Dear Mister President and Madam Vice President,
Congratulations on your election and inauguration. Against every measurable impediment to your candidacies, you are now the faces of the American people. In the words of the musical Hamilton, “history has its eyes on you.”
As you are well aware, the American people do not trust Washington. People are skeptical of our electoral system, our justice system, and many of our norms and institutions. They are also skeptical of Washington’s ability to compromise and accomplish anything, other than obstruction and re-election. However, you have taken office with full control of the legislature. How will this affect your governing?
Right now, the American people don’t feel safe. Left-leaning Americans are concerned about health care, economic inequality, and social justice. Right-leaning Americans are concerned about the economy, free speech, and immigration. Most people’s immediate concern is the pandemic, which will understandably be the focus of your first 100 days. The American people are also concerned about political violence, which has seen an uptick in recent years. And these are just the domestic issues.
The polarized, fast-paced nature of our news, politics, and discourse has left us in a state of disarray. How will you tackle our nation’s deep divisions? How will you convince progressives that conservatives are not evil racists seeking to destroy diversity in America? How will you convince conservatives that progressives are not militant socialists or Marxists seeking to destroy America itself? Those ideas may seem far-fetched, but this is how many people see each other, and “perception is reality.” You’ve struck a conciliatory, unifying tone so far, reminding people that we “are not enemies. We are Americans.” How long will this last?
As I edge closer to 30, I’ve grown more cynical about politics. Some tell me that’s a good thing and that I shouldn’t trust politicians, to begin with. I feel that’s a misunderstanding of my intentions, however. I don’t trust so much as have hope for a better America. But my hope was shattered as I witnessed rampant political prejudice and the aforementioned violence, among other things. I’ve seen relatives nearly at each other’s throats. Former friends no longer on speaking terms. All of this over politics, something that used to be “small talk” at best. I want this all to change for two reasons: 1) it’s bad for the country, and 2) cynicism doesn’t suit me at all. Mister President, Madam Vice President, I want to hope again.
On Monday, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, alongside his contemporaries, showed us the power of nonviolence. They believed in the promise of America and challenged our nation to keep that promise for all its citizens. Despite the institutional impediments to freedom and equality, despite the violence used against them, they never faltered. After all, Dr. King expressed, “violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.”
The violence and vitriol in our nation must cease. The first step was taken today, with yet another peaceful transition of power. The next steps will be more difficult: combating the coronavirus and rebuilding the economy. I understand that you wish to hit the ground running, but remember: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” I hope that you are successful because your success means the success of the American people. I just pray it is not at the expense of those who disagree with you, or else we’re right back to square one.
My hope is for your administration to remain professional, respect the rule of law, and listen to your critics. Rise above pettiness, keep an open mind, and find collaborative solutions to our shared problems. This is the only way to restore the trust of the American people—by making us feel heard and understood. Make us feel united again. Make us feel safe.
Good luck. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
Brandon C. Kesselly
Co-founder/CTO, PubSquare Media