You had to have been in New York City on the morning of November 7, 2020 to understand the true epicness of the moment. In a city which, just a few grisly weeks earlier, had been running out of morgue space to store bodies of COVID-19 victims, life burst into all its exuberance as people danced, sang, booed, cheered and generally let loose. As if, after an eternity of grief and sorrow, a nation under siege had let out a collect exhale. The networks had just called the 2020 Presidential race for Joe Biden and the long, dark night of the nationâ€™s soul was finally over. I was one amongst those celebrating that morning at Times Square, feeling incredibly euphoric to be a part of the mythical battle between the forces of darkness and light. To be a witness to a morality tale for generations to come. Or so I believed.
It had been a catharsis a long time in the making. For nearly a month and a half before, I had been working the polls as a volunteer, trying to get as many people into the voter rolls as possible. I was part of a group of ten that reported to our local Democratic committee in suburban New Jersey. In the days leading to the polls, my colleagues and I kept going through sheer force of (for lack of a better word) terror. What if.
What if we did not get at least a hundred more voters into the registration stream today and those hundred missed Democratic votes somehow added up and gave us four more years of Donald Trump? What if the Republican volunteers were more hardworking than us and our dawdling in some way contributed to the country having to go through four more years of the worst government ever in US history? Every door we knocked, every voter that we signed up, meant another tiny little nail in the coffin. We could not afford to slacken, we could not let ourselves and the country down. We were running against the weight of history on our shoulders.
On the morning of November 4, as the â€˜red mirageâ€™ (caused by a Republican surge in the results from the previous night when the in-person vote counts trickled in) turned purple and it became increasingly clear the fight was being slowly but decisively won, we let our guard down. We had done what mattered. We had answered the call and been heard. We screamed, hugged (masks be damned!), kissed, broke down, laughed devilishly. America was safe, for the moment.
The shock would come later on, when we saw the huge percentage of American votersâ€”46.8 percent on the day of writing this pieceâ€”who were still willing to give Donald Trump a second chance. A little less than half of the country was okay with what we had been through in the past four years. They were more than okay with white supremacy, children in cages, the most corrupt administration in US history, the unhinged nepotism, the chokehold over democracy. Contrary to what we had been willing ourselves to think, the â€˜Trump supportersâ€™ were not just a cult that could be mocked and scorned and made the butt of â€˜Trumptardâ€™ jokes. They were not just the uneducated jocks and chonks that you saw at the Trump rallies that you could just giggle over. Among the 46 per cent was (probably) your very friendly academician-neighbour who perhaps may just have been unwilling to publicly stand up and be counted as a Trump supporter because s/he feared public shaming. Or maybe your favorite colleague at work who had always seemed so overly welcoming of immigrants only because it was the politically correct thing to do and she did not want to seem otherwise. The Trump cultist was a familiar enemy, the â€˜shy Trump voterâ€™ was the enemy within you. We may have reason to dance deliriously over the outcome of the Nov 3 polls but we should also be terrified that the fault lines that rip this country run even deeper, post this election. Joe Biden may have won, but America lost.
All hope is not gone yet. We still have Georgia and its two Senate races that are into run off. If Stacey Abrams and her band of poll warriors manage to prevail during the January 5 standoff, democracy may still be headed for redemption. While the flipping of the formerly deep red state may be a political game changer and end the Trumpian presidency, we are not even halfway through grappling with Trumpism. We are ready for the fight, but we are also weary.
The author is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.