Reflections on the 2020 Election Season: A Call for Unity and Bipartisanship

Dr. David J. Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Opinion

Introduction
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.   

19 Comments

  1. Whilst I don’t class myself as a democrat or a Republican, I genuinely vote on policy and not personality. I have been shocked to the core at how deplorable this election season has played out. Have been disgusted at the presidency and how it was been run, from the tone deafness coming from the White House, to the 2am Twitter rants of someone who often sounds like a belligerent preteen. Neither side has handled themselves with true dignity, one being more dignified than the other side though. It is a sad reflection on the country that the two main candidates were the best that each party could find to represent them. It was interesting to see how the these two candidates received the 2 highest vote totals in the history of the US. The country is truest divided. And it’s going to take a strong administration to unite the country.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Catherine! I also think social media has played a huge role in the misleading information getting thrown around from both parties. Most being purely negative towards the opposing parties. You are definitely right, it will take a strong administration to unite the country and I don’t think we will see that anytime soon honestly. I think people forget that despite who our president is, it is our job as American citizens to support one another and to unite.

  3. I really enjoyed this article. Expressing your views on the presidential debate has been a bit taboo because of how divided our country is. However, I will admit that I voted for Biden and Harris because what they stand for is more of what I align with. While I have friends who voted for Trump, I don’t have any negative feelings towards them because they have their own reasons like I had mine. As a woman of color, I have felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when I found out Biden was elected. While Trump has done good for the economy, I don’t believe he has done good in a few other areas. And the fact that he is endorsed by the KKK is really off putting to me. I have a lot of feelings about the outcome of this election – good and bad. For example; Trump will be the first president who refuses to make a concession speech – that doesn’t sit right with me because it sounds immature. However Kamla Harris will be our new Vice President. First FEMALE VP, and she isn’t from a a European background (not that there’s anything wrong with that), she is biracial – African and Asian American. This is huge because she broke the cycle of Vice President’s being male and white. I am not anti-white, but this is a big deal because she has proved that your gender and the color of your skin doesn’t define what you can and cannot do. This shows progress for all woman, and all people of color as well. I am very excited for the future of America. With these two people, almost everyone can see themselves within the president or vice president. Having leaders that we all can relate to in some way is a step towards unity.

  4. I really enjoyed this article. Expressing your views on the presidential debate has been a bit taboo because of how divided our country is. However, I will admit that I voted for Biden and Harris because what they stand for is more of what I align with. While I have friends who voted for Trump, I don’t have any negative feelings towards them because they have their own reasons like I had mine. As a woman of color, I have felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when I found out Biden was elected. While Trump has done good for the economy, I don’t believe he has done good in a few other areas. And the fact that he is endorsed by the KKK is really off putting to me. I have a lot of feelings about the outcome of this election – good and bad. For example; Trump will be the first president who refuses to make a concession speech – that doesn’t sit right with me because it sounds immature. However Kamala Harris will be our new Vice President. First FEMALE VP, and she isn’t from a European background (not that there’s anything wrong with that), she is biracial – African and Asian American. This is huge because she broke the cycle of Vice President’s being male and white. I am not anti-white, but this is a big deal because she has proved that your gender and the color of your skin doesn’t define what you can and cannot do. This shows progress for all women, and all people of color as well. I am very excited for the future of America. With these two people, almost everyone can see themselves within the president or vice president. Having leaders that we all can relate to in some way is a step towards unity.

  5. The sentiment of the country being able to unite and heal is a ideal outcome regardless of how the election played out. However, I don’t foresee that coming to pass anytime in the near future. Many people would say that under the current presidency that the country has taken a step back while some would say that it was less of a step back and more of a lifting of the veil to show where we actually were the entire time. There’s no denying that this particular presidency, the election leading up to it, and the election that followed were some of the most emotionally charged times in American politics in recent years. A true divide has formed in our country as people have turned to their neighbors are realized that they’re not what they hoped they were. A lot of hate has come in response from both sides. Personally, I don’t think unity is possible for American citizens anytime in the near future and, as much as this idea goes against the idea of “playing in the sandbox together,” I don’t think that bending is necessarily the right choice in every situation. Should we learn to coexist with people that are different from us? Absolutely. But what if the difference is that the person does not accept certain lifestyles? What if the person is not tolerating of people of a different religion, race, or gender? I don’t believe in shrugging that off for the sake of sharing the sandbox peacefully. If I were to continue the analogy, I believe people should be expected to behave and accept others if they want to be allowed in the sandbox in the first place. Only when someone can learn to accept the people they share it with should someone be allowed to exist in the sandbox peacefully.

  6. I feel as though this county runs on hate anymore. I have a very hard time in my family with politics and it is so sad to watch. I am pretty in the middle with politics they usually do not interest me and I just kind of sit back and watch others. But even while doing that this election got me fired up. One of my really close cousins is out as gay and married to his husband. My family supports him in everything he does. But the rest of my family and are big Trump supporters. So it is a big issue within my family. My cousin feels as though everyone hates him because they voted for Trump. I however feel like we need to vote based on what the candidate is going to do or did for this country. I do not think who you vote for reflects who you like and who you don’t. I feel like it is not a reflection on if you support the right for gays to marry. I understand things Trump has said have definitely not made it feel like that but if you vote for someone it doesn’t mean you agree with EVERY thing they stand for. I know plenty of people who are gay that voted for Trump. I think this world is just so built on hate that sometimes it is hard to look past that one vote doesn’t change who you are. Your vote doesn’t define you.

