On Jan. 20, we’ll have a new president. New members of Congress have already been sworn in. We have new leaders in state legislatures and some governorships across the country. It is an opportunity for the country to heal and turn the page on a difficult and frightening few weeks.   

On top of the pandemic crisis, our nation endured an additional wrenching ordeal in the past several days. Presidential election results that should have been accepted more than a month ago were aggressively disputed, raising doubt about an orderly and peaceful transfer of power.

In a divided America, Lincoln’s words of healing ring true
America’s leaders must have the courage to ask this question

And then, even as Congress was meeting to certify the election results, violence and destruction erupted as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting congressional proceedings and forcing members of Congress and their staffs to hide in fear.

Hundreds of business organizations and other leaders have condemned the insurrection. I add my voice to theirs. 

Now it is critical that we move forward as a nation. I firmly believe that, as ugly and difficult as these events have been, our country will recover and we can have a bright future. While it is important that we learn from these tragic incidents, and not repeat them, it would be a mistake to exacerbate the intense division that exists by being vindictive and seeking revenge.

Just as I look forward to a return to health normalcy as citizens across the country are vaccinated against COVID-19, I also look forward to a degree of political normalcy with a new president and a Congress where compromise will be required to solve the nation’s problems.

It is vitally important that both Republicans and Democrats take a sober look at how closely the country is divided and recognize the reality that neither side has a mandate to take extreme actions or to antagonize the opposing party. In fact, the prevailing postelection attitude of politicians on either side should not be euphoria in victory, but instead humility in acknowledging the American people want real progress, not partisan grandstanding or chasing ideological fantasies. 

President-elect Joe Biden fairly and decisively won the presidency with 81 million votes. But 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. And a great deal of survey research shows that many citizens weren’t voting “for” Biden, but instead were protesting “against” the excesses of Trump. Thus, while Biden is the clear victor, he does not have a mandate for an extreme agenda.

The Democrats also won two seats in the U.S. Senate, resulting in a 50-50 Senate split. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the deciding vote. But there are enough moderate senators in both parties to ensure that not much will get done without real compromise and reaching across the aisle.

Meanwhile, the Republicans picked up several House seats. The Democrats now have the narrowest majority in many decades, and can only lose a few votes to prevail on party-line issues. The Democrats could also lose control of the House in 2022 if they overreach and pursue an extreme agenda. Clearly, both House caucuses would be wise to work with each other to get important legislation passed.

Our politics are not polarized, they’re partisan — which could be worse

It’s also important to remember that in the states Republicans picked up additional legislative seats, won control of two additional chambers and won an additional governorship. Republicans control a majority of legislative seats and governorships across the country.

The point is that political control, and voters, are closely divided in this country. “Closely divided” can produce gridlock and dysfunction. Or it can mean real compromise to solve problems and address the country’s problems. 

I hope it is the latter, and I hope Utah’s congressional delegation will be part of the solution instead of seeking partisan advantage.

As in so many things, Utah can be an example, a beacon to the nation. Let’s pledge to show how politics should work to benefit the lives of citizens.