So, the 2020 U.S. presidential election is over, and whether you agree with the outcome or not, the fact remains that there’s a pretty significant division between Trump voters and Biden voters. There has been for years – a division between Trump supporters… and everyone else, that is.
I’m not getting into my own politics here. There’s plenty of room for that elsewhere. Let it be known that I would rather be kind, than right. And I absolutely positively don’t believe in caging children who have been ripped from the arms of their mothers. I understand how others can justify it. I just can’t.
Anyway, now that Joe Biden is the projected winner of the election, everybody’s talking about how he’s going to unify the country. He’s been crossing the aisle to build alliances with “the other side”, his whole career (as I understand it). And people expect him to continue to do the same.
Which is fine. He can try. And it may work with some folks. But frankly, I think the divisions of this country are too deep and too ingrained in people’s identities, for the supporters of his opponent to reach out to him, or respond to his advances. There’s too much at stake for them, particularly when it comes to who they believe they are, and who their constituents expect them to be.
Likewise, I really believe that the folks on his side have a deep-seated investment in maintaining an autonomous ideology, a frame of reference, that is theirs and theirs alone. It’s been four years, since they had the chance to exercise any sort of influence, so now that they’re ascending, they’re certainly going to do it.
And there’s not necessarily any reason for them to reach out to the other side and build bridges. Not when they have their newly won position at stake.
This might sound dire. It might sound depressing. But think about it.
People need to have their own identity. They need to have their tribe. And the lines between the old tribes have become so blurred, over the past 40 years, that it’s hard to tell exactly who belongs where, anymore. The old ways of growing up in one place and living out your years there… or getting a job at one company and eventually retiring from there… being the member of the same church, or the same softball league, or the same social circle your entire life… well, that doesn’t happen for all of us in this country, anymore. Heck, some of us don’t even stay in the same families, our entire lives. Others of us “rotate in and out”, as our family’s levels of tolerance and acceptance fluctuate over time.
And as we lose our connection with those once-built-in definers of Who We Are and What Matters To Us, we have to come up with our own. We need meaning. And we can’t find it in the institutions around us, anymore. We need a sense of belonging. And that’s not a given, anymore, either. So, we look to our invented tribes, our political parties, our cultural enclaves. And we dig in. Because even though we may not agree with everything that’s said and done by our leaders or other members, they’re our leaders and members, and that’s what counts.
So, while people are thrilling at the thought that we might be able to build bridges between the “battling” sides (more hand-wringing about that imagery will come later), I’m not holding my breath. A lot of us might like the idea of people putting down their swords – or better yet, turning them into plowshares – but a whole lot of people also like the idea of keeping separate, being at odds, and keeping their identities intact.
For some folks it’s the most that they have.