Nov. 3 is coming, and a lot of people are going to be disappointed.
No matter which side of the aisle you are on or which side “wins,” more than half of the nation will feel let down by the results.
As important as this election may be, it is not going to resolve the major issues that have divided the nation over the last decades and increasing in vehemence of late.
We have forgotten how to talk respectfully to one another.
We have forgotten how to belong to one another beyond our political differences.
We have forgotten there are things more important than who wields power.
While we may feel one party will do a better job than the other in addressing the issues facing our nation, elections do not automatically resolve tensions, correct abuses or reverse injustices.
Elections do not resolve economic and social crises or fix racial disparities and so many other issues that produce our social and national angst.
Our economic system has produced too many losers and too few winners.
Our healthcare system has produced too many bankruptcies, left too many without affordable coverage or fighting with insurance companies more concerned with profits than customer health.
Our justice system has failed to respond to its own injustices ranging from racial disparities in sentencing to treating crimes against corporations more harshly than the crimes of corporations against their customers and employees.
We have this concept that voting on issues resolves tension. It does not. Votes do nothing to resolve tensions.
As much as democracy may be a better system of government than any other, voting and elections do nothing in themselves to resolve conflict. That must come from some other quarter.
We can choose to address the issues that truly divide us. We can choose to respond to our anxieties and fears about our present and our future.
Here is a secret: Our anxieties are not about God, not about abortion, not about communism, not about socialism, not about crime, not about clothing styles, not about language, not about science, not about education, not about religion and not about the stock market.
Our real anxieties tend to be much closer to home. They are about being heard. They are about being valued. They are about being accepted. They are about losing our identity or place in society amid the inevitability of change.
An election is not going to brush all of that away. In fact, the last decades have shown us that elections can actually exacerbate tensions.
The 2020 election is not going to solve the deep divides in our society because the reasons for those divides are not primarily about the official, public platform issues.
We can only resolve the real issues by seeing one another as connected to and part of ourselves.
We must return to a more basic principle on which our government was founded: “We the people … in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
That is the kind of political action we need.
It is not so much about elections and voting. It is about determining we must come together in order to build something better than we have yet seen. It will take much more than politicians to get us there.
As long as we are relying on political parties to do what they are simply unable to do, we will be sorely disappointed in them. We should be disappointed in ourselves.
Formerly a Baptist missionary in Mexico and Brasil, Harbin is a Provisional Elder with the United Methodist Church in Wingate, North Carolina. He has written several books, including On Immigration: Surveying Biblical Teaching on Issues of Immigration, Immigrants, Foreigners, and Strangers.