“Who Won the 2020 Election?” Is Not the Right Question
On April 10, 1865, President Lincoln spoke to the United States. Violence between North and South still raged. Most Americans, weary of bloodshed, had finally accepted that the Civil War’s most fundamental question had been answered. Lincoln’s own words, delivered long before his ascension to the presidency, had turned out to be true: Just as “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” neither can “government permanently endure half slave and half free.”
This week's still-undecided 2020 election is the latest example that America’s divisions are never fully resolved. Our era of red states and blue states may feel extreme, but history teaches that America has always been grappling with difficult questions.
After four years, everyone knows President Trump’s actions and character. One might wonder how it is possible that half of the country finds his Presidency despicable while we now know the other half is even more devoted than ever?
Agreement, however, has never been a prerequisite for justice or liberty. If we remain vigilant and patient, the votes will be counted. A legitimate winner will emerge. Until then, my suggestion is that the most asked question about this election - “Who won?” - is not the most helpful. Instead, Americans should be asking: “Who do we choose to be?”
That is precisely what Lincoln did when pondering how Americans could overcome their bitterest differences. His answer still resonates in 2020: “The prayers of both sides could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully.”
America’s Civil War officially ended one month after Lincoln’s speech. An era of imperfect compromise began. What Lincoln recognized is that although America’s Union will never be perfect, we have repeatedly made it “more perfect." Surely, we can do so again.
In that spirit, let us refocus on a question more likely to unite than divide.
Who do we choose to be?