Did people lie to the pollsters? Do Gallup et al not know where Trump’s legions hide out prior to elections? What’s going on?
Biden was supposed to romp it home on an 8-10% lead; as it stands Donald is less than 2% short on the popular vote. The Dems were supposed to gain ground in the House; they lost ground. Mitch was supposed to lose his iron grip on the Senate; while some races remain to be decided at the time of writing, it sure doesn’t look that way. Texas and Florida were supposed to be in play; nope. Georgia looked good to flip; not looking good. White women were supposed to abandon Donald, finally; they didn’t. Trump’s share of the minority vote increased. Nothing went the way it was supposed to, the way, heartbreakingly, that seemed all but guaranteed in even the most dispassionate assessment of the mountains of available evidence. All across the board Trump ended up either on top or within a hair’s breadth, fair and square, virtually recreating the 2016 election map, as reflected what appears to be the genuine will of the people. Trumpism lives on. Donald was not an aberration, but a symptom of something deep, wide, and lasting. Almost precisely half of the US population saw nothing wrong with the worst President and ugliest Presidency in history. Today, we confront a country so divided as to verge on being ungovernable, which at this point has to be reckoned the shitshow that America wants.
Let us suppose that Biden does squeak out a victory, and takes his seat behind the Resolute Desk in the teeth of a Republican Senate, controlled by that cackling, leathery, octogenarian son of a bitch McConnell. Where does this go? Is there anything left to hope for?
Yes, a few things. Not a whole hell of a lot, not enough, not now. But a few things:
Presumably the Republicans will be happy to see Biden restore America’s relationships with its key allies, and repair the damage to NATO and other alliances.
They might be happy to see Biden put an end to the ruinous trade war with China, free trade being a key tenet of the pre-Trump Republican orthodoxy.
It might be possible to put a stop to the worst travesties on the border with Mexico, and to take steps to restore kidnapped children to their families, to the extent they can be. They can at least be sprung from their gulags and placed with good families.
There was a great deal of mischief, particularly with respect to environmental regulations, that Trump achieved by executive order, which Biden can undo with orders of his own.
Ditto the executive orders establishing racist and xenophobic travel bans and refugee policies.
All impetus behind Donald’s ludicrous border wall should quietly dissipate – Congress will be deadlocked and unable to force the issue even if the Republicans wanted to, which by and large they never really have.
The federal bureaucracy can be brought back from its near death experience under Trump – a lot of talent could, conceivably, be lured back, and strong, sensible cabinet appointments can rejuvenate State, Defence, Health and Human Services, Justice, the national security apparatus, the lot, which is no small thing. Actually that’s a big thing.
A national strategy to fight the COVID pandemic can emerge at last, with TV Doctor Atlas sent packing and Dr. Fauci back in the driver’s seat where he belongs – again, a big thing.
Getting tougher with Putin in meaningful ways, including punishment for interfering in America’s democracy that hits him in his Swiss and Cypriot bank accounts, just where it hurts? Maybe. I don’t know. But Vlad the Impaler won’t be calling the shots any more, and that’s important.
An end to the love affair with various North Korean, Saudi, Turkish, and Central European autocrats and dictators. Good. Even if that’s largely symbolic. Symbols matter.
Rank corruption, nepotism, profiteering off the public purse, and feasting on emoluments will cease. Foreigners won’t be influencing policy by buying Biden’s properties and sending delegations to stay in his hotels.
The President won’t be a walking, talking conflict of interest, cutting himself tax breaks and manipulating policy to benefit his businesses.
Jared and Ivanka will be gone! Stephen Miller will be gone! The likes of Steve Bannon,
Nosferatu Rudy Giuliani, and career bagman Roger Stone will no longer haunt the West Wing’s corridors!!
A host of norms can begin again to be observed, among them basic civility and human decency.
The Attorney General won’t be a Presidential poodle who undermines the rule of law while acting as the Chief Executive’s personal attorney à la Roy Cohn.
The Press will no longer be the enemy of the people.
The President won’t be phoning in to Fox and Friends.
Pick whichever repellent aspect of Trump’s behavior, attitudes, speaking style or vocabulary you please – it’s over with that noise. In Biden we will have a President who speaks in complete and coherent sentences, and not, with any luck, screamed at reporters over the whine of Marine One’s turbines.
