Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Man Who Would Be Emperor

It has been a week since the presidential election was called for Joe Biden, after Pennsylvania pushed him over the 270 requirement to 279 electoral college votes. Arizona and Georgia have since been called for Biden, bringing his electoral vote count to 306 — coincidentally, the same number Donald Trump won in his 2016 bid for the presidency.

Yet, a week after Joe Biden was declared the president elect and 10 days after the election, President Trump has not conceded nor has he congratulated the president elect.

The president’s Twitter feed is a stream of false claims the election is being stolen from him:


Yesterday afternoon, the president gave a briefing at the White House, lauding his administration’s efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic. At one point he implied his administration would end, the only hint he’s given:

Ideally, we won’t go to a lockdown. I will not go — this administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully, the — the — whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell. But I can tell you, this administration will not go to a lockdown.

He took no questions, retreating back into the White House after delivering his prepared remarks.

Beyond my incredulity and anger, I wonder about the personality and mental health of a man whose sense of self won’t admit loss or failure, a man who promotes a blatantly false reality.

Is this a calculated strategy to keep the more than 70 million who voted for him in his orbit, to hold onto his power over roughly half the country and the Republican party?

I find it as maddening that most of the Republicans in Congress are kowtowing to the president’s falsehoods, choosing fealty to the president and party ideology over loyalty to the Constitution and the norms of our democracy.

The functioning of a democracy requires good will, trust, and norms of civic behavior. While we’ve suffered an erosion of those values since well before Donald Trump was elected, he has amplified them by his intentional disrespect for virtually all of our civic norms.

Except for the grace of God, reflected in the votes of the American people and honest election officials, Donald Trump would be emperor.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

The 2020 Presidential Election

Vice President Joe Biden, 2013

Four days after the 2020 election, with votes still being counted in multiple states, Pennsylvania pushed former Vice President Biden above the 270 electoral votes needed to become president-elect. The major news organizations — even Fox News — quickly reported that Biden won the election.

The news, via text from my daughter, immediately brought relief after the uncertainty of the past four days, then tears as I felt the significance of this outcome following four nightmarish years, where the president’s policies and actions have been so discordant with my values.

President Trump has not conceded the election, his campaign still challenging the vote counting in various courts. The last time the president spoke publicly, he argued his win was slowly being stolen. I don’t expect a gracious concession speech and am concerned about steps he may take between now and the inauguration to further his policies and protect himself, his family, and inner circle from future legal action.

As I write this, the Washington Post website shows Biden received 74,493,496 votes, President Trump 70,342,725, 50.5 percent to 47.7 percent. The expected “blue wave” did not happen. The Democrats did not flip the Senate, although the upcoming Senate runoff in Georgia offers an opportunity. They lost seats in the House. The country is clearly divided. Although he amplified the divide, Donald Trump did not cause it. He gave a voice to nearly half the country who feel unheard, discounted, disrespected. Let us not forget the pain those Americans feel, mirroring my own feelings the past four years.

Had Joe Biden not become the Democratic nominee, had it been a more progressive candidate such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, I suspect President Trump would likely have coasted to a second term. I hope this registers with those who have been pushing for the country to adopt very progressive policies. We do, indeed, need more access to health care; lower cost educational options post high school; action to address climate change; recognition of dominant white, male power and steps to broaden access to power; police reform; and on and on. However, building consensus in a divided government will require the Republicans to be open, the Democrats to be humble.

That Joe Biden will become the 46th president — who emerged from a primary with some 24 candidates and built his campaign around uniting the country and being a president for all Americans — leads me to ponder whether there is a providence governing the course of human events. Of all those candidates, he has the temperament to unite the country and the governing experience to build bridges across the disparate political ideologies.

Largely overshadowed by the presidential protagonists since she was selected, except for the debate with Mike Pence, Kamala Harris makes history with several demographic firsts — first woman, first woman of color — and is likely positioned to repeat those firsts as future president.

I hope, perhaps naively, that the focus of our leaders will now shift from this divisive election to collectively address the many problems before us: the coronavirus, recession, inequality, extreme weather, international instability, and on and on. Who, in God’s name, would want this responsibility?

(Nevada has now been called for Joe Biden, bringing him to 279 electoral votes.)