Joe Biden eyes arduous path after historic election
Never before has a hard-won victory had such a bitter edge.
My heart goes out to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. What a mess of a country he is expected to lead!
During these last few days of nail-biting suspense as Biden reached the electoral vote target, President Donald Trump, to nobody's surprise, did what he has done all his life whenever he is backed into a corner. He filed a flurry of frivolous lawsuits. He issued a ludicrous, legally untenable call to stop counting votes. He made an appalling claim of electoral fraud without a shred of evidence. It felt uncannily like post-election Bangladesh, and that is not a compliment.
Earlier, pollsters expected a blue wave that would sweep Democrats into the US Senate and add a few House seats. Well, the American people had a rude surprise in store for all of us. The Senate appears out of reach, and Democrats have lost seats in the House.
This is a terrifying turn of events.
After all is said and done, the most important takeaway from this election for me is the shame it has brought upon the US.
Yes, I'm looking at you, Trump voters. All 70 million of you.
This is not about partisan disagreement. It's about facts, common sense, judgement and decency. Let's take a quick look at the man you just voted for.
Trump has mismanaged one of the most serious public health crises of the US in a century. He has falsely dismissed the severity of the virus. He has pooh-poohed public health measures, making the US the only nation in the world where wearing a mask is politically controversial.
The consequences have been devastating. With just four percent of the world's population, the US has one-fourth of global Covid-19 deaths.
You, Trump voters, enabled it. The Associated Press reports: "US voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support."
Here's the thing, Trump voters. It simply boggles my mind to think that all 70 million of you took a good look at what this guy has done and told yourselves: "Wow! Let's give this guy another four years."
The damage you have inflicted on America is grievous. At its best, the democratic process appeals to our better instincts. However, there is a darker side to democracy. It can also appeal to our baser instincts.
Your support, Trump voters, is shocking confirmation that in America, you can coddle bigots, screw up a massive public health crisis, lie, cheat, be divisive and still come within a whisker of winning the presidency.
There's no way to sugarcoat this.
Trump's loss will make him even more dangerous. He is now a wounded beast, dangerous and ferocious. Now that he has almost pulled off another implausible victory, he will continue to rule the roost in his party.
And what of his party? Trump has led to a precarious hollowing out of the Republican Party. It is now devoid of policy and has become a cult. It's like the inmates have taken over the asylum.
But Trump did not begin this rot. It goes back a long, long way. For many decades, Republican leaders like former President Richard Nixon and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich promoted racially tinged, bomb-throwing politics powered by incendiary hatred. Now the chickens have come home to roost. Under Trump, the party has completed its transition to a party of white grievance. Its short-term benefits are indubitable, but this is a Faustian bargain. Just look at California. A state Republican Party that once gave us Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon is today completely sidelined in the state because of its shrill anti-immigrant bias in the past.
Democrats, meanwhile, should draw inspiration from the positive developments and gird their loins for the tough battles ahead. Democrats last won Arizona in 1996 and Georgia in 1992. They won both states this time around.
Georgia! In the belly of the deep South, once a Confederate pro-slavery state, it used to be solidly Republican in past presidential campaigns.
Take a bow, Stacey Abrams. This African American Democratic gubernatorial candidate narrowly lost to Gov Brian Kemp in 2018 in a dubious election. She refused to take her eye off the broader prize. She has been indefatigable in enrolling voters, putting Georgia in the Democratic column.
Democrats owe the White House to the sagacity of African Americans. To the party's enormous credit, it gave them the final say in choosing its nominee.
Many loved the populist policies of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. I did, too. African Americans knew better. Their bitter experience made them sceptical. They knew all too well the broader public's limited tolerance of progressive policies and its susceptibility to cries of "socialism."
African Americans essentially brought Joe Biden back from oblivion. It was a masterstroke. The Trump campaign tried in vain to paint Biden as a left-wing extremist.
We mustn't also forget the racist bias of the electoral college. Even with a massive margin of four million votes, Biden had to fight pitched battles in battleground states where white non-college voters had a lopsidedly big say.
Finally, it was African Americans who provided the final push for Biden by showing up to vote in massive numbers in Detroit and Milwaukee and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. These cities are in the traditional Democratic states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which had flipped in 2016 to Trump. Biden won all three states by extremely slim margins.
Take a bow, African Americans. In poignant scenes repeated all over the country, you showed up and waited for eight, ten, twelve hours to vote.
Thanks to you, come January, we will have President Joe Biden instead of President Donald Trump.
Ashfaque Swapan is a contributing editor for Siliconeer, a digital daily for South Asians in the United States.