An Open Letter to President-Elect Joe Biden
Dear President-Elect Biden:
Congratulations on your win. Tomorrow, you and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in as our 46th president and vice president.
You campaigned on the promise of healing our nation and tomorrow, I imagine that you will make a speech in which (like many of your predecessors, including the last one) you will talk about being a president for all Americans and bringing our nation together.
My sincere hope is that you will translate those words into meaningful action. Here are my three suggestions for how you can get started towards that goal:
1. Be humble enough to realize that the election results do not mean you or your party has received a mandate. (Neither have Republicans.)
There’s no question that you got a lot of votes (81 million). Now for some context:
· Your opponent may have lost, but he increased the number of votes he received by 20% since 2016. That is more than 74 million Americans (including 12+ million more Americans than he got last time) who thought Trump was a better choice.
· Let’s not forget the nearly 2 million Americans who cast votes for other candidates — even though they knew those candidates had close to zero chance at all of being in your shoes. A recent Newsweek poll found that nearly 60% of American voters surveyed wish we had a viable third party candidate. That means that both you and Trump received votes from people who likely chose what they thought was the lesser of two evils.
· Your party may have added winning a majority in the Senate this time, but those gains were achieved by the narrowest of winning margins.
· Finally, let’s not forget that 80 million Americans didn’t vote for any presidential candidate. Eighty percent of those non-voters surveyed stated that their primary reason for not voting was because traditional parties and candidates don’t care about them.
Like I said, neither your party nor the Republicans (who won more seats in the House this round) can claim a mandate on what Americans want in terms of policy ideas and solutions. (And don’t worry, I’ll be sending a similar letter to this one to Senator McConnell and Congressman McCarthy.)
2. Build a cabinet and leadership team that reflects a diversity of all views.
I realize that it is tempting to put in place trusted and loyal members of your own party. But let’s face it, it is hard to get new ideas (or gain broad support) if you only tap into the same set of folks who will tell you what you have already heard.
To truly to be a president for all Americans, be brave and put together a cabinet and leadership team that represents the diversity of viewpoints, ideologies and ideas of all Americans. And force them to work together to come up with bipartisan solutions, just as our founding fathers intended. Some of our best recent and past innovations have come from the combined efforts of people and groups who disagreed with each other — sometimes passionately so — but had the strength of character to recognize common goals.
3. Take the lead in actively reaching out to the other side and putting an end to toxic, fear-mongering “identity politics”.
Tomorrow you will become the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Yet much of what the world has seen up until now is that we are a country where our leaders (and more recently, our neighbors) call each other toxic names and assume the worst of intentions for those on the opposite side, rather than engage in civil discourse and sharing of ideas. And much of the excuse for the actions and words that are exchanged are that “the other side did it first/too.” (My father didn’t accept that excuse after I turned six years old, and neither should you.)
If you sincerely mean to heal us, then be the first to stop this toxic pattern of “politics as usual”. Show the American people — and the world — that it is possible to come together, listen and share even if we don’t agree. Go have a meal with a bunch of Trump supporters and ask them to explain why they didn’t vote for you (and listen). Spend as much time in a week talking, listening and sharing with Republican leadership — as you do with your own. Engage meaningfully with Americans from all sides and walks of life.
One place you could reach out to is Braver Angels, a national non-profit focused on depolarizing America. Braver Angels is comprised of Americans from all walks of the political spectrum — who share the common goal of respectful and civil sharing of political views…not with the intent to change minds, but with the intent of finding common ground through understanding. I’m sure there would be many conservative (Red-leaning) and liberal (Blue-leaning) folks interested in engaging with you there.
I hope you’ll take the time to consider these ideas. In the meantime, I will be hoping and praying that you successfully demonstrate in action that you are the world leader I would be happy to support and vote for in any election.
Your fellow American,
E.E. Wang Lukowski