I See Red

When I look at the results of this election, I am frightened.  Yes Joe Biden won, and yes, that’s what I wanted.  The alternative was unthinkable — it would have been the last days of Rome, minus the vomitoriums and public baths.  But what is troubling to me is that it was close.  So many states voted for his opponent, the serial liar, the malignant narcissist, the proud white (although he’s actually orange) supremacist, the conspiracy theorist, the name-calling bully, the misogynist, the opportunist, the failed businessman, the charlatan, the cheater, the vindictive, self-promoting, uninformed, science-denying, kleptocratic man-child prone to throwing temper-tantrums while lives he swore an oath to protect hung in the balance.  With a deadly virus making an anticipated second assault on the country because he failed to take simple steps to curtail it during its first and marshal the wealth and resources of the country that figured out how to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth to mitigate the death and sickness lapping around our ankles like the tide of a sea rolling in as expected, while he flashed a crooked smile (without a mask) for the cameras of the news media he demonized out one side of his mouth while he secretly basked in the attention (positive and negative) he craved out the other and pandered to the most shameful impulses of American culture to promote his new-found political success, with millions of our fellow Americans out of work or standing in line to get basic necessities at food banks while he touted economic success, tax relief, regulatory rollbacks, the dismantling of the minuscule steps taken previously to protect the only planet we’ve got, and kowtowed to tyrants and dictators abroad abdicating America’s role as the "shining city on a hill,” all while taking the leash off a theocratic, fanatical adversary developing nuclear weapons and aiming them at us, simply because his black predecessor, whom he despises, led an effort to call that foe to heel, anyone looking at the sum total of the last four years and saying ‘give us four more of that’ is some kind of masochist with no care for the future of the experiment in democracy begun 244 years ago with three simple words — WE THE PEOPLE.

In the days before the election (which seems like a lifetime ago), I researched past presidential elections at 270toWin.  I remembered that the first presidential election I voted in — Reagan vs. Mondale — resulted in the candidate I voted for, former vice president Walter Mondale and his female running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, losing in a landslide.  President Reagan received 525 Electoral College votes and a little over 54 million popular votes after his first term; his Electoral College total is a record that stands unbeaten to this day.  Mondale/Ferraro won only one state and the District of Columbia!  After the malaise of the 70’s in America, Reagan’s bright-eyed optimism, his hardline stance against Soviet Russia, and his repudiation of the welfare state ushered-in the era of greedy conservatism which placed profit over people, ideology over ideals, and the needs of the one over the needs of the many.  As a young, budding, socially-engaged liberal, I disagreed whole-heartedly with the so-called “Reagan Revolution,” but the election of 1984 taught me that landslides are possible; the majority of the country felt a certain way, liked how Reagan articulated that, and gave him a mandate for four more years.  He would not have won so dramatic a victory if the bulk of the country did not agree with him.

That the Biden/Harris ticket did not win in a landslide is deeply troubling to me and should be to every decent American.  By so many Americans voting for Trump in 2020, the voters who said four years ago that they chose Trump because they thought he was on their side declared, with their vote this time around, that they were on his side; by picking him again, those voters are showing that they are just like him:  angry, spoiled, bigoted racists who live in an imagined world of victimization and are willing to lie rather than ever admit that they were wrong.  They might have been forgiven in 2016, because Trump was a novelty, an untested populist tickling the fancy of forgotten America, but it’s become clear over the last four days that far too many of Trump’s voters don’t care about the implications of policy, the restraints of decency, or saving democracy from despotism.  All they care about is power and the advantage it gives to the overwhelming share of his supporters:  white, heterosexual, cisgendered, native-born, jingoistic, "culturally Christian” men.  The politics of cultural resentment — this obsession with so-called white anxiety — is so intense that Trump voters are determined not only to preserve minority rule but to leave a dangerous sociopath in the Oval Office.

My greatest fear is that when it’s all said and done Republicans will conclude that just a little bit more overt racism (but less clownish buffoonery) will clinch victory next time; they will see the exit polls that called for a “strong national leader,” that ranked an active killer like COVID-19 third on their list of national priorities and climate change last and they will replace the childish and whiny Trump with someone who projects a more suave authoritarian determination.  They will pick up the banner emblazoned with Trump’s corrosive charge that democracy is rigged against them, and they will openly thwart its rules and mock its norms and institutions even more than Trump has.  Only a landslide would have repudiated the dangerous course Trump set us on.  A Biden victory, especially one as divisive and drawn-out as this one, amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist.

I hate to be a wet blanket on a morning I longed for and fought for, but that Trump’s defeat was not more decisive and dramatic demonstrates that far too many of my fellow Americans think what he thinks and would behave and say what he does if given the chance.  I believed we would come to our senses as a nation and roundly rebuke what has happened these last four years and that the true character of our great nation would finally make itself known.  I used to call myself an American with pride; but despite our proud heritage, this election reveals just how short we’ve fallen of living up to our vision of ourselves.  It’s difficult to even begin making sense of it — for so many to show up and vote for a man like Donald Trump in record numbers defies every notion of what I thought this country was about.

Can someone explain to me how a nation whose most popular sport involves watching men give each other brain damage can be so irrational?  Can someone explain to me how separating children and infants from their parents and locking them like animals in cages gives us as a country any right to claim the moral high ground?  Or claim it’s done in an effort to make us “great again?”

I used to call the Trump presidency an aberration, but after looking at this electoral map, I think I need to revise that.  It’s a revelation.

I see red.

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