Are there better ways to engage in politics? How did the United States respond to the results of the 2020 Presidential Election? In this blog post, I talk about the importance of discussing politics civilly and rationally. Engaging in politics is definitely more than putting out a yard sign.
I remember from a few weeks ago the large crowd of people that congregated in front of the Massachusetts State House. This crowd formed a few days after the 2020 election on Saturday when Joe Biden had been deemed the victor. I was walking around Boston with my friend in the morning (at that point I wasn’t even aware of Biden’s victory) and we came across the growing crowd in between the Common and the State House. I heard yelling, saw police cars, and saw signs being brandished above the many heads of people in this gathering. I must confess, neither my friend nor I wanted anything to do with this crowd. My mind, as had presumably every other American’s, had been on the election for a long time, and I couldn’t help but quickly draw a comparison. I looked at this large, loud crowd and thought of the debate watch parties that I had been attending leading up to the election. These watch parties were held by Suffolk Votes (an organization that I am a part of as a Suffolk University student which I also mentioned in my last Democratic Erosions blog post) during the Presidential televised debates. In online meetings, we would watch and discuss each debate. Many would participate during the event by commenting opinions, useful information, links to news articles, etc. Afterwards, a discussion would be held where we would each take turns commenting on the important moments in and aspects of the debate. The civil and productive nature of these events is what made me immediately contrast them in my mind with the large gathering of people in front of the State House. I simply could not relate to the desire to congregate over a political victory (or loss). Additionally, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, questions of safety and the spreading virus came into play. Surely the participants of the rally have some responsibility regarding the pandemic. Can’t go to a football game, but let’s all bunch together because our political candidate won; right.
It’s all about communication, and there is a clear difference in the quality of communication when looking at an intellectual discussion vs. looking at a mass of cheering people. Aside from intellectual discussion, voting is another important form of communication. The importance of democracy is found in the actual elections, and is another good example of positive political engagement. In the 21st century, we have the incredible privilege of the internet, social media, and instant communication. This allows for more discussions on important matters and has the potential to be used for good. Free discussion is a powerful tool, but is also a large responsibility to bear. We must not let our ability to interact with our fellow citizens freely turn sour and counterproductive. We must not succumb to populism. We cannot embrace political pandering while turning away from honest discussions. I know I, along with most others I’m sure, was not happy to see so many people denying the results of the election initially. Hopefully, though, the nation is coming around to seeing the plain truth of the election results. This experience ultimately reinforced my belief in civilized, rational discussion over partisan shouting.