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I don’t think I have seen what I saw over the weekend. Americans were dancing in the streets. That’s usually a metaphor, not a literal fact. But after the big news outlets called the race Saturday for Joe Biden, cities around the country spasmed with joy, as if something pent up inside were released all at once. It was like V-E Day. I confess that, despite knowing the inevitable was coming, I felt release, too. I did not know what I could not know until the moment of knowing arrived. And knowing never felt so good!
But V-E Day is probably a wrong comparison. It was more like an democratic uprising, a civic revolution of sorts. A new electorate arose to reject the rot and stink of the past and take the United States in a fresh direction. The president-elect seemed to feel what I’m talking about. During his speech Saturday, he not only said “systemic racism”; he not only thanked Black voters explicitly. When Biden said—“When this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African-American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours”—he actually pounded the podium!
Americans tend to be pretty provincial. We don’t usually care about politics beyond our shores. If we did, we might see similarities between the Arab Spring of 2011 and the spring of 2020. That’s when Black Lives Matter merged its energy with anti-Trump energy to protest the murder of George Floyd. Just as freedom fighters pulled down statues of despots in Egypt and other Middle East countries, Americans pulled down statues memorializing the Confederacy and symbols of the old white order. You can’t know until knowing is possible. It’s now possible to say this was our American Spring.
That combined energy was pivotal, according to data scientist Tom Bonier. He said voter registration among Black voters bottomed out by May and June. The reason was the pandemic. Then, on May 25, Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Protests in his name, Bonier said, “created a huge Democratic voter registration spike.” Far from being a liability, Black Lives Matter—and its proposal to “defund the police”—was an asset among Georgia’s urban Black voters. Bonier added: “The movement had 13-point net favorability in Georgia, and Biden won among those voters by landslide margins.”
Biden has already won more votes than any candidate. He’s on track, however, to winning as many as 10 million more than Trump. It should now be a plain fact that Black Lives Matter is the foundation of the biggest coalition ever, which is to say, the base of a truly new electorate of a kind that emerges once every 40 or 50 years. When he pounded the podium, Biden was pounding with the weight of history. The last time a political party lost after only four years in the White House was 1980. (That was Jimmy Carter’s one and only term.) That was the last time a truly new electorate emerged to define our politics for decades. The American Spring pulled down more than vestiges of the Confederacy. It pulled down the last of Ronald Reagan’s conservative regime.
Old regimes die hard, though. The president refuses to acknowledge that he’s been deposed. His party is choosing loyalty to him over loyalty to the republic. The head of the US General Services Administration denied Biden the authority he needs to start building a new administration. Ted Cruz, who wants to be president, said the US Supreme Court should overrule voters. Lindsey Graham said Trump should not concede for fear of there never again being another GOP president. Newt Gingrich, who more than anyone represents the old regime’s rot and stink, said the election was “corrupt, stolen” and “financed by people like George Soros.” Trump, meanwhile, is planning more “campaign rallies.” (The campaign is now ended, hence the quotes.)
This is more than an attempt to deny Biden’s legitimacy. It’s an attempt to deny the legitimacy of democracy. It’s frankly treasonous. They may end up walking away from Trump, but the Republicans will never walk away from their impulse to sabotage the republic. They are laying the groundwork for undermining Biden the way they undermined Barack Obama. While the old electorate saw Republican obstruction as legitimate, my hope is this new electorate, the one that will shape the way of things for years to come, does no such thing. My biggest hope is that this electorate sees the nature of the Republican project for what it is—a plot against a renewed America.
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.