The big day is here. Biden versus Trump. The battle for the soul of the nation (if you’re pro-Biden) and a fight to keep the libtards from destroying the country (if you’re pro-Trump). It’s all politically exaggerated mumbo jumbo, of course, yet such hyperbole seems fitting for these rhetorically enlarged times. The most important election of this generation — or, at the very least, the most important election since the last election — is upon us, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the nation doesn’t plunge into mayhem. If Trump wins, liberals will likely stage massive protests, with rioting and looting soon to follow. If Biden wins, a Trump army strapped with machine guns will prowl the land like militiamen, shouting well-worn Trumpisms like “fake news,” “rigged election,” and “fraud, fraud, FRAUD!” Whatever the result, your Trump-loving dad or uncle will write a rambling Facebook post with a slew of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points (!!!!!). It’s disheartening to think that America has sunk so low over the past four years that these scenarios don’t seem unfathomable. Indeed, it’ll be more surprising if chaos doesn’t occur on a national scale in the wake of election night. I don’t welcome any of it, of course, but this is where we’re at in 2020: America’s inner beast has been unleashed and nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
I won’t pretend to be an impartial observer. I’ve played devil’s advocate in the past, but I just can’t do it anymore. I want Trump to lose by a substantial margin — bigly, as it were. It’s cliche at this point to call our current president a dangerous narcissist, but that’s exactly what he is, and his contentious rhetoric has torn this country so far apart that it’s now commonplace to hear people discuss an impending Civil War. Trump is the ultimate conman, and one who apparently isn’t competent even at the one thing he was supposed to be genuinely good at: making money. His businesses have lost over one billion dollars on two separate occasions, and he’s currently hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. His ventures have been so unsuccessful, in fact, that he only paid $750 of income tax in 2016, a fact that he concealed from the public for years by withholding his tax records. What else makes him reprehensible? He mocks disabled people and veterans. He calls foreign countries “shitholes.” He brags about groping women. He pisses on freedom of the press. His administration tear-gassed peaceful protesters to clear the way for a bible-thumping photo-op. He threatens to withhold military funds from other countries in exchange for political favors. He berates NFL players for utilizing their freedom of speech. He rolls back environmental protections while claiming that no one is better for the environment than himself. He brags about not taking basic safety precautions during a pandemic. He has no interest in serving the country as a whole. His lone concern is power, which he flexes by regularly whipping his base into an ugly frenzy while insulting anyone who doesn’t follow him with a religious sort of fervor. And members of the Republican Party, most of whom denounced Trump when he became a viable candidate in 2015, are now sucking on his toes like spineless fish. The Republican Party has become a cult of personality, a vehicle Trump has hijacked to his own twisted ends. But you, the reader, knew all this already, because you’ve suffered through it for the past four years. And you likely also know that none of the stuff I just mentioned matters in the context of the election, because the majority of Trump’s supporters have lodged themselves so far up his ass that they can practically smell his small intestine. As Trump himself put it, he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and see a bump in the polls.
It’ll be more surprising if chaos on a national scale doesn’t occur in the wake of election night. I don’t welcome any of it, of course, but this is where we’re at in 2020: America’s inner beast has been unleashed and nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
In the interest of fairness, Trump does deserve applause for a few things. The economy was doing well before the coronavirus hit this country like a 10-ton hammer (Trump’s general mishandling of the pandemic is a whole other box of worms) and his brokering of a peace agreement in the Middle East is mostly praiseworthy. Yet he has a knack for countering every decent act with a slew of off-putting ones (see: refusing to denounce white supremacists on national television, calling a former prison of war a “loser,” et cetera and so forth). In total, the amount of bad juju he spews into the world far outweighs any good that he’s done.
All of that being said, the man currently leading the Democratic Party — Biden — is far from flawless. He’s old, thus prone to cringeworthy senior moments. His temper is well-known, as is his propensity for saying dumb stuff at inopportune times (“If you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black!”). He has a history of adopting positions because of their political expediency. His son perhaps has some shady dealings going on overseas. Joe is also, of course, a career politician, which is either good or bad, depending on your perspective. Yet for all his shortcomings — again, there are many — his political existence doesn’t rely on national division. His message, which some will rightfully take with a grain of salt, is one of unity. This is an admittedly boring position to adopt. But boring is what America needs right now. After four years of our hair being on fire day-after-day — with Trump fanning the flames — it would be a relief to simply no longer be on fire.
Moreover, Biden, unlike Trump, doesn’t seem to possess any dictatorial instincts. Grant it, anyone who runs for president surely has some level of egomania in their DNA. But there’s a stark difference between being slightly egotistical and being so wrapped up in your own megalomania that you earnestly believe every decision you make is the greatest decision ever made and thus uncriticizable. This is the black-and-white prism through which Trump views his presidency, and it’s why We the People must do our civic duty and vote him out of office Nov. 3. It’s true that most of the media is predicting a rout by Biden, seemingly ignoring the fact that Hillary Clinton, too, was expected to roll to an easy victory in 2016. The confidence with which some people are prognosticating a Biden landslide is unsettling, and it could set the stage for another enormous letdown for Democrats in the coming days.
