So many things bouncing around in my brain after democracy staged the comeback of the year:
In the long, agonizing lead-up to Nov. 3, I had no faith whatsoever in this country being able to run a fair election — little faith following the travesty that was the 2000 election, no faith in this year’s vote. So I was astonished in the days following, to see workers in the contested states, even Red states, showing a methodical determination to count every last vote, including provisional ballots. They livestreamed the proceedings to allay suspicions among the conspiracy-minded. Very inspiring.
Tuesday night was agony, the so-called “Red Mirage” in full force — same-day voters giving Trump scary leads in battleground states. The next day the slow-motion comeback unfolded. It took three full days, but the mail-in ballots, as predicted, made the difference.
The long slog gave me time to confront my own tendency to career from worst-case-scenario despair (Trump will run the table in the contested states and democracy will die!) to delusions of grandeur (if Biden picks up all the contested states, he’ll win in a mini-landslide!). I talked myself off several ledges and realized that this had to play out, however long it takes.
In the end, it didn’t take that long. Saturday, when the call came putting Biden over the top, was not only the loveliest weather day of the fall, but also the sweetest highlight of an otherwise pestilential year. One street reveler Saturday night was actually heard saying, “2020, best year ever!”
Some thoughts in the aftermath:
The loss couldn’t have come to a more deserving fellow, the victory as well-earned and deserved as any ever. This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, where wrongs suddenly seem so dramatically righted.
But I know full well we’re a long way from being fully and finally righted. The culture war grinds on. Still, this is good news, something to savor and celebrate.
Seventy-five million Americans (and counting) turned out to fire a ruthless, vicious, dishonest, and incompetent president. The fact that 70 million other voters (and counting) failed to recognize this, or managed to overlook it, does not alter the fact that the reality-based population is still more powerful than the conspiracy-based populace. How could so many people support a man like Donald Trump? We can’t help wondering.
We remain a deeply divided country, to be sure, and Trump’s supporters remain a formidable, highly-motivated political force. But guess what? So are we. Far more formidable and united than we were four years ago. We’re fully awake now and energized, and we united behind a candidate with lightning speed last spring in the nick of time. And that candidate turned out to be exactly the right person at the right time, judging by his forceful, focused speech Saturday night declaring both victory and vision. Who would have guessed?
“To those who voted for President Trump,” President-elect Biden said, “I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as the enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans. The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal America.”
If anyone can pull it off, it’s this guy. But it won’t be easy.
In the meantime, someone should organize a citizenship ceremony for Donald Trump, who has lived his entire life in an alien country: the Divided States of America. With this loss, he is finally eligible to become a citizen of the United States of America, a land where truth matters and where everyone has experienced loss, so we empathize with one another and look out for one another. It is our common ground. Welcome, Donald, to the real world. Welcome to the U.S.A.
To his supporters, we know what you’re going through because we went through it in 2016. The shock, the anger, the depression. Now we have that in common. As bad as Tuesday night was for us to sit through, the following three days had to be worse for you, watching your candidate’s big lead steadily evaporate. We know how agonizing that is.
But after 2016 and in the ensuing years, we didn’t give up. We came together and resisted the wrongs that your votes helped perpetrate. Just as you aren’t going away, we aren’t going away either. If Donald Trump runs again in 2024, we’ll beat him again. I suggest you find a better human being to top your ticket.
The joy that Biden supporters feel with this victory is tempered by the Democrats’ failure to take the Senate (though they still have a shot). They lost five seats in the House so far (some races haven’t been called). But keep in mind that in 2016, overlooked in the gloom, Democrats picked up six seats in the House. In 2018, Democrats flipped the House. In 2020, they flipped the White House. Maybe in 2022, they’ll finally flip the Senate. Like it or not, we’re playing the long game.
There is much about the results of this election to build on. This country is not finished. We may, in fact, be on the verge of a national renaissance.
But I’m not going that far, having sworn off grand delusions.
At least for the time being.