The November 3 election in the United States has been referred to as either the “most important one in our nation’s history” or at least, “in our lifetimes”. I am not sure I agree. We have had other elections in our history that have been much more crucial: George Washington’s election and re-election, Abraham Lincoln’s, Franklin Roosevelt’s and Ronald Reagan’s.
That said, I am one of those Americans who cannot wait for this election season to be over. I am sure many people feel the same way, even beyond America’s borders, as we inch towards 2021.
I do not see this election as the “most important” in my life, but I do see it as a difficult one. I am a fiscally-conservative, small-government, strong defence-minded Republican and a member of the LGBTQ community. And unlike many of the more than 90 million Americans who have already cast their votes, I was not as eager as I have been in past elections. There are no easy choices this year.
Do I vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, the affable presidential candidate who is concerned about LGBTQ protections, but may not do so well on the economy, foreign policy, and national security, or chaotic President Donald Trump, whose administration has been no friend to the LGBTQ community, but has done well with economic growth, defending American interests abroad and maintaining security for the country around the world and along its borders? Who will tackle the coronavirus pandemic better going forward?
I am not a “single-issue” voter, so this has been a particularly hard election to feel clear-headed about. In this election season, we are fortunate to not have events like the Iraq war or the attack on the US embassy in Libya drawing clear lines between our presidential candidates and driving people to the polls, so it seems foreign policy is not that important in this election.
There have also been major scandals involving allegations of ethical misconduct towards both candidates. Should the Mueller Report on President Trump’s relationship with Russia outweigh the recent allegations against Biden and his son, Hunter’s, involvement in Ukraine and China? Both men seem to have financial entanglements in China which would contradict their claims on how “tough” they can be on our nation’s adversary. Despite the huge media attention these scandals have garnered, they cancel each other out.
I, like many Americans, find domestic issues much more important, among them: pandemic response, economic growth, systemic race disparities, police reform, LGBTQ equality, illegal immigration, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, etc.
Civil rights are a very important issue for me, so the appointment of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has made me uneasy. Justice Coney Barrett is a highly intelligent, accomplished woman, but her claims of not having legal biases on some civil rights issues seem suspect to me. We will not know until she concurs or dissents on such cases, but it is clear the liberal-conservative balance in the court has now tilted to one side. If one party controls Congress in the coming years, it is obvious that legislation challenging abortion access and LGBTQ equality will be proposed and voted upon.
My hope as an American and an LGBTQ human being is that our Congressional leadership and president will ensure that I and millions of others will no longer be subject to discrimination across our country. The current administration has not done that.
While I live in a “safe” state, New Jersey, where I have anti-discrimination and legal protections, I can be arrested simply for being transgender in a women’s restroom at a pizza restaurant across the river in Pennsylvania. That has to change. The US can lead the world in so many ways, but full rights and protections for all citizens should be of high priority for the next administration and Congress.
Solving our nation’s historical racial disparities has moved the majority of Americans and it is important for me, too. I want my children to grow up in a society where there is racial harmony and everyone is equal before the law.
Urban racial unrest ultimately affects everyone and in my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, we had a large riot just after a peaceful and positive Black Lives Matter march last May. I took my son to see the march which clearly embodied the civil rights movement of the past.
However, the post-march riot which was started by agitators was quite frightening, as my family and I live only a few blocks from the riot’s epicentre. Police cars were burned, windows were smashed, rioters were arrested, and helicopters flew loudly overhead. The next day, citizen volunteers and business owners cleaned up and pressed on together. That next day in my hometown is what gives me hope that my America can overcome this challenge and move forward for the better.
It is clear to me that we need to have police reforms around our country to make sure that our local police departments are held to higher standards. There are plenty of good police officers on the job, but every American should not be afraid to interact with them. However, I worry that as necessary as these reforms are, our federal government may not be able to finance them as a result of the pandemic.
Illegal immigration is another issue where we need solutions and not empty promises and hyperbolic rhetoric. We now know that Mexico will not be paying for “the wall”, we can agree that children should not be separated from their parents no matter if President Barack Obama or President Donald Trump began that bad policy, and that we have to finalise a legal path to citizenship without increased costs to already financially-strapped American communities.
Further, our next president must assure that the so-called “Muslim travel bans” are not used to discriminate against people based on religion but help stop terrorism at our borders. That, assuredly, is a fair and reasonable policy until the scourge of terrorism is defeated in the affected countries.
It is also hard to look at our election without acknowledging the extremes on both sides who have done their best to fearmonger and scare people into voting one way or another. Both political parties have done it. In the public arena, the left has turned small white-supremacist fringe groups like the Proud Boys into the second coming of the German Wehrmacht and the right has similarly built up Antifa into a more crafty version of the Vietcong. While the Proud Boys and Antifa are dangerous movements that should be shut down by the authorities, neither are serious threats to our democracy.
But probably the most important issue in this election is the coronavirus pandemic, the health crisis it has created and the damage it has done to our economy. This pandemic affects almost all that we do and it is hurting so many people and families financially, educationally and spiritually. An army of unemployed Americans may decide this election and we need our next president to find and strike a better balance between opening up the economy and protective precautions against coronavirus.
People need jobs and they need them soon, but they also need to be safe. Unfortunately, in our country, mask-wearing has become political for Trump and Biden supporters. It cannot remain that way if we are to defeat this virus and rebuild our economy. Our next president must lead on this and if President Trump wins re-election, I want to see him champion mask-wearing as a sign of patriotism. I credit former Vice President Biden for doing so during this campaign.
I am not naive enough to think that our road forward will be easy, but I do think the road will be cleared of many obstacles from America’s past as we are now speaking more honestly with each other on the political issues affecting our lives. Even if it is not done with a smile.
Soon, the polls will close around the US and the vote-counting will begin. As we wait for an outcome, I will try my best to smile and to help with any post-election clean-ups that may be needed. May we come together as a nation so we pull through this difficult moment.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.