Opinion

Only Yards Away but Miles Apart


Students, residents and activists alike congregated outside of the State Street corner of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in what turned out to be a massive gathering.
Students, residents and activists alike congregated outside of the State Street corner of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in what turned out to be a massive gathering. Image By: Ian-Michael Griffin

The most apropos phrase to describe the events revolving the election from the past few days would be “a failure to unify.” One does not require clairvoyance to predict that this will be a theme which continues to plague our nation to its bedrock. 

The 2020 Presidential Election simply invigorated the partisan hatred and feud that has been boiling beneath the surface for the past four years and the claims made by President Trump of a fraudulent election stoked the fires burning in the hearts of his supporters, but also his critics.

A new president has, for better or worse, been elected by the people of the United States, but as a nation we are unable, much like the president himself, to concede our partisanship and embrace a national pride and respect for our own countrymen.

When multiple major news organizations announced on the  morning of Nov. 7 that they projected Joseph R. Biden Jr. would win the state of Pennsylvania — thus securing the 2020 Presidential Election — there were to be two obvious but opposite reactions: celebration or disappointment.

It seemed that only momentarily, the protests and demonstrations of joy would break out at any minute. In New York, Philadelphia and Boston, supporters of the Biden campaign flocked to the streets in celebration of President Elect Biden’s election. Here in Madison, it followed the same spirit. 

Students, residents and activists alike congregated outside of the State Street corner of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in what turned out to be a massive gathering. When I arrived around 1 p.m. on Nov. 7, the crowd was sizable, yet modest. However, by 3 p.m., it was overrun by supporters, as they listened intently to those speaking from the megaphone at the steps. One unnamed activist who took center stage asked all those in attendance to make merry and not engage with anyone who came to “disrupt their celebration.” Some began to dance in the street, as spirited music blared from speakers.

While this was occurring though, there was an equal and opposite reaction only 150 yards away, on the other side of the building. Disillusioned by the loss of the election, Trump supporters gathered bearing “Make America Great Again” hats and American flags. Chants rippled through the crowd such as “stop the count” and “they are stealing.” Many were dressed in camo and some brandished rifles and pistols as they made use of open carry laws here in Wisconsin. 


Eventually, participants from the Biden celebration made their way over to voice their disapproval of the Trump supporters and their continuous shouts declaring the election to be a vast conspiracy of falsehoods. Clashes emerged and individuals from both sides began to shout at each other and obscenities were exchanged, but virtually nothing at all was said. You could feel it within both crowds that if you were a member of the “opposing” side, you were not welcome and sharp looks of disdain would promptly be shot your way.

Saturday’s events in Madison were but a microcosm of an entire nation’s hatred and animosity between the divided political groups. Some in the media have claimed that they hope there is a return to normalcy after this election and that the bridge of bipartisanship will be repaired but I must admit, I doubt this with the deepest of convictions. 

These two groups of people were a football field away from each other. They may have grown up in neighboring towns. Perhaps they even went to the same church or rooted for the same football team. Today, however, it was clear that they viewed each other as enemies. The State Capitol building felt as if it had territories of rival factions, for a day, and if one was to walk 100 yards in a different direction, they may find themselves behind enemy lines.

When agitators from either side would rally to the other to engage in debate, such debate was nowhere to be seen. No intelligent arguments were conveyed to the other, and no one tried to explain their own beliefs and reconcile. They yelled at each other, they spouted claims of racism or communism. Nothing was achieved.

Even in the midst of an election with record voter turnout, there was not any mutual admiration for the process of democracy.

These events seemed to be a perfect example of the tension that will continue to reach a boiling point, as the fight for the Senate and the House of Representatives will continue to rage on. In particular, Georgia — which had been at center stage for much of the Presidential Election — will experience two runoffs this January which could very well decide how the Senate majority could lean, whether left or right. This battle will continue to rage on in the coming months and I predict it may turn ugly, especially between Senate leaders who are striving with equal vitriol to foster party superiority within the Senate. The frustration we will no doubt see play out between the aisles, will continue to spill into our very own streets as well.   

Such a display was troubling to say the least. I suspect similar scenes are being played out across the nation currently, and because of this great political chasm, President-Elect Joe Biden certainly has his work cut out for him. It is unclear how he will try to bridge a gap that seems cavernous, or if it can be at all.

Saturday was meant to be an example of democracy and of the power of our First Amendment rights which granted us the freedom to stand outside the State Capitol Building and either protest, or celebrate. In some cases, that devolved and laid bare a path for our primal instincts of anger and mistrust to prevail instead of our virtues. We are still a nation which refuses to reevaluate our convictions, on both sides of the aisle. 

Perhaps we as a nation can heal the wounds we have dealt to each other. Perhaps not. Nonetheless, in a completely apolitical sentiment, I think we, Republicans and Democrats, moderate and far, should wish President-Elect Joe Biden all the luck in the world. I suspect he will need it.

Ian-Michael is a freshman studying Political Science and Journalism. What do you think the future holds? Can a more united America emerge from this? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com

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