On CNN when Joe Biden breached the required number of Electoral College votes to clinch the US presidency, grown men cried. Political commentator Van Jones strained to speak through his tears: that it was now “easier to be a dad”—a black parent—and “to hold it together,” and that it’s “a big deal for us just to be able to get some peace.” News anchor Don Lemon navigated “overwhelming” emotion to convey what “marginalized” Americans wanted to “get … off their chests”: ”It was like a Third World country, people who have been oppressed,” he said. “Finally the relief came. That no longer did we have to live under this suppression…”
The eruption of joy in major US cities at the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election mirrored the relief at a new day dawning, no matter that at this writing President Trump continues to refuse to concede loss. It’s no exaggeration to say, as in fact the president-elect and other officials contend, that the world’s eyes are on America and its election, looking to that great bulwark of democracy to show the rest of the planet how it’s done. Which is why Trump’s repeated claim of the election being stolen, with no evidence offered, has shocked even members of his party. The spectacle seemed like a page from a Third World country’s playbook — for example, a dictator’s son defeated at the polls and demanding a recount and, the recount having turned up additional votes for the duly elected, still shouting he was robbed.
That Americans voted in numbers unseen since the last century showed how important their country’s leadership, Democratic or Republican, has become to them. They didn’t use to care that much, generally relying on the efficiency of the US government and its systems to move their way of life forward. Trump’s governance changed that; it galvanized them to take part in the election process, to make their choice known whether in person (queuing in the millions) or by mail (which the Republican Party tried to limit, and which Trump threatened to render worthless by portraying the US postal service as criminally inefficient.)
Now the world is anxiously watching how America’s new day will pan out. Biden may have received the biggest number of votes among all US presidential candidates in history, but despite the multimillion-gap between his and Trump’s numbers, the incumbent was hardly a slouch. The expected massive repudiation of the populist, science-rejecting, climate-change-denying, and exclusionist president did not materialize, indicating the resonance of his words and deeds among mostly white rural and working-class voters and even minorities who embrace his right-wing stance and “America First” battle cry. Biden has his work cut out for him: so many things to dismantle and set right.
There’s Trump’s mendacity vis-à-vis the COVID-19 pandemic, including the large-scale sidelining of government scientists such as the renowned infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Trump was heard saying at a campaign rally that if he were reelected, he would fire Fauci. In October, a coronavirus subcommittee in the US House of Representatives issued a report documenting as many as 47 instances in which scientists were sidelined and their recommendations altered. “Hand in hand with the silencing of [government] scientists is a pattern of political appointees overriding advice from those scientists,” said the international journal Nature.)
There’s Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Accord, which was intended to strengthen the global response to the very real threat of climate change and which is aimed at fighting global warming that has produced the most destructive storms known to humanity.
There’s the systemic racism that Trump boosted and nurtured. His portrayal of immigrants as criminals, rapists, and drug couriers from “sh#thole countries.” His policy of separating young children, even babies, from their parents at migrant centers. His benign attitude toward police brutality directed at blacks, Muslims, and people of color. His coddling of white supremacists. And his misogyny, which he once famously displayed by declaring that a man like himself could get away with murder: “Grab ’em by the p#ssy,” he said of women. “You can do anything.” (Incensed Republican stalwart Mitt Romney, now a senator and among the very few in the GOP careful not to give oxygen to the White House’s claims of vote fraud, assailed Trump then for “condoning assault” and “hitting on married women.”)
It appears that the road won’t be smooth, with CNN reporting that moves are afoot to deny Biden his election victory. Potus played golf all weekend as the pandemic spread across America and raged past the 10-million mark. But the president-elect has formed a coronavirus advisory board, promising what the epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed termed “leadership that starts with science and ends with policy.”
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