School of Nursing

November 9, 2020

Democracy was the Ultimate Victor

The good news from the election is that once again, democracy was the ultimate victor. Despite efforts to thwart or distort it, despite the threat of a pandemic, the will of more than 140 million people was heard.

It was a challenging, divisive election, yet even in the difficult aftermath I see much to be hopeful about.

o     The election validates the belief most people have in the importance and integrity of the voting process

o     The votes of so many demonstrate the strong commitment people have to making their vision of how the country can be better a reality

o     Despite the surface differences, people care about the issues, about the future, and ultimately about each other

I also believe the election holds much promise for health care. The president-elect played an integral role in bringing the Affordable Care Act into being, and he will be a defender of its existence and an advocate for its expansion so that more people have better access to care.

But the issue is even larger than that. The pandemic has laid bare and amplified the enormous racial and economic inequities that exist in our health care system. This isn’t just a health care issue, it is a much bigger and broader issue based in systemic racism and a lack of social equality. From that come economic disparities and these, in turn, have an adverse effect on many of the social determinants of health such as housing, education, and jobs. We need to see, acknowledge, understand, and address the interrelated nature of these issues in order to find meaningful solutions.

Finding solutions is important to every American. We are the last major developed country to not assure access to health care for everyone. We spend more money per capita than any other country, yet our health outcomes are far from the best in the world. And perhaps most important, the nation’s health is tightly bound to its success economically and socially, and that in turn is bound to social equity.

Building a better, stronger health care system will require investment in better, stronger health care education. Schools of nursing nationwide need the financial and physical resources that will enable us to graduate more nurses who are prepared to provide primary care in a wide variety of settings, from rural and tribal areas to underserved urban populations. We need to be equal partners in the health care ecosystem, with equal participation in planning and funding of health care initiatives.

This election, and every election, is an important turning point. A cornerstone of the democratic tradition is that we accept the results, accommodate the differences, and seek ways in which to work together going forward. With the election concluded, it is important—more important than ever—that we move quickly to this phase of recognition and reconciliation.

The UW School of Nursing places strong emphasis on leadership. It’s time for all of us to step forward and be leaders by modeling respect for everyone, being gracious, inviting civil discussion of disagreements, discouraging anyone who suggests that violence toward either people or property is a way to express themselves or their disappointment at the results of the election or anything else, and acknowledging that democracy flourishes where disagreement leads to discussion. It’s imperative to acknowledge that you have the privilege of disagreeing precisely because you live in a democracy.

As we leave the election behind and approach Veterans Day, it is time to consider how much has been given by so many in the hope that democracy and freedom would flourish in a country with liberty and justice for all. That is the premise and the promise of America. With the last election, that promise was once again both made and kept.