Does the first major election after the 2020 presidential election provide evidence that the country is moving to the right again?

In Virginia, where President Joe Biden beat the former president by double digits, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe. In New Jersey, the governor’s race was too close to call until late yesterday evening.

Overall, Republicans had a good day, with Democrats crashing back to reality after 2020.

So, what does all of this mean for people of good faith worried about the rise of Christian nationalism, immigration, the vilification of public education, the widening of income inequality, public health, women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, mass shootings, and the revisioning of the American justice system?

No one really knows at this point.

While many believed the country was moving towards a more progressive view of the world after the former president lost re-election, the reality may have been that the country simply likes stability over everything else.

Even in this week’s races, voters seem to still be reeling from the instability of the pandemic. Citing slow economic recovery, supply chain delays and Critical Race Theory, voters appear to want a rewind to whatever they deem “normalcy.”

However, a question emerges, “How do people define normalcy, and what time period would be considered normal?”

Instead of looking back, why don’t we look forward?

As a person striving to live in good faith and be a good citizen, I would like to offer the following suggestions:

First, the United States must come to grips with its creation.

America is both great and flawed. We cannot dismiss the reality that this country  –  as great as it is –  was created by the genocide of Indigenous peoples for their lands and the enslavement of Africans for free labor. This is a fact that cannot be denied or ignored.

However, to simply acknowledge this reality does not make the U.S. any less great. In fact, if we can come to grips with our flawed past and find justice for those subjugated for the purpose of American prosperity, then we will make America that much greater.

The founders were flawed individuals, many owning people as if property and scoffing at the idea of gender equality. However, they also created an incredible system of self-governance.

As Winston Churchill suggested, “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.” Acknowledging our flaws only helps us to become the “more perfect Union” that Thomas Jefferson envisioned.

Second, the United States needs to understand and embrace the mixed economy, leading to a better form of capitalism.

The mixed economy encourages investments from both public and private sectors with the intention of moving the entire economy forward for the advancement of everyone.

What if the U.S. built an economic system geared toward caring for the poorest of our citizens? Instead of lifting only those already at the top, the entire country would rise together.

Less bread on my table does not mean my family will go hungry, but less bread on someone else’s table may mean their child will go hungry. We need an economy offering equitable opportunities and just systems empowering the whole.

Third, the United States needs to accept the significance of each citizen’s rights, while understanding the legal process when the rights of citizens collide.

From the injustice found within the judicial system to women’s reproductive health, the rights of all citizens must be upheld for the purpose of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The United States is a country maintained through the rule of law based upon federal and state constitutions interpreted and administered through the judicial system. Just because the rights of another citizen are upheld, it does not necessarily mean my rights are infringed upon.

For example, citizens arguing that marriage is exclusively between a man and woman can continue to hold that religious conviction. No one is forcing them to marry anyone they do not want to marry.

Marriage equality for LGBTQ+ citizens does not stop them from holding that belief. However, when that belief is used as a tool for injustice then the rule of law supersedes.

Fourth, move from the politics of conquest and control to the politics of engagement and compromise.

Each citizen is entitled to their political ideology, but we must cease restricting overall progress if we can’t get everything we want. Today’s hyperpartisanship has ground the country to a halt.

Where are the real patriots that put the entire country over their own desires? Who is going to answer President John F. Kennedy’s challenge, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country”?

The time for the politics of conquest and control needs to be over for the sake of the union. The time for the politics of engagement and compromise needs to come.

America cannot survive sharp turns to the right or left; we must find a path forward where every citizen is valued and respected. We must put an end to the politics of division and destruction in order to build a better and hopeful tomorrow.

We can do this, America, but it will take majorities from both sides of the political divide to finally proclaim a greater purpose than party loyalty.

We need to remember the words of former President Barack Obama: “The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?”

Let’s choose hope as our pathway forward.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the results of the New Jersey gubernatorial election.

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