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  • Writer's pictureStacey L. Newman

#election2020: why do we care?

Our family has Scottish American roots on my paternal grandmother's side. My late grandmother's family settled in what would be the United States in the 1700s. As an adult this is of interest to me, but as a child it was a family fact that just rattled around and didn't mean much to me. It didn't inform me. My grandmother came to Canada, to Montreal with her family when she was four years old. She was born in 1907 in Maryland; she died in 2003 in Montreal.

I offer this bit of our family history because I wonder why, as a Canadian, I care as much as I do about American politics. I'm political in general, but I really cared about this election. Like, REALLY cared. I know I'm not alone.

The United States is a world superpower. The USA is also an idea--a brand, if you will--that is arguably influential in any region of the world with access to media of any kind. As their neighbour, trading partner and ally, I think we Canadians have watched in horror as a world leader rose to power, took power, and proceeded to abuse and disrespect that power, shirking the responsibilities of the Office with little regard for the people the POTUS should have been serving, advocating for, and protecting. The POTUS of the last four years destabilized, nay obliterated presumptions about world leadership, justice, equity, compassion, decorum, and common decency.

As I listened to vice president-elect Kamala Harris speak tonight, as both a woman and a Canadian I was overwhelmed. She espoused many of the core values we share as Canadians. She signalled the new administration's return to earth via poise, knowledge and empathy. I'm not embarrassed to say I felt grateful and proud. I'm hopeful that women, marginalized and racialized people are no longer invisible to this superpower's leaders. I remember being a child and looking up to politicians with respect and ambition, and children once again will identify with Harris and be inspired by her genuine, sound leadership, and they will see possibility for themselves.

It was equally moving to see president-elect Joe Biden speak tonight. He was presidential. We haven't seen a president at the podium for four long and devastating years. As a Canadian, though, there was something he said that meant more to me than anything else:

"I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make America respected around the world again." - President-elect Joe Biden, 11/07/2020

We non-Americans make cracks about American patriotism and arrogance. It's a stereotype we perpetuate, too often. President-elect Biden's words this evening reminded me that, indeed, Americans do care how they are perceived around the world. The outpouring of celebration and relief in the streets of the United States today shows us just how much everyday Americans want to have a good president. Someone they can send out in the world to make them proud, to facilitate diplomacy with other nations, and to represent them honourably; to do good, to protect their interests in the world, and to address injustice abroad and within their own borders. Once again they have an administration that may restore the United States on the world stage as a powerful, respectable, decent nation.

As Canadians, we need to heal from the wounds and the battles of the last four years, alongside our American friends, as we continue to face the largest global health crisis in modern history. Just as many Americans care about how they are viewed by the rest of the world, this election has proved that the rest of the world cares about them, too. There will be much political banter, pontification, and analysis in the comings days and my thoughts here pretend to be neither profound nor academic. I think our collective exhalation, across the globe, is more basic than that. It is simply human, and I would argue, it is our most fundamental emotions and needs that decide the outcome of elections.

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