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The right must respect the symbolism of the 2020 election

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It may be cliché and regarded as a weakness by extremists at both ends of the political spectrum, but aren’t we all truly in this together — either as Americans, or if that’s a bridge too far for some people, simply as human beings?

I do have some policy differences with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, but I also have real commonality. Regardless, I don’t want to tear them down. As an American, I actually want them to succeed. Their success will be a success for our nation.    

Years ago, when I was director of communications for former Sen. Bob Dole, I met with then-Sen. Biden twice and engaged in a couple of everyday discussions. He was first class — kind and down-to-earth.  

Campaigns in general — and especially in recent years —  have devolved into an ugly, toxic business. Sadly, candidates and their supporters from both sides can get caught up in the vileness of the moment and say things they either regret or, more likely, never believed in the first place. Knowing that reality, I suspect the gentlemanly Biden with whom I spoke a couple of decades ago remains at the core of the man today.     

But in many ways — optically, symbolically, emotionally — come Inauguration Day, it won’t be about Joe Biden. It will be about an American first, American history being played out right before our very eyes. When Kamala Harris places her hand on the Bible to take the oath of office, she’ll become the first woman vice president of the United States.   

We will bear witness to something that hasn’t happened in the 245-year history of our republic, and cannot be replicated. There can be only one “first,” and Harris will be able to claim the trophy of first female U.S. vice president.   

While most Americans will take great pride in that achievement, I suspect that tens of millions of our fellow citizens will literally shed tears of joy. When they watch Harris recite the oath, they will see a part of themselves reflected in her glory.    

Harris is not only the first woman who will be sworn in as vice president but also the first biracial woman. So, when these Americans look into a mirror each day — be they women, young girls, from various minority communities, or the disenfranchised of our nation — they probably see a part of Kamala Harris staring back at them. The daughter of hard-working immigrants, she personifies the American Dream and the fulfillment of her dream can renew their hopes.    

At this historic moment, I would implore all Republicans, conservatives, Libertarians and others who supported the Trump-Pence ticket to cast aside their political and ideological angst for the next several weeks and replace it with the understanding of what a profoundly moving experience this election has become for millions of Americans. They are our family members, neighbors, friends and co-workers.    

Admittedly, I come from a different place than most Republicans and conservatives. As a white child, I grew up in abject poverty and was homeless at times, often being evicted from one poor, predominantly African American neighborhood or public housing project to the next. But the silver lining for me, as that young boy, was that I was blessed to learn that Black America is truly a great part of America.

The main gift from those years of turmoil was that I got to witness the personification of heroism in the actions of single, Black mothers, many of whom worked two or three jobs and, at times, sacrificed their own happiness to provide for their children. Strong, courageous women became my earliest — and most enduring — role models.

Today, our family is blessed with biracial nieces and a nephew, all of whom have been positively affected by the career trajectory of Kamala Harris.

We have forever to argue, fight and even hate one another over politics, ideology and policy. But with this election, it’s now time to call a truce and pause to realize what Harris’s ascension into American history means to millions of citizens. Through her, a part of them will be touching that Bible, reciting that oath and realizing a dream. Let it happen.

Douglas MacKinnon was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communication at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He is the author of “Chris Moose: The Girl Moose Who Fought Discrimination, Broke Barriers, and Improved Christmas.”

Tags 2020 election Conservative Joe Biden partisanship progressives vice presidency

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