Column: Mandate on toxic politics

By Kevin Hartung

Taking the White House is a victory, holding the Senate and adding to the House number is also a win. Neither side generated a landslide victory indicating that a state of contention continues to exist in our country.

We the people have found our voice. What played out in this election was ridding the government of venomous politicians and divisive actions. Voters are done with the antagonistic poison that exists in Washington, D.C. Clearly, the win was not a mandate for repealing legislation, but a directive to replace the antagonistic, revengeful discord among our elected officials.

This may have been the highest turnout for an election since 1900, but it was not the repudiation hoped for or predicted. Past landslide elections have signaled shifts that carried America in a new direction, like those of FDR or Ronald Reagan. Not this one. Voters on both sides turned out in record numbers to support their candidate, but a strong fear of the opponent succeeding also drew them to the polls.

Extremist politicians have held our nation hostage long enough. What was voted out in this election were the uncompromising, money-wasting, time-consuming stalemates in our government. Americans are hurting, and they are through with the antagonism that exists in Washington, D.C. They want collaborative attitudes and advancement on the issues that matter to them, like better preparation the next time a world emergency strikes.

This election was a renunciation of a contentious leader but also showed endorsement of our nation’s heritage. While fed up with the divisive tactics of the candidate, constituents are not letting go of the hard-fought-for inroads on restoring some traditionalist values in America, especially pride in our country.

The role that social media played in this election is indisputable. Spinners on social media influence election results by accusing opponents of false narratives and outright lies. They assert that their own information is true and not a misrepresentation. Statistics show that more people, especially young voters, get their news primarily from social media. That is always a problem, but in an election year, social media impacts voter choice.

While social media offers a platform to express opinions, it too often silences opposing viewpoints. Then, the only perspectives that get through are narrow-minded. Through these filters, bias outlooks are cultivated without scrutiny of their validity. Internet polarization is a regenerating cycle, adding to the base of disseminators and fanning flames of discontent with its unilateral and unreliable data.

Polarization on the internet allows the rhetoric of candidates or false news stories to spread rapidly and voters are immersed in its partisan politics. As fabrications on both sides are circulated, they produce a dual reality among the populace. There is a distinction between having shared facts and differing perspectives and having contradictory opinions based on conflicting facts. With the former resolving societal issues is a real possibility, but with the later that prospect becomes unattainable. It is this dual narrative about the facts that promotes friction.

With this election, the winner undertakes a monumental task of leading in a polarized, volatile country. Although this election rejected the divisive incumbent, it more notably repudiated spiteful politics and denounced business as usual. Because a landslide victory was not earned by either side, we recognize that all Americans want collaboration on the ideologies of a principled and unified America.

A few antagonistic and revengeful politicians still exist in our government, and the people will continue to vote for creditable, more respectful, and cooperative politicians. Replacement of the incumbent but endorsement of the party is a clear sign that there is no toleration for disrespect and division. It is a sign that we believe in a collaborative governing system. We want officials who embrace diplomacy and are willing to debate and resolve the issues. We want officials that uphold unification and American pride.

The next president needs to restore our country. As exit polls show, the first job is to control the coronavirus which was in an upward swing during the election. The task of controlling the coronavirus alone will make the first days an uphill climb. The task to shore up the economy while helping individuals, businesses and local governments contain their healthcare and economic losses from the pandemic is the next job. Completing these foremost tasks in the wake of an ever-watchful and expectant nation puts pressure on the incoming president to heed the signs present in a challenging win.

During the current administration, battle lines were drawn that are not going away unless both parties aspire to restore a united nation and pledge decency, tolerance, and cooperation. If it becomes apparent that repealing and overturning are the first and only things on the agenda, it will send a message that the winner’s strategy is simply the same animosity and the same ‘our side won’ attitude. A message that this is not the unifying leader we need or voted in.

The incoming leader faces heightened partisanship and will need to do more than reach across the aisle. He will need to heal wounds, strike a harmonious chord, and employ trustful and honest interventions. If that does not happen, winners will have missed the point that this election was all about voting out antagonistic leadership. False beginnings and half-hearted endeavors will not go unnoticed and the country will remain divided and will tetter on the edge of violence until voters get another chance to install forthright individuals to govern.

Americans believe deliberating and settling our existing partisan differences is crucial. Having now seen the core sentiment of the nation, it is mandatory for the next administration to teardown embattled, oppositional stances, and began rebuilding with bipartisan unity. Each party has their vision for America. That vision needs to include working policies for unification, forward movement on the issues, and shoring up America’s infrastructure.

Both parties have much to learn from each other. One party holds the compassionate nature of the people and their desire to implement changes that support an honorable America. The other holds the economic concerns of the people and their desire to control the size and scope of government, or reign in overreaching, intrusive bureaucracy. The first must advance environmental and humanitarian initiatives for a viable future, and the second must advance America’s strength and assert the interests of American citizens in foreign policy negotiations. The upheaval and disturbance in our political cycles are a direct result of each party ignoring the other’s mandates delivered through a blended, communal perspective.

What this election clarified is that although we exist as a two-party nation, the people of America want a functioning, sustainable two-party system. They want a two-party system that spotlights the similarities between the parties and their appeal to the people. They want the ideals and promise evident in each party reflected in the decisions that affect our nation. We can present a united front to the world only when our leader holds a cohesive view reached through concessions from both sides.

Neither group because of this election has a mandate to uphold at all costs their party’s agenda or goals but instead, both parties have a mandate to uphold at all costs a cooperative, effective nation. It is in our leader’s best interest to remember that all people speak for our nation, and this election exemplifies their mutual desire to stand for a peaceful, collaborative, united America.