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Photograph by Mark Wilson / Getty
By Mike Creef, Staff Writer
If there is one thing that we can all agree on, regardless of race, party affiliation, economic status, etc., it is that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. There have been enough “once in a lifetime events” in 2020 to fill about five lifetimes. So it’s right on brand for this year to have the most controversial presidential election in modern history.
On Friday, November 6th, three days after Election Day, Decision Desk HQ was the first to make the call of former Vice President Joe Biden winning the presidential election (in comparison, the 2016 election was called by 2:30 AM on the morning of November 4th with a concession call from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump coming five minutes afterward). Unfortunately, the controversy and uncertainty began long before the Decision Desk’s call with a handful of tweets sent by President Trump.
I know it may be hard to remember during this current news cycle that there is still a global pandemic happening. In fact, on November 3rd there were over 92,000 new COVID-19 cases reported on that day alone. With the pandemic in full effect, many people decided ahead of time to opt for mail-in voting to avoid the long lines. Throughout his campaign, however, President Trump encouraged his followers to vote in-person to ensure their votes were tabulated. This would set the stage for there to be two massive waves of votes being counted, one on Election Day for in-person voting and the other on the days following for the mail-in votes in states that began their count after polls were closed.
On election night, President Trump began his campaign of casting doubt on this voting cycle by claiming amongst other things that votes were being cast after polls were closed. Many of his claims were unsubstantiated and had to be flagged by both Twitter and Facebook for being potentially misleading. The damage to our election process had already been done. His claims had been liked and shared hundreds of thousands of times and the narrative that this election was fraudulent was widely spread.
Many in Trump’s administration have shared that the president refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden despite the fact that the race has been called by The AP, ABC News, CNN, CBS News, Decision Desk HQ, Fox News, and NBC News – all outlets that experts agree have verified, unbiased decision desks calling elections. On Monday, Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump’s reelection effort, went on Fox Business to say that “that word [conceding] is not even in our vocabulary right now…we’re going to continue exposing and investigating all these instances of fraud or abuse…”.
Words are extremely important from positions of leadership, especially like the president of the United States. The language used in his support emails, tweets, and prepared speeches is specifically chosen to appeal to his followers, notably his most radical who feel empowered by his words.
When the president tells a radical group to “stand back and standby”…that sends a message.
When the president urges his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully”…that sends a message.
When the president emails donors “asking [his] fiercest and most loyal defenders, like YOU, to FIGHT BACK!”…that sends a message.
A good leader knows what kind of action their words will inspire their followers to do. At a time when our nation is as divided as it’s been in recent memory, we need a president who is going to use words to try and bring unity. If foul play is suspected, the president should use words to reassure the country that the matter will be investigated and the truth will prevail, not use words that many will take as empowerment to take matters into their own hands.
These next two months are bound to be one of the most interesting times in our history. Recently, former Republican President George W. Bush congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on a phone call saying the 2020 race was “fundamentally fair…it’s outcome is clear.” At the same time, the lawsuits Trump’s campaign has filed in key battleground states have begun to be dismissed or thrown out lacking merit.
So what does that look like for his base who have claimed voter fraud and have refused to accept the results of the election as they stand? We can only hope that as the truth of the results continue to be brought to light, that Trump’s most devout followers find a way to accept Biden as their president as they encouraged others to do with Trump for the last four years.
For the rest of us, now is a time to continue to try and undo the damage done over the last four years and the divide created. We must look for ways to work together with those we may not agree with or else we will be back at this same point four years from now. We must hold this new administration to the promises it has made to ensure equality and justice for ALL Americans. And most of all, we must use language that encourages unity in our nation, because that is truly the only way we can move forward to make America reach its full potential.
Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial (Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs. His goal in life is to help people realize there is more that unites us than divides us.