November 18, 2020

ROSENBAND | Where Do We Go From Here?

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Ever since the election, we’ve all had to add another piece of tough advice to our repertoire — the kind of advice that sounds as repulsive and shrill as nails on a chalkboard — and that is this: Acceptance.

After four years of anxious waiting, election day has come and gone and Nov. 7 — the day in which our fates were sealed — literally feels like it occurred over a millennium ago. Many of us in Ithaca have since rejoiced with the relief of an orange boulder having been lifted off of our shoulders. The victory chant of recent days has been that President-Elect Biden has received the most votes in U.S. Presidential history. This fact is definitely worthy of praise. But when we say that, we must also remember that President Trump received the second-most votes in U.S. Presidential history. Nearly half of the voting electorate was not only satisfied by these past four years, but wanted more of it. It’s shocking to me that more New Yorkers came out to vote for Trump in 2020 than they did in 2016. 

It might be fair to think that Hillary Clinton never had a chance of winning the 2016 Presidential election because her being a woman and America being sexist didn’t go together all too well. But, as there always is, there were some other nails in her coffin, too, and Clinton calling half of all Trump-supporters “a basket full of deplorables” was an especially hard-hitting one. The issue with Clinton’s particular comment isn’t just that she called them “deplorable,” it’s also that she chalked 50 percent of them into a basket, and grossly generalized what we now know to be as tens of millions of Americans. Maybe fellow democrats carried similar sentiments, but it was the type of thing few would readily have said out loud.

Since then, due to our increasingly polarized ways, I get the distinct sense that many more people would now feel fully comfortable publicly criticizing fellow Americans like that. And that’s because it’s so easy to do. Most of us surround ourselves with people who think just like we do and so, how could we ever even attempt to understand the other side? We spend a lot of time making each other feel validated by our shared opinions rather than actually learning anything new — worse, I have some friends who are actually convinced that there is nothing even worth learning from the other side. After asking many of my friends if they had a friend at Cornell who didn’t vote for Biden, few could name a single one but all assured me that “they were out there.”

We’ve had so much fun these past few weeks raging over our shared political views that now we can go back home and forget about politics forever. We don’t even have to bring it up with our families over Thanksgiving dinner, and we can sweep their conflicting viewpoints aside like water under the bridge — because that’s what many of us do with the people that we love. I, for one, will surely be sitting around the holiday table with people whom I disagree politically. That doesn’t make me want to sit with them any less.

But we forget about this sort of acceptance when our tables look less like the ones in our dining rooms and more like the ones in Klarman Hall. When us, like-minded democrats, become busy kumbaya-ing and taking names, what happens to our friend whose parents are Trump supporters? When our other friend calls Trump voters “insane” and we don’t disagree with them, how will we have made this friend feel? Because if we genuinely think that their parents are morally unsound, then we are not only telling our dear friend that we are resentful of the people that raised them, but that we are indeed resentful of them.

I’m 20 years-old, and the only kind of politics I can remember is the nasty kind. Besides from the validation we receive, another reason that we fall into the allure of inflammatory discourse so naturally is because it’s all that we know. With Trump soon to be gone, it might be nice to kick the ugly politics out with him. Stop saying that this is the way politics has always been and ought to be. We’re too young to be so pessimistic.

Earlier this year, America nominated the most moderate democrat for the executive position. When January arrives, the Biden-Harris administration will be tasked with representing the 70-plus million people who voted for their opposition. So now that we’ve won, we, Biden-voters, are left asking ourselves: Where do we go from here?

I’m not trying to pull a JFK cliché here, but I do believe that we cannot ask a Biden-Harris administration to strive for goodness if we are not working towards that goodness ourselves. And that arduous task we have ahead of us begins with acceptance. I’m not even going as far as to suggest forgiveness, but if we can’t accept those who disagree with us then we can’t even attempt to reconcile with them. There is a certain kind of politics to the act of humiliation that begets losers on both sides.

If this advice was easy to follow then politicians would have done it a long time ago. I mean hey, I’m somebody who imagines heaven as a 24/7 Anderson Cooper talk show with Wolf Blitzer lurking somewhere in the background. But this is my imagined heaven because I know it can’t be my reality. Like Michelle Obama said on Instagram this week, “Our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego.” If we dismiss the other side, if we taunt them, and if we act like we’re more righteous just because we happened to win this time, then we will have become our own worst nightmare.

Odeya Rosenband is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at orosenband@cornellsun.com. Passionfruit runs every other Tuesday this semester.