On May 6, 2018, The Sagamore published an op-ed entitled “Trump not fit for presidency.” This was the second semester of my freshman year at the high school, and it would be another two years and change until the American people would decide whether that was true or not.
And I think we might have nailed it.
At about 11:30 a.m. eastern time on Saturday, Nov. 7, Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election and the 46th President of the United States of America by CNN and NBC, quickly followed by most other major news organizations.
This was hardly a pro-Biden statement by the American people. Challengers almost never win because they themselves are too attractive a candidate to pass up, but rather because the incumbent is so repulsive that voters will generally take the antithesis. Biden is that to President Donald J. Trump. He is a steady-handed, calming presence on the global stage to Trump’s machine-gun-in-a-china-shop approach to governing, speaking and publicly existing.
Moreover, this election serves as a proof-of-concept for the future of Democratic political strategy. Biden ran up the vote largely by dominating urban centers and outperforming previous Democratic candidates among suburban voters. Counties in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, all states that Trump won four years ago, flipped blue because of high turnout in and around Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee.
Turnout also achieved record levels, already passing 150 million voters with some votes still being counted. That already makes it the highest proportional turnout since Rutherford B. Hayes was elected in 1876, quite literally the election of the century-and-a-half as far as voters are concerned. In one sense, the nation is clearly divided. Over 70 million Americans voted for the loser and millions more for the winner. But in another, people are more than ever willing to stand up and vote for what they believe in. In the long run, that has got to be a good thing.
This was also a reflection on our collective national morality. When given the choice between two men, one blind to the pain of marginalized groups and of hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost loved ones to the virus he failed to respond to, and another who promised hope and change for the harm stricken and to restore America’s place as the center of the moral universe, we chose the latter.
However, Trump did not simply exit stage left, both literally and figuratively. Right now, the Trump campaign is mounting baseless legal accusations against the results of the election, and that is the most I will mention that as not to give any more publicity to frivolous, anti-democratic fearmongering. More importantly is that Trump is not going anywhere. He commanded the second-highest vote total in American history, only eclipsed by his challenger. In the days following the election, Republican leaders’ backing of Trump’s democracy-defining emotional breakdown shows that they understand he has not just changed their party, but rather has become it. It was a moment long in the making, and Trump is simply the drum major of a movement that effectively ended the moderate Republican Party. But a drum major commands a following, and Trump’s drum and bugle corps have not shown any signs of jumping ship even after the song has ended.
There is something mythic about an election of this magnitude. The ghosts of the founders of our democratic experiment held their breath, waiting to see if the system they had designed to protect against men like Trump had finally broken. American titans like the late Senator John McCain and Congressman John Lewis anxiously looked down as our democracy neared an inflection point. One of the candidates questioned the very fabric of the democratic process, and the other quoted Irish poets.
I would be irresponsible if I did not address the shards of the glass ceiling that are lying all over the floor. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is set to be the first woman, let alone woman of color, to serve in the executive branch of government. To every little girl around the nation with dreams just as big and bigger, Harris has finally done what only took us 231 years of presidential politics to achieve. Madam VEEP is no longer a fictional character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but a reality, centuries in the making.
The process probably took a lot out of you. God knows it took a lot out of me. I went through three different years at the high school writing about this painstakingly slow and rigid process, starting with coverage and analysis of the first democratic debate back in June 2019. That certainly feels like decades ago.
That also makes this edition an occasion. It all started because democratic challengers began to declare their candidacy. It has always been about this moment, all leading up to this moment, the tenth installment. In many ways it was always destined to reek of anti-climax. But let us not go into the future of woefully under qualified analysis of American politics looking at what was, but at what could be. After all, we have a whole new four years to worry about.