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viewpoint

To the winner of the election

| Monday, November 2, 2020

You probably feel pretty good right now. Following an especially contentious election cycle, you’ve secured your seat in the Oval Office for the next four years. After campaigning across the country these past several months, from the coasts to the heartland, you did it — you won. But this is no time to rest. Your work is just beginning.

Sure, some Americans cheered your victory after staying up late watching the results from battleground states roll in; they view it as a triumph of their values and interests. Others, however, are devastated and feel a new uncertainty in a year that has already had plenty. They wonder what their future will look like under your administration. Keep in mind that, regardless of how many votes you received, tens of millions of Americans voted against you. Let this reminder humble you. Those who supported your opponent potentially view you as a threat to their way of life, or even their very lives. You cannot shrug this off and charge ahead without considering them. You are their president, too. You are no longer in the campaign stage where the objective is simply to win over a majority of Americans. Instead, you are set to hold a position of power in which you are obligated to safeguard the liberties and rights of all Americans and create a country in which they can thrive.

It is now your job to look out for all of us. This will be challenging — it might even seem impossible, considering the vast array of wishes and worldviews our population has. I will not pretend that all our diverse views actually converge and that we all really want the same things deep down. We as a people have some major differences. You can’t make everyone happy, but you don’t have to. You must, however, protect and affirm the rights of all people. Despite our different political inclinations, underpinning them all is a common thread of what you must ensure for every person: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This seems simple on paper, but for some reason it has been a challenge the past few centuries.

Many of us convinced ourselves that whether or not our current problems in America continue depends solely on the outcome of the election — as though if the results go one way, all the problems will vanish like magic, and if they go the other way, the problems will persist. I will admit, who our president is will indeed greatly shape the next four years in our nation, but the reality is that our most salient problems will confront us no matter who he is. Regardless of which of you won, there were some problems that are going to face our nation on January 20, 2021 either way: At that point, we will still be plagued by a pandemic and lacking a widely available, effective vaccine. We will still have many people holding their breath as the Supreme Court — with a newly solidified conservative majority — rules on cases. We will still have pervasive racism and stark racial division in America. And I could go on. If you were president when some of these issues arose or worsened, it is not too late to work to ameliorate them. If you were not president when these situations came about, it does not mean you are not responsible for the course they take going forward.

Both Democrats and Republicans warned us that their candidate must prevail in order to preserve our values (though they had different conceptions of what some of those values are) and salvage our democracy. They had somewhat of a point. With foreign interference in our elections, an impeachment during the last presidential term, the inability of our government to pass coronavirus relief measures and overall gridlock and polarization, our Constitution is certainly getting a workout, leaving us to wonder if the document can last us another 230 years.

While this fear is valid, many Americans actually have a more pressing concern than patriotism right now: their current lives. As pf Oct. 31, 229,109 Americans have died of COVID-19, according to the CDC, and the nation continues reaching record-high numbers of new cases. After being separated by border officials, 545 children remain apart from their parents. LGBTQ Americans are worried about the future of their right to marry and to not be discriminated against in places of business. Women fear for the future of their reproductive rights. Black Americans are terrified of encounters with law enforcement and continue to encounter racism ingrained in all aspects of American society. As of Sept. 16, 97,966 businesses have permanently closed. Approximately 23 million Americans risk losing their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is overturned by the Supreme Court.

Some of these problems might have resulted directly from your time in office, whether through the nomination of three conservative justices to the Supreme Court or the 1994 Crime Bill, while others have a more ambiguous and deep-rooted origin. I won’t quibble over who is to blame for these troubles. That does not matter at this point. What matters is that they are now your responsibility to work to resolve. These are the worries and struggles of the people you represent, and if you do not address these matters, you will have failed them.

It was never about just winning an election. It was always about what the consequences of winning would give you the potential to do. The words you speak, the actions you take and the legislation you support will affect real people’s lives, for better or for worse. Right now, our nation is full of people who are struggling and scared, and it is your duty to lead them through a slew of simultaneous crises. We are a country in need — in need of leadership, in need of hope, in need of a vision, in need of policy and in need of unity. It is your duty to deliver these things. People’s lives are not a political game. Do not play with them.

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Eva Analitis is a junior in Lyons Hall majoring in political science and pre-health. If you see her around campus, don’t be afraid to whisk her off for an impromptu philosophical discussion. Otherwise, you can reach her at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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