2020 presidential election carries historical significance, future implications

By Michael Bodenhagen, Staff Writer

You can’t escape it. You hear it from the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Snapchat and Facebook advertise it. Every other commercial on TV is about it. There is no hiding from the 2020 presidential election. So what exactly makes this election so important? Why is the whole world watching the United States?

Well, in case you haven’t noticed yet, we are living in historic times. The world has been plagued with COVID-19 for the past nine months. The pandemic put the world as we knew it to a halt. As if that was not enough, it seems civil tensions in America are reaching a boiling point. This year has been quite an eventful one, yet the main event is still to come. On Nov. 3, Americans will determine whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump will lead the land of the free and the home of the brave for the next four years. This election season, the stakes are extraordinarily high due to the excess of major events that have taken place in recent history. As one could expect with any issue, there are two sides to each story, and this time the divide between sides is far greater than any divide we may have seen in our lifetimes.

The first and arguably most obvious issue the candidates are going to have to address is the coronavirus. COVID-19 hit this country like a wildfire. What is very unique about the United States compared to other nations is that it has ultimately been up to  individual states to decide how to handle the virus. Some states virtually shut down while others did seemingly nothing. This caused a great contrast in opinion toward not only the severity of the coronavirus, but also how to handle it. While some Americans have chosen to wear face masks in an attempt to save themselves from this virus, others have claimed the masks do nothing and that this whole ordeal is a hoax. Both sides refuse to give the other the time of day and the consequence is increased tension.

While COVID-19 may be the issue affecting the most Americans, one event has led to far more conflict this year. On May 25, George Floyd lost his life while pinned to the ground by a police officer. The uproar that followed will likely be remembered forever. All across the nation there were demonstrations — some peaceful, some violent. It can be argued that the Black Lives Matter movement gained more popularity than ever this summer. However, with supporters comes opposition. The other side of this coin is supporting the police, and these two opposing groups seem to be mortal enemies. This social issue has become so heated that each candidate in this election has been depicted as supporting one side and one side only. While this is most likely untrue, the public refuses to believe otherwise. The result is a divided country that is fearing the upcoming election. The current situation in America makes me wonder: Has it ever been this bad before? The answer is yes, it sure has!

There are many memorable elections in United States history. In 2000, George Bush beat Al Gore by five electoral votes despite losing the popular vote. Harry Truman won the 1948 presidential election despite the Chicago Tribune falsely proclaiming he had lost. However, I believe the 1860 election most closely resembles the one we face this November. Now, how on Earth could an election from 160 years ago possibly be relevant today? First, allow me to set the scene.

Tensions surrounding the issue of slavery were rising in the 1850s. Slavery dominated American politics during this time. There was conflict in Kansas due to debate over whether the state should enter the Union as a free state or a slave state. Many Americans were killed in Kansas during this period. In 1857, the Dred Scott case dominated the media when he was denied his freedom, a major blow for African Americans in the United States. In 1859, John Brown led a two-day raid on Harpers Ferry, resulting in even more bloodshed. While all these events were stirring the pot, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan failed to address the issue of slavery, thus making things worse by passing this mess off to the next president.

By the time the election came around, Americans in both the North and South were fed up. They both agreed something needed to be done but did not see eye to eye on how to resolve this issue. Enter Abraham Lincoln, a man who would go down in history as one of the most important Americans to ever live. For Northerners, he was the messiah. In the South, he was an outlaw. Despite not even being listed on Southern ballots, Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election by a mile. Unfortunately for America, the result of this election would be a civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives. However, President Lincoln became integral in abolishing slavery.

Fast forward to present times and you will find that slavery is still illegal, though we continue to see conflicts that stem from the 13th Amendment. If I had to compare the current state of America with any period in history, I would say we are like that of pre-1860 election America. No matter which side of the social issues you are on, there is absolutely no denying that tensions are higher than any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. The events that follow this upcoming election will go down in history. If you care at all about any of these issues, you must do your patriotic duty as an American and vote!

Micheal is a senior in LAS.

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