The most recent election further highlighted the division that exists within the country, as well as the fundamental differences that are apparent when looking at both political parties.
On Nov. 3, 2020, United States citizens were given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote for the next President. It was a choice between reelecting current President Donald Trump, or electing the 44th Vice President, Joe Biden.
Over the past several months, the race escalated to one of the most intense political battles ever witnessed in this country. While past presidential elections were also heated, this race became very personal for many people.
Voters felt that their personal values and beliefs were at risk while feeling that a win by the opposing side would be incredibly detrimental to life as they knew it. As a person who was newly eligible to vote in his first Presidential election, I found myself having to quickly educate myself on the platforms of both sides and to attempt to understand what each party stands for.
In researching the candidates and their platforms, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information being shared on social media, television, radio and newspapers. I learned that many of the sources had a specific bias and painted their news stories accordingly. There are sites full of memes and political commentary making fun of both candidates.
News channels have become more biased and seem to only report news that makes their candidate look good. I began to realize that I needed to be aware of where I was gathering information from so that I could appropriately evaluate the content based on the source. One specific source of information that became challenging to navigate was that of social media. It was in that forum that people felt comfortable sharing their views, making accusations, and at times, attacking their friends and family for differences of opinion.
Most of my friends got into ruthless debates on social media, arguing their points of view with each other or watching random strangers commenting on posts they follow. It often felt like people were less tolerant of views that were different from their own.
Leading up to the election, you could not go anywhere without having to confront people’s thoughts about the Presidential election and how others wanted me to vote. As we got closer to election day, I felt more on edge as I saw stores being boarded up and heard about threats being made to others because of their political views.
Immediately before the election, I also heard many people talk about needing to stockpile weapons in case their surroundings became unsafe after the election results were announced. It made people uneasy as everyone was talking about potential riots and a civil war if their candidate did not win.
Once aspect of this election that differed from prior elections was that a large number of people opted to use mail-in ballots to vote due to COVID-19. This introduced a complexity to the election that no one was prepared for. While some felt relieved to be able to cast their vote in this way, others were concerned about the validity of the ballots and the potential for fraud.
As a first-time voter, it was difficult to sort through these opinions and decide how to cast my ballot. There was also a lot of news coverage on voter intimidation and voter suppression, which increased everyone’s anxiety heading into the election. That being said, this year’s Presidential election had a record-breaking voter turnout.
As I anxiously awaited the results of the election, it became clear that it would take many days before the result was confirmed. This raised my anxiety, as well as those around me. In the days after the election, threats escalated, misinformation soared and news outlets were providing around the clock coverage of the election from their point of view.
Even returning to work was a challenge as I did not know how my coworkers felt about the election results. It was awkward at times because there was a definite divide in the office where some were supporting Biden and others were backing Trump.
When the results were announced, the intensity on social media increased as some people claimed fraud while others believed that their candidate had won fairly. This continues to further divide the nation as both parties continue to fight for their candidate.
I have certainly learned a lot living through this election process and how people’s personal opinions can create divisions in friendships and families. I have also witnessed the fear and anxiety that can drive people to react in ways that they might not normally.