The defeat of Donald Trump by Joe Biden is an absolute, seamless good. Not because of Joe Biden or the Democrats or anything other than this: When there is a tumor, you cut it out first and worry about the healing later.
Though he intends to be a presence in our lives until we die or he does, the Trump tumor has been excised from elected office. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, bad about this. The opportunity for healing is a privilege afforded only by his absence. More people than ever in history voted in favor of that privilege, and now, it is at hand.
Also this: The election of 2020 took place amid a ravening pandemic that is spiking all around us, and with a rogue president so determined to disrupt that election that he ordered his supporters to harass and intimidate polling sites while he himself actively tried to destroy the United States Postal Service. The rogue president failed, the USPS carried on like the quiet heroes they are, and one of the most remarkable friction-free elections in living memory came to pass.
Though the Democrats fell surprisingly short of their goals in the House and Senate, 74 million people braved the plague and the disruptions to tell Mr. Trump: This far, no farther. Trump has yet to concede, and probably never will, and it doesn’t matter a damn.
The next several weeks will likely be dominated by news stories of Trump’s fruitless, hopeless legal challenges as he tantrums himself and the Republican Party down to powder. More importantly, though, he holds executive power until noon of Inauguration Day, and his danger remains an ever-present force until then, which we should not disregard. That danger will most certainly surface in many ways–including in the choices he makes as president in his remaining months, which will brutally impact countless lives. We must not forget that.
Still, there are many reasons for hope, in this moment. New heroes have emerged, none more vivid than Stacey Abrams and the legions of selfless organizers who came together to challenge rampant voter suppression in Georgia. Brian Kemp stole the Georgia governor’s race from Abrams in 2018 by using his powers as then-secretary of state to blow some 300,000 votes out the window. Abrams swallowed hard, and then formed Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project, and two years later, Georgia flipped blue thanks to the activists who rallied to her banner.
Both Senate seats in Georgia are going to a runoff that will be determined in January. If the Democrats win both of those seats, they will capture majority control of the Senate and send Mitch McConnell to the small side of the room. It is a long shot, but Abrams, Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project are all in. It’s early, but I wouldn’t bet against them. The fact that the possibility of massive progressive change hinges on Georgia and the labors of women like Abrams is blast-furnace history all by itself.
And: For the first time in 28 years, the voters broke the mold and swatted a sitting president out of office. Donald Trump has always seen himself as a man of history. Well, he’s accomplished that, at least. I can’t wait to do the tour of his library: Here’s the room where you can watch him be impeached, here’s the room where you can see if you fit in a cage, and here’s the room where you can catch COVID-19, but please don’t go in that room. Sorry for the short tour, it was only one term.
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When a regular person masturbates in public, they get scooped up and taken away by the authorities. Donald Trump spent four years flagrantly masturbating in front of everybody — vigorous strokes of the ego, the grudges, the petty vengeances, the bragging about invisible poll numbers and fictional victories, oh me oh my oh me me me meeeeee… and the “authorities” in the Republican Party, along with an astonishingly large segment of the population, stood back and went, “Yay, Mr. President, you’re the best, more please!”
Now he’s done, or will be soon, and you know what? I’m numb.
How peak goddamn 2020 is that, right? I should have been running and dancing in the streets with the throngs who boiled out into the freshening air to scream their grieving relief to the sky. I should have called and written messages to friends and family celebrating this towering moment, because for the very first time in a very long time, this jagged death-riddled doomstruck timeline finally got it right.
I watched CNN call the race for Joe Biden, caught it in real time. I basically hadn’t left the house since Tuesday because I wanted to see that announcement, I deserved to see it, I earned at least that much… and it wouldn’t come, for days it wouldn’t come, for very good reasons it wouldn’t come, and then there it was. After it came, at 11:38 a.m. Eastern time by my watch, I crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head, wept a storm into my pillows, and slept. Finally, finally slept.
Four years earlier almost to the day, I watched Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president on my 45th birthday. I knew all too well what he represented, and I sat down to write that very night about what I saw coming:
The children of immigrants all across the United States woke this morning in a country soon to be led by an unapologetic xenophobe threatening mass deportation, and American Muslims woke to an era of intensified Islamophobia that may take paths we haven’t yet conceived of…. And we can only imagine how the ongoing war on Black men, women and children will continue to worsen under this authoritarian leader, all in the name of that cold steel fist called “Law and Order.”
Mr. Trump molded his entire campaign around hate, vengeance and violence. In doing so, he unleashed a monstrous tide. The people who pummeled protesters and elderly women wearing oxygen tanks, who screamed “Lock her up” while wearing shirts that read “Grab her by the pussy” at rallies, and who menaced people of color who were trying to vote — they are his true master now.
I am no prophet. He said he would do all these things during that campaign, and I believed him completely. That’s when I stopped sleeping.
Between COVID’s conquering of the country and the economy, Trump’s barefaced embrace of racism and armed white nationalism, the shattering of international relations, the utter disdain for glaring climate science, the children in cages orphaned by ICE, Trump’s grueling minute-to-minute need to be the top headline every single day, even if those headlines blare a warning about his authoritarian intentions to undermine the constitution, all this and so much more have made this nation a house on fire from the inside out.
This all needs to be said out loud, over and over again, because some 70 million people saw the same four years I did and decided to give the man another term. Those voters didn’t take a flier on the new guy like they did in ’16. They rode the same four years of bad road I did, looked at the alternative represented by Joe Biden, and said, “Nah, I’ll have seconds, please.” If I live long enough to see the stars burn out, I still will never fully understand it.
That’s why I feel numb today. I am also utterly spent. Donald Trump did not defeat me, but Lord, it was close. Covering this White House has been like having an earthquake scream in your ear for four years. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if he’d won, and if he runs again in 2024 as threatened, I am going to give serious consideration to living in a tree and learning to speak squirrel until he goes away again.
Trump has every intention of being in our faces forever, and as he is the Living God Emperor of the Republican Party, in the Oval or otherwise, he has 70 million pockets to pick with a new media enterprise or whatever the next grift will be.
That is, unless the laws he has so brazenly broken over the years catch up with him. Trump is a creature of reality TV, and the very real potential for a “Trump: Trial of the Century” spectacle in New York State someday for fraud and tax evasion would surely keep him in our collective consciousness, but for far more palatable reasons. A.G. Letitia James and D.A. Cyrus Vance, your tables are almost ready.
There is so much to be done to repair the damage from these last four years. I’m ready for it, more than ready, but I’m going to sit here and breathe a bit until I stop feeling weird about such a good day. It was a good day, historic, but the miles we have to go before we sleep are daunting, and there is no shame in recharging your batteries.
Comedian Chris Rock said it best on his Instagram account: “Oddly I don’t feel like celebrating. I feel like Tom Hanks towards the end of Cast Away. I’m really happy the ship came but I don’t want to party. I just want to take a shower cut my hair eat a shrimp find Helen Hunt deliver my last package and figure out the rest of my life.”
Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize pretty much for not being George W. Bush. If the metric holds, Joe Biden should win two Nobel Prizes and an Oscar for not being Donald Trump. He also needs some solid work gloves, a Carhartt jacket and boots, and one hell of a big shovel. The man has an astonishing job before him, and millions of people will be working to make sure he fails.
That’s what we have to look forward to, friends and neighbors. That’s why I’m not celebrating just yet, though God knows I want to. The absolute good is accomplished, and the rest is up to us. All we’ve done is won the chance, and maybe saved democracy in the U.S. along the way. I comfort myself with this truth: It’s supposed to be hard.
Rest. Restore. Return. Everything he took from us, we are going to try to take back.