Sunday night I sat down to bang out some election thoughts. After about an hour and a couple beers I had over 2500 semi-coherent words. Younger me would have pushed on, getting everything out of my system, working until well after midnight to finish and then post the piece.
2020 me, though? He was ready for bed. And as morning dawns I feel like I want to take another, sober, stab at my 2020 election post. So here goes.
There has never been an election moment like Saturday, 11:30ish eastern time, when most press outlets finally submitted to the math and declared Joe Biden the winner and president-elect.
We had never sat through five days of staring at the TV, waiting for updated results while we listened to the analysts talk through the scenarios over-and-over again.
We had never got the call at mid-day on a Saturday, when people could flood from their homes and celebrate together in daylight.
And, of course, we’ve never had a loser – that’s right, loser – viewed with as much contempt as DJT.
Throw in a pandemic that has had us all isolated for eight months and it’s no wonder that the joy of the moment burst into spontaneous, street-filling celebrations in large cities around the country.
It was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. We deserved that moment after the past four years of destruction.
Once it became obvious that the math was on Joe Biden’s side, sometime Wednesday I guess, I began fearing that the election would be called when I was away from the TV. I had errands to run, kids to drop off and pick up, etc. When I was home I was pretty much always in front of the TV, waiting for Steve Kornacki to share more positive numbers. It always seemed like some big vote drop was coming in Philly, in Atlanta, in Phoenix right before I had to leave the house.
Sure enough, I was dropping L off at a friend’s house at about 11:30 Saturday when I got a text from S saying “Joe Biden is president-elect!!”
Damn, damn, damn!
I hustled home, backed up the DVR, and was able to see the moment MSNBC called the race. For some reason it felt important to do that. I will always remember sitting in our friends’ driveway – Trump supporters no less! – and getting the text from S letting me know that it was over.
Thus, Saturday turned into an unforgettable day. It was gorgeous here, nearly 80, and seemed more like September than November. It may have been a reward for putting up with four years of hate and nonsense. But it could have been snowing and below zero and the day would still go down as perfect.
The stretched-out vote count felt like one of those epic, multi-overtime playoff hockey games. You equally wanted it to end and last forever. I became addicted to those little endorphin rushes of 25,000 new votes being uploaded in Allegheny County, and press conferences by local elections officials. I adjusted my daily activities around the shift changes at MSNBC. These moments were concrete and significant, unlike the normal bluster that fills time on political programs. I wanted the Biden win called, but I also wanted these tiny, tangible moments that mattered to continue to carry the day.
I enjoyed sharing this week with my girls. They all became anti-Trumpers independently four years ago. We never sat them down and explained how we felt, and why we felt that way, but they all picked it up. Which is a risky proposition in Indiana. Most of M’s peer group are Biden fans, but she does have a couple friends who are Trumpers. Apparently the mock election at CHS went to DJT 52–48. We are glad our girls have taken the proper path without any overt prodding from us.
So, it was fun for them to ask questions all week. It was fun for them to pass through the room and ask for updates. It was fun to catch them following the news on their own devices. It was fun to put on the political scientist hat I earned nearly three decades ago and talk them through the processes and institutions and functions of our democracy.
As excited as I am about Biden’s win, this election cycle was obviously a mixed bag. The Republicans will, most likely, maintain control of the Senate. Mitch McConnell has never wanted to build anything other than a Supreme Court majority in his life. But he lives to destroy things, and he no doubt has found a new will to live knowing he can spend the next four years preventing Biden from accomplishing anything. He is an absolute fuckhead.
The Democrats lost ground in the House. The district I live in was seen as a potential pick-up, and even seemed to be leaning blue in the final run-up to the election. The Republican – you can’t make this up, she was born in the Soviet Union and loves Trump – ended up winning easily. That was a huge bummer.
In another local election, though, our votes helped send the first Muslim to the Indiana state senate. This was my first general election in Marion County and it was nice to be in an overwhelmingly blue county. The neighborhoods we drive through every day were filled with signs for Biden and the other Democrats on the ballot. M spent Saturday night in a particularly blue neighborhood. I imagine if I had driven through it early Saturday afternoon there would have been people out on the sidewalks celebrating.
