The American people have spoken. Not with one voice, but with a disjointed cacophony of disunion.
Joe Biden is the president-elect, victorious in a contentious election that will see him inherit a nation struggling with a pandemic, economic disruption and deep divisions resulting from — and contributing to — a lost sense of self.
In the end, Americans embraced, barely, the politics of hope and vision while rejecting the politics of grievance as practiced by Donald Trump, which have been tainted by compulsive lying and incessant self-absorption.
The election was in doubt until Friday, with the vote in several states too close to call until nearly all ballots had been counted. And while Friday provided a clear winner, with Biden surpassing the necessary 270 electoral votes, the process demonstrated the nation’s sharp divisions. Those divisions existed prior to the Trump presidency; they have been grossly exaggerated by it.
Such divisions will be further demonstrated in the coming weeks as Trump’s campaign team seeks every possible avenue for overturning the election in court. On election night itself and again Thursday, with results still unclear, the president declared himself the winner and the election a fraud. It was a most unpresidential act from a most unpresidential man, providing a fitting coda for a reign that has undermined the foundation of a once-sturdy nation.
Trump should, indeed, use the courts to challenge election results that seem suspect; that is how the system works. But rather than present evidence or reliable accusations, he has resorted to invective and conjecture, appealing to the base emotions of his supporters while eschewing grace and maturity.
Of course, those are the actions that won Trump the presidency and have carried him for the past four years. We all are much poorer for it.
All American presidential elections are historic, with the winner taking the position of leader of the free world. That is a position that largely has been abdicated over the past four years, with Trump turning “America first” into an abandonment of the rest of the world while diminishing our standing on the global stage.
But this year’s result has additional milestones provided by Biden running mate Kamala Harris. The California senator is not only the first woman to be elected vice president, she also is a woman of color, representing a changing America. Those changes are for the better, with voters demonstrating that leadership is not solely the purview of white males and that the vast kaleidoscope of the United States can be represented in the highest office in the land.
Still, the election of 2020 is not a time for celebration; it is a time for this nation, her leaders and her people to get to work.
The coronavirus pandemic is raging, with infection numbers hitting record numbers in the past week; checks and balances in the federal government must be reinforced after being ignored for four years; the U.S. health care system must be bolstered; environmental protections must be restored and climate change must be addressed; divisions that Trump has feasted on must be mended; and all of this must be done in a way that gets the economy back on track.
This is a crucial and complicated time in the history of the United States. While Biden has won the election, more than 70 million Americans voted for Trump and must be embraced as part of the solution to our problems.
Only then will America again speak with a unified voice.