As we close out October, we now enter what is one of my favorite American pastimes, outside of Thanksgiving, that also happens to be one of our most divisive — national general elections.
This year is no different, and in many ways has been more divisive than past elections. Still, I would not trade it for the alternative. As Americans, regardless of our family origins, we have the opportunity to select our leader and to do so while openly discussing difficult and complex issues that the country is grappling with.
Moreover, in America, the president is not elected by a parliamentary vote or by dictatorial fiat as in other countries. Instead, that decision rests in the hands of the American electorate.
Many historians have described American democracy as the “Great Experiment.” Far greater thinkers than I have cited to our elections as the hallmark of a free society. While I agree with them as to the importance of elections, I disagree in one regard. I think that the true hallmark of our society — and one of the elements that has so far made this Great Experiment a successful one — is the post-election process where we transition from campaigning to leading.
Going into Election Day, many of us have made up our minds for whom we will vote, while others remain undecided or indifferent. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans and many others are something else. Regardless, as we leave Election Day and move forward into a new year, we have generally come back together as Americans and moved forward.
This is not to say that our great country has not had to deal with many deeply rooted issues or that we do not still need to do so (or even that the pace of discussion has been what many had hoped). But by moving forward as one, we are able to overcome division and, it is hoped, address old issues and tackle new ones.
That said, this cannot happen if we do not come together after the election as Americans to guide this country into the future. As a result, whether you want to “Build Back Better,” “Make America Great Again” or support something else, it is important for us all to remember that every resident of this country experiences a range of emotions, from happiness to heartache, just like everyone else.
Whether we will continue with an existing administration or transition to a new one, civil discourse and human understanding should lead the way on Election Day and beyond. That is what makes American democracy unique and, frankly, is what we should all stand for.
While some may call this view naïve, it is important to remind everyone that this is not a novel concept and has certainly not been a naïve one during the past more than 200 years. Some of our recent past leaders have told us just that, whether by reminding us that, “All great change starts at the dinner table” or that, sometimes, there is a need to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
The hallmark of each is that this is something that is done together as Americans. Working together is how we thrive as a nation and as a community. We cannot allow those who seek to divide us to succeed — whether those pressures are external or come from within.
I urge you to vote and have your voice heard. Then, when the polls close on Election Day, be ready to move forward with your fellow Americans for, make no mistake, we are the ones who will guide this country. While many pundits point to our leadership to determine whether America is a world leader, this assertion provides a false narrative. It is not leaders who should guide us; rather, we, as Americans, should instruct our leaders and determine our standing in the world. Come Nov. 4, we must be ready to do this together.
John is chair of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Committee and Certified Practitioner of Oversight by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
To read the original article in the Miami Herald, click here.
To read the original article in El Nuevo Herald in Spanish, click here.