Firecrackers and prayers as Indians celebrate Harris' win

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holds hands with President-elect Joe Biden and her husband Doug Emhoff as they celebrate Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

THE ISSUE

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris prevailed over incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence by clinching Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes on Saturday and securing a victory in the Electoral College. More than 160 million Americans are estimated to have voted in the 2020 election — a record. And the Biden-Harris ticket won with more than 75 million votes, the most ever for a presidential ticket.

American cities, including the City of Lancaster, erupted with joy Saturday, as people — most wearing masks — took to the streets to dance and celebrate the Biden-Harris victory.

In Penn Square, a “Count Every Vote” rally morphed into a party after major news organizations projected that Biden had won the Keystone State and thus the presidency.

“Today is a testament that every American matters and every American counts,” Craig Kazda, of Lancaster, told LNP | LancasterOnline.

Kazda was waving a Biden flag at the time, but his sentiment remains: Every American does count.

And come Jan. 20, 2021, it will be up to President-elect Biden to fulfill his promise to serve not just the Americans who voted for him, but those who did not.

Lancaster County voted for President Trump over Biden by a margin of more than 44,000 votes. All of the Republican incumbents in this county — including Congressman Lloyd Smucker — won reelection.

The euphoria among Democrats over the weekend cannot erase the reality that ours remains a very divided nation.

But there are other realities, too, that should not only be acknowledged but celebrated.

Kamala Harris shattered a ceiling that seemed made of steel rather than glass when she became the first woman — and the first Black American, and the first person of South Asian descent — to be elected vice president of the United States.

She is not the first person of color to be elected vice president. As historians and Native Americans pointed out over the weekend, Charles Curtis — a member of the Kaw Nation — served as vice president to Republican President Herbert Hoover.

When Harris spoke before the nation Saturday night — an honor not accorded to other vice presidents-elect in the past — she wore a white suit, the color of the suffragist cause.

As she took her place in history, Harris said she was thinking about her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, and “about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women — who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”

She said she was thinking about “all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century: 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now, in 2020, with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard.”

This was not identity politics. This was a heartfelt expression of gratitude and an understanding of history.

And when Harris takes the vice presidential oath of office — and her portrait is added to the gallery of overwhelmingly white, male vice presidents — young American girls from families of all political stripes will be able to see in her their own limitless possibilities.

Biden and Harris will have their work cut out for them.

In his speech Saturday night, the president-elect pledged “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify. Who doesn’t see red states and blue states — only sees the United States.”

He asked Americans to “give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. Lower the temperature. See each other again. Listen to each other again.”

He continued: “And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans. ... The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap and a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”

For sure, such healing is imperative. The pandemic continues to rob families of loved ones, in Lancaster County and across the nation. Hospitals are filling with COVID-19 patients here and elsewhere. Businesses are bracing for the pandemic to inflict still more damage. We must put aside politics to defeat COVID-19 — abandon the partisan arguments about mask-wearing and unite to protect our families and one another.

Biden further emphasized this Monday when he announced his advisory board of public health experts to guide his transition team’s COVID-19 planning.

“We are still facing a very dark winter,” Biden said. “A mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus. ... It doesn’t matter who you voted or where you stood before election. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We can save tens of thousands of lives just in the next few months.”

The president-elect was direct: “So, please, I implore you: Wear a mask.”

In this county, we’re accustomed to working with people with whom we disagree. Many of us, like Biden, look without self-consciousness or hesitation to the Bible for guidance. The message in Ecclesiastes about the seasons is one we live by; it’s one that comforts us in times of grief and gives us hope when we desperately need it.

And we need a season of healing above all else.

Biden has experienced unfathomable sorrow: the loss of an infant daughter to a car crash in which he also lost his young wife, and the loss of his elder son to brain cancer. He is known for his empathy, and has shared it with others who have lost loved ones and those trying, as he has, to overcome stuttering. He knows what it’s like for a child — his sole surviving son — to struggle with addiction.

And he seems truly to believe in bridging political divides.

As former President George W. Bush said in a statement Sunday, “Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country. ... The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”

Bush continued: “The challenges that face our country will demand the best of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris — and the best of us all. We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future.”

Our responsibilities didn’t end when we cast our ballots (though we’re elated that so many did). This nation’s future still depends on us.