…at least for the foreseeable future. Stick a fork in the good ol’ USA, ’cause we’re done.
Some reasonable, informed people have commented that the 2020 election has already been a loser no matter the outcome (W.J. Astore, for example, provides his reasoning here), because both candidates are abysmal on multiple levels. I couldn’t agree more; the GOP contender is an abomination, and the Dem candidate falls far short of adequate.
Despite the poor quality of the two people running for the White House, however, huge numbers of citizens voted, whether by mail or in person. In fact, record numbers of mail-in ballots were received. It appears that people were determined to make their choices known, pandemic notwithstanding.
Therefore on one hand, it makes a weird kind of sense that the Presidential race is close, given two unpalatable choices. A closer look reveals differing dynamics, however. Biden was a lackluster nominee, a center-right corporatist who failed to inspire much passion. He was the “protest” choice: voters went for him because the alternative was unthinkable. Conversely, the incumbent is so unspeakably horrible that one would assume that anyone with a conscience who doesn’t live in a cave and has minimal reasoning ability would run the other way. Why, then, are the results so close? In each of the battleground states, where counting is still underway as of this writing, only a few thousand votes separate the candidates.
Clearly, this country is not what I thought it was. Many articles in the last four years have spoken about the roughly 30% to 40% of people who support the incumbent, his staunch base. However, the results so far would indicate that one of two conditions existed on Election Day. Either a large percentage of people who lean to the Dem side didn’t bother to vote, or the incumbent’s base is much bigger than pundits have imagined, on the order of almost 50%.
For practical purposes, it really doesn’t matter which of the above conditions is the reality; we’re in dire straits either way. If a sizeable number of would-be Dems are apathetic enough not to bother to vote* in such a crucial contest, then support for pushing forward with, say, Medicare for all or serious environmental remediation measures, will be too ephemeral to make a difference. That’s a depressing situation, certainly discouraging to the progressives who have worked hard to promote those issues.
The alternative is blood-chillingly frightening. If the faction of U.S. citizens supporting the incumbent tops out at nearly 50%, there is no discernible way forward. Not only have the voters who selected him in 2016 not had any epiphanies to speak of, more people have been converted to his views. Such an occurrence beggars imagination. It’s inconceivable to me that, not only would so many people vote against their essential interests, they’d also vote for the violence and hatred that the incumbent represents. The sheer contempt for disabled people, war veterans, women, minorities, even pandemic victims. How, in the name of all that’s holy, can anyone justify a vote for this creature? Even if one can dismiss the ugliness and divisiveness he epitomizes, there’s still the Affordable Care Act, for instance. It’s the only safety net for tens of millions of citizens. Surely, not everyone who voted for him has employer-provided health insurance or is independently wealthy. Surely, not everyone who voted for him did so because of his stand on abortion. Surely, not everyone who voted for him is a climate change denier. Surely, not everyone who voted for him thinks 234,000 pandemic deaths to date, with cases on the increase, is no big deal. Surely, not everyone who voted for him condones a plot to kidnap a governor and take over a state capital. Surely, not everyone who voted for him lives under a rock.
I don’t know what the answer is. I can’t comprehend the twisted reasoning it requires to check the box for a facsimile human who is demonstrably mentally unstable, treasonous, and felonious, convicted on all counts by his own words and actions. What I do know is that the bare fact of this knife-edge election means that this country is in a black pit, a dark place with no candles at hand.
*I’m not counting the Dem or independent voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Biden. They are small in number and are to be honored for having the courage of their convictions. In no way are they spoilers.