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. While I generally agree with the overall sentiment of this piece, given the actions of the past few months I cannot in good faith say that Trump and his supporters have earned, nor desired, any sense of civility, unity, understanding, or any such act defining a strong and functional democracy. Just a few days since writing this comment members of the overall voted to accept Biden’s electoral victory, however there were members of the Republican party that still refused to acknowledge the results of our democratic process and attempted to halt the peaceful transfer of power. Without repercussions for the many attempts to sow distrust into people towards our election system and increasingly radical rhetoric against the opposition, I don’t see how the political realm wouldn’t just become more extreme. While I agree that this country is only strong when united, I find such unity impossible to do unless both sides strive for it; unfortunately, unity does not seem to be the goal of many leaders of our country.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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