Despite people getting sick and dying in alarming numbers from the coronavirus, and even as many individuals and families trembled on the brink of financial catastrophe and racial tensions reached the boiling point, voters turned out in record numbers. Many took advantage of early voting and/or mailed in their ballots, while others lined up for hours on Election Day despite the pandemic. An historic number of voters were determined to make their voices heard.
And in the heat of a profound crisis, we the people always seem to elect the right man for the job. We seem to get it right when the chips are down. Think Abraham Lincoln and his election in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War. Think FDR in the midst of the Great Depression in 1932. Think Joe Biden and our current turmoil.
Character and temperament always matter when electing a president. And they are absolutely essential right now. The two presidential candidates could not be more different: one sows discord, the other strives to unite; one thrives on chaos, the other seeks to restore a sense of normalcy; one has a flagrant disregard for institutions vital to our democracy, the other has devoted his life to the public interest. Biden is not a perfect candidate, nor will he become a perfect president. No one is. But we have elected the right man for the right job in the right moment. And that’s a good thing for the endangered health of our nation.
Amidst the jubilation is a profound sense of relief. Many of us have felt an overwhelming sense of exhaustion that accompanied the endless rants of someone who was ill suited to be our leader. We grew accustomed to and even desensitized to the constant political whirlwind provoked by some incendiary comment tweeted overnight. The president seemed determined to turn the nation’s political life into a reality TV series where he was its star, director and producer.
Thankfully that will end soon. But not quite yet. The current president will not go gently into that good night. He will rage, rage against the dying of the light. There will be litigation and continued outrageous commentary that he “won” the election, if only the “legal” votes are counted, and that his victory was stolen. Of course, this is a dangerous fiction. Dangerous because it erodes confidence and trust in the vital center of our democracy. Dangerous because it will evoke suspicion, resentment and even hatred towards the next president and sow further discord in our badly divided nation.
The current president’s comments post-election have been irresponsible and disgraceful. His Thursday, November 5th press briefing was simply astonishing. Everyone should listen to it. Every sentence he uttered contained a falsehood. It was pure propaganda. Our fierce adversary, Vladimir Putin, could not have written a better disinformation script for the president to read. Listening to his words, one could imagine that perhaps he really was the Manchurian president.
At some point, he will concede the election. It will not happen soon. Perhaps after a recount of votes in states like Georgia and Wisconsin. Perhaps when Republican congressional leaders sit down to inform him the jig is up. But when the president does concede, he will not make a gracious speech. There will be no talk about supporting the president elect and rallying together as a nation. Not after he accused the other side of committing widespread voter fraud to steal an election that he won. The president is determined to go out a political martyr. And let’s be clear: his cause will be trumpeted by the denizens of talk radio and the alt-right during the entire Biden administration and for the foreseeable future, perhaps forever. The president will identify himself as the victim of the greatest political witch hunt in our nation’s history, stemming from the Obama administration spying on his 2016 campaign, to the so-called “Russia investigation” right through to the alleged electoral fraud.
What does the president want? What is his endgame? What he seeks to accomplish is this: to keep his name in the public eye so he can refurbish and monetize his personal brand. This has been his primary objective throughout the course of his public life. This president has no core political beliefs. He is neither Republican nor conservative. His beliefs are merely expedient. He endorses anything that enhances his celebrity status, anything that engenders greater personal and brand visibility. Losing this election will not prevent him from achieving his goal. Portraying himself as an aggrieved victim will be a potent and lucrative story line, allowing him to transform a political defeat into a great personal asset to his brand.
But it will be a great relief not to see and hear this president on a daily basis. The nightmare of his administration will soon be over. Thank goodness for that. Now the difficult task of addressing the perfect storm of issues confronting our nation and world looms large. Let us hope the Biden presidency will secure the support and assistance from those on the other side in Congress, especially the Senate, to enact the people’s urgent business. We can only pray that partisan interests will be put aside in favor of the national interest. If anyone can achieve that, Biden can. But we should not delude ourselves, it will be a very difficult and uphill battle.
Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano