I don’t know about you, but in the days that we as a country anxiously awaited the results of the Presidential election, I was consumed with a mixture of emotions of hope and fear. So much was at stake in this election: women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, access to healthcare, racial justice, and so much more. When I woke up on the morning of Saturday, November 7th, to see my phone flooding with messages of joy and relief that Joe Biden would become the 46th President of the United States, I felt something that many of us haven’t often felt throughout this chaotic year: hope. Hope that our country may once again unify and bridge the divide that has grown so heavy between parties. Hope that we may begin to listen to one another and work together rather than against each other. Hope that we can rebuild a foundation in our nation based off of compassion, respect, empathy, and kindness. As I’ve been reflecting on what this election meant to our country, I wanted to see just why this election in particular was so important to our generation, and what the Biden/Harris win might mean for the future of our democracy. I interviewed a few of my peers at Furman to find out their thoughts and what this election meant to them.
When asked how they felt when they heard that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the Presidential election, one of my peers noted that, “emotions of relief, joy, optimism, and pride flowed out.” Another remembered the moment saying, “I was ecstatic. Although it already looked as though Biden was going to win, from both the already accepted Electoral College votes as well as polling from weeks prior, there was still some hesitation for me that he would actually win. However, I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy about an election.” Many of the people I talked with seemed to experience intense emotions of relief for what this Presidency could mean for minorities. Upon hearing the news of the results, one peer said that she “felt hopeful that minorities might be considered and protected more.” This moment in history where America as a whole breathed one collective sigh of relief is one that many of us will remember for the rest of our lives, and it’s all due to the weight of the decision we had to make as a country over whether to re-elect a leader who is openly oppressive in many ways or to move forward with a potential path to a more inclusive nation.
The Biden/Harris win had many implications for the livelihoods of individuals in our country. I talked with my peers about what these election results mean for them personally. For some, it meant that the rights of their loved ones were at stake: “I am fortunate enough that my rights will not be as impacted as others’ by any president; however, their win was a win for human rights. People close to me would have likely lost their rights over the next four years if Trump had won.” For others, the potential for Trump’s re-election came with a crippling fear that their own rights would be taken away from them. One peer in particular reacted to the election saying, “it personally gives me a sense of hope as a minority in 3 ways: I’m black, I’m a woman, and I’m LGBT+, so I have hope that the rights that I have gained through history will remain upheld and not be stripped from me.” Another said, “Among many others, one of the things I was definitely afraid of, had Trump gotten reelected, was that my rights as a woman would be taken away. Especially as Amy Cohen Barrett is now on the Supreme Court, I feared that our country would see Roe v. Wade overturned in the future. Now, though, I know that my rights as well as the rights of every other American in this country are safe.” It’s clear from these experiences and reactions to the election results that the human rights that were on the line in this election were substantial and caused significant anxiety and fear for many.
As for what the election of Biden and Harris means for our country, the overall consensus from everyone I talked with was that this administration has the potential to restore a sense of unity in our country and foster a dialogue where both sides can respectively share their points of view and find some middle ground to cooperate with. One peer noted that, “Unlike past elections, I do not see this election as a political win for a party, but a win for the country as a whole. These past four years have been incredibly divisive and polarizing, so I hope that Biden and Harris will work towards unifying our country. It is imperative that every voice is heard, and I am hopeful that under Biden and Harris, we will learn to be more open-minded and accepting of our differences. I hope that we can all come together and work towards creating a more inclusive, loving, tolerant, and progressive nation that is accepting of ALL people.” Many others shared this sentiment, with one saying, “I think the future of our country will be brighter than it has been in a long time. I believe we will see a restoration in the equal rights of all Americans as well as reestablishing unity with the rest of the world. For so long it as seemed as if the U.S. has been alone trying to combat the Trump Administration; however, I think Biden and Harris are fully capable of reigniting unity among both Americans and the world.” Some peers noted worries that both sides will have trouble coming together, saying, “I just hope that people who supported Trump will give Biden/Harris a chance and be open minded to the fact that they have everyone’s interests at heart, including those who voted against them.” Ultimately, however, this same peer who was cautious of the potential for the polarization to continue, believes that, “if they frame their presidency right, they can have a huge effect on bridging gaps and bringing people together.”
After my conversations with my peers about why this election mattered so much to our generation, to minorities, and to the future of our democracy, it is clear that many are sharing my feelings of hope for a unified nation that can begin to combat long standing systems of oppression and discrimination and restore human rights for ALL individuals. I stand with my peers in believing that the Biden/Harris administration has the potential to do this. I, for one, am proud that we as a country have chosen unity over division, love over hate, and compassion over hostility. But of course, this is only the beginning of a long road of progress ahead of us. We used our voices, and they were heard. And now, it’s time to continue using them to carry this Presidency through a four-year term that may just reshape our nation.