The hostile and profanity-laced emails started piling up in my inbox just minutes after NC Policy Watch sent a breaking news story on Saturday to subscribers entitled “Biden elected nation’s 46th President.”
For many, it was apparently enough of a spleen-venting exercise to simply call the story “B___S___!” – sometimes repeatedly and in all capital letters.
Others were somewhat more creative.
“F___ you he stole it and this means Civil War,” wrote Todd.
“Now its war” (sic) wrote another who didn’t give their name.
“No he isnt…. voter fraud…. lawsuits all the way to the top courts…. fake news” (sic) wrote Dustin.
“We had to steal it and that is an abomination of almighty GOD” wrote Fred.
“How soon can we impeach this idiot?” wrote James.
Bryan simply emailed an image of an upraised middle finger.
Ellen went to the trouble of both emailing and leaving a personal voicemail to inform me that “you sir are a joke,” because of what she understood to be the failure of Policy Watch to grasp that “it doesn’t say anywhere in the Constitution that the Associated Press gets to call the presidential election.”
It made me wonder if Fox News received similar feedback for having broadcast and published what amounted to the exact same story.
Of course, as disconcerting as it is to receive such rage-filled missives, it’s not hard to understand the emotions behind them. Elections are tough to lose – especially close ones.
And while it was clear that many of my correspondents failed to grasp some basic and long-accepted practices in American government and politics – most notably how votes are actually counted and the fact that since 1848, presidential elections have been “called” and reported by news organizations and accepted by the candidates long before they are “official” – hope remains that passions will cool in the days ahead.
Most of us have felt that flash of fury at times – whether in a highway traffic jam, a phone queue with an insurance company, or upon confronting the statement of a politician, preacher or commentator that rankles.
And, of course, in the present moment, the fury has been fueled by the president’s emotional refusal to concede his defeat – something that a wide array of veteran Republican leaders, from former President George W. Bush to 2012 GOP standard bearer and current U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah have acknowledged is undeniable.
But still, I get it.
Change – political, social, economic – is scary. When so many self-assured voices – on TV and social media, in church pulpits – have told you repeatedly that others in the country are part of a nefarious conspiracy that aims to destroy your way of life and impose all manner of “radical” societal transformations, it’s not surprising that some would respond with such anger and angst. We’ve seen and heard such fears expressed at numerous points in American history.
Compelling as these tales may seem to some, however, the simple truth is that they are false.
Yes, progressives – a diverse group that includes President-elect Biden – are for change.
We see a global environmental emergency rapidly threatening the habitability of growing swaths of our planet and spurring mass migration and urge immediate action to combat it.
We see the spread of authoritarian dictatorships and ethnic and religious divisions in nations that once championed human rights and equal opportunity and long for the U.S. to model a different path.
We see an effort to reverse decades of progress in our country’s fight against racial discrimination and segregation and pray that we can halt it in its tracks.
But here’s the deal: As much as the two competing sides in modern American politics may differ, when you get right down to it, we don’t really differ that much.
The inhabitants of both sides of the great political divide that currently grips our nation love their kids and grandchildren and want them to experience long and fulfilling lives.
We both love the good things in life – a safe and pleasant place to live, good health, good food. Most of us enjoy the pleasure of laughing with loved ones, listening to or watching our favorite artists, rooting for a beloved sports team, traveling someplace we’ve never been before, and the freedom to do so whenever we feel like it.
And all of us long for the moment at which our species can bring this horrific pandemic (and the fear and dread that have accompanied it) under control so that all of these joys can be shared again in the real world – not just the virtual one.
Surely, with all these things in common, neither the rise of a septuagenarian career politician from a blue collar background with a fondness for his old Corvette, nor questions of whether federal tax rates move closer to where they were during the administration of Richard Nixon or the country places modest regulations on weapons not invented at the time the Constitution was written, can be grounds for “war.”
In short, as the greatest Republican president said almost 140 years ago: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”
C’mon folks, give Biden a chance.