On November 4th, much of the nation was tentatively optimistic. Within a week, there was tempered rejoicing. As all 50 states gradually certified the election result that Joe Biden is the new President, there was a quiet sigh of relief across the country, wafting, of course, from blue enclaves. At this point, it looks as if the Electoral College slates of votes will be accepted by Congress next week, although perhaps not without a dramatic protest or two from Orange loyalists.
Biden received more votes than any other candidate in history. To put that in perspective, however, his opponent received only some six million fewer votes. In fact, the incumbent racked up 10 million more votes than he did in 2016, amounting to the second-highest vote total ever. Meaning that these very large numbers are merely the result of a record-high turnout, over 66% of those eligible. The Orange One still has the approval of nearly half the voting public.
As evidenced by the interminably lingering Orange rallies and publicly expressed convictions regarding election fraud, there are still multiple millions of people who believe that the incumbent was cheated out of a second term. I leave aside statements by political operatives in any capacity, because their “beliefs” relate solely to party affiliation. The handful who still plan to contest the election results at the counting of the Electoral College votes will be doing so only per calculations of future advantage. The citizens out in the hinterlands, though, are a different story.
There have been countless news reports showing the “man [or woman] on the street,” vociferously contending that the election was stolen. This despite even loyalist, now-former-Attorney General Barr’s declaration that no fraud or underhanded maneuvers could be found. Given the technology we have, I would say that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that somehow the vote totals could have been manipulated, and that the incumbent is not a likely prospect for the rubber room, but the odds against such skewing of results having been accomplished across half a dozen states are indeed high. So high that any assertion of cheating would have to be accompanied by massive, incontrovertible evidence, which has not materialized. The Biden naysayers are therefore reduced to fanatic, baseless accusations that have not faded in the face of election officials’ examinations and certifications. In other words, the “stolen election” faction is making claims of certitude in the absence of any foundation whatsoever.
The ramifications of this faction’s rabid devotion to their leader will not disappear when he leaves the White House. In fact, they may become more dogged and obstructionist upon his departure, out of sheer resentment at being denied the object of their worship. There’s nothing that Biden will be able to do to prove his worth to this 48% of the voters, and therein lies the conundrum. Orange fans are not moved by facts or reason; otherwise, they wouldn’t be Orange fans. Biden will have to overcome their opposition at every turn; he can’t rely on their reconciliation to the new status quo. In short, he’ll be playing whack-a-mole with the Orange One’s influence throughout his tenure.
So, too, is COVID denial pervasive throughout much of the same audience that continues to protest the election results. The two camps don’t occupy exactly the same footprint, but there’s a high degree of overlap. A friend I spoke with recently voted Orange, but doesn’t deny that Biden won in November, nor does he call the pandemic a hoax, but he does hold that COVID deaths have been exaggerated many times over. He cited an example wherein a man who died in a motorcycle accident, and who tested positive for the virus, was supposedly declared a COVID mortality. My friend insists that, after all the many thousands of similar incidents have been removed from the statistics, deaths from the virus will not be higher than for garden-variety flu strains. When I remarked that the current death toll was over 330,000, he came back with the reply that officials were quite inventive in counting any and all deaths as virus-related. Evidently, there must be a nationwide conspiracy, then, to counterfeit the pandemic numbers. That kind of idea then extrapolates to the rationale for not wearing masks, for flocking to bars and restaurants, and for having large indoor social gatherings. Non-fact-based premises result in equally fantastical conclusions, and then, worst of all, in dangerous actions. Daily reports of new cases, along with summaries of death rates, cannot shake the faith of those who refuse to accept the reality of the pandemic’s toll on the country. Nurses have reported that patients on ventilators, dying from the virus, won’t acknowledge that they have it. That’s taking denial to an unprecedented, and irrational, level.
Regardless of the factors that contribute to the formation and retention of fact-averse convictions — some blame the influences of Fox News, One America News Network, the likes of Alex Jones and others, layered onto terminally gullible personalities — a mountain of heavy lifting must be undertaken to get the country back on track. I don’t believe Biden is capable of truly exerting himself for the betterment of the 99%, nor is he inclined to do so, corporate creature that he is. Even if he were another FDR, however, he’d find himself in the fight of his life to overcome the Orange One’s legacy and continuing outlandish shenanigans. We can’t underestimate the difficulty of forcing the dominance of reason across the board in this country, as long as a significant portion of adults are not living in the rational plane.
* borrowed from the comedy routine of Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid.”