As I am writing this, it is Thursday, and we do not yet have a president. Joe Biden is still leading Donald Trump, as he has been for most of this election. But delays in counting mail-in votes in five states has severely slowed the election process and left the country frozen, waiting for the moment of defeat or vindication that will come when one candidate or another is declared victor in what has probably been the most vicious political cycle in history.
Thankfully for all of us, that’s not what I’m writing about today. No matter which candidate wins (I think Biden has the advantage but he has not won yet), we as a nation are going to have to reckon with the fact that according to MSNBC’s count, over 68 million adults voted for Trump. Tens of millions of people looked at a racist, homophobic man who has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths to COVID-19 and said yes, we want him to stay.
“Tens of millions of people looked at a racist, homophobic man who has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths to COVID-19 and said yes, we want him to stay.”
Even if Trump is defeated, those 68 million people are not simply going to wake up and stop believing that it is ok to be the kind of man Trump is. Even through the counting process—which is incredibly non-partisan and filled with checks to ensure that each vote is being counted correctly and that there is no fraud—Trump supporters have been showing up en masse outside counting centers in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, among others, to protest the continued counting of votes.
Despite the fact that these are legally cast votes and despite the fact we are meant to be a democracy, these people refuse to believe that the system is working simply because it just isn’t working for their candidate. Mail-in ballots are favoring Biden, as Biden did not spend months bashing the system, and so because of that it is “wrong” and “bad” and “illegal” to count votes that have been legally cast by American citizens. Every single one of these people, no matter who they voted for, deserves to have their vote count—especially in states like Georgia where, at the time of writing this, less than 10,000 votes separate the two candidates.
But for a moment, let’s do what none of us have been optimistic enough to do this week and imagine that Biden wins. Democrats are unlikely, though not out of the running to win the Senate back which means Mitch McConnell will once again be the majority leader and attempt to ensure that nothing of substance that actually helps the American people gets done. And those 68 million Americans will keep supporting him, and Trump will keep insisting that Democracy is only important when it applies to them, will keep trying to ensure that we do nothing to protect minorities, stop climate change, protect citizens from the coronavirus or end police brutality.
It is also important to note that, as expected at this point, these 68 million people are predominantly white. This is not surprising as it’s due to history, but it also mirrors a troubling narrative that has emerged on social media this week; people trying to act as though the only thing preventing unity is people “allowing” politics to drive them apart. There are fundamental differences between the left and the right, and acting as though those differences are not reasonable reasons to cut someone out of your life is absurd.
“people trying to act as though the only thing preventing unity is people “allowing” politics to drive them apart. There are fundamental differences between the left and the right, and acting as though those differences are not reasonable reasons to cut someone out of your life is absurd. “
Even ignoring the fact that every person should be able to have whatever boundaries they need, including when dealing with relatives, acting as though the left automatically want to mend our country’s divide is ludicrous. For many on the left, minorities, people with pre-existing conditions, people of color, queer people, etc., a re-election of Trump would quite possibly actually lead to their death. No one has an obligation to give any level of care or sympathy to people who are actively electing and supporting their oppressor after four years of watching the president oppress people.
There is a fundamental divide in our country. I don’t know how we fix it, I don’t know if there is a way to mend the fundamental disagreements over the basic humanity of people that the right and left have. However, I believe that the best way to start, the only way to make any progress at all, is to understand that this is not a “both sides are being equally bad” situation. One side is ok with letting people die, children be locked in cages, a virus rage out of control and police brutality not even attempt to be contained. The other isn’t. This is not as much a problem with both sides as the right would like it to be.
When people are insisting that other people do not deserve rights, there is a right and a wrong. There is a correct and an incorrect. The people voting for Trump, all 68 million of them, are adults. We need to stop acting as though they are just misinformed children who we can sway with better teaching. They are adults. They are responsible for themselves.
No one should be taking this week of fear to tell marginalized people that they are not trying hard enough to mend bonds with their oppressors. No one would tell people locked up in concentration camps to just be nice to the Nazis and fix their country. They’d tell the Nazis that their views, that some people are inherently lesser than others, were no longer tolerable. Why is it that we are so reluctant to, at any level, say the same?