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Better Relations Day should set an example

Sean Ross

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Yesterday, the University hosted the 68th annual Better Relations Day between The University of Alabama and Auburn University. Led by the two respective student government associations, representatives from across both campuses met to network, exchange ideas and take cheesy pictures with Big Al and Aubie. This year featured a leadership panel with two former UA SGA presidents and a keynote speech from U.S. Senator Richard Shelby; the latest installment in this annual tradition also, for the first time, included a service component as a way to utilize the day to give back more to the community and state. SGA Vice President for External Affairs Braden Morell and Director of Better Relations Day Rebecca Arrington did an exemplary job planning this year’s event, but the service project benefitting Alabama VA Hospitals should be especially commended.

While I was thinking about what was my third Better Relations Day I participated in as a UA student, I couldn’t help but to think of why we have this yearly program and the context in which this year’s day occurs. Founded in 1948, this day is intended to build and promote a stronger relationship between the two schools, with a focus on ensuring our spirited rivalry stays on the field of play. Today in 2016, we find ourselves in a presidential election cycle that has been extraordinarily contentious and divisive. The two major party candidates and their supporters are pitted against each other in the political arena akin to two fierce rivals and their fans leading up to GameDay. Yet, we find ourselves as Americans in uncharted waters because one of the candidates has threatened not to accept the results of the election.

Keeping with the parallel between our rivalry with Auburn and this heated political race, think of the consequences if Auburn refused to acknowledge that they lost last year’s Iron Bowl. At the end of the day, the game is about winning and, for the fans, the feeling of pride and euphoria one gets from doing so. Imagine if Auburn refused to present Coach Saban with the ODK Trophy and instead went around all year saying that they had won the game. The entire premise of playing the annual game would be undermined; why would either team play if the other could just reject the rightful result? And why would either fan base show up in support of their team if the outcome was not held to objective standards? The same applies to the election on November 8th, but much more than the integrity of a football game is at stake.

If either candidate is to lose and not concede the race after all results are confirmed and certified, then the legitimacy of our elections are undermined. These elections are at the core of our system of democracy and function as the most powerful way for citizens to make their voices heard in this country; this has been vitally true since the founding of our country and continues to separate us from countries across the planet in which disputed elections often lead to illegitimate regimes and/or civil unrest. If citizens do not believe in the elections themselves, then they cannot possibly view the resulting governments as rightfully ruling; this would destroy our republic. For a major party candidate to even suggest not accepting the true result of the election is historically dangerous. Yet, one of the candidates has not only done this, but also doubled down, clarifying that the result would only be accepted if that candidate won. Ironically enough, this is something you would expect to hear from a figure like Vladimir Putin, not one of the two contenders seeking the highest office in the greatest democracy in world history.

Just as we need to leave the rivalry of the Iron Bowl on the field after the game concludes, so too must our two major political parties leave the animosity of this election behind after the election is over. Our country depends on it. We have pressing problems that demand serious solutions, and both parties must come together to solve them in the coming years. This cannot happen if politics are put over country; it certainly cannot happen if one party’s nominee is delegitimizing our very form of government.

No matter who you support, please vote in the upcoming election. It is important. And it is legitimate. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sean Ross is a senior majoring in political science. His column runs biweekly.

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Better Relations Day should set an example