It is time to move beyond the passions that can dominate elections and campaigns.
Biden supporters can be ecstatic without trampling on the feelings of their neighbors who may have wanted a different result and are dealing with a loss. Trump supporters can be frustrated, and even angry, without lashing out at their friends and relatives who are celebrating a victory.
It is possible to win without taunting and to lose without developing a sense of grievance. The jokes, the ribbing, the sarcasm, the barbs that come at the expense of former opponents, and that are often a part of hyper-competitive races like the one we just endured, need to end. That is a tall order under the best conditions, and the fact that some people have yet to fully accept the results of the election makes it even more difficult to achieve. But the process of healing does have to start, somehow.
The best way to support and advance that process is to be as understanding of one another as possible. When someone we know does step across the fine line that separates understandable jubilation into the realm of hurtful commentary, we must resist the urge to retaliate. The same should happen when, inevitably, someone allows transient-but-overwhelming dejection to prompt engagement in derisive behavior or make tactless remarks. This election was painful for everyone. Lapses in discipline are going to occur. Tolerance for those lapses should be as certain.
An election is an opportunity to begin anew. But that opportunity is not confined to the realms of policy and ideology. It goes beyond politics even. Elections create moments ripe for collective self-assessment and full of reminders that we are all citizens of the same American nation and that we all share the same hopes and dreams. It is important that we heed those reminders as we begin the transition to a new president, a new Congress, and a new future.
That transition will be much easier, and go much faster, if we can find it within ourselves to adhere to our traditional and historical sense of decorum. It is necessary that the expressions of our feelings, exultation and despondency alike, not serve to perpetuate tensions or amplify doubts about the future of our country.
Because, despite the challenges that will not miraculously dissipate now that the election is over, and the ones just over the horizon that we cannot yet see, the future of the United States is still undeniably bright if we can forge and maintain a renewed unity. The way we achieve that unity is to be magnanimous in victory, forgiving in defeat, and sympathetic to one another as this election fades into memory. I still have faith that the overwhelming majority of Americans are capable of each of those things.
I try to avoid using quotations of the words of others. I’ll make an exception here, as it took me nearly 500 words to say what Abraham Lincoln said, much more eloquently and succinctly, in under 50 words during his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” Said during much more difficult times, those words have renewed salience today.
Jason Nichols is District 2 Democratic Party chair, an instructor of political science at Northeastern State University, and former mayor of Tahlequah.