Of course the biggest disappointment is that over 70 million people still voted for Trump after his attempts to tear our country apart. After his four years of lies and conspiracy theories and support of racists and efforts to line his pockets. After his absolute botching of the worst crisis our country has faced since World War II. Joe Biden is about as vanilla of a candidate as the Democrats could have run out there. While he will end up winning the popular vote comfortably, the electoral college still relied on far too many narrow margins in battleground states. Even after all the hate and garbage that Trump has spewed, a huge chunk of the country still thought he was the better choice than a relatively safe opponent like Biden. That does not bode well for this country’s future.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo presented an argument that I like a lot: “Folks, Let’s Get It the Fuck Together.” Yes, there are disappointments and reasons to be concerned after this election. But the biggest goal, removing the most unfit, unqualified, destructive person who has ever occupied the presidency? We pulled that off. The future is full of perils and uncertainty. But DJT, willingly or not, will lose his legal mandate to lead the country in just over two months.
Biden was, at best, my third choice from the crowded Democratic primary field. But the argument that he was the best suited to beat Trump was always compelling. He neutered some of Trump’s favorite attack angles. The fact he presents as a fundamentally warm, decent, and unoffensive human being made it tough for Trump to grind him down. His age and experience creates direct links to the mythical “simpler” times when our country wasn’t so hyper-partisan and give hope that maybe at least some segments of the political community can come together for genuine debate and bargaining rather than constantly trying to destroy each other.
I think those hopes are unrealistic; a majority of the Republican leadership is far more concerned with obstruction and destruction that sitting down with Biden and finding avenues of working together to solve our country’s problems. Far too many Republicans see government as fundamentally evil and their roles are to keep cutting it off at the knees rather than presenting alternate, more restrained uses of government power.
Perhaps all that inertia is worth it just to get Trump out of office. I harbor no illusions that he will go away, though. Where most former presidents fade into the background, he will not shut up and the media will pay attention to everything he says. He will basically live on Fox, OAN, and perhaps his own future network, spouting his lies and hate without ever being challenged. I absolutely expect him to run again, which is a completely frightening prospect. Or one of his idiot kids will pick up the mantel in four years. And there’s no telling how much damage he will still do in the next two-plus months.
Bottom line, though, is that he will leave office as a loser.
For now, though, we have Biden to attempt to undo some of the many wrongs that were instituted over Trump’s reign. And we have Kamala Harris breaking through multiple barriers to show that for all the challenges that gender and race and lineage present, you can still plow through them all.
The victory may not be as total as we had wanted, but it is reason enough to celebrate for a bit.
A few other thoughts:
- Steve Kornacki is the hero we need in this moment.
- It bothered me that some in the media kept calling the events of last week a “Biden comeback.” No, it wasn’t a comeback. Many of the votes cast for Biden were cast well before Election Day. Just because they were counted after Election Day does not mean that he “came back.” This line fits into the Trumpian arguments that the election was stolen, since it creates the impression they were cast after Election Day. Happily most media members have moved away from this framing of the vote count.
- I guess Trump’s final gift to our democracy is his complete undermining of it by claiming victory before the vote counting process is complete and then arguing that the election has been stolen from him. It is expected behavior. He’s always been a pathetic child and this is exactly what your shithead, four-year-old nephew does when he doesn’t get his way. It is shameful that so many mainstream Republicans are joining him. For a party that loves to prattle on about how their view of America is the proper, patriotic one, and how they are fulfilling the wishes of the founding fathers, they sure love to undercut the pillars of democracy at every opportunity.
- Like most I was frustrated with the pace of the count. Until I realized how fundamentally different counting mail-in and provisional votes are. They aren’t registered automatically in the machine for easily tallying. They have to be physically touched and examined by multiple people before they can be scanned into the system. When you have literally millions of these around the country, it’s going to take awhile.
- Each January, as I finish up my Christmas beers, I hide one Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale in the back of the beer fridge, saving it for a moment later in the year. Often those beers are pulled out after a big KU win in March or April. There were no opportunities for that this year, so my 2019 Celebration Ale still sat in the back corner of the fridge, waiting. Saturday evening I busted it out after Harris and Biden spoke. S had a drink of her own and I clicked my glass against hers, saying “Fuck Donald Trump,” as our toast. Yes, fuck him.