Despite ongoing litigation and recounts, it appears that the 2020 presidential race is coming to a close as the Associated Press and other media outlets have declared that Joe Biden has reached the 270 electoral votes needed to become the President-Elect. The poll watchers and vote counters have worked overtime to ensure an accurate tabulation of each vote, the ultimate exercise of American democracy. The electoral process has been followed in each state. Pennsylvania was late in reporting because its legislature decided not to count any mail-in ballot until election day. Each side has the right to challenge the accuracy of the vote count and legitimacy of the ballots through the court system. This has happened in several elections, most recently in 2000 with Bush vs. Gore, ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.
In the interim, we need to urge our elected officials to maintain their objectivity, to place country above party, to advocate that there be an orderly transition of power if in fact that is what is indicated. There must not be work-arounds, going to state legislatures to ask for a new slate of electors to represent the voters. In fact, the Republican head of the Pennsylvania Legislature has already said that he will not allow such a procedure. We should urge client CEOs to be in touch with elected officials to make this case.
In the wake of the initial results, Jeff Sonnenfeld, from the Yale School of Management, convened 30 top U.S. executives who all agreed that it is now the time for CEOs to go above and beyond.
This hard-fought contest reminds me of the bitter Presidential election of 1800 that wound up in the House of Representatives, with Thomas Jefferson narrowly besting Aaron Burr. Jefferson used his Inaugural Address to heal the wounds from the campaign. Here are a few of his immortal lines:
- “The will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority must possess their equal rights”
- “Having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic”
- “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle”
- “Error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it” “We are all Republicans: we are all Federalists”
We are a country deeply divided in our views but convinced of the superiority of our democratic system. Let’s show the world that we merit their admiration and respect. With 121,000 new Covid-19 cases reported yesterday even before we enter the winter period, we will need all to hold hands and stand together, respecting our differences, open to learning and listening.
Richard Edelman is CEO.