Biden, for the record, does match-up better against Trump than Hillary did, because (1) he has less baggage and (2) he’s not a woman, and thus won’t be hindered by the sexism that unfortunately still exists in 21st century America. Say what you will about Biden, but his relative centrism and old white man-ness, as it were, are exactly what the Democrats need to peel off some of the folks who voted for Trump in 2016. Bernie Sanders would have lost in a blowout. Likewise Elizabeth Warren. Amy Klobuchar might have fared OK, but again, sexism. Pete Buttigieg may have done the best out of everyone (with the exception of Biden and maybe Michael Bloomberg), but he inevitably would’ve lost, because America simply isn’t ready for a gay president. I hope I’ll live to see a time in which this isn’t the case, but 2020 is sadly not that time.
So there you have it. Biden is the Democrats’ best bet. So what happens if he wins? What if Trump is voted out of office, but refuses to leave the White House? This is another scenario that would’ve been hard to fathom before the 2016 election. There are precedents for questioning election results, including the 2000 debacle, in which Al Gore reasonably ordered a recount in three tightly-contested Florida counties. But Gore eventually conceded defeat, without the recounts taking place (thanks to aggressive Republican protests), after the Supreme Court stepped in and declared George W. Bush the winner. If Trump loses — especially if it’s only by a little — the chances of the Supreme Court getting involved seem likely, considering Trump will be able to use the high number of mail-in votes being cast this year as a means for throwing doubt on the process as a whole. And if the selection of our next president does end up making it all the way to the highest court in the land, Trump will be in good hands, considering he’s appointed three justices during his first term (including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett), and the court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority. One hopes that all of the judges, specifically Trump’s appointees, will analyze the situation through non-partisan eyes and reach an impartial decision. But as non-political as the Supreme Court is supposed to be, the judges are still human beings with their own thoughts and feelings and beliefs. It’s easy to envision a scenario in which the conservative judges hand Trump the presidency under the guise of objectivity. Politics are politics, and I have little doubt that liberal justices would act in a similar manner if the tables were turned. This is all speculation, of course. The Supreme Court may not even become involved. Let’s hope that’s the case.
In any other election year, the American public would know the results on election night: I remember lying in bed with the lights off and tears in my eyes on that November night in 2016, listening in astonishment as Trump gave his victory speech. The public likely won’t be able to experience that level of closure (good or bad) in a single night this year, because the historic number of mail-in ballots won’t be counted in time. Coastal media types have laid out scenarios in which we won’t know the true winner until days, or even weeks, after the fact. This is the worst imaginable outcome for an election of this magnitude and volatility. The lack of an immediate victor could send both the right and the left into complete upheaval, and if it looks like Trump is going to lose, the lag time will give him ample opportunity to stir up reasonable doubt. The partisan shouting match that’s been increasing in volume over the past four years will reach a deafening roar in the ambiguous days or weeks that follow, causing those of us still possessing a modicum of sanity to dream about hiding in a closet until the cacophony dies down.
But no matter the result, Trumpism won’t come to an end. He’s broad-shouldered his way into the American political scene with loathsome brashness, and in doing so, illuminated our most reprehensible urges. If he wins — which, for the record, I believe he will, while losing the popular vote by millions, yet again — we’ll be subjected to four more years of his malevolent nonsense. But if he loses, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. His platform is too huge, his fanbase too rabidly devout, for him to simply fade into the background. It’s hard to predict exactly how his devotees will react to his exit from Washington, but it’s doubtful they’ll take the defeat lying down. They’ll be up in arms for months, if not years. Trump himself, if he doesn’t find himself in prison (or even if he does, maybe), will wield political influence for years to come. He’ll use his wealth to his own political ends. He’ll run again in 2024. He’ll pass the baton to Don Jr., who has gathered a loyal following in his own right. Where presidents before Trump have enjoyed low-key lives post-presidency (Carter and his philanthropy, Bush and his painting), the Don will continue to shine the light on himself, because it’s what his Jupiter-sized ego demands. Trump has opened a festering wound on the face of this great nation, and he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure that wound continues to seethe and pus, even if he’s no longer in a place of ultimate power. Who knows how long it will take the national wound to heal? Perhaps a decade. Maybe longer.
I apologize if I sound alarmist. But the impending election has me seriously frazzled. Anxiety is pulsing through my veins like a fever coming through in hot waves. Even so, I’d do good to remind myself that politics aren’t everything. It’s easy to get tunnel-vision, I know. But it’s just as important to put aside partisanship from time-to-time as it is to stay informed. I still believe in the potential of our great nation, though the last four years have severely tested that belief. And I also believe in taking long walks with my dogs. That’s the true heart of life. All this political shit, it’s just smoke and mirrors, man, and mostly for the birds. Republicans and Democrats look the same in the ground, anyway, which is where we’re all headed in the end. We become so puffed up on our beliefs, in our biased ways of thinking, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, lose sight of the fact that the universe is much larger than our tiny brains can fathom, lose sight of the undeniable truth that we’re a meaningless blip in history.
Biden versus Trump. Yeah, it’s important — for now. But don’t forget about the stars. Don’t forget that, before long, everything will be black. Don’t forget that Joe Biden and Donald Trump will eventually be two dudes who once existed, two dudes easily forgotten, two dudes who, like all of us, turned to dust and were swept up by the Great Broom of Time. Giants now, but less than rice puffs in the long view.
I’m not one to believe in vague portents, but after living through a year as awful as 2020, I’m not really sure what to believe anymore.
On the opposite end, there are the forgotten. The lottery nobody wants to win, but must be won by some. The unluckily lucky ones, the one-in-a-million that nobody wishes to be.
Jo never thought of himself as a river guy, per se, yet one morning he awoke in a canoe, floating down a body of water that clearly was a river.