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.   

10 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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