As Americans reel from a historical and challenging 2020, what changes could this controversial election bring? 

For potentially the first time in US history, the question of whether or not a President will refuse to leave office after his term has ended is being raised. Polarization has caused our nation to become increasingly volatile, and it seems that our President’s response to this issue is to “hunker down” politically — both literally and figuratively.

With early voting in 2020 surpassing the total number of people who submitted early or absentee ballots in 2016, it is clear that voters are actively seeking change. The reason for a larger voter turnout seems to lie in the peculiarity of this election cycle. President Donald Trump raised eyebrows back in September after he told a group of supporters that he would try to “negotiate” a third term as President. 

“And 52 days from now we’re going to win Nevada, and we’re going to win four more years in the White House … ” Trump stated. “Because we’re probably — based on the way we were treated — we are probably entitled to another four after that.”

The chances of President Trump actually being granted a third term are slim. Perhaps, the question becomes how our country will respond to either Biden or Trump winning. 

The desire of Americans to seek instant change could cause the streets to be flooded with protests after the election results are in. In Washington State, law enforcement is preparing for a rise in violence no matter who wins the election, potentially in the form of riots and protests. Officials are participating in “tabletop exercises” which are  “outlining possible scenarios for post-election violence and mayhem.” 

If Biden is elected, and President Trump does follow through on his implications, then this could push the tumultuous state of our nation to a breaking point. A President openly stating that he would defy an amendment of the Constitution is a radical statement. 

Brian Plummer, a professor of American history at Azusa Pacific University, believes that Trump hinting at not leaving office goes against “virtually everything our system stands for.”

“Not the least of which is honoring the will of the people and acting as a servant of the people,” he stated. “Much as George Washington did by voluntarily refusing a third term in office.”

So, what does the fallout of a Presidential election look like for a nation of divided voters, who are still reeling from a year filled with historical ups and downs? From a historical perspective, this year can either be viewed as a travesty or a launching pad into our nation’s future. 

“It’s tough to say, then, how future historians will view this election since we don’t really know for sure what’s coming down the pike,” said Plummer.  “For example, since no one could have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic, no one could have foretold how President Trump would have responded — nor, to be fair, could anyone have foretold what Hillary Clinton would have done had she been in the White House.  What’s important to remember is that each election is judged only in the aftermath of the four years that follow, not on its own merits.”

2020 has been a historical year for a multitude of reasons — the coronavirus pandemic, riots and protests regarding police brutality, systemic racism and injustice, as well as a highly anticipated presidential election. This election could either heal our nation or simply place a bandaid over the metaphorical sounds caused by 2020. 

“Americans are very impatient people — we’ve always been that way, from the very beginning — so I think overall they do want to see ‘an instant change,’” said Plummer. “However, the fact of the matter is that that expectation is unrealistic;  no individual or political party can make the pandemic go away — overnight or otherwise — and no individual or political party can “fix” the economy or systemic problems like racism — overnight or otherwise.”

The instant changes that Americans are seeking in the 2020 election are rather obvious, yet extremely hard to achieve. They include an end to police brutality — which came to the forefront of political conversation this year —as well as an ending to the coronavirus pandemic or at least the beginnings of an end in sight. Some of the other major focuses of this election are immigration, tax reform and health care. 

Frustrated Americans will no doubt take to social media. Facebook is planning for potential virtual unrest by deploying internal tools designed for what it calls “at-risk” countries.” These tools would stop viral content from spreading at a rapid rate and “suppress potentially inflammatory posts.” 

The necessity for these precautions comes from the political polarization that social media often exacerbates. When virtual “echo chambers” are created, individuals are only hearing opinions and reading articles that typically facilitate their own political agendas. Hearing both sides of the argument is imperative to making an informed decision. 

More and more people are preparing for the fallout of the 2020 election, whatever it may be. However,  people seem to be unsure of what they’re exactly preparing for.  As we gear up for potentially another four years with President Trump or a drastic change with candidate Joe Biden taking office, Americans should expect the unexpected.  Our nation has never experienced anything like this before. Therefore, no one is quite sure exactly what to expect — whether you’re a politician, a journalist, a professor or simply an American citizen.