One recent evening our dog Zooey walked out of the house and disappeared. I was tormented all night by the thought she was gone forever. I awoke in the early morning from a brief, unrestful sleep to a new reality, one that didn't have Zooey snuggled up at the foot of our bed, making us laugh with her antics, or accompanying us on walks and road trips. I fell hard into despair.
Election night was a lot like that. Too anxious to sleep, I was grabbing my phone to check the results every few minutes, watching more and more states turn red, researching when each state counted its absentee ballots, and trying to reassure myself that election night results wouldn't be final. Unable to look at the presidential results the next day, I fixated on the senate race in Michigan, seeing the vote gap for John James (R) and Gary Peters (D) shrink and widen, but always with James in the lead. Then, like the call from Stray Hearts telling us that they had Zooey, Peters was suddenly in the lead. If a Democrat was leading the Senate race then surely Biden must be … I finally let myself look at the presidential results. Despair to elation in 10 seconds. Michigan as well as Wisconsin and Arizona had shifted from red to blue.
The results have been better than I feared but nowhere near what I'd hoped for. Days later, only by the narrowest of margins is Biden ahead in some states. Trump should have lost by a landslide on Nov. 3. The election should have been a rejection of everything he and his supporters stand for. That there is a huge swath of red on the map makes me angry and deeply sad.
One of the stories we Americans have told ourselves is that our country is the paragon for the democratic aspirations of all the world's peoples. Many of us can no longer swallow that self-deception without gagging. The parliamentary governments of Europe are more democratic than ours. There's no one-person-one-vote in the winner-take-all stakes of the Electoral College. A candidate needs only to win by a hair's breadth to get all a state's electoral votes. The votes for other candidates are rendered meaningless.
Rather than guiding the world to a better, more just tomorrow, we as a nation are regressing. In the cult of personality that surrounds Trump, in his seeing the nation as an extension of himself, and the presidency as a vehicle for self-enrichment, he has more in common with narcissistic strongman like Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe, and Nursultan Nazarbayev than he does with any previous United States president. And we've become one of those countries we've chastised for their authoritarian or corrupt governments.
Trump's popularity has exposed, yet again, the uncomfortably chummy relationship America has with fascist ideology. HUAC and it precursors were tasked with investigating organizations suspected of harboring communist or fascist sympathies but only once were fascists the target. In the 1930s and '40s, Hollywood, now vilified as a bubbling cauldron of liberalism, fought against, at times violently, the unionization of studio workers and without hesitation blacklisted suspected communists.
Eugenics was a popular scientific field in the U.S. until WWII. There was even an American Breeders' Association, and it wasn't about dogs. According to Isabel Wilkerson, in her highly recommended book "Caste," the Nazi Party studied our criteria for race determination and found them too stringent. They also wondered how the US.. maintained its "sterling reputation" abroad despite its rigid racial laws and hierarchy. Our country opposed apartheid in South Africa not realizing, or conveniently forgetting, that the country had used our Jim Crow laws and Indian reservations as templates for their racial policies and Bantustans. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s outlawed racist practices but they did nothing to address the racism that lives in people's hearts. Rather they buried it, like Hercules buried the immortal head of the Hydra, where it festered until someone like Trump released it.
Despite Trump's belief that US elections are decided on the night, the results for some took weeks, one even four months. Voting ends on Election Day but vote counting doesn't end until every single one is counted. It's been surreal watching the president and his minions desperately and pathetically charge without offering a wisp of evidence that the election was rigged when historically fraudulent elections have been to the benefit of the party in power. Trump would rather see this country dissolve into violence and chaos than admit defeat. I wondered how he, who started warning of fraud before voting even began, would dig himself out of that claim if he won. And seriously, if the election was rigged, wouldn't the Democrats have ensured control of the Senate too?
Republican politicians and Trump allies who are rebuking him for the allegations have restored my faith in this country a tiny bit, but we have a long way to go to become a country we can be proud of.