Our country is more divided than ever, but there is one thing we can all agree on, and that is the depth of the division itself. No moment was this more clear than on election night, when we saw our TV and computer screens highlight this separation of beliefs and political perspective in vivid red and blue contrast on a map of the United States.
As projected winners of each state were announced by the major news networks on the evening of Nov. 3, it was so close that we did not know what “the soul of America,” as the Biden campaign has called it, truly was or which mindset would prevail that day. We all went to bed (well, some of us did) not knowing and awakened the next day equally unnerved. Due to Covid-19 concerns, 2020’s historic presidential election was, of course, different, with mail-in ballots encompassing a huge portion of votes to be counted in many states, including here in California. Patience, as we were warned prior to election day, would have to be exercised.
But a couple days later, on Saturday morning, Nov. 7, the math finally added up and the answer was indisputable enough to see all major news outlets call it: Joe Biden was the winner. Despite Donald Trump’s charges of voter fraud and his supporters’ aggressive protests outside of vote count facilities in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, Biden’s road to a solid victory was evident. The media’s vigilant coverage of the voting process showed a system that (despite some glitches and problems that happen in every election) not only worked, but worked well. So much so that election officials have deemed it “the most secure in election history.” And voter turnout this year was record-breaking on both sides.
Many here in Los Angeles and across the country woke to the sounds of honking cars, clanking pot and pans, and screams of jubilation after the announcements. But that wasn’t all. Streets across the country were filled with revelers (most of which were masked, unlike crowds at Trump rallies).
In L.A., the Sunset Junction stretch of Silver Lake was filled with dancing, singing and beeping, while on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood, it was more of the same with rainbow flags waving and giddy Angelenos literally jumping up and down with joy on sidewalks and in the streets.
In Downtown, a planned protest turned into a Biden victory bash with thousands gathering to celebrate, holding signs that referenced Trump’s old TV gig on The Apprentice (“You’re Fired!”) and voicing issues of focus for the new administration concerning health care, police brutality, women’s rights and racial equality. Positivity and love was in the air and after a brief rain, it was sealed with a miraculous double rainbow in the sky.
The delight was not only about getting Trump out. Biden’s running mate, California’s own Kamala Harris, made history in more ways than one as our first female, Black and South Asian Vice President. The significance of her win brings to mind Barack Obama’s unforgettable victory in 2008 and it cannot be overstated, especially coming after the current administration, whose documented policies hurt immigrants and people of color, and sought to take away a woman’s right to choose.
At the Biden/Harris victory event in Delaware Saturday night, Harris dressed in a white pantsuit (a deliberate fashion choice referencing the suffragette movement and showing solidarity with women who came before her in American politics) and acknowledged the glass ceiling-shattering momentousness of her new position.
“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president,” she said. “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. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before, but know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”
Joe Biden’s speech was just as inspiring, offering much needed promise that the leader in the White House might actually hear, represent and fight for all of us in this country. “I’ll work with all my heart, with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you… that is what America, I believe, is about,” he said. “It’s about people. And that’s what our administration will be all about. I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation: the middle class. And to make America respected around the world again. And to unite us here at home.”
Since Saturday, Biden has been congratulated by world leaders and former presidents (even former Republican President George W. Bush). He announced a coalition to combat the coronavirus (which continues to spike across the country) and made a speech about the importance of the Affordable Care Act prior to the issue hitting the Supreme Court. Cabinet members have been named. The new administration is ready to get to work.
But as of this post, President Trump had not conceded and after several lawsuits and an embarrassing press conference behind a landscaping facility, it is clear that this will not be an easy transition. Social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook are seeing a minor exodus to right wing internet spaces such as Parler by those who cannot accept election results; and conspiracy theories about voting and the coronavirus continue, stronger than ever.
The truth is, Biden and Harris have a very difficult job ahead. Healing in this country and moving forward will not come quick or easy. Seventy million people voted for the other guy, and the example he’s set is not about acceptance or unity. As we’ve seen the past four years and saw in brutal blue and red on election night, there is a deep and passionate rift between American citizens, culturally, ethically and spiritually. In contrast, the president-elect’s stated goal is to bring both sides together, and though it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, it’s a refreshing message that should give Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between some hope.
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify,” Biden said. “Who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn into office on January 20, 2021. See our news section for updates on the administration, vote recounts, and the embattled transition.