Election Day is behind us, but we still face an important choice.
We can continue to tolerate a divided America, or we can each do our part to heal the country of its deep partisan divide, and work together toward brighter days.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, during the campaign succinctly framed this year’s election contest as a battle for our nation’s soul: a choice between unity and division, progress and stagnation, competence and haphazardness.
These are the choices facing us, without regard to the election outcome.
Even as you’re reading this newspaper, the country may not know for sure who will occupy the White House after Jan. 20. Record voter turnout, including early in-person voting and postal voting, has resulted in a deluge of ballots that will take some states many days to fully count.
Even as the verification process continues — even if there is a din of baseless claims about fraud and efforts to steal the election — we must recognize this process for what it is: our nation’s best effort to completely and accurately count the American vote.
State laws differ. Unlike Florida, which has been counting mailed votes for about a month, several states are not allowed to do so until Election Day. A delay in reporting results from a deluge of mailed ballots is inevitable, not evidence of corruption.
What can we do?
The pundits say we’re more polarized than ever before. At least one poll has shown that the share of Americans who don’t have any friends with differing political views has grown in the past four years, including nearly a quarter of Democrats, a fifth of independents and about an eighth of Republicans.
Many of us tend to get our news from sources that simply confirm our pre-existing beliefs, or from a circle of like-minded friends on social media.
And alarmingly, the incumbent president has chosen to strike at the very foundation of our republic, throwing into doubt the process of democracy itself with unfounded claims of voter fraud and other misdeeds.
If we’re to stop — let alone reverse — this slide into hyperpartisanship and political division, all of us have a lot of work to do.
We need to love our neighbors again, regardless of what signs adorn their front lawns.
We need to talk to each other and challenge our own ideas with honest discussions, rather than talking past each other.
We need to agree that facts matter, and that while everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, the idea of “alternative facts” must be eschewed.
We need to get our news from reputable sources, and support those news outlets in their work to guard our democracy and hold our government — even our election offices — accountable.
It’s going to be hard, but it’s not impossible. Healing is our only option, if the United States is to be a well-functioning society.