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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ikerd

Four Years to Regroup

Updated: Feb 21, 2021

The election of 2020 is finally over. Yes, it is over. Joe Biden won and Donald Trump lost. This conclusion was not reached quickly or decisively. Trump hasn’t conceded, but he would need to win the recount in Georgia and reverse “called” elections in at least two other states to get 270 electoral votes—which is not going to happen. That being said, I personally don’t believe this election was a repudiation of Trump’s autocratic political agenda but was a rejection of Donald Trump as a person—by a narrow slice of mainstream Americans.

The results suggest the voters’ response to Biden’s promise to reunite the nation ranged from skepticism to outright rejection. The Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and will need to win the two runoff elections in Georgia to gain a narrow majority in the Senate. This is hardly a mandate to reunite the nation. If the autocrat running against Biden for reelection had been someone more competent or tactful, the outcome might have been quite different.

I would like to believe that the margin of voters accounting for the Democratic win understood this election as a choice between democracy and autocracy. I had made this case in my American Covenant blog series, as did several prominent politicians and pundits of both parties. I doubt that our conceptual arguments were a major factor in the outcome. Regardless, those who are still committed to returning the long difficult quest toward democracy will now have four years to regroup and prepare for the next presidential election.

The deep political divide in the U.S. will not be healed in four years—no matter how hard President Biden or anyone else tries. The cold hard reality is that neither those on the political Left nor Right are willing to reunite the nation around principles that are acceptable to the other. The vast majority of Democrats are not socialists and the vast majority of Republicans are not autocrats. However, progressives within the Democratic party will accept nothing less than a return to the nation’s historic path toward a more democratic republic. Those who currently control the Republican party will not accept any compromise that threatens their traditional positions of privilege afforded by the remnants of an undemocratic republic. Nearly half of Americans seem willing to accept the dictates of an autocrat rather than continuing government gridlock.

This election has left the nation teetering on the edge between democracy and autocracy. As I have argued before, we are at a point in history similar to that leading up to the Civil War. Those in the South knew abolition of slavery would mean an end of their positions of privilege in southern society. Slaves they had treated as personal property eventually would be granted equal political rights. Some slave owners probably feared physical harm in retribution for the brutal punishment they had meted out to their slaves. Others likely feared the financial collapse of the slave-based southern economy. The European/aristocratic culture of the South would be permanently disrupted. Even those with social status barely above slavery would have no one left to feel “better than.”

Similar fears were stoked in this past election in an attempt to convince those in positions of privilege that their physical safety, economic security, religious freedoms, and the American way of life were at risk. For many in positions of privilege, those fears were, and still are, real. However, such fears would be completely groundless in a nation committed to liberty and justice for all. If there is liberty for all there must be justice for all. If there is justice for all there must be liberty for all. Whenever liberty and justice prevail, there will be prosperity for all. As I have explained in previous posts, the progressive political agenda is not an agenda for Godless socialism. Instead, it is an agenda for returning the nation to its historic purpose of securing the God-given equal rights of all to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Abraham Lincoln, ended his historic pre-war campaign speech at Cooper Union in New York with the challenge: “Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT” (emphasis by Lincoln).

My duty, as I am understanding it, is to begin focusing my thoughts, time, and energy on helping to convince the Biden-Harris administration to focus its farm and rural policies to the very real problems of “the people left behind” in rural communities. As Biden promised, he needs to be a president that works as hard for the people who voted against him as the people who voted for him. This means the Biden-Harris administration needs to abandon the extractive and exploitative farm and rural development policies of the past and support a just and fair transition to regenerative family farms and economically and socially vibrant rural communities.

Those of us who believe in the necessity of a new progressive political agenda need to start now in laying the groundwork for revolutionary changes in the 2023 farm bill. We cannot wait until the elections of 2022 to start developing broad public support for fundamental change in farm, food security, conservation, and rural development policies. “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

John Ikerd

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