Dr. David J. Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
The 2020 election between Donald Trump and Joseph Biden has been no doubt the most contentious election in recent history. It has certainly been a historic one; there have been record turnouts for early voting, Joe Biden won the most votes ever recorded in history and Kamala Harris will be the first African American and woman to win the Vice Presidency. Truly this has been a historic election.
But even with these historic aspects of this election season, it has been very painful to witness and be a part of the democratic process because in many cases people are sharply divided along party lines. For example, many of my close friends that disagreed with my political affiliations have been very unkind and even racist towards me. Sadly, these are many people I have grown up with and known my entire life. It seems that we have gotten to such a divisive phase in our history that people do not know how to separate one’s worldview and political ideology from their personhood and identity as a human. Some conservative folks think that all liberals are inherently evil, un-Christian and just downright depraved people. On the other hand, many Democrats feel that all Republicans are racist, backward and unlearned. And of course when we look at the validity of these claims we find out that these are generalities and that humans are much more complex and should never be defined by political rhetoric and talking points. But nonetheless, people go on hating one another based on who they plan to vote for.
Division After the 2020 Election Was Decided
When Biden declared victory there were many folks elated and on proverbial “cloud nine,” while others were heart broken, torn and disillusioned. As an African American, I likely have a different perspective on the Trump Presidency and the era of Trump than many people. Although there were a small percentage of African Americans that voted for Trump, most of us agreed that our President and his supporters were tone death toward real African American issues and at times only made concessions in order to get more votes.
These Are Scary Times
Candidly, there are some aspects of my political ideology that are more conservative leaning, however the divisiveness and name calling was too much for me to stomach. As a person of color, I have had fear and anxiety during much of this presidency. This is based on what my family and I have both experienced and seen personally from well meaning people. I have been afraid that if Trump wins many of the violent pockets of his base would be emboldened, but on the other hand now that Biden has won I am fearful of the backlash.
But, let us not forget that Donald Trump is still our president. I am hopeful that he will concede with class in a presidential way. He will lead the country until January and I am hopeful that his last few months will help build the country and work toward unity. His supporters should do the same. Regardless of whether our candidate won or not we are all still Americans and have to figure out how to move forward from here. Together.
Getting Back to Decency and Truth
We have to get back to decency, civility and to truth. As an academic and professor I teach students to rely on valid news sources and information. As a historian and social studies scholar much of my work relies on valid and verifiable research. I am anxiously looking forward to our country moving away from conspiracy theories and misinformation that fuels hate and moving back to a trust in the science community, the academy and long established institutions. Let us come back together around truth, justice and the American way.
Unity and Bipartisanship
This also means that those who supported the winning candidate should not gloat and celebrate in a mean spirited way. People need to understand that we all still have to live together. A recent NPR news story highlighted a couple where the husband supported Trump and the wife supported Biden. After the election results have come in, they still have to live together in harmony. This is perhaps a metaphor and illustrative of the work we have to do as a country in coming together. Those who supported the losing candidate should not lash out and retaliate in bitterness but come together as humans with those they disagree with, as a loving husband and wife would. We need to see this same sentiment with the outgoing president, the president elect, among congress on both sides of the aisle, and among local politicians.
Conclusion- Tough Days Ahead
In conclusion, we have some tough days ahead of us and have much of the “heavy lifting” to do in this country. But I have faith in the American democratic system. We have weathered many storms and will get through this one. So this article is a call to folks from both sides of the political aisle, to the teachers, college students, politicians and everyday citizens to come together and figure out how to “play in the sand box together” because the future of our democracy is at stake. The children are watching and the world is watching to see how we will approach this next phase of the US democratic experiment.