For many the 2020 elections were supposed to be a referendum on Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 virus. Instead they turned out to be a referendum on how much Americans care about the lives of their neighbors and children, racial justice, science, and democracy. That such significant numbers of people voted for white supremacists, QAnon wingnuts, and xenophobes also showed that Trump correctly grasped how little Americans worry about criminality, fascism, and corruption in their electeds.
An editorial in last night’s Tageszeitung hit the nail on the head when it pointed out that not only do Americans not care, “they know exactly what they’re doing.” Trump voters knew full well last night that they were burning down the house with everyone in it. And that there would be no survivors.
But this is who we are. Trump didn’t burn down the house. White America did.
Democratic pollsters told us that America needed a steady voice from the “middle.” It turned out their prescriptions were no better than their polling. Pinning all their hopes on Biden’s character and promising a reset to the halcyon days of 2008 backfired on Democrats. in the end Biden’s only strategy was running on Trump’s COVID failures. It wasn’t enough.
After the death of 3,000 people in 911, Americans were ready to invade the world, gut their own Constitutional protections, seal the border, and then bring their foreign wars back to America’s police forces. But now, with a quarter of a million deaths directly attributable to Trump’s denials and sabotage, there is barely a peep of outrage from his supporters. The Coronavirus is just the flu and, anyway, Trump’s not responsible, China was. They freely argue that America hit an iceberg and we’re just going to have to throw women and children overboard and crowd as many billionaires into the lifeboats as we can to save the economy.
Another takeaway from this election is that it was less a referendum on Trump’s corruption and impunity — which Americans obviously admire — than on the Democratic Party’s inability to offer something different. The DNC’s idea of “new” was a 78 year-old with hair plugs and dentures. A piece of meatloaf from the ice box with just a hint of freezer burn. After learning nothing in 2016, Democrats decided to return to 2008. But here we are in 2020. If Democrats don’t clean House (and Senate) soon, 2024 will be a third act in the ongoing tragedy of the Democratic Party’s slow-motion demise.
It may be hours or days until we know who won the election. I don’t share the view that both candidates were equally terrible. Trump is a fascist. If he wins, or the presidency is handed to him by the Supreme Court (for the 3rd time in my life), it will be the final nail in the coffin of our ersatz democracy. If Biden manages to prevail, Lady Democracy will still be on life support, her funeral delayed but relatives able to book flights to visit her while she moves in and out of consciousness. Biden was the only option to preserve some of the machinery of democratic governance. Just at the moment it finally dawned on many white Americans that they’ve never really lived in real democracy.
But the greatest lesson of this election for me was that White America may not vote its interests but it certainly votes for people who look like themselves. Time after time the white voter looks into the mirror and refuses to see the aging, racist sociopathic bully on the other side of the glass — yet each time he invariably looks like Donald Trump.