Curtain Raiser

A Battle Won, More to Come, Colltalers 

It’s been a big ‘Aaaahhhhhh,’ an extended, cathartic, long-overdue sigh of relief. Joe Biden has thoroughly beaten Donald Trump, celebrations erupted across timezones, and America has finally caught its breath. Even the world’s sleeping better too. A swell party but this nightmare is not quite over yet.
For Covid-19 is on the offensive again and several countries are now back into lockdown. 10.2 million Americans got the virus, and worldwide over 1.2 million have already missed the new day. The election is done but the presidency ends only on Jan. 20, so a lot may happen between now and then.
Expect a backlash from the president, and Republicans still pretending to like him. Calls for recounting, lawsuits, desperate appeals to put out the fire. But unlike what many feared, there’s really no close-enough race to justify a recounting and no serious questioning of the system’s integrity. Not that this will keep them from trying. In the end, it’ll be the American people who will guarantee the legality of the process. And they have already decided.
Except for Trump of course. The president who has already turned the U.S. into a Banana Republic now threatens to muck up what makes America functional: the peaceful transition of power. It’s been abundantly clear that he’s not equipped to understand what’s just happened so few have seen him. Or his execrable family. Or VP Mike Pence. Or the network of peddlers and sycophants who used him to advance their careers. There’s no one there.
Some say that he’s lost because he failed to rouse his crowds up a notch one last time. But how can you say that of someone who’s just got 70 million votes? No, it’s just another lame-duck president learning the hard way why adulation never lasts. The White House is now the loneliest place on earth.
Again, they’re down but not quite out yet. The next 73 days will be critical. If shunned by the same courts the GOP worked so hard to rig so to serve him in this time of need, Trump may start executive-ordering pardons to himself, family, and friends, and wrecking havoc on extremist legislation, be it against the environment, civil rights, or foreign policy. It’d be just like a surly teenager breaking stuff up out of spite just for being grounded for good.
It’ll also take weeks to become clear what has changed in America with the election, what new laws were approved, and who are the new faces brought to DC by the sheer power of representation. If black women carried the victory to Biden and Kamala Harris, the first female, Black, and Asian taking the Oath of Office, then Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s former minority leader, deserves all accolades for her ground grassroots work turning the state blue.
We’ll learn the names of all others who, like her, spent years organizing, creating strategies of resistance, and getting ready to assure that every vote would count, unlike what happened to herself. The Democratic Party was in fact a relatively minor, people-less factor to contribute to its own victory.
We know that six native Americans got elected to Congress Tuesday, now also enhanced with its first two openly gay Black New Yorkers. It’s legal now to smoke marijuana in New Jersey and legally purchase any drug in Oregon, both measures to potentially free thousands of inmates nationwide.
Illinois couldn’t pass legislation to better tax high incomers and California, despite its perceived liberal bias, won’t let recreational pot to become legal. Worse: car-service giants Uber and Lyft successfully kept their free ride through labor rights, by classifying employees as ‘independent contractors,’ a euphemism that spares them from paying benefits and job guarantees to their drivers. Florida did it better by increasing to $15 its minimum wage.
One would be tempted to say that this election did affect everyone on the planet, mostly for the better. But not to weapon manufacturers and defense contractors, according to nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Its latest report shows that both candidates received money from the industry.
Still, the president-elect has correctly picked the most urgent issue to be tackled down: the coronavirus. It’ll be important too to create new institutions to deal with issues of race, labor legislation, climate change, and immigration, besides other timely needs such as rebuilding infrastructure and taking steps to transition the U.S. into a green economy. Biden will need to be pushed to act upon these issues, so Americans have their work cut out for them.
For that to work, however, he also needs a vital piece of the puzzle to swing in the right direction: the Senate majority. The decisive votes will come from two Georgia runoff races on Jan. 5: respectively, the GOP’s David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler versus Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
There were fireworks in London and church bells in Paris, street parties in Berlin and well wishes from Amsterdam. But there’s been utter silence in Moscow and no congratulations from Ankara. The world remains divided and Americans have just got a shot at rewinding to a less terrible time but still one no one should be longing to go back to. The U.S. got a humbling lesson on how easy it is to kill democracy and fall into an authoritarian regime.
To even those who didn’t need any proof, the elections exposed the reality of a growing white supremacist movement, of law enforcement institutions tainted by an unjust system, and too many millions facing hunger and inhumane living conditions. An America where people get elected by swearing by the Qanon conspiracy canon cannot be the America we need to rebuild anew. Besides, Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham still got reelected.
It’ll take more than what we’ve done so far and let’s not talk about turnout. Historic, yes and yet, still below half of the U.S. population. Once sworn in, the president won’t be the most direct route to change; the people will. If we get satisfied now, thinking that this was some kind of championship win, our team is already losing the next battle. The world thanks to the brave Americans who still dream of an alternative. From now on, we’re it. Well done. WC


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