It’s been a rough four days. The past four years haven’t been a picnic either. Hopefully you are aware, but Joe Biden is the President elect, and is on track to become the 46th President of the United States, making the entire world breathe a sigh of relief. Relief is the key emotion here; relief that we made it, that Donald Trump is no longer president, that we all managed to survive his presidency. While it’s far from over, right now we can take a beat. It just feels like a Donald Trump-sized weight has been lifted from your chest. Feels pretty great, doesn’t it?
It’s one of those ‘where were you?’ moments. Where were you when you found out that Joe Biden won the presidency? Because unless you stay up, most of these big election victories happen while you’re asleep. Not only that, but this was a historic election in its own right. Historic in the fact that it took four days for a winner to be announced, in that Donald Trump is the first incumbent president to lose the presidency in the 21st century, the first president to refuse to concede, Joe Biden won a record number of votes and Kamala Harris is the first woman and black woman to become Vice President.
Now, Joe Biden is probably not many people’s first choice, so most of the celebration you’ll see is out of relief that Trump lost rather than happiness of Biden winning. Relief that Donald Trump is no longer calling the shots and that the nightmare is most likely over. That once again there is someone decent, who will respect everyone’s rights and will be a unifying force, rather than the divisive one that Trump was. A Biden presidency won’t magically fix all the systematic problems in American society that Trump’s presidency highlighted and exacerbated, but it’s a step in the right direction. Instead of problems like racism, blatant disregard for the law and democratic institutions, and homophobia getting worse, hopefully they will get better. Again, not magically, but because there will be a person in the White House who cares about fixing these problems, not enabling them.
Now I’m going to talk about some serious stuff. If you’re not ready, that’s ok. It’s been a long four days. You can either come back later or just focus on the fact that there will be a Democrat in the White House. After four tumultuous and exhausting years, we deserve that.
What about the Turtle?
Throughout the counting and during the election, Trump has tried to undermine people’s faith in the electoral system. I would argue he managed to do that simply by being elected. Trump’s election four years ago showed the flaws in America’s democratic system, especially so in the Electoral College, considering he didn’t win the popular vote. Biden’s win proves how powerful people can be when they put their mind to it.
As of writing this article, Trump hasn’t conceded. Sources have said that he’s holed up in a bunker in Virginia where he has been golfing, which probably explains the Twitter silence. But that silence is deafening, because surely he must be angry. And an angry, blustering Trump is a lot better than an eerily silent one, because at least we know what the first Trump is doing. For a man whose motto is probably ‘the ends justify the means’, and who has a penchant for breaking the law, this is worrying. Because Donald Trump doesn’t like to lose, and he just lost. Very publicly.
He has hinted that he is going to try and drag this on as long as possible, which means that he doesn’t plan on conceding, even though right now it’s a formality at best. He has a number of avenues, including legal challenges or asking for recounts. The Lincoln Project even reported that he might seek for ways to influence Electors to change their vote in December, even though he doesn’t have the power to do so. Trump’s options are limited and anything he does is most likely for show, but every action increases the odds of something sticking. Biden’s win doesn’t necessarily depend on Pennsylvania and so the Supreme Court won’t be making a decision on the subject as it did in 2000 with Bush v. Gore. And even if it did, Biden still wins due to the votes he got from other states. However, dragging this out and making baseless accusations and false claims – whilst typical and fitting of Trump – does nothing to alleviate the anxiety that has built up over the course of this week. All it does it further divide the country and undermine the electoral process. But he’s doing it for his supporters; he’s stirring them into a frenzy and turning them into his own private militia.
Trump has created his very own cult of personality amongst his supporters which could influence some of them to take violent action in his defence. Whilst this is unlikely, due to COVID restrictions and mass unemployment, people are at their breaking point. We all saw what happened during the summer with the BLM protests and counter protests that led to some violent clashes. The last time the country was this divided over an election was back in 1860 when Lincoln was elected, which led to secession and the Civil War. This is a very precarious situation, and Trump isn’t making it any better. He’s making sure that if he goes down, America goes down with him.
Trump can still make it very difficult for Biden. Even if he accepts the results, Trump is still president. That means that until Biden is sworn in, Trump will continue to decide policy and lead America’s response to the coronavirus. He can make things difficult for Biden’s transition team, not giving them access so that they can prepare for the next administration. Since he’s a lame duck president, there’s an expectation that he can’t do anything. But that also means that he doesn’t have anything more to lose. Things can still get a lot worse before they get better, and we have to be prepared to that. Trump can also run in four years, and unlike most presidents, he is not going to leave a grace period before he starts tweeting. Even though he lost, Trump will still be around. Trumpism isn’t going to go away with him, and so we are going to have to figure out a way to either deal with it or live with it. Unfortunately, Biden’s presidency isn’t a magic wand that you can wave, and everything will go away.
Spreading the Faith
We can celebrate Biden winning, but we shouldn’t get complacent. Biden isn’t going to be a perfect president; he will make mistakes and do things that we don’t necessarily agree with. And when that happens we can’t let him off the hook just because he’s a Democrat. We still have to hold him accountable for his actions. We have to continue to demand change in the various systems and institutions that led to Donald Trump in the first place, like the Electoral College, systematic racism, homophobia and a tendency to choose religion over science. Because not only do we have to fix everything that was broken, but we have to move forward and improve. We cannot stop fighting for change just because there is a Democrat in office. We have to continue to demand it until everyone, not only has a voice, but their rights as human beings are respected.
Biden is the president that we need right now. One that cares and understands our democratic institutions, American history, and people; one who has experience and will not turn to petty name-calling when things don’t go his way. He may not be a great spokesman, but then again actions speak louder than words, and hopefully his actions will make a difference for good. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
Whilst this seems like empty words, remember: Joe Biden was elected because people said enough. And they voted. And that speaks volumes, louder than any Tweet could. We the People have power. Time to use it.
[Katerina Partolina Schwartz – she/her – @katpschwartz]
[Photo credit: Andrew Neel]