The November 3rd elections in the United States have been described as either “the most important in the history of our nation” or at least “in our lifetime”. I am not sure if I agree with this. We have had other choices in our history that were far more important: the election and re-election of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.
Still, I’m one of those Americans who can’t wait for this election season to be over. I am sure that many people beyond America’s borders will feel the same way as we approach the year 2021.
I don’t see this choice as the “most important” choice in my life, but I see it as difficult. I’m a fiscally conservative Republican with small government, strong defense, and a member of the LGBTQ community. And unlike many of the more than 90 million Americans who have already cast their votes, I wasn’t as eager as I was in the previous election. There are no easy decisions this year.
I vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, the likable presidential candidate who is concerned about protecting LGBTQ people but may not do as well on economics, foreign policy and national security, or for the chaotic President Donald Trump, whose administration is not Freund has been to the LGBTQ community but has done well with economic growth, defending American interests overseas, and maintaining security for the country around the world and along its borders? Who will fight the coronavirus pandemic better in the future?
I’m not a “single issue” voter, so it was an especially difficult choice to feel clear about. We are fortunate that this election season we have no events like the Iraq war or the attack on the US embassy in Libya that draw clear lines between our presidential candidates and get people to vote. Hence, foreign policy doesn’t seem to be that important in making choice.
There were also major scandals involving allegations of ethical misconduct against both candidates. Should the Mueller report on President Trump’s relationship with Russia outweigh recent allegations against Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine and China? Both men appear to have financial entanglements in China that would contradict their claims of how “tough” they can be on our nation’s adversary. Despite the huge media attention that these scandals have received, they cancel each other out.
Like many Americans, I find domestic issues far more important, including: pandemic, economic growth, systemic racial differences, police reform, LGBTQ equality, illegal immigration, free speech, gun rights, etc.
Civil rights are a very important issue to me, so I was concerned about the appointment of the Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Justice Coney Barrett is a highly intelligent, accomplished woman, but her claims of being free from legal prejudice on some civil rights issues seem suspicious to me. We won’t know until she approves or disagrees with such cases, but it is clear that the liberal-conservative balance in the court is now tilted to one side. If any party controls Congress in the years to come, it will be evident that laws will be proposed and voted that will challenge access to abortion and LGBTQ equality.
As an American and an LGBTQ person, I hope that our Congress leadership and President will see to it that I and millions of others in our country are no longer discriminated against. The current administration has not done this.
While I live in a “safe” state, New Jersey, where I have anti-discrimination and legal protection, I can easily be arrested for being transgender in a women’s bathroom at a pizza place across the river in Pennsylvania. That needs to change. The US can run the world in so many ways, but full rights and protection for all citizens should be a high priority for the next government and Congress.
Resolving our nation’s historic racial differences has moved the majority of Americans, and that is important to me too. I want my children to grow up in a society where there is racial harmony and where everyone is equal before the law.
Urban race riots ultimately affect everyone, and in my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, there was a major riot shortly after a peaceful and positive march by the Black Lives Matter last May. I took my son to see the march that clearly embodied the civil rights movement of the past.
However, the post-march riot sparked by agitators was pretty frightening as my family and I live just blocks from the epicenter of the riot. Police cars were burned, windows were broken, rioters were arrested and helicopters flew loudly overhead. The next day, volunteer citizens and business owners cleaned up and moved on together. The next day in my hometown gives me hope that my America can meet this challenge and move forward for the better.
I understand that we need to carry out police reforms in our country to ensure that our local police departments are subject to higher standards. There are many good police officers on duty, but every American shouldn’t be afraid to interact with them. However, I am concerned that, as necessary as these reforms are, our federal government may not be able to finance them because of the pandemic.
Illegal immigration is another problem where we need solutions, not empty promises and hyperbolic rhetoric. We now know that Mexico is not going to pay for “the wall”. We can agree that no matter whether President Barack Obama or President Donald Trump started this bad policy, children should not be separated from their parents, and that we need to pass a law on getting citizenship at no increased cost to already financially troubled American communities.
In addition, our next President must ensure that the so-called “Muslim travel bans” are not used to discriminate against people based on their religion, but to help stop terrorism at our borders. This is certainly a fair and reasonable policy until the scourge of terrorism in the affected countries is defeated.
It is also difficult to look at our choice without recognizing the extremes on both sides that have done their best to fear people and make people choose one way or another. Both parties did it. In public, the left has made small white supremacist fringe groups like the Proud Boys for the second coming of the German Wehrmacht, and the right has similarly built Antifa into a smarter version of the Viet Cong. While the Proud Boys and Antifa are dangerous movements that should be shut down by the authorities, they are also not serious threats to our democracy.
But perhaps the most important issue in these elections is the coronavirus pandemic, the health crisis it has caused and the damage it has done to our economy. This pandemic affects almost everything we do and it is hurting so many people and families financially, educationally and spiritually. An army of unemployed Americans could make this election, and we need our next president to find and find a better balance between opening up the economy and taking precautions against coronavirus.
People need jobs and they need them soon, but they also need to be safe. Unfortunately, wearing masks in our country has become political for Trump and Biden supporters. It cannot stay that way if we are to defeat this virus and rebuild our economy. Our next president needs to push this forward, and if President Trump wins re-election, I want him to encourage the wearing of masks as a sign of patriotism. I owe this to former Vice President Biden during this campaign.
I am not naive enough to believe that our way forward will be easy, but I think that the way will be cleared of many obstacles from America’s past as we now speak more honestly with one another about the political issues that affect our lives . Even if it’s not done with a smile.
Soon the polls in the US will close and the vote count will begin. While we wait for a result, I’ll do my best to smile and help with any post-election cleanups. May we come together as a nation to get through this difficult moment.
The views expressed in this article are from the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.