We have a winner in Joe Biden. The streets immediately erupted in elation in New York, Washington and other U.S. and international cities with the announcement. Redder, more rural areas held vigils and the White House itself went silent, unresponsive to cheering for Biden outside its gates.
Still, Donald Trump, who went golfing, will not quietly leave the stage. Indeed, he doubled down on his promised, if frivolous, legal challenges before electors certify the election results in December.
It was a day with outbreaks of spontaneous joy. Biden and Kamala Harris played to an emotional parking lot crowd in Wilmington, Del., with uplifting messages of healing.
Realities of division, deep social problems and pandemic temper any immediate cheer. Yet the urban half of the country can show relief about ousting Trump, for choosing the moderately left Biden, for greeting the historic first woman and first Black vice president. They can relax seeing the end of 24/7 news coverage underscoring a flashing red-blue election map.
Threading the needle toward the kind of healing that Biden preaches will require balancing a lot of simultaneous political pressures from left and right. It takes a lot more than sloganeering. The hope is that Biden, who knows his way around the government and the Senate, knows how to do this work and has a keen focus on practical solutions.
Biden's prize for surviving the elongated vote in multiple battleground states is that we now expect impossible miracles to bring together a deeply divided nation, to right what went awry during these Donald Trump years and to put a different set of issues on the public table. We expect that we will have a new masked face on coronavirus and science, newfound empathy on immigration, new reason toward the environment, climate and health care.
Good luck. During this voting count, another 400,000 Americans tested positive for coronavirus, for example.
It will be a busy Day One ordering masking, rejoining climate accords, launching a healthcare legislative effort and addressing police-community relations. Biden served notice that he will start in even this week.
We Can Agree
All sides should be able to agree that this election, mostly under rules in battleground states set by Republican policymakers, has been a slugfest, with Biden more outlasting Trump than finding widespread consensus. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., already is talking about blocking Biden's best ideas, statements which are unfortunate for bipartisanship.
Unlike Trump, Biden won the popular vote as well as hitting the Electoral College mark. Please don't gloss over the fact that 70 million Americans just voted for Trump and Trumpism.
The current president got votes despite serious failures to address the pandemic, despite policies that take children from immigrant parents at the border, despite continuing joblessness and despite persistently amplifying the voices of racism and gun-toting hate.
Yes, I wanted this election to be a statement that there has been enough lying, enough incompetence, enough twisting of self-serving truth, enough personal promotion, enough snubbing of allies and embrace of foreign dynasts and enough bullying and settling of private scores with taxpayer money and authority.
Dropping Trump is only a good start. But 70 million times, voters refused to say No to the Crazy Train.
Fortunately, 74 million did, braving disease and hours of wait to do so.
Expect a Raucous Good-Bye
This vote will end Trump's term, but it is not necessarily an endorsement of Biden and Kamala Harris; they now need to earn their leadership jobs through action.
To the last moments of the voting countdown, Trump showed us repeatedly that what he cares about is Trump. His flailing about unproven allegations of widespread fraud is as devoid of reality as his blindness to the coronavirus, of the unequal effects of his economy or even to the normal practices of vote-counting. If he had cared about the results of mail-in balloting, perhaps he should have jawboned Republican state legislators to count those first and actually have gotten the U.S. Postal Service to do its job.
We can expect Trump will not stop efforts to undercut Biden, with legal and political campaigns that get increasingly shrill, possibly including an attempt to have Pennsylvania legislators replace electors altogether with a slate of their own.
We can expect two months of transition in which rather than work for peaceful turnover, Trump will continue to ignore the realities of a pandemic now striking 100,000 a day, to take punitive actions against individuals like Dr. Anthony Fauci whom he perceives as enemies. Expect Trump to create lots more executive actions to worsen immigration, health care, environment, income inequality and racism — all while the lame-duck Senate Republican majority shoves through more conservative federal judges with lifetime terms.
Trump may be going, but not Trumpism, goes the new adage.
What Could Happen?
Keep an eye on Trump's now-outward rift with scientists over what to do about the coronavirus exploding into this winter wave of disease. The nation reported a record 134,000 new cases on Saturday and another 1,100 deaths. There is nothing in Trump's tool bag to suggest that he will deviate now from the path leading to thousands of more cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Watch immigration adviser Stephen Miller use the remaining time to further hector both legal and illegal migrants; we can expect no action to reunite 545 children with their families.
Take note as Trump takes executive orders to make permanent policies that ruin the environment, pay off the wealthy and undercut health care. Expect a slew of Trump-loyal appointees to federal jobs to start the clock on becoming permanent deep-state replacements expecting protection under the same Civil Service that Trump wants excised.
And yes, wait for Trump to move on pardoning himself and family members preemptively from as many criminal charges as possible.
Mostly, watch for what comes of our palpable fear that Trump's troops will resort to violence toward insisting on their version of truth.
It's too early for the accounting of the Trump years, but their impact will not go away soon. Trump's own children are talking about four years out. There are plenty of Trump scars, from the last-minute Supreme Court appointment to the pandemic, that will last a lifetime.
We have a new president-elect and vice president-elect. Let's wish them well before the swamp of Trumpism and McConnell politics try to swallow them.