Reflections in the midst of Election Week 2020

Four years ago, I wrote some loose and depressed thoughts on the election of Donald Trump.

It’s fair to say a lot has happened since then. Though not alone in this, some of what I said seems prescient upon re-reading:

The only thing more frightening than this paucity of checks and balances is the potential for retaliation if and when Trump antagonizes a person or group willing to commit violence.

At the same time, I’m faced with irrefutable evidence that I still fail to understand nearly half of the voters in this country:

My feeling is that these people will be sorely disappointed in four years, as their personal economic circumstances fail to significantly improve.

The cynicism of politicians, particularly Republican politicians, I can understand. They gerrymander, break norms, change rules, and continue to abet their leader, even while twisting themselves in pretzels to avoid publicly rebuking or condoning his worst behavior. They do this because they want to maintain power, get more power, and take care of their own. Though cowardly, unprincipled, and immoral, it’s rational.

But the people have listened these last four years as their president has lied to them about a pandemic, about immigrants, about the environment, about his taxes, about his abuses of power, about the size of his crowds. They have heard him disrespect women, incite violence, amplify racist views, and speculate about curing COVID-19 by ingesting bleach. They have watched him bungle a health and economic crisis that has left 200,000 dead. They have seen him clear peaceful protesters with tear gas for a photo op. They have read transcripts of him abusing the power of his office for personal gain. They have witnessed him undermine the electoral process.

And yet, something like 69 million Americans looked around at their sick and their dead, at the collapsed economy, at the ailing planet, at the growing economic inequality, at the violence and racism toward black and brown people, at protests across the country, at the toxic partisanship and say… yes, I want more of this.

As of writing, it looks like Joe Biden will be our next president, pending ballot counting and desperate legal maneuverings from the Trump campaign. For that, I’m thankful and relieved. But the fear, hawkishness, greed, and ignorance of so many fellow Americans means that joy is in short supply.