Post-Election Reality Check

Alan Zendell, November 8, 2020

Americans who hate Donald Trump’s presidency had a day of euphoria on Saturday. People who never fully recovered from the shock of his victory four years ago danced in the sun and waved signs. Most wore masks, and there was a noticeable lack of hugging compared to pre-pandemic days, but the joy was palpable. My wife and I felt it as did most of my friends and family. After four years of depression and anxiety, the dragon had been slain and life in America was normal again.

This morning, though we still savored the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we returned to a more restrained reality. The election results yielded conclusions that didn’t have to be explained by pundits. A nation often embarrassed by low voter turnout in the past set records this time. Biden received more votes than any president in history, but Trump received more votes than any losing candidate ever did.

A majority rejected Donald Trump’s divisiveness and hateful rhetoric, but it wasn’t the majority predicted by the polls. Biden won by three percent, a clear victory, but not close to a landslide. To put it in terms easier to grasp, if you fill a room with 200 randomly selected voters, the Biden people will outnumber the Trump voters by 103-97. That’s a cold-water-in-your-face reality check. We remain a terribly divided country.

When the news channels finally stopped obsessing over the election long enough to take a breath, we faced another reality check. The COVID pandemic is spreading unchecked at the highest rate since it began. In the four days following the election the United States reported a half million new COVID cases and averaged over a thousand COVID-related deaths per day. The exponential rise in hospitalizations supports the CDC forecast that deaths will exceed 2,000 per day just in time for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. Trump was defeated, but his deadly legacy lives on.

Our allies all expressed relief that Joe Biden’s America will re-affirm its support for NATO, and every human on the planet who breathes is happy that we will rejoin the Climate Accords. But their joy is tempered by the realization that Biden’s margin of victory is no guarantee that we won’t flip back again four years from now. Europeans know the divisions in the United States make us an unreliable partner.

Joe and Kamala have a daunting task ahead, but no more so than the one that Biden and Obama faced on their first inauguration day. Lest we forget, the world’s economy was on the brink of collapse, financial markets had crashed as a result of the banking crisis, and millions of American jobs were threatened. Obama and Biden were up to that challenge. They saved the American automobile industry and set us back on a course of steady economic growth that extended into Trump’s term.

Remember how frightening that was? Our jobs, savings, 401-Ks, and the stability of the country were in jeopardy, yet today we barely even remember it, though it was only twelve years ago. That gives me hope. If Biden and Obama could bring us back from the edge, Biden and Harris can, too. The sooner they get started, the sooner Americans will stop dying of COVID. The sooner they get started, the sooner the rest of the world will see America behave responsibly again.

That cannot happen until our current president does what his predecessors did. Al Gore could have fought the 2000 election in court until January, but he chose stability in the country over pride and ambition. Richard Nixon, for all his faults, did the same thing in 1960, in an election that many historians believe he should have won.

Trump can either accept the reality of his defeat or continue to salve his ego and do what he has unfailingly done in the past. He can accept the inevitable – only Trump and Rudy Guiliani seriously believe there is any basis for claiming the election was stolen – or he can continue to enflame and divide us. He can ask his supporters to stand down as Gore and Nixon did, or he can continue to challenge the mental health of nation by staging an excruciating struggle that will accomplish nothing except further harming our country and the way the rest of the world views us. Remember when that mattered?

Most Republican leaders are taking their cues from Mitch McConnell who has chosen to remain silent on who won the election, thereby enabling further Trump mayhem. Cooler heads have suggested that McConnell understands what’s at stake, and he’s just giving Trump time to have his tantrum. The media reported that Trump’s son-in-law, senior advisor Jared Kushner is attempting to convince him to concede, yet Trump tweets about legal battles and purging those who he perceives as disloyal, and Lindsey Graham cheers him on.

Trump still has the power to hold the nation hostage. He will only submit when his Republican supporters finally step up.

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