The votes are in and in some places are still being counted — with the final numbers about to be disputed and dragged into court. Whichever side comes up short will childishly scream, “No fair!”
That feeling of unease this morning? You’re not alone, no matter where you sit on the political spectrum. Another nasty, divisive, stomach-turning election should be behind us today, but we know it’s far from over. We know our politics and our political parties and our top politicians aren’t better than that, as much as we need them to be.
Nevertheless, the need to come back together, to reunite as a nation, in the spirit of strength and healing, has rarely, if ever, been as urgent or as necessary as right now. Or as in doubt.
Yes, yes, we’re able to write that after every presidential election, sadly.
Once again, we can call on our major parties and top-of-the-ticket candidates to set examples and to lead us in a healing that has to occur so our nation can remain strong, so we can remain together. Neither President Donald Trump nor former Vice President Joe Biden has ever embraced working with the other afterward, though. Rather, bitter political divides seen during the heat of battle almost certainly will continue post-election.
That's despite a strong tradition in the U.S. of a well-publicized, coming back together of presidential candidates in the weeks following decisive votes. It’s an important and poignant, even if brief, signal to citizens that their polling-place picks are respected, that we can disagree without being disagreeable, that we can acknowledge opposing views and the sun will still come up in the morning, that we can compromise for the common good, and that moving forward together not only can happen but will.
Will Biden and Trump share an hour-long White House lunch like President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012? Will they pledge to work together on economic issues and national security like Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain did after meeting in Chicago following the 2008 vote?
They and their parties need to see the necessity of soothing their wounds so the rest of us, too, can salve ours — so we can get back to working together and compromising and focusing on common ground and our common good.
Faith leaders, political leaders, the media, and others all can be called on and looked to for guidance in the name of refinding our unity.
From Duluth to St. Paul to Madison to D.C. and everywhere in between, voters this morning can call on their newly elected and re-elected leaders at every level of government to put the nastiness of another campaign season behind us. We can call on those in whom we've now placed our trust, our hopes, and our dreams to dedicate themselves, or rededicate themselves, to working across the aisle, to working with anyone and everyone they need to, and to doing, always, what's right and what's best for the good of the people, all the people, and what's right for our communities and our nation. Not necessarily what's best for party or for the special interests that think maybe they bought themselves a little favor with their campaign contributions.
There's critically important work to be done. The pandemic only seems to be gaining steam while too many of us are losing our vigilance; a post-COVID-19 recovery is already as necessary as oxygen; state and federal money woes are compounding; and the threats of war, terrorism, mass shootings, violent unrest, and more remain omnipresent.
We're all needed, whether Democrat, Republican, or something else, because in the wake of ugliness, the promise of a fresh start can be found. Our leaders new and newly rehired can lead the way, bringing their parties with them. They can earn the votes they received yesterday — and the votes they want to receive next time.
Remember the drawing of the snake, chopped into bits in Benjamin Franklin's political cartoon of 1754? Each piece represented a colony. "Join or die," the editorial cartoon read at its bottom. It's a sentiment as true this morning for us as it was then for the colonists.
The votes are in. The hard work is far from over.