Can Biden and Harris truly heal the nation after Trump?
OPINION: Trump's supporters are not going away gently into the night simply because he has been defeated.
We finally have a president-elect in Joseph R. Biden. But due to an unbelievably close electoral margin of just under 300 electoral votes (counting continues in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia), he will inherit a nation that is deeply divided.
And for at least half of the country, Biden’s election is not good news.
In a globally televised address Saturday night from his beloved Delaware, Biden said: “I sought this office to restore the soul of America. To rebuild the backbone of the nation — the middle class. To make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.
He continued, “As I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like. And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
In the eyes of Donald Trump’s supporters, however, Biden’s election is the beginning of a deep socialist state takeover run by lefty “liberals” — and they’re not going away gently into the night simply because their pugnacious leader has been defeated.
So what about Trump? What role will he play in the peaceful transfer of power that America has been known for now for over 240 years? If his speech on Thursday night is any indication, he does not plan to concede, be gracious or willingly transfer power.
I guess Trump missed one of the first lessons we learn early in life, say in Kindergarten, and that is not to be a sore loser. We shake hands with the other side. We congratulate them on their win and we move on.
Clearly the incumbent president never learned that lesson.
Instead, Trump has continued to fan the flames of division, fear and misinformation. He alleged in the wee hours of the morning after Election Day, that he had won the election and that “they were trying to steal it” from him. He then lamented in a Twitter barrage over the following days tweeting “STOP the COUNT” and doggedly claimed that he was being robbed of a fair election. It caused alarm not just here at home but worldwide.
But on Thursday evening, Nov. 5, when he again addressed the nation, he really went for broke, saying in part: “If you count the legal votes I easily win, if you count the illegal votes they could easily steal it from us.” Further, he falsely accused Biden of systematic election fraud.
The task Biden has ahead is monumental. This was a very close election, and not everyone on the other side will embrace his presidency.
They detest Kamala Harris for being a Black woman who they feel does not ‘stay in her place.’ What’s worse, they smear her character and call her names. I saw it on social media throughout the weekend and it was disappointing and disturbing to say the least.
For her part, Vice President-Elect Harris offered this retort to her detractors: “But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
So what next? Can we all just get along? I doubt it. One of the biggest takeaways of this election is that “Trumpism” was not repudiated. In fact, it got stronger. But, what I believe Biden has going for him, is that he knows how to work across the aisle and he has a lot of friends in the U.S. Senate. And any Republicans left who have any moral compass (Mitt Romney comes to mind) must line up to help him heal this nation.
The truth is, we have never seen an election like this. Not even the infamous 2000 presidential election, in which Al Gore conceded the presidency instead of fighting on. Or in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was stunned by Trump’s upset victory. Yet, she called him that night and conceded the next day. She did not demand recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, although Trump won by the slimmest of margins.
But over this past week Trump seems to have whistled to his legions of followers to rise up, and to not allow this election to be ‘stolen’ from him. This is what gives me pause and frankly worry.
His former aide Steve Bannon, (founder of Breitbart) — also awaiting trial on federal felony fraud charges — called for the “beheading and placing heads on a spike” of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday, to set an example of what happens when you oppose Trump. Twitter suspended his account. Fox News followed suit and went off the rails in backing Trump’s outrageous and false “fraud claims” from Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson to Laura Ingraham.
Trump’s words continue to spread like a hot wild fire.
We know that 55% of white women (once again, up from 53% in 2016) voted for Donald Trump. We know that Trump had a massive Election Day turnout that resulted in a “red mirage” that turned steadily bluer as the early votes and mail-in votes were counted in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina.
More disturbing to me now, as a former Republican for two decades and as a “Never Trumper,” is the anger of his followers. They protested outside of polling places. Banged on windows. Threatened workers. Disrupted. Chanted. All at his behest.
This is not normal. And we must not normalize it. Joe Biden must push back against it with all of the grace and strength he can muster. Because what the world is seeing in 2020 America is America as we truly are: A tribal, uncivilized, racially divided, angry, aggrieved, entitled lot. At least, that is how about 50% of us are anyway.
What this election tells us is that we have deep schisms and divisions that date back to our original sin of racism, segregation, dehumanization, and separation. America is browning. And at least 50% of us do not like the demographic shifts. In their minds, they are at war with the rest of us. We are the loser elites. We are against God. Against guns. Against America. If you ain’t white, you ain’t right.
I keep seeing all of these tweets that we need to come together. That this is “not America” and, in reality, this is very much America. “This is us” as my friend Eddie Glaude notably declared on MSNBC last year.
So let’s just call a thing a thing: nearly half of American voters backed for a second term as president of the United States, a man who has lost over 240,000 American lives to COVID-19 on his watch. A man who mocks people who wore masks to protect themselves from said virus. A man who lies daily. A man who was impeached. A man who is openly racist, sexist, a grifter, a man who has been found guilty by a federal judge of defrauding charities for cancer, a man who separated and caged immigrant children and now cannot find their parents.
This is the damage of Trump’s America. May God bless Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as they work to repair it.
Sophia A. Nelson is the award-winning author of “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.”
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