Personal Stories

2020 Part II

There was always going to be a sequel. I hope my Grandchildren will be as interested in my thoughts

after the election as before. I started thinking about it even before I finished the original.

AP’s declaring Biden the winner triggered emotions easy to capture, even if a bit embarrassing.

The rest of the story was much harder.

I have relatives on both sides of my family

who don’t necessarily love Donald Trump but are strong Trump supporters.

Knowing their feelings kept me focused and contributed much to this story. Thank you for sharing them.

It also gave me an inkling of what families fighting on both sides of the Civil War went through.

November 7, 2020

​​I have always been emotional.

​​As a youth baseball coach, I was a sucker for the quiet, shy kid getting their first hit or the pint size pitcher who could barely get the ball to the plate getting their first strikeout or for my team of misfits beating a team of studs, or maybe even more important, my occasional stud player who started playing to his potential when he finally accepted that baseball is a team game.

​​As someone who had coached for more than a decade and was well beyond the win at any cost mentality, I was usually given more than my share of ‘project’ or ‘has potential, but…’ players.

​​Emotions seem to just get stronger as you get older, at least for me. But I’ve gotten a bit more cantankerous too, making them easier to deal with. If people want to snicker at me for weeping at the news of a firefighter’s death or at the Vietnam Wall or realizing what my children mean to me, that’s their problem, not mine. Besides, some of my best stories come when I get choked up about something.

​​I stayed up late last night, working on a different project and thinking the election might be called. Should have known better – the news world wasn’t about to make such a momentous announcement at 3 am Eastern time. After 40 some years in the forgotten Mountain time zone you’d think I’d know that by now.

​​I woke up to the blaring of horns. Even in my morning fog, I immediately realized what had happened and rushed downstairs to turn the TV on.  Yes, I know. Most of you rushed to turn on something else.

​​I started crying.

​​If I didn’t realize how much my country meant to me before, it was sinking in now.

​​Days, weeks, months, even years of anxiety about its future came pouring out.

Democracy is based on compromise, even if that fact is currently out of vogue. It’s embedded in the Constitution; if you don’t think counting slaves as 3/5th of a person is a compromise, you have a different definition of compromise than me.

Racism, immigration, the environment and Covid dominated the 2020 election. But they were not the real issue. The real issue is the same that confronted the Constitutional Convention: stomaching enough compromise to solve hard problems. The Civil War happened when the country ran out of compromise.

Sometimes it takes an unsavory character to see the obvious. Richard Nixon exposed the Democratic quandary in the South to flip it Republican in 1972. In 2016 Donald Trump gave a voice to people who embrace individualism and personal responsibility. People who don’t like taxes or being told what to do.

All of us have at least a toe on that side of the fine line between freedom and common sense.

Trump understands power much better than compromise. There’s a lot more power vindicating people’s concerns than telling them they need to compromise. Maybe Trump’s flaws were distasteful, but their very blatancy made individualism and personal responsibility seem pretty reasonable. An ego found a following.

 

Compromise has become all but impossible. No wonder it feels like we’re on the verge of a Civil War.

It's not the first time the country has faced a watershed moment.

Will we continue the Democracy and tradition that got us to where we are, or will we be tempted by the ‘winner take all’ mentality that has recently taken hold in politics and seems so much easier - at least when you're on the winning side? 

It is a question for both sides of the chasm that is opening in front of us.

 

Trump supporters will have to answer first. His post-election antics mock the election and the peaceful transfer of power that are the bedrock of our Democracy and have made America, despite our flaws, a beacon of freedom for much of the world. That is a high price to pay to keep your man in power.

Biden supporters answer may not be as urgent, but it too will have to come. More government is not the answer for everything.

The freedom to disagree is what makes Democracy work. But it takes trust, hard work, compromise and a dash of common sense for it to survive. Benjamin Franklin was famously asked as he walked out of Independence Hall, ‘Doctor, what have we got?’ 

 

His answer, as appropriate today as in 1787: “A republic, if you can keep it”.

Change must and is coming. Compromise works best when all people feel represented. Current political parties don’t do that very well. That’s what Trump exploited to hijack the Republican party.

It’s pretty obvious that Joe Biden will be the last old school, union focused Democrat and George W. Bush the last old school pro-business Republican to be elected. A realignment of current politics is long overdue. One, or both major parties may disappear or a real third party might emerge.

That would give the pundits something to chew on!

More Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and even blacks may identify with individualism and personal responsibility. More whites may identify with the need of government to level the playing field. More people of all shades and age want to protect the environment. More youth will be comfortable with the socialism that those who went through the Cold War have so much trouble with.

Most people recognize the integral role immigration has had in American history; we all have roots somewhere else. Most would appreciate congressional rules that force bills to a vote – so that they know if their Senators and Representatives are actually doing what they said they would do. A bit more integrity and less posturing would be a bonus.

 

Everyone except pharmaceutical companies wants something to change in our health care system.

Other changes are also underway. Good changes. Women and blacks have known that for more than a hundred years that if they want change,  they must work for it. Today's young people have grasped that much faster than previous generations. The best result of this election might be  their increased activism, challenging those with big mouths spinning simplistic answers to complicated questions.

​Joe Biden is a decent, honorable man with a lot of the experience the country now needs. Maybe fate saved him for this particular moment.  Kamala Harris has raw, game changing potential and represents an historic moment in our country. That’s enough for this euphoric day - and to stir my emotions again.

​​But it’s not enough for tomorrow, much less the next four years.

The Founding Fathers would probably be dumbfounded that their handiwork survives in such a fast paced world. Some, like Franklin, might even be amused. But all of them would easily recognize, and fear, the lack of compromise in 2020. ​​Compromise is not easy. But if we choose the easy way, my Grandchildren may live in a very different country, wondering how we let their freedom to disagree slip away.

​The work of holding this country together begins again. It will never be easy.