Reflections on the election this week
This has been a deeply stressful and mentally draining week in the icanthascheezburger household. For us, an election like this is consequential. Being queer we had the great fortune of witnessing a vast expansion of our recognition of equal rights, but these are precarious and are already getting whittled away. In a sense, these elections are a referendum about how the country feels about us existing.
While I woke up to hearing that AP finally called a Biden victory, that was indeed a great relief, but I still don’t feel genuine joy over it. Joe Biden was able to mobilize a record number of votes for him, true, and we overcame blatant attempts at voter suppression, and yet Trump also made massive gains in voters this year. Voters have seen the direct result of Trump’s unique blend of incompetence, corruption, and a team of deeply evil people, and many decided “yep, I’d like four more years of that.”
Let me be clear here. This is a president who is a pathological liar (and that list only goes up to June 2019). He made fun of Obama for frequently golfing, but plays more golf in office than any other president, and he does it at the taxpayers’ expense. His campaign had a cozy relationship with foreign governments looking to interfere with the election, and he was impeached over it, but his party (the party that was deeply concerned with President Clinton merely lying about a sexual encounter with a woman in the ’90s and impeached him over it). With Mitch McConnell’s help he has filled the courts with extremist and inexperienced judges, aided by McConnell blocking Obama from hundreds of judge appointments and leaving vacancies.
And perhaps our biggest moral failing as a country (in recent history, at least): Trump signed off on a plan masterminded by Stephen Miller to separate immigrant families at the border (families who, by the way, are often legally entering the country to seek asylum), as a means of deterring them from coming here. There are hundreds of children right now that are to this day separated from their parents.
And if you forgive all of those things, Trump completely dropped the ball when it came to COVID. When he privately knew it was serious, he dismissed it in public as a hoax. Instead of taking a lead, he left it up to the states. He consistently took action way too late on everything and continuously kept making the wrong calls. He even caught COVID himself, and now as the US is leading the world in COVID cases and deaths (by far), he wants to let the virus run rampant so that we can build “herd immunity”.
Even if, for some reason, you forgive all of that, Trump, with help from the Republican party that did nothing to stop him, decided to launch a full-scale attack on the voting process itself this summer. He loves hinting that if he loses the loss is not legitimate, but his win would be legitimate (hell, he was saying that back in 2016 and that should have stopped us from electing him in the first place). But he ramped up his attacks even more. Seeing that voting by mail would grow, his appointee to run USPS (a man with no experience with USPS, but who is, in fact, someone who owns stock in other shipping companies so he’s incentivized for USPS to lose) engaged in a blatant campaign to sabotage USPS during a pandemic, deliberately slowing down mail service and destroying essential sorting equipment. Trump spent the weeks leading up to Election Day saying he was going to use the courts to try to stop the counting on votes on Election night with the assumption he’d be ahead on Election night but once everything got counted, it’d be a Biden win.
This should have been a landslide. And now that votes are counted it’s clear this is a decisive popular and electoral vote victory, it shouldn’t have even been close.
But it was very close in important states for the electoral college victory, and that’s the America that people have to wake up to every morning. Queer and Latino people in Iowa wake up each morning surrounded by people who vote for people who don’t acknowledge their right to exist. The guy with the American flag decal on the back of his pickup truck with MAGA bumper stickers is driving around proudly, saying he’s for America but apparently not particularly interested in fundamental American values like, say, democracy.
Polling data this year was again skewed far more heavily toward Democrats than the actual electoral data showed. In 2016 we can chalk this up to a statistical anomaly or some modeling issues, but when it happens two elections in a row, we have to start asking tough questions to the people we rely on for polling data.
Democrats will be controlling the White House and the House, but it looks like a long shot that the Senate will have Democratic control (runoffs in GA will determine this). Having seen Mitch McConnell’s history of blatant obstructionism and cynical opportunism, there is no reason to think he won’t take every advantage of this possible, possibly preventing Biden from being able to enact any of his legislative agenda (or possibly get his appointees filled).
And of course, we are left with a Supreme Court that is heavily conservative now. Neil Gorsuch should not have Scalia’s old seat, but in 2016 McConnell refused to hold a vote to confirm Merrick Garland, citing that it was an election year. This year, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in an election year, McConnell invented some bullshit excuse as to why it was essential to hold a vote to confirm a replacement even though he said the opposite four years ago, and now the court is heavily skewed with extremely conservative justices. And I don’t entirely blame Trump for that; there are three other conservative justices on that court that other presidents elected, but without a majority in Congress we have no chance to restore balance. Republicans have been exploiting the letter of the law to maintain a lot of power in government despite not having had the support of the majority in the US since 2004. That’s a serious problem and it’s very difficult to fix.
And finally, although I’m relieved to not have to constantly worry about what stupid thing Trump will do or say next, and while I’m sure Biden will do a fine job as president, I am deeply skeptical of him and the Democratic party establishment.
It was progressives and the mobilization efforts of people of color that won Biden this election, and Biden has spent the last several days emphasizing what a good president he is going to be to the Republicans and how we need to be united. But this isn’t rooted in reality. Republicans aggressively united around Trump; the handful of news articles you read about Republicans who chose Biden are a statistical footnote; 93% of Republicans picked Trump in 2020. Meanwhile, I’m worried that communities that did the legwork to get Biden elected are going to be cast to the side now that he’s in office, and the policies and reforms they demand will get little more than lip service as Democrats keep focusing on centrist politics.
So yeah, as I wake up this morning, I will say it’s a victory. Incumbent presidents tend to get re-elected, and we overcame that. Trump got more votes than in 2016 and we overcame that too. The electoral college gives Republicans an advantage and we overcame that too. Trump made petty attempts to destroy valuable services like USPS and abused the courts this week with baseless legal claims to try to stop counts in places where he was ahead, and to keep counting in places where he was losing, and we overcame that.
But I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Trump is not the problem. It’s easy to put everything on him because he’s so crass, but alone, he’s just one random (maybe) rich asshole. He was as destructive as he was because he had a team of people that helped him. He has the backing of an entire political party, not just the elites, but its voters as well. And Trump will be gone from the White House soon, and he’ll be dead probably in a few years here, but all those people that enabled him and were enthusiastic toward him will still be around.