  7. As always, I enjoyed reading this article. You’re so right, we need to figure out how to coexist peacefully. So many people define themselves and others by their political views, when in reality we are so much more than that. I think everyone just wants someone else to blame for the problems in our country so each side points the finger at the other. The real problem comes in when people decide it is not okay for us to have different beliefs. When they decide to be hateful and try to push their beliefs on you. You’re right, our children are watching, and I hope we can teach them how to agree to disagree and how strong this country really is when we stand together.

  8. It is true that this country is sadly divided. I too have strong beliefs that others who don’t agree with me judge me solely on who I voted for. I also feel as if media sources play a part of dividing the country by falsely reporting everything that isn’t creditable, especially during this election. I agree no matter what happens we as a country need to stand together.I do fear for the future, the country is very divided, I think we need to learn that it is okay to not agree with everyone else’s opinions, and that you should be able to still be friends and get along with family even if you don’t agree. The time to come together is now, this country needs it. I really enjoyed this article, and I think your words of coming together are inspirational.

  9. Many people look towards one another’s political differences and use those to define right off the bat how much they like a person. We are a country divided by red and blue and it often feels like there is no middle ground. From personal experience, I come from a clear Republican family while I swing more to the left, and we do not always get along. To them, I do not really know what I am talking about because of my age, and they can be uncompassionate when it comes to different matters (#MeToo, BLM, ice detainment). It’s hard to talk to them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. It’s hard growing up and realizing what kind if people they are, but I still love them. I know they do not agree with me, but I know they still care about me. I won’t say we haven’t gotten in arguments because we definitely have, and I won’t say we live in complete harmony because we really don’t. I won’t lie and say I don’t want them to see thing more my way because I do, but we’re in this together and look out for one another. While I don’t think my family and I truly represent how this nation should coincide with each other; I do think my family is on the right path. I hope with time that this country will stop focusing on what makes us different and stand together on a more united front. It starts with us and moves towards our children. We need to do better because, like you said, they are always watching. We need to do better for us- the present- and for them-the future.

  10. I enjoyed reading this article. I feel like in this country if you are moderate in your beliefs, you are hated by both sides. Right-wings call you socialists and left-wings call you Lil’ Trump. We are unable to find the common ground and make peaceful compromises that benefit both sides. We need to remember that at the end of the day, we are all Americans.

  11. I feel like this is a very relatable and well written article and I truly believe that most Americans are yearning for a sense of normalcy and bi-partisanship. It is disheartening to know that many Americans have become so attached to their political identity that they can no longer see past it or can’t see past it towards others. While I do believe things like human rights are not political issues and people on both sides have attacked the basic principles that make us human, it is important to remember that being a part of a specific party does not equal a lack of caring or demonize a person. In watching President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory speech, his message was clear: we are Americans and this narrative of demonization is over. For this first time in 4 years, I felt as if America was healing and getting back to “normal,” however normal politics can be. It is also important to remember that it hasn’t always been like this. There were many times when people across the aisles came together to do what was best for the United States. Senator John McCain and President Barack Obama were a great example of this. Working across party lines with mutual respect to get work done in America is something that has been missing the last four years, but I truly believe America is healing and getting back to this.

  12. I really want Bipartisanship. I want people to connect across the big political gap created by the two parties. I’ve seen so many likeminded people get into fights and refuse to talk to each other because the issue is labeled as “Democrat” or “Republican.” And I’ve seen a lot get in the way in Washington because of party divides. I’m sure we all remember when Mitch McConnell made a statement that the Republican party would refuse to work with Obama and would stonewall any laws he endorsed. I don’t think Partisan politics are good for this country, and it would be much better if we could learn to work across party lines.

  13. I certainly believe we have tough days ahead especially when it comes to improving our country. I think this includes both sides of the political campaign acknowledging their stubbornness and accepting the outcome of the election. Unfortunately this is made difficult by parts of the campaign. Sometimes political parties attempt to ruin another candidates reputation in an effort to win the election. This, in my opinion, is very harmful and manipulative. Not only are the rumors spread often false, but people on the opposite party often carry their bias due to the rumor into the presidential term if this person ends up being elected. This bias often prevents an entire party (which is near half of our country) from being open to the electees atempts to do what he/she is elected to do which is to help our country. In my opinion, both parties need to take a step back and realize that while, their methods for achieving their political goals are different, more often than not the goals are the same. In the same manner both parties need to realize that slander can only harm our country. I believe the slander that was/is forced Donald Trumps way during his election and presidential term is part of what made most of America want to oppose him. I also believe the slander thrown towards Joe Biden will affect his future presidential term. In the end this resistance to our president only complicated/s our country. My final point is that a candidate we don’t particularly like will get elected. It happens. It is, not only important but essential for the good of our country that we show our President respect. If the citizens within our country outwardly disrespect the figurehead for our nation, how can we expect the rest of the worlds leaders to treat our leader and consequentially our country with the dignity and respect we deserve?

