Where do we stand post-election night?

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Whatever the outcome, how can we respond?

The next steps after November 3rd

As I write this article, it is currently mid-morning November 3rd, election day. Thus far, I’ve received several messages asking how I’m doing, I’ve seen my social media feeds filled with ‘preparedness plans’ in the event that election results cause unrest and I personally have been so wire-brained today that I changed out of my pajamas and back into my pajamas this morning. We’re doing great everybody.

Truly, the anxiety I have witnessed among students is visceral and deeply personal. There are so many people, not just at NDSU, but across the country, who feel the election results will be life-changing for them, and for good reason. I’m not a psychic, just an impassioned believer in the possibility of a good outcome, so I will address what to do in case of either candidate winning even if I am really hopeful that Biden will pull ahead.

Biden won the election

What a relief honestly. This entire year, with killer bees, a pandemic and this contentious presidential race has felt like a tension-filled movie, and this ending is the final resolution. It’s okay to sit in contentment for a second, to feel that months, if not years, of work are coming to fruition and that America might just have a chance yet.

However, there are still real problems that a new national leader won’t solve. Trump’s America is still alive and well, even if his presidency isn’t. The open racism, xenophobia, misogyny and widespread hate that so many Americans have found solace with the last four years does not just disappear. Change needs to happen at micro and macro levels, with individual outreach and institutional restructuring.

Not to mention, Trump has promised to fight his loss. Like a little kid flipping the Monopoly board, Trump has pledged to be a sore loser and resist a concession to the presidency, regardless of what the American people want. Who knows if these are just more empty words, as flimsy as his wall, or if he really will be so willful. I just don’t see him going without making a scene.

The biggest thing though, with a Biden victory, is the necessity of keeping Biden accountable as a president. For many Democrats, Biden was not their first choice, so making sure he does at least what he promised to do is essential. It would be hypocritical to chastise Trump for not keeping his promises and then allow Biden to do the same thing. 

Biden has promised to make effective moves towards quelling the spread of the virus, tackling the climate crisis, bringing about racial economic equity and increasing taxes only on those who make more than $400,000 a year. Let’s not lose focus and make sure he sticks to his promises.

Trump won the election

What some people might be feeling right now, and what I certainly will be feeling, is heartbreak. Truly. For immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women and more, your rights are at risk and you’re allowed to feel terrified. I can’t give you very much right now, but I can give you the verification that your fear and heartbreak is not uncalled for. 

However, this isn’t the end. Although I’m writing this before election night, Biden does show a considerate lead in the polls. As of early November 3rd, Biden was shown leading in contentious states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida. For Biden to still have lost while most polls have him winning is not a reason to refuse to accept the results of the election (as Trump might), but certainly a reason to thoroughly investigate what happened to give Trump his edge.

Voter suppression has been covered pretty heavily these last few weeks. Figuring out if this suppression had a significant impact is important. Polling sites across the country were greeted with armed Trump supporters urging those waiting in line to vote for their candidate. In North Carolina, a march of voters with a permit were tear-gassed by the police, the elderly and children present included. In the same week, Trump supporters blocked a bridge with waves from the police.

If these instances weren’t enough, reports of difficulty getting ballots, ballots being thrown away and even instances of ballot boxes being set on fire have all contributed to suppression these last few weeks. Trump supporters wouldn’t be so scared of voters satisfying their constitutional right to vote if they didn’t know the outcome would likely not be in their favor. If Trump has one, perhaps their efforts to keep votes from counting succeeded.

Even if Trump wins, not fair and square because all these occurrences have pushed us past that, but if he wins in an indisputable fashion, we need not be completely hopeless. This was not the outcome we wanted, it wasn’t the outcome many of us really needed, but we are stronger than this.

This is a country founded by immigrants who rose up against a tyrannical leader. I’m not calling for bayonets or for throwing tea into the ocean, but I’m also not saying we have to resign to another four years of watching our rights be slowly stripped away, as the U.S. loses allies and international respect and more divisiveness and hate fill the hearts of our citizens. We as a country are stronger than defeated resignation.

Either way

Regardless of the outcome of the election, we will need to keep our leader accountable. Don’t confuse this with the sentiment that it doesn’t matter either way, as one outcome is certainly much more damaging and harmful than the other. I’m merely saying that the passion that has been driving many people in the build-up to the election shouldn’t be lost now that it’s over. 

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