Sunday, 8 November 2020

"We did it Joe"

 It is finally done. After days of following the counting of the votes in the remaining states on the map, Biden's lead in Pennsylvania and Nevada finally pushed his campaign over the edge, and Joe Biden was declared the President elect by major news corporations. Regardless of whether Trump will concede, in January 2020, his first and only term as US President will end. He may attempt to fight this result in court, but it appears as if the vote is decisive enough not be challenged, and for this decision not to be taken all the way up to the Supreme Court which is now 6:3 comprised of conservatives (and three justices who assisted Bush's legal team in the 2000 Florida recount that handed George W. Bush the presidency - a momentous historical decision from which an entire alternate universe could have emerged). The best indicator that Trump's escalating public declarations of election fraud will go nowhere is the fact that the Republican party establishment began distancing itself from him as soon as the needle in the Midwest turned the other way, as Biden won Wisconsin and Michigan, as pollsters began to predict that the remaining counties in Pennsylvania were likely to give him a win there as well. More than that - Georgia has not been declared yet by either candidate but it looks as if Joe Biden may win a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992, a potential win that many credit to Stacey Abrams, who almost won the Georgia governorship in 2018 and worked tirelessly to register voters in the state without much help from the Democratic party. 

The United States that Joe Biden will govern from January 2020 will look dire. Over the last few days, the country has recorded an unprecedented number of COVID-19 infections, and with a President focusing entirely on disputing his loss, it does not look as if anything will be done in the next few months to halt the spread. The alternate fantasy that radical right-wing news organisations and online sites along with online cult QAnon have created for millions of Americans over the last few years has created a country in which armed radicals feel that the election has been stolen from them. It feels odd to approach this "divide" with an idea of reconciliation in mind. As heartening as it is for a President to once again speak about being a President of all the people (and for political speeches to return to a level of normality that has slipped over the four years of Trump's presidency), not just those who voted for him, it is difficult to conceive of a way in which this fantasy can be pulled back into the realm of reality when not even FOX news is purist enough for them (especially since FOX was one of the first news organisations that called Arizona for Joe Biden, much to Trump's dismay). 

Within the Democratic party, there is a divide as well, one that has been building over the last four years. Progressive Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are pushing for more progressive politics, especially with regards to the climate catastrophe and reparative justice. All four of them were re-elected, and new progressive candidates across the country won as well (as an example of inspiring political oratory, here's Cori Bush's speech after her victory in Missouri), but establishment Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insist that they are costing the Democrats votes in other segments of society. It will be interesting to see this conflict play out along with Biden's attempt to reunite a deeply divided country. It looks as if both parties have to consider their positions and how they regard the future - whether to address the growing demand for racial justice and a decisive action on climate change for the Democrats and whether to continue to enable racism and the undermining of democratic institutions for the Republicans. 

Even disregarding all those challenges, Joe Biden may face a hostile Senate, depending on how the run-off elections in Georgia go, and beyond that, a Supreme Court that, after the rushed nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, will be skewed Republican for decades to come unless Democrats pack the court. He will have to rebuild institutions and agencies that have been undermined for four years. Perhaps in reaction the electoral victories of progressive democrats, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has outlined what a Democratic presidency will look like, and maybe there is hope that the next four years will not just be a return to a normality that only works for those privileged enough to call it that. 

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