Elections wound nations as well. And the United States of America is the latest to be wounded. The US has a new President-elect in Joe Biden. There will be a new man and a new team steering the country out there shortly, but the wounds are apparent and open for all to see.
During the last few days following the election date, a whole world of people have been trying to understand what is happening in the mother of all mixed democracies. The Republicans and the Democrats were at war. But that is normal in any election. What seemed abnormal, however, is the deep degree of polarisation that led up to this campaign, culminating in a war of words and most certainly a long legal battle that will continue for a while.
The problem is really in the stars (and the stripes, if you may). If there are many Americas, it is to be accepted. After all, the very name of the country says it all. But as the votes got counted, and as political comments got polarised with President Trump actually wanting a stop on vote count, America seemed as divided as ever before. What one witnesses is the Divided States of America. Even an Equally Divided States of America! And that is the problem.
Two Americas is a problem. Two equally divided and passionately opinionated Americas is an issue. Let me decipher the “many” versus the “two” argument. “Many Americas” is the foundation on which the nation thrives. A nation of immigrants from everywhere. One that colonised the local Native American Indians and one that thrives in its many colours, red and blue just being two of them. Two Americas is therefore a problem. There is a certain safety in acute diversity, as opposed to a face-to-face polarisation of clearly opposed camps of ‘passionistas’.
This election, however, seems to have cleaved the nation into two. A noisy red, versus a less noisy blue. Two elephants in the room. Two large elephants nearly of equal size. Both crammed into the same space, trunk to tail. With very little room to manoeuvre. The vote shares across the states do seem to testify to this. In the weeks ahead, it is quite likely that the President of the US will represent only half the eligible, voting and having-voted population of the country. And that is always a problem. In this case it seems a bigger one.
An election as polarised as this is a difficult one to come out of unscathed. The hurt is really not only with the candidates who have lost, their passionate campaigners and the party that has trailed. The hurt lies with a divided people. A set of people who have believed passionately in the cause of either colour, and a set of people who have believed thus far that they will win. A biscuit-thick margin of difference will therefore not count for them. The basic differences shall remain and fester. Election 2020 has simply brought these issues to the fore and deepened differences that seemed either buried or swept under the carpet till now.
America is therefore, after this election of 2020, a polarised nation, one that witnesses completely new coalitions of the divided. A coalition on two sides of the election fence, divided by colour of skin (black or white), generation (first generation American or older), jobs (with or without), urban or rural, gender, inclusive or exclusive and very importantly the rich versus the poor. And all this, as America leaves the unctuous taste of the election behind, is a potent cocktail for tumult.
Election 2020, the campaigns and their tone, tenor and decibel, has indeed hurt America. It has hurt the psyche of its peoples, just as it has hurt its image across the globe. While the latter is not a worry as
global image counts that much less and can be crafted again, I do believe the big issue is of a hurt psyche of a large mass of people.
As many commentators blame Donald Trump for dividing America into two, I believe that is a blame not to be credited to him. The reality is the fact that these polarised differences have actually existed for the last several decades. Trump just came in and felt the pulse of the people. And he decided to craft it into a party manifesto and a programme of action that appeals to this large part of America, as the election numbers seem to tell us. Trump has been a good politician and has read the mind and mood of the people. He scraped through with it in 2016, but failed to do the same in 2020. So be it. The large constituency of difference still exists. As it will into the future.
Joe Biden needs to be that statesman-leader that America demands today. He looks the part for sure. Surely quieter, surely less combative and most importantly one who has his priorities right, with the pandemic raging once again in the country. Biden needs to be a double-healer, really. He needs to heal the physical hurt of the pandemic and equally the emotional hurt of hatred and divide that seems to be
The beauty of an election and the wounds it leaves is the fact that wounds have a habit of healing and closing even. Even this shall pass, I guess.To quote the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo: “Welcome back America”!
Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults