Rahima M. Aquil
7 min readNov 29, 2020

A Sociological Understanding of the Structure of America, otherwise known as our Democracy, & what it really means to be American

Photo by Rahima Morshed — Birmingham, Alabama

As we have concluded the ongoing election week, certified votes across the country, and are newly presented with the next First and Second Family of these Divided States, I take time today to reflect on every last effort, response, and emotion of people in my community, from Americans across the country, and witnesses from around the world. As we have seen overwhelmingly, many among the approximate 80 million people that voted for Biden did not want him and Harris as their first choice. Do both Biden and Harris have a reputation that has, on countless occasions, harmed minority groups and even endangered vulnerable and underrepresented populations? Yes. And are they excusable? Absolutely not.

The moment the electoral maps on popular news media outlets suggested that Biden would take the lead in the race to become the next POTUS, the American public took it to social media to make it very clear and evident that “we must hold Biden and Harris accountable for all their promises” and that “we have a lot of work ahead of us”, myself included — even before he was declared the President-Elect on the morning of Saturday, November 7th. So, when we say, “hold accountable”, what do we mean by this? Perhaps a look into Biden’s track record may help us understand why so many more moderate and liberal voters did not cast their ballots in his favor, and for those that did, who were not completely satisfied with the results of this election.

Former Vice-President Biden is known to have aided and supported the killing of Saddam Hussein and the bombings during the Iraq War, which yielded the deaths of too many civilians and the destruction of various institutions in Iraq; therefore, often being referred to as a “war criminal”. Additionally, Biden was confronted by then Senator Kamala Harris, during the Democratic Presidential Debate, on the notion of Bussing efforts for being the leading catalyst movement in desegregating public schools and ending the separation between black and white children during the first Civil Rights Era. During this debate, Harris insisted that Biden did not support the social justices pertaining to Black Americans and indicated that he had let down this population numerous times in his career. And yes, these accusations were made by whom he “had the audacity” to nominate as his Vice-President.

Biden has often been seen as a “Moderate Democrat”, mostly by his GOP Colleagues. But what exactly does that mean? Many news articles and even press commentators have referred to his reputation, often having found Joe Biden to have “walked to the other side of the aisle”, during his Senate career. There are even those that argue Former President, Barack Obama’s choice for, then Vice President Joseph Biden, was strategic for the purpose of gaining GOP support on the Obama Administration’s executive agenda.

Now, I am not writing this to make you think I am Pro-Obama or pro-anything really. He has done much good, but he could have done plenty better — as could and can every other President and every President to be. What I am saying here is that every last decision that all Presidents make have their reasons for doing so and that they are not always single handedly responsible for the outcomes of those decisions either. Can those reasons be justifiable? Sure! And can those reasons be completely unjustifiable and pure evil? Again, yes. I could continue to go down this rabbit hole and make sense of all moving parts of government, but this would simply manifest into an entirely different Op-Ed. I digress.

As mentioned, Biden has been known to gain the support of his GOP colleagues on several policies, during his career in Senate, and what I am really here to talk about today is a sociological understanding of “structure”, from a bases of social theory, and how that relates to the American peoples’ response to this election and the nation’s current political climate. Why sociology, you might ask? Well because Conservatism and Progressivism! Or for the lack of better terms, two representing structures of the majority parties, in our everlasting two-party system, and the ways by which they have contributed to the divide and continued polarization of the States of America.

Through generations of legislation, upholding our governing doctrine of the Constitution, and the “grim era” of the expense of Native/Indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihood, as well as the era of slavery that has manifested into systemic racism, the present structure of our Democracy has fueled the already-existing polarization of American people. But no really, why sociology, again you might ask? Well, sociology is a broad and extensive field of study that combines research of society and societal responses to social change overall, yielding social theory, and the conditions of peoples’ institutions and governing structures; in this case, our Democracy.

Other than just having sounded super word-vomitty, what I mean by this, and as emphasized by an early social theorist Harriet Martineau, is that social structure is the foundation for societal response to social change, resulting from the structure itself. In this case, our structure is meant to be dividing and polarizing; I mean the very root words of the terms divide and polarize can quite literally be defined as the word “two”, also known as our TWO-party system. So, to say that both sides of the aisle can come together and work towards the same things is, well, almost indefinitely impossible. Have there been cases where GOP and DEMs found common ground and made great compromise, yes. But overall, Democracy, as it stands in the United States, is meant to be anything but unifying.

How do I make sense of all of this? Well it brings me back to the culture and structure of conservatism and progressivism. When defined, conservatism is the notion by which the American people place faith in what is referred to as the “status quo”, meaning tradition and what is known to be the founding principles and customs of this country, since its birth. And what is Progressivism you ask? Well, progressivism is the belief that deep-rooted issues in society stem from the longstanding traditions and their inability to remain inclusive of ALL people, and in obvious cases, of minorities. Progressives find a need to expose, confront, and resolve social issues and find that the very governing doctrine of this country requires this plea of justice, for equality and equity of all people. Conservatives find it more significant to call out the challenges of reform that threaten the security and identity of the nation.

So, is conservatism the opposite of progressivism? I will let you decide that. Is conservatism and progressivism both threatening to the prosperity of this nation? I will let you decide this too. Is the structure of this nation’s democracy polarizing and too far from United? I will let you decide that as well. Are independent voters therefore justified? You know what I have to say; I will let you decide this also. Will Biden and Harris be able to uphold their promises during their administration? I would let you decide this too, but as you now have understood, there is too much division to just let one administration and an already polarized governing entity to be the only ones to decide the state of this nation; the state that directly impacts all of our lives, so I will hold myself and YOU accountable to ensure this too — as we do with our elected officials.

If there is anything I know for sure after all this reflecting, it is that we are ALL equally responsible for the state of our nation and the impacts it has on people around the world. We have a responsibility to walk to the other side of the aisle and work against the system, or structure, that was meant to divide us to begin with. We are all equally responsible to ensure that the legitimate and indiscriminate traditions of this nation are maintained while also assuring that justice is served where injustice is met. Civic engagement and seeking unbiased knowledge are the first steps, but civil discourse must follow if we are to ever represent all Americans and serve the people of the world. Accountability, I believe, is what makes us most American and if we limit what and who we hold accountable for self-gain, or even for self-preservation, we are all equally as fooled as we think our counterparts to be.

Celebrate Trump’s loss or celebrate Biden’s victory, run as a moderate Democrat and/or chose a female Vice President, call pro-capitalists imperialistic or remember that capitalism yields tech and services that save lives around the world and has resulted in more economic opportunities of Black and Native America, forget that Western warfare has led to an unimaginable number of civilian death or remember it as having removed spearheads of terror from this world… we are allowed to interpret the current climate of this country and where it stands on a global platform however which way we want.

What I believe we are not allowed to do is to interpret the history of this country the way we want and suggest by word and in action that our parties are to remain divided, as they were intended to be. Just remember that it does us no good to hate and dehumanize others in disagreement, as it only harms your intent for good and your intent for change — not to mention the harm it does to yourself and the other person; the other American, as we all are.

Rahima Morshed




Rahima M. Aquil

Creating dialogue around public health challenges, social theory/research, & policy/democracy. We are the structures we create & I’m here to share with you how!