of the election despite the loss of his preferred candidate.
Koushafar found the week of the election extremely stressful due to the uncertainty surrounding whether or not Biden and Harris would win. “I think I failed my test today because of stress from the election. I’ve had the whole week to study, but since Tuesday [Election Day], I just couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t pay attention in class, and I was constantly refreshing the page for results,” she said.
As an educator, Magaña spent the week finding ways to help her students cope with election anxiety. “I’ve been trying to give students the opportunity to talk and reflect if they want to. But I don’t want to push it on them because I know that it can be traumatizing,” she explained.
There were multiple controversial propositions on the ballot in California this election, including the highly funded Proposition 22, which passed. Proposition 22 will classify app-based drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash as contractors rather than employees. Supporters of the bill argued that it would give drivers flexibility to set their own work hours and preserve app-based driving jobs. However, groups like the California Labor Confederation feared that Proposition 22 would strip workers of important benefits and protections.
Bamberger, who recently began driving for DoorDash, felt conflicted about Proposition 22. However, he hoped that its passing would be in his favor as a driver. “A lot of the allure of working for these companies is that it’s extremely easy. You just make an acocunt, get in your car, and you can work wherever and whenever you want. And they don’t want any restrictions on that process,” he said.
In Berkeley’s local election, two newcomers, Laura Babitt and Ana Vasudeo, won seats on the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) School Board. With two new members, Koushafar hopes to see increased consent education and more work done to address sexual harm in BUSD. “At the top of my list would be the response to sexual harm. I feel like Berkeley High administrators have done just about nothing for anyone who has come forward to them,” she said.
Magaña was glad to see Babitt and Vasudeo elected to the School Board, as they were both endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. “Mostly, I would like to see that we’re electing people who are representative of our community. I think we’re moving that way, but not quickly enough,” said Magaña. Vasudeo will be the only Latinx member on the board, while Babbit will be one of two Black women, alongside sitting Director and Clerk, Ka’Dijah Brown.
For many in the Bay Area, this election has highlighted both the progress made, as well as the work that still needs to be done. Magaña commented, “If anything, this election has highlighted how much we need to keep having really hard conversions. We need to keep up the pressure and organize even more… And it’s going to have to come at the grassroots level.”