Why this election won't bring us together

During times of crisis, it’s important to state the obvious. So it here goes: We were a polarized, deeply divided nation before the election — and anyone who thinks things will get better, once we officially know who won, should stay away from sharp objects and not be allowed to ride a bicycle without training wheels.

Whoever wins, the other side won’t see his election as legitimate. Someone, someplace, probably in the middle of the night when no one was looking, must have cheated. Or else, why would their guy have lost?

How could Joe BidenJoe BidenFear of insider attack prompts additional FBI screening of National Guard troops: AP Iran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries MORE supporters accept a Donald TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE victory — a long shot, as I write this — when all those supposedly honest journalists told us Biden would win in a runaway? How could Biden have lost — again, not a likely ending, but stay with me — when all those “scientific” polls run by “brilliant” statistical analysts said he’d win in a landslide?


And what if Biden ultimately wins? Didn’t Trump tell us, over and over, that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged? Yes, my friends, that’s exactly what he said.

Both sides are dug in, entrenched, seemingly immovable. And a nail-biter election won’t do anything to bring us together. 

Over the past four years, Trump has been called a white supremacist, a Russian tool and a chronic liar; he was impeached, accused of assaulting more than a few women, alleged to have paid off a porn star to keep her quiet and supposedly was exposed as a rich businessman who paid next to nothing in taxes. 

As for Biden, he’s been accused of allowing his son to peddle the family name to make millions, some of which allegedly may have been siphoned off to Biden himself.

And what was the result of all those accusations? Americans who hated Trump before he was elected still hate him now, and those who loved him before he became president love him (even more) after four years in office. And those who want Biden in, and Trump out, don’t seem to care that he might be in business, even indirectly through his family, with foreign entities that might call on him for favors once he’s in the Oval Office.


You’d have every reason to conclude that nothing really matters in our highly partisan, polarized culture.  

A friend once suggested that we set up a system in which liberals live in blue states and conservatives live in red states. That way, he figured, we’d get along — with our like-minded friends — and we wouldn’t have to be bothered mingling with people we disagree with. 

It’s a crazy idea, of course. Except that, when you think about it, that’s exactly how a lot of the media operate.

If you play left field, you can go to CNN or MSNBC or read the feverish Trump-bashing columns in the New York Times and feel right at home. No need to be exposed to opinions you don’t want to hear and read. And if you’re a Trump-loving conservative, then Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityAlmost 7 in 10 oppose Trump pardoning himself: poll Can the GOP break its addiction to show biz? Prosecutors say man who brought weapons to Capitol carried list of 'good guys' and 'bad guys' MORE, Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamFox News to revamp daytime programming, replace 7 pm news hour with opinion show Sacking the Capitol proves free speech is in trouble FBI: No evidence antifa involved in Capitol riot MORE and Rush Limbaugh are safe-zones where you’ll hear ideas you already believe and won’t be exposed to some dreaded alternative viewpoint — sort of like what you find on liberal college campuses, where the cupcakes can go to “safe places” where their brains won’t be polluted with inconvenient ideas.

You think journalists might be humbled by how wrong they got this election? Sorry I asked, forgive me. After all, these are the same partisans who never apologized for telling us that Donald Trump and Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIncoming national security adviser calls for immediate release of Kremlin critic Navalny Kremlin critic Navalny detained in Moscow upon return to Russia Navalny planning return to Russia on Sunday MORE were joined at the hip and on a mission to destabilize America. If they didn’t say, “Boy, we sure got that one wrong,” it’s not likely that these pundits are going to apologize for misleading their readers and listeners into believing that Biden would coast to victory about 10 minutes after the polls closed. 


Some Americans want honest journalism, and some want to hear only what they want to hear. Too many news outlets, especially those on cable TV, have decided that validating the biases of the audience is the better business model. It may be, but it’s lousy journalism. 

Trump is guilty of many things but he’s not the one killing journalism. Journalists are doing a pretty good job of that all by themselves.

As for the election, as of now, both candidates have a path to victory but Biden’s is the easier road to travel. And so we should pay heed to what he says. And he’s telling us that he’ll unite the country. He’s telling us, channeling Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden-Harris team unveils inauguration playlist Can the GOP break its addiction to show biz? The challenge of Biden's first days: staying focused and on message MORE, that there are no blue states or red states, only the United States. It’s a nice sentiment — but platitudes have the same chance of tearing down the walls that divide us as any of us would have if we threw spitballs at a battleship.

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.