Here we sit, a week after election day, and while there is clarity about the results of the election, there is perhaps less certainty about the future of our country. America is deeply divided. The blue wall held, but the blue wave turned out to be more of a ripple. Similarly, while President Trump did turn out new voters in this election and made gains with certain voter groups, he certainly did not “win big” as he claimed he would.
It will be difficult for President-Elect Biden to credibly claim a mandate. Our country is deeply divided, this is more clear than ever.
America is in the midst of an identity crisis. National surveys have found that Republicans and Democrats agree on very little in terms of political priorities. But we do agree on patriotism and love of country (even if it’s a broken one), on fairness and individual liberty, and on the value of democracy.
How can we come together? It starts with a national leader who reaches across the aisle and an opposition that is willing to listen to them. It takes a leader acting like a leader and charting a course for the country, creating a shared vision we can all get behind. A moonshot.
It works. We know this because it’s been done before, even in recent history. Rebuilding from the Great Depression, the anti-fascism war effort, Eisenhower’s new deal, and even Kennedy’s actual moonshot.
There’s a number of things that could unite us, if our country’s leadership created the conditions for it. Beating the Coronavirus pandemic for example, is something that impacts all Americans. It could be something more aspirational, like making America the leading world exporter of green technology. This is an emerging sector with immense room for growth. Why should the US abdicate this sector to Europe or China?
Most importantly, we need to listen to each other. Actually listen. We need to hear each other’s fears, anxieties, and hopes. We need to understand each other without judging. This is a role all of us can play, we are all in this together. Labels only serve to further divide. Avoid them. People are more complex than labels such as Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.
What made America unique was the concept that the government belongs to the people and is a reflection of them. Right now, we are in the process of discovering what our reflection looks like. We need to accept it, for better or worse, and work to chart a path forward.
Ben Kinsley is the owner of Imperium Advisors, a public policy and communications firm based in Burlington. He co-hosts a public access TV show called Vote for Vermont that focuses on current issues and Vermont politics. In addition, he serves on the board of directors for Campaign for Vermont; one of Vermont’s largest public policy advocacy groups.