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I had a bad night, too. This morning was better. I had a good cry. That always helps. Then I thought about things. That also helps. It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden wins, but one thing seems certain: fascism will be with us for a long time to come.
Perhaps I was misled. Or allowed myself to be misled. I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe polling showing Biden ahead of Donald Trump, even deep in the heart of Texas. I wanted to believe last night would provide clarity. The coming days and nights are going to be tender and frightening. There will be blood. Most of that could have been avoided with a decisive victory. That ideal, however, is now gone.
Time to face the real.
Here’s the real. Votes are still being counted in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia. A lot of Democratic voters cast absentee ballots. Votes that are still being counted, therefore, are probably for Biden–and he will win by a hair. Trump, meanwhile, has no wiggle room.
The problem is that “by a hair” means the president will mount legal challenges. An additional problem is Trump declaring victory last night before all the votes were counted. Moreover, his made-up allegations of “voter fraud” are being heard by federal judges, including six conservatives on the US Supreme Court. They could rule that the count be stopped, or certified before being completed, to protect “vote integrity.” That would be the worst-case scenario and a mortal wound for republican democracy.
Votes are still being counted with respect to the US Senate, too. Democrats knocked off two Republicans (one in Colorado, one in Arizona) while a Republican knocked off one Democrat (the honorable Doug Jones of Alabama). Two Georgia races appear to be in the air. So are races in North Carolina and Maine. The Democrats need two more to take majority control if Biden wins. They will need three more if Biden loses. These too will probably be subject to legal challenges.
Best to settle in for the long autumn.
The other fight will play out in the streets. That’s where the human toll will be. The more votes that come in, the bigger Biden’s lead will be. And the bigger his lead is, the more the president will cry foul. That will inspire anti-Trump activists to protest with the goal of pressing the Democrats to carry on the fight. And that, in turn, will inspire heavily armed white right-wing vigilantes, who already believe Trump when he says the election is being rigged against him, to take matters into their own hands.
The messiness we’re seeing was predicted. A study group commissioned by Michael Bloomberg warned of a “red mirage” before a “blue shift”—the appearance of Trump’s victory followed by days of vote-counting culminating in a Biden win. During that period, the study group said, the president would probably declare victory prematurely (he did) or mount legal challenges to the ongoing vote count (he will). He would continue to sow division and incite violence. This prediction, in other words, is what to expect. It may end up being more prescient than all the polling that gave Democrats false hope.
That hope, for me, was a dramatic and total repudiation of the last four decades of conservative orthodoxy. I was hoping 2020 would be to Joe Biden what 1980 was for Ronald Reagan. I was wrong, but then again, maybe that already happened. Today’s GOP is hardly conservative. Mitch McConnell, who won last night, condoned democracy’s hijacking. “I’m not troubled at all by the president suggesting that,” he said of Trump declaring victory. The election will go to the courts, he said, where the unsaid expectation is that the newest Justice Amy Coney Barrett is expected to return on the GOP’s investment.
That remains to be seen. For now, let’s mourn the fact that millions of Americans do not see the error they made four years ago. Let’s grieve the fact that millions of Americans prefer an authoritarian kleptocracy to a republican democracy. That said, let’s not have any more bad nights. No more crying. No more despair. This was never going to be easy. Last night reminded us of that. Maybe we should be grateful.
This article was originally published on The Editorial Board.
John Stoehr is the editor and publisher of the Editorial Board, a newsletter about politics in plain English for normal people. He’s a visiting assistant professor of public policy and liberal studies at Wesleyan University.