As much as I am happy that the Biden-Harris ticket have evidently garnered enough electoral votes to put the presidential race into a semblance of closure, I find myself neither relieved nor joyous when reflecting on this 2020 election. Some of my thoughts are better written by professional writers – see Michael Stern’s article in USA Today – but I will attempt to capsulize what he and others have said better than I can.
The USA is supposed to be about freedom, equality, opportunity, and democracy (a system of government by the whole population, typically through elected representatives). If you were to ask just about anyone on the street, regardless of political stance, if they agreed with that sentence; they would probably affirm it. But there is a cognitive dissonance when I count that over 47% of the US populace voted in favor of Trump in this election. Quoting Michael Stern:
My best friend just called in disgust to say he did not recognize this country. Unfortunately, I do. It’s the same country that built itself largely on the backs of slaves who had their most basic human rights stolen and whose descendants, more than 150 years after emancipation, still carry the weight of the chains that held them down. It’s the same country that closed its eyes to Matthew Shepard, beaten and broken and tied to a fence in rural Wyoming, where he was left to die … because he was gay. And it’s the same country where you can see countless cellphone videos of people telling Latino Americans to speak English or “stay in Mexico” or “go back” to where they came from.
November 3 was supposed to be “judgment day” when, after four years of Donald Trump, Americans would deliver a clear verdict against President Trump, who had assaulted their democratic institutions and social values of decency and morality. One has to ask, how was it that Trump was even allowed to be the candidate of a party that once stood for conservativism? How could he be so popular after his utter mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic (over 230,000 people DEAD), an economic crisis in the making, and double-digit unemployment? How was he a credible option after countless scandals and investigations into his 1) abuse of power (Ukraine), 2) tax avoidance (YOU paid more than Trump did over the past ten years), and 3) personal assaults both verbal and physical against myriads of people?
In short, why did more than 68 million Americans cast their vote for Trump?
Let’s face it, this country has a hypocrisy crisis. People will claim they believe in the principles upon which this country was founded and then find an excuse to explain why they voted for someone who would molest their daughter given the chance, who would be suspicious of anyone who did not look Caucasian, who would destroy the “Give me your tired, your poor” United States to keep the misogynistic, racist, country club USA of the 1950s.
Trump openly, intently, and intensely appeased white Americans like no other president in recent memory. Even before running for president he defended white nationalism – provoking anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic sentiments. He demonized movements such as Black Lives Matter (established to defend Black victims of police abuse), accusing its leaders of treason, sedition and insurrection. But Trump ignored white violence and at times even inspired and defended the actions of white nationalist militias and armed thugs.
This election made it clear that, for a substantial minority of the US populace, the president’s agenda is more important than him cheating on his taxes or abusing his office. Trump’s success in implementing this backward-looking agenda justifies his populist, hyper-nationalist, anti-democratic and racist stances. It is more important than 230,000 Americans dying because of his mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis.
Joe Biden inherits an economic mess, just like Obama did, just like Clinton did. He also inherits a worldwide health crisis. But the larger mess is that he inherits a country in which over 47% of its citizens refuse to accept the principles upon which this country was founded. I fear for this country.