Sometime in the future, our grandkids will read about yesterday (November 23, 2020) in History class. They will learn that it was a pivotal day for America. A day where the perspectives for a brighter and more sustainable future became stronger, and felt more real.
In this year’s election, neither Republicans nor Democrats could claim a clear victory. Pending a double run-off in Georgia, they will settle for an uncomfortable power sharing in Congress. Still, America won.
In spite of a major public health crisis and disruptive pre-election pressures, voter turnout was historically high. Over 153 million votes were cast for the two top candidates. A divisive incumbent president lost. Mr. Biden, a far better person and a much more qualified candidate, won. As I write, he leads by over 6 million votes nationwide, and is projected to win the Electoral College 306 to 232.
We should have been celebrating the vibrancy of our democracy for days. Alas, three weeks past the election, the incumbent president has yet to concede. Instead, he concocted a false reality, in which he will win once ‘all legal votes are counted.’ To feed his preposterous narrative, he has peddled baseless claims of electoral corruption and fraud, and filed meritless lawsuits and hopeless recount requests. He even tried to interfere with vote certifications at county and state levels.
With his defeat inevitable and the COVID-19 crisis swirling out of control, the incumbent seems to have lost all interest in governing—except to cement aspects of his deregulation ‘legacy,’ and to further disrupt federal agencies and international relations. Furthermore, he deliberately delayed President-elect Biden’s access to essential briefings on the public health crisis and other relevant matters—including national security.
None of this is normal, or acceptable. All is concerning, disruptive, stressful and dangerous. Yet, yesterday, much changed.
The GSA Administrator belatedly ascertained Mr. Biden as the apparent successful candidate. Strangely personal and defensive as her letter was, it legally triggered the transition resources—including access throughout the federal government—that President-elects must have to do their jobs.
The delay of the GSA ascertainment was frustrating, unjustifiable and harmful. Justifiably, there was a public outcry for her to expeditiously abide by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. Inexcusably, some of that outcry reportedly translated into threats made to the Administrator, her family and staff. There is no room in democracy for such threats to a public official, even (or especially?) when our disagreements run deep.
The GSA Administrator stated that her ascertainment decision was triggered by ‘recent developments related to legal challenges and certifications.’ I will take her at her word. Not because I agree with her justification to delay. But in part because those ‘recent developments’ offer great hope for healing and unity, in a nation in desperate need of both.
For weeks now, courts have worked as they should—demanding facts, and, in their absence, dispelling frivolous allegations of electoral fraud. In addition, many local and state Republican officials have shown unflinching ethics and integrity, despite undue pressure from their own party’s leader. Even a few national Republican legislators—with Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sass setting the early example—found the fortitude to recognize Mr. Biden as President-elect, and denounce the incumbent’s attacks on democracy.
Notably, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia has courageously stood his ground for days, in defense of election integrity and confirming Mr. Biden’s win in that state. Yesterday, another baseless lawsuit from the Trump campaign was dismissed in Pennsylvania, clearing the way for the state’s just announced vote certification. Also yesterday, Michigan certified Mr. Biden’s victory in that state, with the decisive vote coming from a Republican. All these were battleground states, in which the incumbent president tried unsuccessfully to reverse the will of the voters.
Altogether, yesterday’s and other recent developments leading to the GSA ascertainment are a concrete reminder that the future can be fair and bright, if we choose to rise above partisan noise and put country ahead of political preferences. The fact that enough people are doing just that is cause for—belated, but heartfelt—celebration.
Also worth celebrating is Mr. Biden’s moral fiber and understanding of the challenges ahead. Amidst uncertainty and obstruction, he has been steadfast and inspirational. By listening broadly, and by forging ahead calmly, thoughtfully and competently, he has confirmed the wisdom of making him our next President.
In announcing some of his Cabinet picks, yesterday, Mr. Biden added to the day’s uplifting news. His choices offer a glimpse into his government style. Details aside, each nominee exudes policy expertise and experience. Together, they reflect our diversity as a nation.
The President-elect is doing his part. Will we do ours? Here are three ways in which we can:
- Give Mr. Biden room to set the team and path for his presidency. Please remember that differences in policy or favorite Cabinet picks (important as they may be) matter less than restoring unity and hope to our country. Constructive criticism is democratic, but systemic obstruction without a grace period is demonstrably counterproductive
- Embrace solutions to the COVID-19 crisis as our shared priority and responsibility. Wear masks (as recommended by the CDC)! Practice social distancing, while remaining physically, mentally and emotionally healthy (see advice from the World Health Organization). Do not travel unnecessarily, and do not participate in large gatherings, especially indoors (yes, Thanksgiving included). When safe vaccines become available, get vaccinated. These common-sense actions will get us back to normal faster, and at a lesser (even if still high) cost in lives, employment, and the economy.
- Fight misinformation and do not engage in conspiracy theories. On the right and on the left, partisan blinds are destroying Americans’ perception of reality. Truth is being made optional. That is dangerous, and utterly unnecessary. We can disagree on choice, while acknowledging and respecting fact and truth. It is our individual responsibility to fact-check anything we believe in, or disseminate.
As yesterday illustrated, there is light at the end of the tunnel. For our collective sake, and that of our grandkids, it is time for us—together!—to reach for it.
— Antonio Baptista
I feel like I can breath again. The past 4 years have been so disheartening to those of us who seek a country with noble purpose. Our hope is that our country can become a nation with a robust democratic federal government where compromise is valued as a necessary component. Our dream is that our fellow citizens will strive for a society in which equality and justice for everyone is the overriding goal, where religious freedom means an equal place for all faiths and beliefs, where science and history are valued and become the basis of our decision-making.
This is not an end point in the struggle for a better country. This is a time to carry on. Thanks for your contribution to our better future.
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