  14. I agree that too often American citizens are blinded by their political affiliation when interacting with each other. Unfortunately, this blind hatred has been kindled even more so by the political climate of this election season. I live with roommates and we each have our own political views. There has been a lot of tension in our house surrounding this election; however, we sat down and had a civil discussion in order to live in harmony. We each approached the discussion seeking to gain a healthy living environment. We succeeded because we all worked toward a common goal. Shouldn’t that mission stretch beyond the four walls of this house? Shouldn’t we, as a community, strive to identify and work towards a common goal? After all, aren’t we all Americans? After all, aren’t we all flesh and bone?

  15. This election made history and it was interesting/anxiety inducing to watch it play out. Our country is very divided right now and emotional tension is high on both sides of the political spectrum. I think the two party system is flawed because they will never come to a compromise. I think politicians should have the citizens best interest in mind and not what they feel aligns more with their party. I hope one day we can be more united as a country, but we have a lot of work to do to get there. Something I have seen a lot of that has caused arguments is people mistaking human rights as politics. Just like many people have politicized wearing a mask, when it’s not at all political. Democrats and Republicans both have work to do to come together and make our country a safe and great place for all citizens.
    I also think the media has played a huge role in creating tension during this election. I know people that will believe a youtube video by a person with no experience in the topic and no facts backing it, over someone that has a PHD in the same field or actually has experience with what is being talked about. Facebook and Instagram now have fact checkers throughout their websites, so you can see if the information being spread is correct or not. I think this is a great feature and educates people on the misinformation that is being spread. I also see people share things on social media that aren’t from a reliable source or have no proof to back up the claim. Many people have the harmful idea that just because it’s popular on social media that automatically means it’s correct. I also hope that we can come back to trusting the science community, academy, and long established institutions.

  16. This is a very well-written article about the 2020 election and the constant fight for equity and some sense of “normalcy,” and a sense of urgency for action and planning. I believe there is a divide in our country; a divide that is widening by the day as a result of partisanship and the lack of working together (bi-partisanship.) This country is supposed to be depicted by its firm and untouchable U.S. constitution that created a foundation of a republic like no other nation. It appears as if U.S. citizens, such as myself are sometimes afraid in speaking our opinions on local, state, and/or federal issues regarding government and non-government organizations and ideas. This country turned from being all about “Freedom of Speech” to possible patronizing of our peers based on their political ideology and what they feel is best for the country. There is no longer any partnership in government; there is a decrease of bi-partisanship and an increase of partisanship – one side of the aisle being ‘right’ while the other aisle is significantly ‘wrong.’ There is a lack of transparency, the lack of fluidity, and a lack of conversation that can best benefit our nation…while there is an increase in hatred, civil unrest, protests about equity, and arguments from both sides of the aisle (Republicans and Democrats, alike, with no agreements in between.)

    Whenever this legal process is over and we know for certain the result of the election; and for it to not be decided by the media, then and only then will we have a definite chance to turn the page, start a new chapter, and make our voices of unity heard in an urgent message to our government. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, this is no time to be involved in hatred of one another; as this is a perfect time for us to come together and set aside our differences, politically and rationally. Nobody will think the exact same as another being; furthermore, our differences can help set the pace in our country, help turn the page to a new chapter in our book to fight for potential unity. There is a chance to come together and put aside our differences and that time has come now! This article was really insightful and helped me think differently on our nation and this need for a sense of urgency in our country to come together and make decisions through bi-partianship legislature.

  17. I think there are multiple reasons for the division going on. Both sides of the aisle are going farther right or left because of a minority of candidates or voters, social media algorithms fuels groupthink and disinformation, media outlets needing something to talk about, and crazy politicians to fuel it. I think what this article best addresses is the human side of things. Most of us inherently understand what is right or wrong and how to treat other people. If someone justifies their political view because of something racist or because they are afraid of someone’s religious views, clearly they are in the wrong. But as adults we should be able to accept and have public discourse civilly. Executive actions have only increased in the past 20 years and people increasingly think that the president regardless of party can and should act unilaterally. We need a civics refresher for the country that we need more discussion, slower decision making, and more compromise. I think the best way to get there is what is often overlooked and noted in this article. Treat your neighbor with respect and love.

  18. Wow where do I begin on this subject really! How disappointing to see such division and hate from two major political parties. One thing that I find SO intriguing, is the fact that people want to completely eliminate opposing opinions. Our country is built on opposing opinions, that is the base for a democracy, and what makes our country so great. We live in a utopia compared to other places in the world and I truly don’t think people appreciate that. No matter one’s beliefs, identity, race, culture, or ethnicity, American citizens have opportunities that other people around the world would die for. The fact that we want to hate on our fellow American citizens because they do not vote the same way we do, is utter stupidity and immaturity.

    I also think social media has played a HUGE role in the misleading information getting thrown around from both parties. Most being purely negative towards the opposing parties. I think people forget that despite who our president is, it is our job as American citizens to support one another and to unite.

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