The Debate Surrounding This Year’s Election Results Isn’t *Entirely* Trump’s Fault

It’s a symptom of a much larger issue that threatens the core of our country

From a young age, Americans are taught that we are the descendants and successors of patriots who fought for their freedom and eventually won it. This narrative is as deep-seated in the American psyche as hot dogs and hamburgers. Yet, in the modern age, it is a metaphor that has become tattered and worn. We live in a country that, time and time again, has failed the very people it originally set out to protect. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, many Americans have begun to ask the question: “Is this freedom?”

Now, before you start calling me a Marxist for blaming our current dilemma on class struggle, there are many more toxic and damaging pieces of American culture that have become woven in with the very identities of some Americans. So-called “Southern Pride” has kept racism, hatred and bigotry alive across wide swaths of the American heartland. The god complexes of police officers and their cohorts have created environments that perpetuate the legacy of slavery and the many other injustices that historically existed alongside it. And rich Americans like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have made billions of dollars in the midst of a deadly, global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of their countrymen, all while their workers struggle not only to make ends meet, but to survive. On top of that, all three billionaires are poised to pay $0 in state income taxes. This is the America we live in: while the working class worry every day about putting food on the table, the wealthy sleep peacefully knowing that they have every important politician in their pocket.

Where is the justice? Where are our leaders in our time of need? And, perhaps most importantly, how can we fix this untenable situation? Unfortunately, I do not have the answers to these questions.

The United States of America is sick, but not with COVID-19. Instead of a fever, it has experienced a gradual decline in the trust of its citizenry. Many believe that this fever first “spiked” on November 3, 2016, when Donald J. Trump was elected 45th President of the United States, but the stirrings of mistrust and discontent began long before that fateful date.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans began losing faith in their government in the mid-1960s, just as the U.S. ramped up its involvement in foreign affairs. From the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 to American intervention in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1973, Americans watched as their federal government threw the lives of their friends, neighbors and family away to fight an invisible enemy. America has never been the same.

Now, the President of the United States baselessly alleges widespread voter fraud and a “rigged election,” all to the cheers and praise of his supporters. As his legal efforts fail to manifest in an overthrow of the democratically-arrived-at results, his supporters have called on the president to perform a wide array of actions, from leaving the Republican Party to declaring a state of civil war. Given what this country has been through over the past few decades, are we really surprised that people were this eager to jump the gun and blame the “deep state” for Trump’s loss at the hands of the establishment’s poster child, Joe Biden?

Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016 because he wasn’t a typical candidate. Jeb Bush, the party’s original favorite for the nomination, was left to pick up the pieces of the party he thought he knew. The president has continually bucked norms, as well as the political establishment (which he lovingly refers to as “the swamp”) to expand his own power and the power of his allies in Congress. Republicans like U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who initially denounced Trump’s campaign, platform and personal history, quickly fell in line behind the president to preserve and advance their own political careers. Trump has done all of this with the overwhelming support of his faithful followers, who take his word as gospel truth.

Like it or not, the Republican Party has thrived under President Trump. They’ve found a fear at the core of every American and capitalized on it. As we live our day to day lives and read the news in disbelief, every American has asked themselves “is this what my country has come to?” This isn’t a new question; it’s one that has been asked continuously for at least the past 60 years. Over time, however, the tone with which we ask this question has come to reflect the frustration and anger that we have with the status quo, which manifested alongside the realization that our country has become the very thing it sought to overcome. This anger is precisely what Democrats have failed to pay attention to, and it’s precisely what Republicans have fed on.

There is a certain attitude of naivety among former Republicans and current Democrats alike that Trumpism will simply disappear once President Trump is out of office. Mark my words: this will not be the case. While they are right to emphasize the importance of the incoming Biden administration, its importance does not rely on some vague guarantee to bring about positive, unabolished change. Rather, what Biden does over the next four years will determine who will win in 2024, and from a more long-term perspective, the future of the United States. If he lives up to his image and history as a member of the political elite, I have no doubt that Trump or a Trump-like figure will be elected president in 2024. If he takes lengths to actually help the people he is sworn to serve and strengthen the trust of the American people in the institutions that govern them, the likelihood of that 2016 scenario recurring will decrease drastically.

And as difficult and perhaps impossible a task it may be, I believe that one way Americans can work to alleviate this problem is by identifying those issues we share in common and working to hold our politicians accountable to fix them. Radical as it may sound, I believe that the root of many of the social woes facing Americans today lies with the vast income and wealth inequality that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the damaging legislation the Trump administration has worked to pass over the past four years. These are nonpartisan issues that affect all Americans.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that humans are endowed by God with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the centuries since that fateful document was drafted, America has fought a seemingly perpetual battle to live up to those ideals. Today, we see that the tenets of these three rights have been inherently and perhaps irreparably damaged by the continued indifference and oftentimes malfeasance of the very people we elect to represent us. Let us not point fingers at each other and play the blame game deciding how we got to this point. Let us instead elect new, intelligent, selfless leaders who give a crap about our well-being and fight for our basic human rights.