As the class of 2022 prepares to graduate, there is no doubt that the politics across the state and country have affected their day-to-day lives. This school year has brought many political controversies and struggles, causing difficulties for several students and employees. With a majority Democratic legislature and a Democratic president, many students, including myself, were expecting progress in the right direction for the country as a whole. However, political decisions on the state and national levels have been nothing short of lackluster.
So far the Biden administration has had an underwhelming record in accomplishing promised policy agenda items. This is not unforeseen, due to the Senate and House being very divided. However, it is disappointing since many were expecting a decent amount of progress. While running for president, Joe Biden stated he would take certain actions to move forward on policies, yet his actions have proved otherwise.
Biden ran for president during the murder of George Floyd, therefore focusing a notable amount of attention on racial and equity issues. However, while in office it seems like there have not been many efforts to advance promises about racial equity. Biden has taken no significant steps on policies regarding criminal justice reform, including ending cash bail and ridding of mandatory minimum sentences. The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which would implement measures to ensure equal and fair voting rights, was also stopped by a Republican filibuster, allowing for unjust voting laws to remain in place and allowing several states to propose and pass bills that would make it incredibly difficult for many to vote.
After the recent Omicron variant spike, the promise of better COVID-19 policies had also proven to fall short. The government evaded the importance of testing and masking, especially during Omicron when cases reached up to about 1.2 million in a day. The CDC did not pressure states to put in place mask mandates during the peak of Omicron and did not listen to experts that pleaded to require negative rapid tests prior to returning to work. Further, during the peak, the nation's ability to test and trace infection was insufficient as at-home tests were consistently running out and not available in many places due to the Omicron variant.
Several policies that the Biden administration promised to make advances in such as gun control, women’s rights, immigrant rights and worker rights have also proven to not progress.
Gun control policies, such as enforcing background checks and prohibiting the production and sale of automatic and high-capacity magazines have not made a lot of progress in the legislature. Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 was blocked in the Senate when it was taken out of the American Rescue Plan. The political divide has also brought the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to a halt, even though it has had bipartisan support in the political past. In regards to immigration, the Biden administration has also made use of Title 42, a Trump policy that allows the government to deport undocumented asylum seekers. The administration has recently used the Title 42 policy to expel 4,000 Haitians seeking asylum in Texas.
And one issue that Biden has failed on, that almost all students can agree with, is the difficulties of student loans and student loan debt. While running, it seemed that Biden mentioned several times that he would take action on student loan forgiveness. According to NPR, “Biden had pledged to cancel at least $10,000 of student debt per person.” And yet this has not happened yet.
Even with successes like the American Rescue Plan and the Build Back Better Act, the Biden administration has made several promises to bring unity and order in the midst of chaos. Yet it seems in the past year that chaos has remained prevalent across the U.S.
Arizona politics have proven to be worse than federal politics. This year, the Arizona legislature has passed bills attacking the rights to vote, women’s rights, transgender and LGBTQ+ rights, amongst other important issues.
Recently, the Arizona legislature passed two anti-trans bills. SB 1138 and SB 1165 were passed and signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey. SB 1138 bans medical care for transgender youth and explicitly targets anyone under 18 years old by banning several gender-affirming medical procedures. And SB 1165 prohibits transgender students from partaking in sports that align with their gender identity. The effects these bills have now that they are in law include the emotional and physical health of all transgender youth in Arizona.
Along with the anti-trans bills, Ducey also signed SB 1164 and HB 2492. SB 1164 restricts abortion after 15 weeks, attacking the right to reproductive freedom and affecting the health and safety of everyone with a uterus. And HB 2492 mandates Arizonans to provide documentation of citizenship while voting in federal elections, which would impact the voter registrations of thousands of people across Arizona.
As constituents of Tucson and the United States, it is important that we take it upon ourselves to advocate for and fight against discrimination in all forms. When there is little happening in our federal government and when the state decides to allow discriminatory legislation to be passed, they create an environment where many don’t feel embraced. If several members of our community are discriminated against and harmed, it affects all of us.
There are several organizations on campus that are currently advocating for marginalized groups. To get involved or to find a safe space on campus, make sure to reach out to the university LGBTQ+ resource center, Women and Gender Resource Center, the Immigrant Resource Center, the CAPS Program, the Office of Financial Aid Resources or several other organizations that are here to help.
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Sophia is a freshman majoring in family studies & human development and global studies. She loves to write on pieces concerning politics that affect the Tucson and UA community.