Digesting Some Thoughts on the Election
I got the news as I was out shopping for birthday gifts for my niece. I had just pulled into a Mobil station to get gas and a Wild Cherry Pepsi. My phone dinged with a new email. It was from Rolling Stone magazine. "Joe Biden is the President-Elect" read the headline. Immediately, I felt like a weight (a racist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/xenophobic/misogynistic/climate change-denying weight) had been lifted from my shoulders. I finished filling my tank and headed inside to grab my Pepsi. I don't drink coffee but I was in need of some caffeine. There was no one inside except the clerk. Suddenly, I became Mrs. Extrovert. "How are you?!" I asked. Then, when I was checking out: "I love your nail polish!"
Back in my car, a scene from Toy Story 2 popped into my head. Remember the flight attendant Barbie in the post-credits scene? I posted a meme of Barbie saying "Buh Bye Now" on Facebook with no caption. On my way to my next stop, I called my husband. "Biden won!" I exclaimed. "Now maybe my hair will grow back!"
My husband already knew about the election results. He'd heard the news in the weirdest way possible: in a chat on one of the dumb games he plays with strangers. Then I called my mom. She didn't even say hello when she answered. All I heard was, "WOOHOOOOOOO!"
By now you might have guessed that I voted for Biden. Was he my first choice? No, I really wanted Elizabeth Warren in the White House. She's super smart and does not hesitate to call out injustice. If you've ever seen her grill someone during a Senate hearing, you know what I mean. My main concern about Joe Biden is simply his age. I need him to be at least 10 years younger and maybe more like 20. But, he's the guy and I'll take what I can get. I have faith and trust that he will surround himself with experts (across many fields) and, most importantly, listen to them. We badly need a leader who can address COVID in a solid way and not just assure us that it'll go away like magic.
I know my conservative friends are, of course, unhappy with the election results. I see the term "socialism" being thrown around a lot. I don't think that's likely to come to pass but I also don't want to disregard another person's concerns. I know Trump appealed to many because he's not a politician. People were tired of seeing the same ol' career politicians in the White House, and I get that. I've also heard concerns over abortion and religious freedom.
Years ago, SNL aired a series of skits that depicted a panel of Black people who were asked about Obama's performance. The premise was: is there anything Obama can do to lose your support? The host listed several outlandish scenarios like "what if Obama repealed healthcare?" Maya Rudolph responded: "I'd just wear a warmer coat."
I feel like some of Trump's supporters have a similar level of loyalty that I can't pretend to understand fully. For four years, I waited for a Trump voter to disavow their decision. I wanted someone, anyone, to say, "I voted for him, but I honestly didn't realize it would be like this." Earlier this year, it finally happened. One of my Facebook friends expressed regret for having voted for him. She was uncomfortable with his rhetoric. "He lies," she said simply.
A high school classmate of mine wrote an amazing essay a few months ago. I've shared it widely. Corey, a lifelong Republican, shared his profound dismay over Trump's version of the party. I particularly liked how Corey laid out the reasons why the Republican party had appealed to him in the first place. He believes in a smaller government, with more power/responsibility being shifted to the states. He believes the government should be fiscally conservative. Highlighting differences between the two major parties, he cautions Democrats not to believe they have a moral high ground, which I also took to heart. This year, Corey switched his affiliation to Independent. I'd like to think that most of my Republican friends are like Corey - primarily concerned with government overreach and Constitutional rights. I can't bring myself to think that anyone I know voted for Trump because they support him as a person (let's not forget how he mocked a disabled reporter). He was their only choice.
On the rare occasion that I dislike a fellow human, I always remind myself that that person was someone's baby once. For Trump, that was the best I could do as far as finding some humanity there. He was someone's baby once. I agree with exactly one thing Trump did while in office, which was to make animal cruelty a felony. I will also give him props for being present. I'm sure he golfed as much as any president but he also struck me as a hard worker in some sense.
And that's where it ends. Listen, I'm 50 years old and have lived under Republican rule more years than not in my lifetime. I didn't particularly care for either Bush but I also didn't worry about their mental stability. Trump's disjointed speeches have, quite frankly, terrified me. Under Trump, I've also watched my LGBTQ friends and family grow sick with worry over all of the legislation that's been passed with the overt intent to make their lives miserable. I've watched environmental protections get rolled back. The last four years have felt like zero steps forward, incalculable steps back.
Since I talked about Corey's beliefs, perhaps I should list a few reasons why I've been a lifelong Democrat. I was raised by a highly liberal mother, so I'm sure her general outlook colored my perspective from my early days. When I got home from shopping yesterday, my daughter was still sleeping. It was past lunchtime, but I digress. I crept through her door and watched her eyes slowly flutter open. "Biden won!" I exclaimed.
Her sleepy brain started to spring to life. "Really?" she asked, a smile spreading across her face as she struggled to sit up. I walked over to her bed and gave her a hug. She hugged me so hard you'd have thought she had been elected president. While I'm sure her generation will still have the conservative/liberal split, I suspect it will not be cut right down the middle as with prior generations. From what I've seen, the kids of Gen Z don't spend any time wringing their hands over whether or not the LGBTQ community has a right to exist or not. They aren't caught up on race quite so much. I think they will do great things (and I'm counting on them to, you know, save the planet).
Like my mother and daughter, I believe in across-the-board equality. While I'm not chomping at the bit to have my hard-earned money siphoned off and redistributed in ways that are out of my control, I'm also okay with having a little bit less if it means that someone else has what they need simply to live. I'm fine with taxes being increased for the super wealthy. I believe that healthcare is a right and not a privilege. I believe that Black Lives Matter. I believe that our immigration policies need an overhaul (badly) but that we must always remember that we are citizens of the world and not just the United States. I don't support the death penalty. I believe that love is love. I don't believe we should tie ourselves to documents that were written during a time when life was so vastly different as to be unrecognizable to modern Americans. I think it should be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to vote. If the government trusted me to fill out the Census online, the same should work for voting. I believe the planet is in peril and that the window for saving it is closing fast. This I believe.
Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm hoping that Biden's election will nudge us back towards some sense of civility. I love the story of the friendship between Michelle Obama and George Bush. Seatmates at many state events, he even passed her a piece of candy at a funeral. Wouldn't it be nice to see more of that?