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  • Jan Flynn

Can We Step Across the Divide Now?

If you voted for Trump, I’ve got a deal for you: I won’t gloat if you don’t despair

Photo by Shahan Khan on Unsplash

I am happy that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won

Okay, “happy” is a tepid understatement. I am thrilled, overjoyed, and wobbly-kneed with relief. In this long, painful year, the stretch from Election Day on November 3 to the morning of Saturday, November 7 was absolute agony. I’m sure it was for you as well. Please believe me when I say that my elation is tempered by the knowledge that you hardly share my joy.

I know how I felt when the last presidential election went your way. On the morning of November 9, 2016, I felt as though I was waking up inside a nightmare that refused to end. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I truly hope you’re not feeling that way right now.

Standing in my shoes, I see no reason why you would, but then I’m in my shoes and not yours. Losing hurts in any election — I’ve been around long enough to experience it many times — but I hope that what you’re feeling is the difficult but manageable level of disappointment, frustration, and concern I felt when Reagan won, and when both Bushes won (especially W — but let’s not get into that).

But with the honey-comb-shaped echo chamber crafted by social media — the invasive mechanism that continually prises us apart from one another by feeding us an individualized diet of increasingly extreme and alarming twists of information designed to keep us riveted and ravening — I fear that you may be feeling the same existential despair I went through in 2016.

I wish I could reassure you. I wish I could convince you that in the Biden presidency we will not be overrun by anarchists or demolish our borders to allow an invasion of criminal-minded aliens, or have our freedoms of thought and speech extinguished by squadrons of fanatic political correctness police.

My fears of the Trump presidency came true — and more

I expected cronyism, incompetence, and dishonesty. I worried that he would degrade the level of discourse in this nation even further. I feared for the environment, education, social justice, and for our relationships with our allies.

Never in my wildest nightmares did I think we’d be subject to the onslaught of lies, the hate speech, the jingoism that Trump has delighted in for four years. Never did I think I’d hear a president of the United States descend to playground-level name-calling of his opponents, or watch him cozy up to white supremacists and the worst of the world’s strongmen. Nor could I have imagined footage of children being dragged from their mother’s arms and detained in cages. I could go on, but you don’t want to hear it, and what I find horrifying about Trump and Trumpism is not the point here.

The point is that I am confident that your worst fears about the Biden presidency are unfounded. I truly believe you will benefit from his administration, just as I believe I will. We and our loved ones will both be safer when we have a credible, organized plan to deal with Covid. We’ll both be better off with health care that doesn’t threaten to bankrupt or abandon us when we most need it. Our kids will be far more likely to access higher education without becoming debt-slaves. And unless your income is in a sphere so far above mine that my empathy for you is strained, we’ll both have a better shot at a fair deal and a higher quality of life if Biden can institute the kind of tax reforms he plans on.

I can’t ask you to take my word for it

What I do ask is that you watch and see how things go before leaping to conclusions that the most strident and inflammatory among put forth. Stay involved. Don’t give up. Use your voice — anybody with a brain can see that the Biden majority was not a landslide and that the election may have been a repudiation of Trump but it was clearly not a repudiation of the Republican party — and use it with responsibility. All governments need watching; that’s the essence of a democracy, and the duty of all citizens who live in one.

Keep an open mind, or at least allow for the possibility that things may not turn out to be as bad as they seem right now. Take a breath. I’m tired of the anger and shouting; aren’t you?

We’re Americans. We can disagree. But let’s take this opportunity to chill out a little and focus on our common interests. For instance, the fight against a deadly and invisible common enemy that cares nothing for politics and is just as interested in decimating my family as it is yours.

Let’s start there. The healthier and safer you are, the healthier and safer I am, and vice versa. Let’s see what we can do when we start pulling together rather than pulling apart.

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