The election is over, the people have spoken.
This is where we would expect to find ourselves in the middle of January after a November election. But in 2021, many believe the election isn’t over and never will be, and in a way, that the voice of the people has been suppressed.
If we didn’t recognize already that we have a serious polarization problem in the U.S., the seditious violence on January 6 made it clear beyond a doubt. Now we also have a twice-impeached president in the space of 13 months with a still-vocal core of supporters.
The nation is white-knuckling it into the last days before the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. Whatever your thoughts on the outcome of the election, there’s strain in every direction: Voters unhappy with the election results, or denying them altogether; anxiety that there might be more violence coming; concern that partisanship has descended to such a place of distrust and disrespect that it’s going to be an Olympian challenge for Biden to bridge the divide.
But in terms of our ability to work together in a bipartisan way, what has substantially changed from a month ago?
We have a number of Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote in favor of impeachment. We see a more centrist, even conciliatory stance from Republican leadership who have criticized President Trump for inciting the rioters. Biden could come into office and begin speaking in a conciliatory tenor: “Let’s come together now.” But he’ll be under tremendous pressure from the Democrats who don’t want to forgive and forget. There are some Republicans who’ve left the Trump camp in recent weeks, and some who’ve been vocal about it. But none are saying they want to join the Democratic party. And even if they regret having supported Trump, they aren’t expressing regret for the way they stood on issues and legislation. That’s not a part of the aisle likely to be crossed because of presidential buyer’s remorse.
Then what about the electorate? The extreme wings are the “tribes” that have no interest in seeking common ground with political opponents. But there is a wide swath – 77 percent of Americans – known as the “exhausted majority” (formerly known as the silent majority) that continues to believe that common ground can and should be found (see: Hidden Tribes of America).
In the face of an impeachment and a presidentially-provoked riot storming the Capitol, there may be a turning point. There’s a good chance citizens will say, “Enough of this,” and get increasingly involved. And if there’s a growing demand from the electorate to patch things up and start getting things done, elected officials might be forced to come together, even begrudgingly, if they want to be reelected.
So much will be affected by the tenor of the next two or three weeks. As they say in the news, fake or not, stay tuned!