A week ago, I looked forward to gloating. I expected a landslide, a thorough repudiation of a guy who, I feel sure, historians will regard as our Worst President Ever.
Didn’t happen. I was furious. About 240 million Americans were eligible to vote. About 70 million of them, or 30 percent, voted to reelect a despicable human being.
That’s 70 million adults sticking with a leader who, judging from past performance, would do little or nothing about coronavirus, gun violence, climate change, health insurance, voter suppression or any of the hatreds that are pulling our country apart.
The only sense I could make of continuing support for a person who only pretends to care about the nation’s problems was to remind myself that even at the best of times, we humans are less rational than we give ourselves credit for. At the worst of times, our irrationality borders on the suicidal. Bring on the fires, the floods and the pestilence! Let’s dance ourselves right off the cliff!
Or am I not trying hard enough to understand my fellow Americans?
Fine. I heard an interview with a shopkeeper who was more worried about higher taxes and tighter coronavirus restrictions than she was about COVID-19. I can’t blame her for thinking the threat to her livelihood is more imminent than the threat to her life. I just think she’s wrong to put her faith in Trump.
Then there was the rich older voter who supported Trump because she feared the estate tax would go up under Joe Biden.
I have no patience for this kind of narrow self-interest – anywhere on the political spectrum. Yes, we all look out for No. 1, first and foremost. But if we act only out of self-interest and ignore the commonweal, we wind up hurting ourselves (or our heirs) in the long run. To take one example, think of all the ways poverty affects our quality of life, even when we ourselves are not poor.
So there I am last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: dismayed that it’s even close, and chewing my fingernails that we may get four more years of the W.P.E.
Then came glorious Saturday and the news that we Pennsylvanians had put Biden over the top. If gloating is elation tainted by nastiness, I was too overjoyed to be nasty.
I say this as one who was never a big Biden fan and this year thought he was long past his sell-by date. In a saner world, Biden would have been elected president in 2008 with the young Barack Obama as his running mate. Biden would have been closer to his prime; Obama would have gained much-needed experience.
Then, after Biden’s two terms, Obama would have been a seasoned and worthy successor in 2016 and seeking his second term this year. Sigh.
For me, as for millions of other voters, this election was more about firing Trump than hiring Biden. You probably saw those bumper stickers that said, “Any Sentient Being.” I was totally on board with that sentiment. So, I think, were most progressives, which is why, after sitting out 2016, so many of them got off the sidelines in 2020.
The word that seems to come up more than any other with regard to Joe Biden is decency. At any other time, that might sound like damning with faint praise. After four years of Trump, it’s manna from heaven.
Kamala Harris, meanwhile, grows more impressive by the day. These people will do just fine by us. Or try to. (If only Mitch and Lindsey had been taken down!)
But part of the pleasure of these last few freakishly gorgeous November days was having Trump recede from our consciousness. One could feel the world moving on from him already. Congratulations poured in from world leaders. Discussion of potential Cabinet picks heated up. Biden announced his coronavirus task force.
And Donald Trump became the thing he hates most: an afterthought.
Not waking up to his latest cruel, callous, or imbecilic Tweet, not having his name sully every conversation will be like hosting a community yard sale in our brains. Suddenly, we’ll feel lightened, cleansed, better able to breathe.
The Times noted that Joe Biden “had not sent a single tweet by Sunday evening.” It’s like we’ve been listening to a jackhammer for four years that has suddenly gone quiet.
In 2008, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote movingly about how he, a Black man, felt on Election Night when he saw the Obamas take the stage as the nation’s First Family. Recalling how Ronald Reagan’s supporters felt when he told them it was “morning in America,” Robinson ended his column by saying, “The new sunshine feels warm on my face.”
That’s how I felt on Sunday morning. And Monday morning. And Tuesday morning.
Am I gloating? Maybe a little. Mostly, I’m basking.