Posted on: November 12, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Brendan McQuinn, News Editor

Record-shattering voter turnout amidst a public health crisis. A “red mirage.” Accusations of voter fraud. A vice president representing multiple “firsts.” A huge, ongoing political divide. The 2020 election has been one for the history books.

In the last of a series of virtual Democracy Commitment events, Moraine Valley political science professors Kevin Navratil and Merri Fefles-Dunkle came together Tuesday to examine the implications of the tumultuous, high-stakes election process, President-elect Joe Biden’s projected victory over incumbent Republican nominee Donald Trump, and Kamala Harris’s history-making ascension to the office of vice president.

Voter turnout in this election hit a 50-year high, according to a report from the Associated Press.

“This is really impressive considering we’re living in a pandemic,” Navratil said. “Both parties can find something to be happy or disappointed with.”

The idea that it was so easy to commit fraud is simply not true.”

Merri Fefles-Dunkle, political science professor

The panelists highlighted the effect that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had on the election process for 2020 voters, examining the much-discussed inclusion of millions of mail-in ballots cast by those concerned about exposure to sickness.

“It’s really kind of a unique situation where ballots, depending upon the state that you live in, can still be accepted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day,” said Navratil. He said the effect of mail-in ballots not being immediately counted contributed to a so-called “red mirage,” the inaccurate appearance that Trump seemed to have a solid hold on key battleground states.

A viewer participating in the virtual Democracy Commitment event asked about Donald Trump’s attempts to delegitimize the voting process with accusations of fraud.

“There has to be some kind of proof that there has been an issue,” said Fefles-Dunkle. “There were surveillance cameras [in Philadelphia]; you could watch on a livestream, these ballots being counted. So the idea that it was so easy to commit fraud is simply not true.”

After several days of gridlocked voting returns from across the country due to delayed  ballots cast by mail, Democratic nominee Joe Biden was announced as the projected winner of the presidential election on Nov. 7 by the Associated Press and numerous other outlets, including CNN and FOX News.

There’s a lot of firsts with [Vice President-elect Kamala Harris]. I think that’s awesome for a lot of people to look at her and [see someone] who reflects America.”

Kevin Navratil, political science professor

The panelists considered Biden’s rich political history and possible reasons for his win at this point. Biden served as a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009 and vice president from 2009 to 2017. He previously ran for president in 1988 and 2008.

“I think in 2020, Joe Biden finally met the right moment for his candidacy to work,” Navratil said.

Fefles-Dunkle cited Biden’s personal experience as preparing him for the job.

“Joe Biden’s had his experience with loss and grief that has kind of groomed him for this moment,” said Fefles-Dunkle. “I think he’s kind of one of those men that’s well-suited for the moment in that he’s been through something that allows him to empathize with people in a way past presidents have not been able to. People feel a sense of comfort with that.”

Navratil also commended the success of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will be the first African American, Asian American, multiracial, and female candidate to hold the office of VP once inaugurated.

“There’s a lot of firsts with her,” said Navratil. “I think that’s awesome for a lot of people to be able to look at her and [see someone] who reflects America.”

In spite of the optimism surrounding the Democratic win, however, both Fefles-Dunkle and Navratil expressed concern about a seemingly irreparable partisan divide preventing a smooth path of operation for a Biden administration, as Trump continues to refuse to concede in the presidential election.

“You really have to hit the ground running after an inauguration,” said Navratil. “You don’t want to cripple a new government.”

Fefles-Dunkle said repairing the political divide rampaging across the United States will need to start with finding a way to agree on facts.  

“If you can agree on a basis of a basic, shared reality, it’s easier to find consensus,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to move forward if a big segment of the population believes in [conspiracy theories]. If you believe Democrats are engaging in child sex trafficking and drinking the blood of children and things of that nature, it’s difficult to move forward.

“I’m hopeful and I’m still cynical, too, at the same time.”

Featured photo: NBC News