By Olivia Montes
On Saturday, Nov. 7, at approximately 11:25 a.m., CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer announced that after four days of states tallying mail-in ballots and in-person votes, the results were in: President-elect Joe Biden was officially named the 46th president of the United States, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris becoming the first woman and person of color to serve as second in command.
Against a backdrop of civil and social unrest, an extended election process, and an approaching third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden gave his first remarks as president-elect to the nation in Wilmington, Del. that same day, announcing that the “this grim era of demonization in America begin[s] to end here and now.”
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify,” Biden said. “Who doesn’t see red states and blue states, [but] only sees the United States.”
While the Biden-Harris win is a turning point in U.S. politics, there has been a mass amount of stress that has accompanied, and continues to be present. During and after the election, for many Americans, the main concern lies in what comes next after all of the votes have been counted and the next administration moves into Washington, D.C.
“The victory may come as a massive relief to Biden’s supporters after an anxiety-ridden few days during which a record amount of mail-in ballots were tallied,” Vox reporter Dylan Matthews said. “[But] it could also serve as a promise — though certainly not a guarantee — that the high-octane drama of the Trump years might finally be coming to an end.”
However, for the next few months, there is still time for you to prepare.
Here’s what may happen and what to look out for between now and Inauguration Day — and how to emotionally and mentally prepare to face tomorrow and step into the political future.
Expect those who will not accept the results.
While a range of celebrations commemorating the Biden-Harris victory have taken place, there have also been those who refuse to accept this outcome.
Movements including “Stop the Steal” campaign and statements from President Donald Trump himself have gained momentum across online platforms, including Facebook and Discord. Their main objective has been claiming fraud has been committed during this election and attempting to prevent the continuation of counting votes in states including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
“Organized by Republican operatives and had ties to the tea party, the group grew to over 300,000 members in less than 48 hours — only to be banned by Facebook once moderators caught on,” The Verge’s Makena Kelly and Zoe Schiffer said. “[But] over that short period, the group became a central hub for election misinformation, leaving users to look for new places to organize in the wake of the ban.”
Though the hashtag #StoptheSteal has been barred from social media outlets, other coalitions, such as Protect the Results and Count Every Vote, have started to rally across the country, indicating an uncertainty as to how an already-divided nation could be united.
With this rise in affiliations, it’s important to keep in mind that there will be individuals who will not accept the outcomes of the election. It’s vital to understand that, while we might not agree with everyone’s views, maintaining respect is key — as well as getting a hold of where your thoughts are prior to getting involved in future political discussions.
“So, before you bring up politics…take a moment to assess where your head’s at,” The New York Times reporter Kate Cusumano said. “That way, you’ll be better equipped to handle potentially challenging, contentious conversations.”
Make sure to cool off.
For many, the 2020 presidential election has proven itself to be an indicator of strenuous pressure.
As stated in a recent American Psychological Organization poll, a recorded 76% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans have felt this election added a significant amount of political anxiety — otherwise known as “election stress disorder” — in their daily lives, as the anticipation leading toward, and now following, the results.
However, with the election now over, the next step from the constant political coverage is to take a few, calming breaths and dedicate energy to yourself.
Adopting stress relief methods such as self-interruption, shifting your focus, and taking on new projects can help you concentrate and take on whatever may come next — regardless of how you voted this election.
“Accepting the result of the election doesn’t mean giving up if things don’t go your way; in fact, you’ll be more effective at pursuing change if you accept the situation,” The New York Times reporter Tara Parker Pope said.
“Thinking about history and those who have faced seemingly insurmountable hardship in the past can help you gain perspective, accept current events and make plans to pursue change,” she said.
While social media can distract us from political updates, it can also expose one of our more recent habits: “doomscrolling.”
According to Vox reporter Rebecca Jennings, the act of “doomscrolling” is the extreme practice of consistently searching online for an overload of discouraging news.
The practice has gained noticeable traction in 2020 as a reliable distraction for U.S. citizens, amidst both a highly contested political climate and the continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is probably not shocking to learn that doomscrolling is bad for you,” Jennings said. “[But that same] information” — that, while instructive, further contributes to that repetitive cycle of reading and re-reading the same doom and gloom — “becomes less valuable as we overload on it.”
Instead of skimming through the worst of the news, particularly concerning those who will continue to proclaim that votes were stolen, counter that instinct by also searching for entertaining stories, photos, or memes to keep your spirits up.
Better yet, try to step away from being online and engage in another activity, such as going outside to get some fresh air.
While we are still living through unpredictable times, we still have the option to separate our minds from our screens — and take the opportunity to take time for ourselves in the process.
“With nowhere to go…browsing the web has become the default work break, an obvious trap that could lead to doomscrolling,” The New York Times reporter Brian Cheng said.
“Instead of staying glued to a screen, take a stroll around the block, hop on the exercise bike, prepare your favorite snack — [anything to] break the cycle of information bingeing or…from sinking into a dark place altogether.”
Get active — or get involved.
While the results of this election announce a new administrative era within the U.S., the journey is far from over.
In addition to administering an approved COVID-19 vaccine and granting further aid to those devastated by COVID-19, Biden will have a wide range of policies and promises to fulfill for his first months in office, including solving many national and global crises either caused or further heightened by Trump.
“For Biden and Harris, the victory marks the end of the campaign — but the beginning of an even more daunting challenge,” Matthews said.
“Biden, who enters the White House as both the chief executive with the most experience in public service in US history and the oldest man to assume the presidency, will take on his duties amid a historic crisis, a pandemic that has already claimed more American lives than World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined and has produced the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression,” he said.
While Biden’s victory marks a significant transition in U.S. politics, there is still a long road ahead to make these calls for change a reality — and U.S. citizens can help through the power of participation.
Volunteering for different political movements and organizations can help you not only better understand politics, but also get a better grasp on what you have the power to do and how you too can make an effective difference in this nation.
If you are unable to volunteer on a national level, you can also draw your attention to local issues brewing within your own hometown, and advocate for local change benefiting your surrounding community and environment.
If you’re interested in joining, also keep an eye for movements featured online, including those under the “Join the Movement” tab under Meetup.com and the “Discover Groups” and “Discover Insights” features on Facebook.
While it may seem small, it still is a difference — and a significant step forward towards helping the administration reach a more inclusive, more productive national future.
“Successful movements draw their power from groups, not individuals, [and] that means working together,” The New York Times reporters Ian Prasad Philbrick and David Leonhart said. “Make [others] feel that you, too, are putting yourself on the line — and then do so.”
Regardless of what may happen next, have hope.
While the results of this election have been monumental, there is still a significant amount of time between now and Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.
Aside from approaching an unfinished political agenda from Trump, the Biden administration faces potential opposition from a largely Republican U.S. Senate on policies concerning action on climate change and improvements to national healthcare, and must work together to make effective change within the next few weeks.
“Whether we’re going to pick ourselves up or not is the lingering question,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently won re-election for her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said to The New York Times reporter Astead Herndon. “We paused this precipitous descent. And the question is if and how we will build ourselves back up.”
Despite this, it is vital to be hopeful, especially toward what is possible in the next four years. It encourages us to not only better ourselves but also help to raise awareness and understanding towards important movements and policies that benefit the nation as a whole — even after the festivities are over.
“Biden and Harris supporters are entitled to celebrate [and] Americans traumatized by the Trump presidency can breathe a sigh of relief,” Matthews said. “Then it’s time for them, and the new president, to get to work.”
Featured Photo caption: For many people, the 2020 presidential election has been a source of mass anxiety and stress; now that the results are in, it’s time for us to take a break. Photo by Rebecca Kanaskie.