[11/9/20] – Historic Election in Three Acts

The Presidential election of 2020 was historic in many ways. First, the winner – Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – won by the most votes in the history of the United States presidential elections. Second, Kamala Harris became the first female and the first Multiracial Vice President. Third, the current president became the first one-term president in three decades. In this week’s Lecture Spark, we explore this historic election on these three fronts: voter turnout, race and gender norms in politics, and the social drivers of voting and expectations for social change. For this reason, we are offering an expanded Lecture Spark with resources to address each of these three hugely important areas in a single pack as we are more than certain the election will be a topic of conversation in classrooms, virtual or otherwise, across the nation this week.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Historic Election in Three Acts

Learning Objectives

LO1: Explain the role of women of color in organizing to facilitate the voting of millions of disenfranchised, apathetic, and/or deliberately misinformed voters.

LO2: Discuss the sociological significance of the election of the first woman to the role of Vice President and explain how her racial/ethnic identity can cause consequences.

LO3: Describe the potential consequences of the current president refusing to accept the results of the election and how that can fray the public’s trust in the democratic process.



Stacey Abrams Helped Make Georgia a Critical Swing State | NowThis

‘Democracy is not a permanent state’ — Here’s how Stacey Abrams led the movement to make Georgia a critical swing state 💪🏾

Native populations could be decisive this election — as long as they can vote

Totaling some 6.8 million people, American Indians and Native Alaskans could play a key role in the upcoming election, especially in Western swing states like Arizona and Nevada. But there are some obstacles in Native communities that make their residents less likely to vote. Stephanie Sy talks to attorney Jacqueline De Leon of the Native American Rights Fund about efforts to change that.

Felons in Florida Can Vote — If They Pay

Floridians with felony convictions can vote in this year’s presidential election as long as they don’t have any outstanding legal financial obligations. That rule tacked onto Amendment 4 by Republicans in the state is stopping hundreds of thousands of potential voters from exercising their right. But the man who led the push for felons voting rights says the fight isn’t over. Desmond Meade and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition say they’ve collected over $25 million in donations since January of 2019 to pay off fines and fees for felons in the state. Vice News went to Florida to see how communities are continuing to push all those legally eligible to vote to join the movement.


Kamala Harris makes history as first black woman Vice President – BBC News

As Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris has made history. She will be the first woman, the first black person and the first Asian-American to serve in the office.

Black women reflect on Kamala Harris’s historic win: ‘She represents the best of us’

Kamala Harris made history as the first woman of color to be elected US vice-president. ‘It brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart,’ said the former US national security adviser Susan Rice, while Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said: ‘She represents the best of us.’ Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican heritage, is the first woman to be elected to such a position in the White House.

Kamala Harris and the Challenges Women in Politics Face

Women in politics have long faced obstacles in obtaining positions of political power in the United States, and Kamala Harris is an example of breaking the trend, as Democratic nominee Joe Biden chose Harris as his vice presidential running mate. The former California attorney general and Biden’s former political rival makes history as the fourth woman to be on a major party’s presidential ticket in U.S. politics. What challenges do women in politics face, and what is the significance of Harris’ selection as Biden’s running mate?


What the Trump lame duck might look like

Election 2020: What has President Trump done to America | The Economist

In the 2020 election, President Donald Trump will be judged on his handling of the covid-19 pandemic. But what else will be his legacy if he loses?

What If Trump Refuses to Accept Election Results?

Election Day this year could turn into a post-Election Day fight. Eighty million Americans are expected to vote by mail. And while votes are being counted, there are many scenarios that could lead to the presidential election becoming contested.

Discussion Questions


How were Black women political activists like Stacy Abrams responsible for the historic voter turnout in Georgia, and other places? What needs to be done to support Black political activists and create space for their efforts and accolades in a largely White dominated world of politics?

Why might Indigenous people – especially in states like Arizona – participate in an election process that is emblematic of centuries of torture, disinvestment, forced relocation, murder, eugenics, and other forms of Americanization used against them and their ancestors?

Why did so many people turnout for this election? How might this election cause change to future of elections? What needs to be done to increase voter turnout moving forward? What could happen to prevent it? How does intentionally blocking voters from participating challenge the assertion that the election is a truly democratic process?


How would you describe the “glass ceiling” that prevented women from ascending to top levels of political authority? How is the glass ceiling experienced differently for White Women and Women from communities of color? What does the election of Kamala Harris do to the glass ceiling, if anything at all?

How will reaction to Kamala Harris’ work as Vice President be evaluated through American gender and racial/ethnic identity norms? What obstacles do you foresee blocking her ability to navigate the current political climate?

What does the election of Kamala Harris to Vice President mean for racism in the United States? How might the election of Kamala Harris increase interest other non-White lawmakers to run for office? What are the benefits of increasing inclusion of all groups of people in governing our country? What consequences derive their power from racial homogeneity in politics?


What factors motivated millions of people to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the incumbent president? What macro and micro changes to American society might the average Democratic voter be expecting in a new President? What needs to be done to hold elected officials accountable for their claims of change made on the campaign trail?

What parts of American society need immediate attention from the incoming administration? How might the expectations for change of the average Democratic voter affect their attitude towards policy decisions made in the first year?

Why might voters be interested in returning to a more traditional experience of government? What about the unorthodox approach to governance displayed by the current administration could be helpful to the incoming administration? What are the risks of finding comfort in traditions that have historically and legally marginalized and terrorized millions of Americans? What does this change in government mean for the future of the United States?



First Female and Multiracial Vice President

First Incumbent Loss Since 1992


A sociologist would be most interested in studying _______ at the micro level.
a. Individual behaviors at campaign rallies
b. Functions of political parties
c. Controversial political ads
d. None of the above

If the current president refuses to concede the election to the president-elect, sociologists would refer to this as an act of _______.
a. Disgrace
b. Deviance
c. Aggression
d. Normative behavior

_______ theorists focus on the manifest and latent ways social institutions operate to facilitate the election process.
a. Interactionist
b. Sociopolitical
c. Conflict
d. Functionalist

An invisible barrier that prevents women from reaching higher positions of authority in business, politics, and other professional realms is known as the _______.
a. Invisible fence
b. Sexist barrier
c. Glass ceiling
d. Women’s Line

A _______ theorist would likely focus on how systems of power operate to strip communities and groups of their right to vote in an effort to maintain their status in society.
a. Interactionist
b. Sociopolitical
c. Conflict
d. Functionalist

Women, specifically women from communities of color, are underrepresented in political roles including holding office, organizer, and more. Sociologically speaking, this trend is known as:
a. The Second Shift
b. Sexualization of political figures
c. Gender wage gap
d. Political gender gap

Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

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