Sensible press briefings can resume, handled by a Press Secretary who isn’t a lying liar.
NO MORE GOVERNMENT BY TWEET!!!.
That bears repeating: NO MORE GOVERNMENT BY TWEET!!!
So, OK then. Not nothing. A lot of that sounds pretty good, right? However, with Mitch astride the upper chamber, here are all the absolutely vital policy initiatives that are now off the table for the duration:
Supreme Court reform. Forget about it. SCOTUS is semi-permanently stacked with ideologues, but good. Mitch may even return to form and stop Biden from filling vacancies, if any. It’s hard to even imagine the damage to be wrought in the decades-long reign of judicial terror to come.
Federal Court system reform. Same story, including thwarting the filling of vacancies.
Restoration of voting rights, election reform, and all the related measures that passed through the House way back in 2017 within the For the People Act, a truly momentous piece of legislation, sadly overlooked, which would overhaul the American democracy in myriad positive ways, tackling everything from gerrymandering to campaign finance reform – only no, it won’t. Likewise, the Voting Rights Act, eviscerated by SCOTUS, will not be mended.
Immigration reform, and a legislative reprieve that replaces DACA and finally settles the status of the Dreamers.
Restoring equity, nay sanity, to the tax code. The obscenely wealthy will continue to enjoy the Trump/McConnel multi-trillion dollar plutocrat’s bonanza that was the only legislative achievement of Donald’s four years in office.
Addressing climate change and fending off looming planetary catastrophe and a potential extinction level event. California can burn to a cinder, and Manhattan can vanish beneath the waves. Those are Blue jurisdictions anyway. Biden can perhaps return America to the Paris Climate Accord, but nothing meaningful can be done to pursue its goals.
Adequate COVID relief, maybe. Trillions more in financial aid will be necessary to stave off widespread privation. Thus far, Mitch has refused to spend that sort of money.
Long overdue statehood for Puerto Rico and D.C.
Ending the perpetual paralysis of the filibuster.
Anything to do with health care. If SCOTUS repeals Obamacare, nothing new can be passed to take its place.
Anything to do with civil rights, female reproductive autonomy, corporate malfeasance, and economic Justice.
Anything to do with gun control.
Anything to do with reinforcing shattered norms with the force of law, and flouted laws with the force of consequence, such as putting teeth into Congressional oversight and subpoena power, strengthening the independence of inspector generals, preventing the Cabinet from being populated with “acting” officials neither confirmed by the Senate, nor legally qualified for their roles, among many much-needed reforms.
Anything to do with anything else.
So we’ll limp along, taking what small victories we can, until the mid-terms in 2022 when, probably, the Dems will lose the House, which won’t actually matter much in the short run since anyway Congress can’t get any more hostile to the liberal agenda than Mitch is going to make it from the get-go. The Republicans won’t have the votes to override Presidential vetoes, and the gridlocked federal government can keep on with its usual business of doing nothing much at all.
Meanwhile, a boy can dream, but I’m not sure that the entire Trump clan will wind up in the lightless subterranean cells of the Alabama supermax where they belong, and that sucks.
Look, it’s not an unmitigated horror show. There will be the aggravation of Trumpy litigation, and God knows what stunts Donald will pull to maintain his view over the South Lawn, but let’s for now be sanguine, and assume that come January 20, the monster will be gone. The President will no longer be a chaos agent. He won’t be orange. Some measure of sanity will be restored.
And listen, this isn’t over. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Georgia could still flip. Mitch could still lose the Senate. Both remain possible – just. Maybe when the dust settles and the votes are all counted, it will be like the 2018 mid-terms, with the Dems winding up far better off than seemed likely on Election Day. It could happen.
Compared to what might have been, though, what seemed likely to be…it’s hard not to feel sorrowfully disappointed, and quite impossible to view America as back on track when Trump came to within a whisker of doing it again. Plus, however this goes, finally, the next two months could still get a little, well, sporty. Even in the best scenario we were going to be faced with this queasy uncertainty: what will Donald do in the months he has left? Lame duck he may be, but this hobbled waterfowl still wields the power of the Presidency, and still has the launch codes.