By Chloé Johnston
November 7, 2020: Joe Biden is declared the President-Elect of the United States.
Since my last reflection in June, not much has changed in our country, or it doesn’t feel that way at least. Significant change seems to make its impact through the throws of time, we feel the historic moment of Kamala Harris being brought into office as the first female Vice-President of color. Her battle was fought over the course of years not year, singular. So, it’s impact in some ways feels more profound.
The pandemic, still tenacious as ever in the U.S., feels like this wonderful little mask, obscuring our view of the change with the continuation of self-isolation and strict safety/sanitary protocols. It’s made it increasingly more difficult to see what’s really going on. For example, collectively I think everyone felt change during the George Fllyod and Breonna Taylor protests. Even I thought to myself, “This time it’s different.”
But after everything tapered off over the course of the summer, as cases were closed and protests lessened, on the surface, there seemed to be less of a visible impact. Let’s dive a little deeper though.
Prior to my post in June, the country felt like it was simmering. Like it was on the verge of boiling over, just waiting for the slightest increase in temperature to make its move. I could feel this unabating pressure of movement, a stirring that was becoming less restrained as the days passed and the election drew nearer. Finally, I realized:
People are restless. People are tired. And, people are doing something about it.
According to Bloomberg, at least 161 million Americans came out to vote in the 2020 election which is the largest number of voters in the history of U.S. presidential elections. Though it’s not the highest voter turnout, it is the largest turnout since Republican William McKinley won reelection with 73.7% turnout in 1900.
By October 30th, USAToday reported that some 6.2 million first-time voters had raised their voices in the polls and, of those 6.2 million, 2.6 million were first-time voters over the age of 40. This is a significant increase from 4.4 million new voters–with 2.1 million over the age of 40–that voted in 2016.
Many of these new voters, besides those that reached the age of 18, were newly naturalized citizens, people that now had accessibility to voting with the mail-in ballots, or those with expunged criminal records. One such voter was rapper Snoop Dogg.
In an interview with Big Boy’s Neighborhood on Real 92.3, Snoop revealed that, “I ain’t never voted a day in my life, but this year I think I’m going to get out and vote because I can’t stand to see this punk in office one more year.” He further stated that, “For many years they had me brainwashed thinking that you couldn’t vote because you had a criminal record.” He closed with, “I didn’t know that. My record’s been expunged so now I can vote.”
My purpose in disclosing Snoop’s experience is not to pick sides but to illustrate the power this election season, and the events prior, have generated. Not everyone falls into the three categories I listed, some people have just simply never voted but somehow they decided that this, this was the year they were going to vote. As a first-time voter myself, I know how confusing the registration process is, especially if you’re not super well versed in the process, to begin with.
Even though I’ve never voted, I’ve been somewhat politically active for the better part of three years but imagine how daunting a task this would be for someone who hasn’t? How amazing is it then, to look at the numbers and go wow. That many people took ownership of this country and used their voices to vote for whatever side they felt was best. That in itself is astounding.
Whether or not you find favor with the current president-elect is a non-issue here because I think we can all agree that we are witnessing history in the making.
Even on a smaller scale, the Burst Your Bubble event that was jointly held between BridgeUSA and A Starting Point this past Tuesday was the largest event we’ve ever held. An hour and a half before the event began we had 667 college students from around the U.S. registered for this event. Though we didn’t hit full capacity, at our peak we had almost a 50% turnout rate with 323 people in attendance.
As a moderator, I had pleasure of listening to a number of students steeling themselves to remain politically active even after this election. Between these conversations and researching to write this post, I had an astounding realization that everybody is beginning to take ownership, no matter their age, race, or ethnicity.
It’s November now, and it feels like an insane amount of time has passed, yet it’s only been a year. A single blip on the timeline. Something so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
So, after a tumultuous election season, I’m going to be taking a moment to appreciate what’s taken place.
I recently asked a friend to take a 5-minute breather after the chaos subsided and, now, I want to ask you to do the same. Just take 5-minutes to take a breath, let this historic moment sink in, and get back to it.
The work is never done, this is just the beginning.
About the Author
Chloé Johnston is the Counterweight Editor and Graphic Designer for the BridgeUSA National Team. She more recently graduated from Oregon State University with her Honors Bachelor of Science in Psychology. In her free time, she freelances and writes for her blog, The Extroverted Introvert.