Like so many other men and women who had been at war physically and emotionally, exhaustion, rather than exultation, was my first reaction to victory in Europe.
-General Dwight D. Eisenhower
I first starting thinking about this quote, which is from Ike’s memoir Crusade in Europe, around the time it became clear Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. In many ways, the last four years have felt much like a siege, in which every single day, the wanna-be dictator Donald Trump let loose a volley of bombast and vitriol meant to demean and demoralize his many enemies (those many millions of Americans who did not vote for him). We were also treated to regular news reports on atrocities he was committing, most horribly against immigrants and immigrant children. For many, many Americans–especially those who aren’t white–the Trump years have been marked by abuse after abuse. And now, as I sit here typing these sentences, I feel damn tired.
Since Trump won in 2016 and immediately set out governing like he had a mandate from heaven, I’ve scarcely believed that a day when he would be shown the door was even possible, given both the absolutist resolve of Trump and the Republican Party, and the almost suicidal determination by major media organizations to treat Trump like he was any other leader.
He was never “any other leader.” He was, and remains, a true fascist, bloated with sexism, white supremacist racism and his own overwhelming ego. His “administration,” if you can call it that, has wrecked astonishing havoc in just four years, culminating with his complete and willful disregard of the coronavirus pandemic that has, so far, left nearly a a quarter million Americans dead in just the last eight months. Trump’s complete unwillingness to embrace scientific principles and protections amounted to genocide committed against the American people.
And yet, even with him humiliated at the polls (though the vote counting is still on-going, it’s clear Biden’s victory over him will be decisive), I can’t bring myself to believe Trump will ever be held to account for his myriad crimes–all the women he’s allegedly raped, all the money he seems to have stolen from the U.S. Treasury through bank and tax fraud, his numerous campaign finance violations, bribery, etc. This is, as the writer Adam Serwer pointed out on Twitter this morning, the first time Trump “has faced a consequence in his entire life.”
Trump is the dictionary definition of white male entitlement: wildly ignorant and yet eternally certain of his own genius. Besides, has any rich white man in the United States who’s been allowed to do as he pleases for 70-plus years ever gotten justice? Trump is clearly counting on that to save him now, which is why he’s kicking and screaming and crying fraud at polls. As much as we want to savor the fact that Kamala Harris, a Black woman, will soon be vice president, we can’t let our guard down. Trump right now is a wounded animal, his skin ripped away by democratic fury. Those of us who can imagine the U.S. as something other than a white supremacist super-state must keep up the pressure on him. Until he’s physically out of the White House and away from the nation’s vast military and law enforcement engines, we can’t really breathe easier. In fact, it’s scary to imagine how much MORE pain and suffering he can cause during this lame duck period, when there’s very little to prevent him from taking revenge on the American people.
I’m also under no illusions about the future of Trump’s boot-licking Republican enablers. If there’s any justice in this country they’d be hounded and humiliated until they die, but I know that’s just a dumb West Wing fantasy. Fascism still pays big bucks in this country, and I have no doubt they will all get high-paying comfy jobs after Biden takes office and begins the task of making this country great for the first time in its history.
Which, by the way, will be extremely difficult. More than ever, white people (and especially white men, a majority of whom still voted for Trump) need to dismantle white supremacy and the patriarchy. They’re lead anchors hanging around all of our throats, dragging us ever deeper into moral depravity. As the pandemic ravages the nation like no other on earth, it’s painfully clear just how necessary public health care truly is, though even under President Biden that will likely remain a dream. The electoral college, a remnant of the days when slave-holders ran the nation, solidifies minority Republican rule over our federal power structure and prevents us from becoming true democracy. It must go, and until it does, it will take herculean efforts by Democrats to counter the Republicans every election. We must also break the stranglehold reactionary Republicans hold over the Supreme Court, most likely through a long-needed expansion of the court (though with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, both the Affordable Care Act and Roe v Wade are most likely doomed). Of course, none of those reforms can happen as long as Republicans (specifically Mitch McConnell) still rule the U.S. Senate, but that’s still an open question, since both Georgia Senate races are going to early January 2021 runoff elections.
In the mean time, we can’t even rest a moment. There were something like 120,000 new coronavirus cases in the U.S. yesterday, and will probably be at least as many today, and tomorrow… It’s going to be a bad winter full of needless suffering and death for far too many Americans, and there’s little we can do about it because Republicans actively loathe public health issues and science itself (unless science can be perverted into a weapon, in which case they’re all for it).
In short, though Biden’s victory is a great step back from a very deep abyss, it’s still just a step. Biden’s election doesn’t make things “normal” again, because everything we white people thought was “normal” in 2016 is what made President Trump possible.