Right now, votes are being counted. They all need to count, and we need to count them all.
Someone will get to 270, and it is highly likely that what will come next are important and problematic calls for unity. Whether these come from the President/President-elect may depend on which candidate gets to 270, but either way there will be plenty of leaders calling on us to pull together.
We have to pull together.
But that’s a complicated, messy proposition. Calls for unity are often spawned by the very human desire to turn down the heat on discomfort. The potential for harm here is extraordinary. For millions of people in America, this is not about discomfort. This is about the racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and more that permeate our country, compromising people’s safety, belonging, connection, certainty, influence and ability to meet needs without degradation or fear. In other words, this is about whether everyone in our country has a fair shot at wellbeing. That’s not about whether people are comfortable. It’s about living, surviving, thriving.
That can’t be on the table for compromise. It must be the shared goal.
Unity requires compromise. But compromise can easily tilt into appeasement. Appeasement feeds power imbalances — it doesn’t address them. It allows those of us with greater power to negotiate some type of unity on the shoulders of those of us with less power, sidelining those who have pointed out injustices in the process. The electoral college is one example of appeasement detritus that clogs our democracy.
Unity advances justice and doesn’t paper over or deepen inequities. That means it is inherently uncomfortable terrain for a country that is designed to be comfortable for people who are white, as I am. We have to stop equating unity with comfort. It also means that unity and homogeneity are at odds with each other. Races are still being called, yet it is clear that power is broadening. The youngest person elected to Congress in modern history will be sworn in in January, as will the first nonbinary state legislator, among many other firsts. And there is more than enough evidence that we still have a long, long way to go as a country.
I believe fervently that fierce commitment to a country where everyone has a fair shot at wellbeing provides common ground that centers justice and equity, with plenty of room for compromise. Along the way, we must remain vigilant to avoid the short-cuts and appeasement strategies that undermine this vital goal.