Relief

Today is Sunday November 8th. Kia ora katoa.

“Unto thee we give thanks, O God”, Ps 75.

Well, what a week it has been. The US presidential election was held last Wednesday (our time), but Tuesday November 3rd in the US. I listened to endless podcasts. The polls were uniformly good for Joe Biden and the Democrats; they received huge money in donations, appearing to out-raise Republicans. Several states were thought to be competitive: Florida, Texas, North Carolina; Michigan and Wisconsin were predicted to go Democrat again; the Dems were poised to take control of the Senate: it was thought that some senators were so toxic – Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, Ted Cruz, Linsey Graham and others – that they would be easily defeated by their democratic opponents. Obama campaigned for Biden, and what a joy it was to hear him speak again. There were photos of Biden’s socially responsible rallies, as opposed to Trump’s reckless rallies where few masks were seen, and lie after lie was told.

Some were fearful, seeing Trump out stoking fear of socialism (tell me, how is the US military funded? If that’s not socialistic, I don’t know what is), and demonising the Democrats, who would come for your guns, destroy God, destroy your “great” country. How can it be great when so many people are in poverty, and don’t have access to medical treatment, or even running water in some cases? Where there is deep, ingrained racialism; where there is far more concern for the unborn than for the living; I could go on and on.

Others were advising Democrats to relax and enjoy it, seeing they were going to romp to victory.  There were fears that Trump would not leave the White House, if/when defeated; there were big fears of violence, on the part of disappointed Democratic supporters, and vigilante-style Trump supporters, who were certain that Trump would win.  The huge lines of people waiting to do early voting were very inspiring. Although Trump tried to (and succeeded in) interfering with the US Postal Service, many people seemed to try very hard to cast a valid vote, and have it received and counted, although there were different rules in each state. There were many websites advising people what they should do.  It’s said there was a record turnout, but I have not been able to find out what percentage of eligible voters participated.

I had signed up with the UK’s Guardian to get alerts on my phone every time a result came through (i.e. a state was called for one of the contestants). The results started to come through on Wednesday. Trump took Texas and Florida early on, and few Senate seats were flipped; democrats lost some seats in the House of Representatives (Congress), although they maintained their majority. But it was evident that that supposed “blue wave” was a mirage, although Trump was evidently incensed when Fox News called Arizona for Biden.  I watched some news sites on Youtube, but the disappointment was only too real. I stuck with my Guardian reporting, which paralleled one of the two big US papers, I think the New York Times.  For days, they gave Biden 264 electoral college votes, as against Trump’s 214 (the target being 270).

For (what seemed) a long time – several days – we were in limbo, or purgatory, depending on which metaphor you prefer. In several swing states there was a fine margin between the two candidates: Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and North Colorado, as mail-in votes were counted. It became apparent that Biden was in the lead, and that his lead was increasing, although none of these states was called for what seemed like a long time.

Many of us were in a state of despair. I listened to people from the Lincoln Project talking about a car going very fast, and then braking suddenly; of feeling sick. For myself, I didn’t want to watch my favourite programmes or listen to my favourite podcasts; I couldn’t be distracted by any of my usually effective diversions. I felt totally discombobulated by this frustrating and unexpected result.  Biden’s success seemed so near, and yet so far. Mitch had not been ditched, or Trump dumped (yet). The major new networks were, rightly, wary of calling any results too soon.  Somehow news anchors kept their strength up, despite frustration, lack of sleep, and not knowing when announcements would be made.

I felt flummoxed, obsessed; I don’t live in the US, but Trump’s presidency has affected the whole world. Another four years of him as US President is unthinkable, but then it was unthinkable in 2016, too. Who would have thought he would withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord? Almost withdraw from NATO? Be so unkind, nasty, and generally useless at his job? Some of my and my friends’ loved ones live in the US.

Meanwhile, Trump made some really scary speeches, from the East Wing in the White House, and at a Press Conference he held there. It became apparent though, that people wanted every vote to be counted; and that this situation is totally unlike the Bush v. Gore one in the 2,000 election. Lawsuits are coming – raised by Giuliani, of all people, supported by Corey Lewandowsky. And where is Bill Barr, by the way? If Biden is president, he will be able to appoint the Attorney General.   With the predicted run-off election of the two Senate seats in Georgia, the Democrats have a chance to regain control of the Senate.

This morning the presidency was announced for Joe Biden. I woke early andgot an alert on my phone – the Guardian had  Biden at 276 electoral college votes, while Trump was still at 214. Apparently the news stations joined in announcing Joe Biden as President-elect. He won Nevada; the other results I could not find, although there is to be a recount in Georgia.

So, after all that, there is great joy in the US and in my house. Biden has been announced as elected president!

Some of the reactions so far have been as follows:

  • Acknowledgement of Stacy Abrams’ role in getting out the vote in Georgia, despite being pipped at the post for Governor of the state.
  • The gathering of people in Black Lives Matter Plaza outside the White House.
  • Chris Wallace smiling as he announced the result.
  • Van Jones’s tears of relief and joy on CNN.
  • Cars honking, people dancing.
  • Trump went to play golf. On his return, his motorcade was jeered, respectfully.
  • News screens showed people rejoicing across America.
  • Trump’s lawsuits are not thought to have much merit, or be likely to change the result; one wanted to “stop counting”, another to “Keep counting”. It was evident what the purpose was in either case.
  • Trump’s makeup and hair look just awful.

Although it is shocking that there was so much support for Trump, it’s evident that Biden not only won the popular vote, but the majority of electoral college votes, too. Many of us still fear some dark derring-do on the part of – who, exactly? Trump has his enablers, but they seem to be peeling off.  The greatest reaction is one of relief, and joy. Relief is a very strong emotion. There will certainly be many challenges ahead for the Biden-Harris team, but at least they will be in charge. As AOC, said, if you protest, they won’t shoot you; they probably won’t even tear-gas you, either.

Now we can get back to worrying about real issues, like managing the coronavirus epidemic, so that many fewer people get ill and die; making changes to the way we live to preserve the planet, if possible; to rebuild some infrastructure; replacing water pipes; improving the air quality; the list goes on and on. One hopes there won’t be any grave threats soon, but at least, one hopes, many things will be “back to normal”.  The very real threat posed by climate change will be recognised. Posts will be staffed. There will be less corruption and scandal. One hopes the government and the police will be “kinder”, that there will be less overt racism, and less anger. No one is so naïve as to imagine that the problems will be solved overnight, but there will be hope again, and the hope of some justice. Perhaps even Preet Bharara will be employed again, as a US Attorney. There are certainly many intelligent and capable qualified people around to be given senior roles.

There have been so many disappointments, over the past four years: the efforts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act; the abandoning of resolutions that helped to ensure a cleaner environment and cleaner air. After all, we all breathe the same air, no matter how much money you have. Also upsetting has been Trump’s embrace and emboldening of cruel dictators, his insulting of US allies, and his intense cruelty to immigrants and refugees.  Perhaps his worst and most upsetting defect has been his complete inability to manage the coronavirus, in any sense. Over the past few days the US has continued to have record-breaking numbers of new infections. Over 238,000 people have died from it, and he says “It is what it is”. When he contracted it, there was blessed relief for a couple of days, but he bounced back, wilder than ever, having received a “cocktail” of drugs for it – drugs and treatment that are out of reach for most Americans. He fails to show any empathy for those who have lost loved ones, or even for sick friends, like Chris Christie.

That’s it for now. We hope for better things in future. Ngā mihi.

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