The Unexpected Hope of the 2020 Election
Recent conversations with my parents suggest that the future is brighter than I’d dared to hope.
In honor of the ongoing Democratic National Convention, I want to spend a few moments reflecting on the reasons for hope and optimism this election season, particularly in the days since Joe Biden announced that he’d chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate.
It’s been an exciting week for me. Like many other people, I was thrilled when Joe Biden announced his choice of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris had been my first choice in the primary seasons, and I think that she brings a lot to the Democratic ticket. She’s young and vital and she has strong progressive bona fides (she’s been ranked as one of the most liberal senators currently serving). I’d thought for a long time that she was the obvious choice for Biden, and that if he chose her it would really strengthen his hand in the election. Imagine my joy when I was finally vindicated.
I happened to be visiting my parents when I got the news, and I braced for some vitriol. They’re not terribly conservative, but they do tend to hold most politicians in contempt, and I know that they’re definitely not fond of Biden (because they weren’t fond of Obama). However, they seemed to take a rather agnostic view of the whole thing, and they didn’t really seem to have strong feelings one way or the other about Kamala. For once, their cynicism worked to my advantage, keeping me from having to have yet another fraught political discussion (it probably helps that she has been one of those pushing for generous COVID relief).
Their silence was, all things considered, absolutely fine with me.
As most of my readers know, it’s been a rough four years. My parents voted for Trump, and I’ve really struggled to forgive them for what I have long seen as a deep moral failing. To know that they voted for Trump in 2016 just seemed so strange to me, and the fact that they did so knowing Pence’s vehement anti-LGBTQ+ record just made it worse. Did they really care so little for me or my needs that they would be willing to vote for someone who would almost certainly do everything in his power to make my life, and that of my partner and friends, more difficult? I tried to overlook it and make peace with it, but I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten over it. In fact, I know I haven’t.
I know my story isn’t exceptional, but this has been very difficult for me, since I’ve always had a close (if often contentious) relationship with my parents (a product, in part, of my being an only child). The damage was real, and it was lasting, and it got to a point where I was beginning to wonder if I wouldn’t have to make the decision to distance myself from them. These fears only became more intense as 2020 heated up and Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee and it became increasingly clear that they were very likely to vote for Trump again. As a result, I began to brace myself for what was sure to be another four years of bitterness, anxiety, and depression on my part. It got to the point where it was hard for me to talk about any political thing with them without adopting that condescending tone of voice I seem to naturally slip into when talking to them (something I’m still working on, by the way).
The pandemic, however, has really forced them to re-evaluate their decision to vote for Trump a second time. They’ve never been what I’d call Trump supporters, though I was pretty sure they were going to vote for him a second time. However, his continued bungling of the pandemic — coupled with his truly bizarre targeting of the USPS — has started to change their minds. Though we’ve been very fortunate that no one in our family has yet contracted COVID-19 (that we know of), we have seen our ability to visit my grandmother in a nursing home curtailed several times (including, most recently last week), and we’ve all watched as the case load in West Virginia has climbed slowly but surely.
Now, my parents have said pretty unequivocally that they will not be voting for Trump in November. I kind of had a feeling this was coming, considering the fact that my Dad is a frequent watcher of MSNBC — which is itself a pretty strange phenomenon — but their condemnation of Trump was pretty full-throated. My dad in particular has called Trump an idiot on multiple occasions, and my mom thinks that his rushing to re-open the country during the pandemic was reprehensible. I was shocked and gratified when they said they’d turned against him, if only because it was the last thing I would have expected to happen.
Of course, I’m not foolish enough to count my electoral chickens before they’re hatched. There’s a lot that can happen in the next few months, and it’s still going to be a heavy lift to see Biden/Harris over the finish line. However, for the first time since November 9, 2016, I’ve started to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. For the first time since Trump was declared the victor, I’ve begun to have hope for the future, not just for our country, but for my family.
Don’t get me wrong. There are still quite a few differences between my parents and I when it comes to politics. They are pretty stubborn people, and it takes a lot to change their minds about, well, pretty much anything. I have no doubt that, should Biden win, there are going to be quite a few tense discussions about the direction in which the country is headed.
As I continue watching the Democratic National Convention, however, I’m inspired to think that we are indeed on the cusp of a new dawn. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll finally be able to awaken from this national nightmare.
My conversations with my family give me hope that we will.