A convention of change

Harlan Crawford is a freshman politics major.

On the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), former 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Ohio John Kasich made the decision to officially endorse former Vice President Joe Biden, offering great hope for the future as a prominent Republican leader decided to cross party lines. 

It was a breath of fresh air to hear Kasich say, “I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country,” a comment that demonstrated that, although it is rare to witness, our political parties do have the ability to work together and align on the common principles that founded this great nation. Although this year’s convention was pre-recorded and not on a grand stage like that of 2016, when a huge crowd and superstars like Beyoncé could be physically present in attendance, this speech, and Kasich’s actions, exemplify a change of course. 

At the first Democratic presidential primary debate on June 26, 2019, the coronavirus pandemic was but a tiny speck in the distance. That week, hopes were high as we met strong newcomers such as Pete Buttigieg, heard from progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, were reintroduced to former Vice President Biden, and witnessed a stand for diversity with businessman Andrew Yang, the first Asian American to ever run for a major party’s nomination.

Although momentum in the Democratic debates grew, the arrival of the coronavirus flipped the election upside down. When COVID-19 began to spread across the U.S. in March, we could not have anticipated how drastically national politics and the 2020 election would be altered. When the two frontrunners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, held a debate March 15 without an audience, it was something largely unheard of in politics. The dramatic changes continued when all campaign rallying events were canceled, further entrenching into the minds of Americans the reality that 2020 and its election cycle would both be anything but normal.

As the pandemic has worsened, the issue of the safety of in-person voting in November has come into question. Among voters, there has been concern about exposure to COVID-19 if voting takes place in person, as well as concern about the government’s inability to effectively conduct a primary mail-in election — especially with the rampant closure of polling locations across the nation. 

Between the voting crisis and having to conduct the 2020 DNC virtually for the first time in history, to say that COVID-19 has changed how we participate in an election cycle would be an understatement.

And despite being in the middle of one of the gravest global health crises our nation has ever seen, both the Democratic and Republican parties have been unable to come together to support the American people. This exposes the deep division and issue of committed partisanship within our political system, as millions have become unemployed and over 150,000 people have died from the coronavirus. Although President Donald Trump ultimately made the decision to cancel the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, the fact he had to mull over his decision, in contrast to the swift, calculated decision-making of the Democrats who committed to a virtual convention without any delay, which proves how little the opinions of both parties align on virtually anything.

Ultimately, I hope Republicans and Democrats are able to come together to vote for the leader who best serves us all in times like these. Whether the winner is Biden or Trump, at his (most likely virtual) inauguration speech, it will be important that American citizens be able to look back on this tumultuous year and election cycle and be certain that they did their part to better the nation. To make this a reality, make sure you’re registered to vote.

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