Reframing the 2020 Presidential Election

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The 2020 presidential election that's just now beginning to take shape is going to be unlike any other that America's ever seen. As it unfolds over the next 18 months, this election will go down in history as unique unto itself, unlike any other previous presidential election.

This time round, this elections isn't going to be all about deciding who’s “the best man for the job.” It won't be one that’s aimed at deciding whether a Joe Biden, a Donald Trump, a Bernie Sanders, or a William Weld is the one ‘best man’ to be president of the United States. Neither will it be an election that all about deciding which candidate is the best person to be president, regardless of whether that person is a man or a woman. No matter whether, on Wednesday, November 4th, 2020, we’ve elected a Kamala Harris or a Donald Trump, this election is going to be about much more than simply deciding who will be the 46th President of the United States.

This time round this presidential election, no matter who we end up electing, is going to be widely understood as having been, deep in its heart and soul, an election that was all about discovering which vision of America most of us, as American citizens, want our country to be, to become.

Fundamental Issues?

Regardless of who we end up electing, I believe that, deep down, inside its heart and soul, this country’s 2020 election won’t end up being about which single person we choose as president. Unlike all other previous elections — whether we know it or not — this one is going to be all about discovering which vision of America most of us, as American citizens, want our country to be, to become.

In the deepest sense, I believe the votes we cast in 2020 are going to be about either affirming or rejecting the direction in which America has been moving for the past several years. Whether we see this or not, what’s going on all across America right now is visible proof that 2020's election is (and should be) about whether we, as a people, want to go back to being the white, Christian, male-dominated nation we've been since 1776. Or whether we, as a people, want to suck it up and decide that we, as a nation, want to move forward ever so slowly towards becoming the multi-ethnic, multi-gendered, multi-faith country that we've been moving towards for several decades now.

Forward or backwards? Are we going to succumb to our natural mind’s baser instincts and retreat? Or are we going to summon the courage necessary to live up to the expansive and inclusive vision, ideals and values this country was founded on? THESE are the questions we'll be answering on November 3rd, 2020, and they’re going to be among the toughest, most consequential choices we'll ever make.

2020’s Paradigm Shifts

This is the way it’s going to be because the issues buried deep inside this election involve some of the most complex, highly controversial paradigm shifts ever to appear on a U.S. ballot. Paradigm shifts like these four: 

  • The shift presently going on in this country away from America’s original Christian society towards today’s emerging agnostic, non-sectarian society, as demonstrated by this kind of evidence.

  • The shift going on all across America away from a white, male-dominated society towards an inclusive multi-racial, multi-ethnic, ‘Me Too’ society, as demonstrated by this kind of evidence, this kind, and this kind as well.

  • The shift going on in this country away from a patriarchal society towards a non-gendered, polyarchal society, as demonstrated by this kind of evidence.

  • The shift going on all across America away from a society that can only see a binary, male/female definition of gender to a society that recognizes and accepts a multi-gendered definition that includes male, female, gay, lesbian, and trans-sexual identities, as demonstrated by this kind of evidence. 

If you read any of the articles highlighted in these four paragraphs you, while you’re reading, will feel the visceral, threat-induced responses that are our natural mind’s instinctive reaction to national identity shifts like the four listed above.

Useful actions

Given all this we, if we want to get ready to cast smart, well reasoned and evidenced decisions at the polls, will need to reframe the way we’re seeing the 2020 presidential election. As our first step, we need to alter the way we, as citizens and voters, are thinking about this 2020 election. Instead of seeing it as an election that’s all about choosing the ‘best man,’ we instead need to take some time to prove to ourselves why this election should be understood as one that’s about discovering which vision of America most of us, as American citizens, want our country to be, to become.

I don’t have a sure fire way to create this reframe. But I do have three steps that I believe will move us in the right direction:

  • First, you and I need to devote some serious time to re-learning what democracy is all about. We need to re-learn what freedom’s and representative democracy’s essential principles are. And what its fundamental characteristics and traits are. Beyond this, we need to acknowledge that these foundational ideals and traits, things we once new all about, have long ago become taken-for-granted premises and values for us. Presuppositions about freedom and representative democracy that have slipped deep into our subconscious. Ideas we once knew, but now don’t really. Consequently, if we’re going to get prepared to make wise ballot choices, we need to first acknowledge to ourselves the possibility that we can’t simply coast into our polling places on November 3rd. We need to spend some serious time getting prepared to vote.

  • Second, you and I need to take what we re-learn about freedom’s and representative democracy’s essential characteristics and compare this with what, in political, social, and economic terms, is real in this country today. The questions we need to ask ourselves are ones like these: “Is the polarized and polarizing government we now have in Washington adequately practicing and protecting democracy’s essential tenet of majority rule and minority rights?”; “How are things like rising levels of income inequality, immigration detention, and voter suppression hurting or helping with our understanding of representative democracy’s fundamental traits and characteristics?;” and/or “Does it matter that our elected representatives, at both the state and national level, do not adequately reflect America’s current multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-denominational demographics?”

  • Third, you and I need to decide how and why each potential presidential candidates and their espoused policies match up with our vision of what America should be all about.

In the short run – i.e., between now and the 2020 election -- I believe our next steps are simple. Between today and Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, there are two things each of us should do: 

  • Spend some time over the next several weeks and months critically questioning whether, at this point in time, we, for ourselves, are thoroughly prepared to exercise well-informed, well-evidenced ballot choices in the primary and general elections that we’ll be involved in between today and November 3rd, 2020.

  • If our answers to this questioning is anything but ‘yes,’ we need to organize for ourselves opportunities for better understanding the issues facing us, and deciding whether any of the candidates who are running for president have the deep, complex depth of understanding that’s going to be required from our next president.

Registering for TLO's 2020 Presidential Election Dialogue Series is one good way to address these two tasks. Another is scheduling an exploratory conversation with me so that together we can examine how TLO's Presidential Election Resource Center can help each of us prepare for the 2020 election on our own. And, on your own, you could explore the resources and background information available inside TLO’s Election Resource Center. Any one of these alternatives is a good way for you to step into getting prepared for 2020. 

Regardless of whether you make use of my support, there are other resources you could use to get prepared for 2020. For instance, you could: 

No matter which resource you use, the point is to get started thinking and talking about the new order of consciousness, the new mindsets, and the new modes of thinking that the 2020 Presidential Election process is demanding from each of us. Given that you want to make wise, well-reasoned, adequately evidenced 21st Century decisions on November 3rd, any one of these choices listed above is a good one to make.