The elephant in the room
The elephant in the room
Trump still refuses to accept the outcome of the election. But the people have spoken and the numbers and the press confirm what they have said: Joe Biden won.
Biden and Harris will move into the White House in January. We can almost hear the global sigh of relief. Only by the skin of our teeth have we been rid of Donald Trump, by far leer más
Biden and Harris will move into the White House in January. We can almost hear the global sigh of relief. Only by the skin of our teeth have we been rid of Donald Trump, by far the worst US President ever.
But the facts are brutal: even as Trump loses, there is little cause for relief. Everything he represents is still present. I can understand the coal or oil business interests who supported him—in the short term, they had much to gain from his reelection, even at the cost of creating an environmental hell for their own children. I get the Republican politicians: they’ve spent decades gerrymandering districts and fiddling with electoral rules in the South and benefiting from the anachronistic Electoral College to win even when they lose. But, beyond them, almost one in every two voters still considered Trump a good choice despite four years of patent misrule.
It wasn’t enough for them that Trump abused his position cutting deals for personal benefit or that he surrounded himself with people who were corrupt to the point of indictment. Nor that he resisted sharing his tax returns because he has in fact practically not paid any. Or that, being up to his neck in debt, he probably hoped to cover these by taking advantage of his job. Neither was his collusion with Putin to hack the country’s political system reason enough to reject him. These voters weren’t put off by Trump’s virulent racism, his contempt for Latino immigrant families, his insults for soldiers who died in battle or his brutal objectification of women. It was not enough that Trump insulted their intelligence by belittling the science that helped him heal when, out of sheer recklessness, he himself caught covid-19 or that he reviled the best scientists in his own government. It was not enough for him to resign from the World Health Organization right in the middle of the worst health crisis in a century, as he also had done from the Paris Agreement just as the climate crisis became most obvious. And it wasn’t enough for them that Trump's incompetence has so far led to between 130,000 and 210,000 unnecessary deaths during the pandemic. They still voted for him.
Trump may become a thing of the past. Hopefully, in the future we’ll only hear about lawsuits brought against him. But Trump’s voters will be with us for a long time. Apparently, lacking the critical resources to interpret political and economic information with implications going even an inch beyond their immediate perception or interests, they have in their choice shown to be reckless and self-destructive. And, now disappointed, they will be ready to vote in just two years for the midterm elections, let alone after that.
And, of course, Trump's enablers will also persist. Not just the business interests, ironically the most honest of the lot, but also the Republican leaders who willingly turned their party into a personality cult, the faint-hearted leaders who preferred party discipline (and, of course, holding onto their districts) rather than calling out such an irresponsible course of action, and the sectarian press, strident as ever after decades stoking resentment in face of the growing complexity of a diverse, global and unequal society.
These four years have proven, yet again, that breaking something is always easier than building it. And that, once broken, it cannot be unbroken. Cracks will show even after repair. Biden asks to “put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us” now with the campaign over. But bringing together the US, at this point practically containing two nations, will be neither easy nor quick. No part of what it requires will bear fruit in the short term, whether it be deescalating the toxic language in the media and social networks, reforming the electoral system, increasing economic equality, addressing racism or carrying out effective and extensive innovation in environmental and energy technologies, just to mention some of the more obvious issues.
And none of this addresses the elephant in the room (pun obviously intended). Only a handful of Republican leaders have broken ranks with Trump to congratulate Biden. Rebuilding society will require the Democratic president-elect to make associates of those who insist in seeing him as an enemy rather than an opponent. Or to neutralize them utterly. There is no roadmap for this. Wisdom and strength to Joe Biden and to Kamala Harris, his partner in leadership! They will need these as never before.
* Read it also in Spanish.