By Carmen Gentile
Supporters greet Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden as he steps of the train at Amtrak's Alliance Train Station, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Alliance, Ohio. Biden is on a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania today. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The poetry and exuberance of the moment is almost too good to be true.
For now, it’s as if every, hokey, feel-good, holiday/romantic comedy is happening in real life.
Postindustrial Americans are dancing and cheering in the streets of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
Their collective jubilation is even echoing well beyond Appalachia and the Rust Belt by way of fireworks displays in London and church bells ringing in Paris.
It is a glorious, cathartic moment … for now. And by now, I mean until about the time you go to bed tonight.
Because on Monday, the enchantment of the moment will give way to a harsh reality: Postindustrial America, and the rest of the nation, is deeply divided and engaged in a Cold Civil War that will only grow worse if we can’t figure out a way to de-escalate the tensions that have defined the Trump era.
While some Postindustrial Americans celebrate the Biden/Harris win, others are clearly chagrined by the loss. Armed and irate Trump supporters claiming election fraud gathered in the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg, Michigan’s Lansing and elsewhere.
Clearly not everyone is pleased with the election outcome. And for as thrilled as some of us are, others are wrought with sorrow and anger that their candidate and savior has been vanquished by the forces of evil, namely, the news media, “Big Tech” and others in league with them to destroy “traditional family values” and the working (i.e. largely white) class.
More than 71 million Americans (and still counting) voted to give Trump another four years. That’s 71 million people who either fully endorse Trump’s hateful, racist rhetoric, willful rejection of climate science and the expertise of health experts during a deadly pandemic, or are willing to swallow it for a tax break/due to their utter loathing of all things “un-Republican.”
Recognizing this deep and widening chasm among Americans, President-Elect Biden attempted to begin a much-needed reconciliation during his acceptance speech.
“It is time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” the 78-year-old son of Scranton, Pa, said during his socially-distant acceptance speech.
“And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as an enemy. They are not our enemies, they are Americans.”
Nowhere is that more apparent and needed than in Postindustrial America.
The same traditional Blue States that flipped for Trump in 2016 – Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – voted for Biden this time around, albeit by slim margins that Trump is seemingly prepared to contest until the last provisional ballot is scrutinized.
Tensions are high in Postindustrial America, the highest they’ve been in my lifetime (for context sake, I was born a few weeks before Nixon resigned). And in order to ratchet them down, the soon-to-be-Biden administration must be prepared to address this angst and ire on day one.
And not only in those Postindustrial Stats that the president-elect won (in addition to flipping those Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the Biden-Harris ticket won New York and Illinois, always-solid Democratic strongholds) but also those that didn’t.
Postindustrial States Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina (the count still isn’t complete there but it looks like Trump will win it), Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia voted in large numbers for another four years of the same divisnessness and bigotry that was brewing long before the current president descended his golden escalator in 2015.
Exactly why they did I can’t say. But I do know that many communities in those states have been hard hit in recent decades by drug addiction, spiking suicide rates, the job losses that in part prompted both, and a dimishing quality of life that would test the mettle of anyone.
The Biden administration must address these catastrophes AND the COVID-19 pandemic at the time, a task unrivaled in its scope and difficulty since Franklin D. Roosevelent was elected during the Great Depression.
The new president must tackle all of this while contending with the fact that nearly half of the electorate is deeply disappointed in his being their new leader.
Biden addressed that very notion simply and succinctly.
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I lost a couple times myself. Now let’s give each other a chance.”
As difficult as it might be to fathom, that’s exactly what we all need to do at this moment in Postindustrial America. In order to lower the increasing temperature in this Cold Civil War we must figure out some common ground.
I’m not sure where to start. Maybe by way of our favorite sports teams or preferred culinary delights specific to Postindustrial America. There’s a lot we can agree on there. But whatever it is, it needs to happen soon.
Like, starting tomorrow.
Until then, those that are happy, keep dancing. Those that aren’t, nurse your wounds.
Because starting Monday, we need to come together to start figuring this out.
Postindustrial founder Carmen Gentile has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan. Reach him at email@example.com.