09 Nov Jubilatione in Excelsis
How tempting it is to leap ahead to the end—or simply to post a downcast photo of he-who-shall-not-be-named with the all-in-caps words: YOU’RE FIRED!
How tempting to shout KAMALA DEVI HARRIS from the rooftop.
But it’s revealing to remember the process. This was the process.
It’s Wednesday, the fourth, at dawn. I’ll be writing this in real time, in stages, adding on news breaks as they come—at least up to the moment when I must file this. I have no idea how long this will take. Weeks? A month? Agony.
This is not what any of us were expecting.
What we have got to keep in mind:
1) We told everyone to please be patient ; we cautioned everyone that this could take days or much more. We should listen to our own advice.
2) The razor edge margin of the vote in some places—say, Georgia—demonstrates the fortitude of those voters who stood for hours online insisting on their right to vote.
3) Good god think how it would feel if Trump had already been declared the winner.
OK, let’s start with the numbers. No, not those polling numbers or percentages of the vote. These numbers: As of election day, 108,000 people a day were newly contracting the coronavirus, and we have suffered more than 230,000 deaths. That any citizen could have voted for Donald Trump in the face of these dead Americans is breath-taking.
I have to write honestly that election night this year has landed with quite a heavy blow. (Insert all the caveats here—you know, about patience and about how Biden will almost certainly pull his win off.) Intellectually, I know all that—but I’m feeling something different. What I am staggering under is my reaction to the marked difference between the predicted “blue wave landslide” by which sanity was supposed to win this thing—and the reality that there was no landslide. Also staggering under the weight of almost certainly losing the Senate, which will mean four more years of the same: Mitch McConnell’s appointments to judicial benches, hard labor to get even the smallest thing done, and gridlocked viciousness.
Election night is feeling like a trigger effect, waking my 2016 Hillary PTSD. Where were the goddamn polls? How could they be so wrong? What planet are these Trump voters from, anyway? Drifting toward nervous-wreckness, I encountered–what? a hunger for justice? a famishment for reasonable government? or was it just the ghost of my mother, rising and walking, crying out “Food is love” and “Love is food,” and well, so . . . I ate. All night long. Not necessarily in this order: Chinese food, peanut butter cookies ( homemade), chopped chicken liver and crackers, black raspberries, boil-in-bag creamed spinach, chocolate chip cookies (homemade), half a pear, half an apple, two chunks of baklava, a bowl of popcorn, potato chips, grapes, five dill pickles, and a bowl of raisin bran. After this assault on my system, plus the accumulation of news, I threw up.
Wednesday evening now, after a brief afternoon nap (having been up all night). I’ve improved a bit. At least enough to call some friends and comfort them, thus releasing oxytocin through my bloodstream—the “tend and befriend” chemical that’s both altruistic and empowering all at once. Great stuff. Still, I have HRC flashbacks. How can Biden govern or pass any legislation if the Senate is still in McConnell’s clutches? Will this turn Biden into an accommodator who will bargain away our rights, to the frustrated rage of progressives? Plain rice and broth help. And so it continues.
Thursday. I know this demands patience. Self discipline. I think about Adrienne’s line “a wild patience has taken me this far.” But the patience doesn’t make it down into my emotional level, where the full spectrum from anxiety to panic vibrates deafeningly. The loss in the House of Representatives included my old friend Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida. Pennsylvania is still out there dangling. Wasn’t it James Carville who once quipped that Pennsylvania consisted of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—with Alabama in between? Trump has no path to victory in the electoral college without Pennsylvania, but Biden-Harris do.
For one thing, there’s oh my god Georgia! Georgia on my mind! Stacey Abrams should be crowned queen of the world. Georgia is so close it might, even at this late stage, affect the balance in the Senate, since it has not one but two senatorial races going into runoff! (Runoff elections will take time—probably not until January.) But meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that more than 150,000 ballots were caught in U.S. Postal Service processing facilities and not delivered by Election Day, including more than 12,000 in five of the states that have yet to be called. I ricochet between hallelujahs and plummets.
Thursday night-Friday morning. I’ve rewritten these notes more times than I can count, yet as of now Pennsylvania still dangles out there, although Joe and Kamala are in the lead, and inching further up. Trump is already apoplectic, spewing propaganda and threats and campaigning from inside the White House itself, inciting violence by calling out his thugs, plus launching lawsuits, demands for recounts, tweets, and (totally illegal) orders to stop the vote count. All networks except FoxNews cut away with formal disclaimers that his outright lies and defamation of the electoral process make it impossible for them to carry the speech—that’s a first. I refuse to waste more time on him—except to point out that his defeat will mark only the fourth time in the past 90 years when a sitting chief executive has been denied reelection—the 10th time overall, in the history of the Republic. Also, although Mitch McConnell has been speed-dating and confirming the judiciary, what’s left of our original judiciary has just decided that Trump’s furious lawsuits about Michigan and Georgia vote counts are illegitimate.
Biden has received more popular votes than any candidate in United States history. (By the way, Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections. Hmmmmm, what does that tell us?)
Then, Aha! There is the gender gap. So far, it’s on track for breaking the record in American history. Even given the debate over who can restore the economy when/if we survive the pandemic, women and men experience the economy differently, and women are far more skeptical than men about the economy being in such great shape just because the stock market is. Even during the recovery following the 2008-09 financial crisis, women perceived the economy as weak while men were net positive in their views of it. Furthermore, women just don’t rate the economy as the major issue in this election—and when they do, they say Biden would be the better caretaker. Not surprisingly, women rank survival and health, especially in a pandemic, higher than they rank economics—nor do they necessarily see the two as separate. In 2016, Trump won votes from only 40 percent of women–still way too high as far as I’m concerned, but an 11-point gender gap nevertheless, tying the record with Bill Clinton in his 1996 reelection. Most of that burden was carried by black women, while many white women, maddeningly conflicted about Hillary, actually voted for Trump. That’s not happening now—so the gender gap this time bodes to be even more dramatic.
Now there’s Biden on TV, counseling patience. OK OK OK so it’s not a landslide, so what? A win is a win is a win, to mangle Gertrude Stein. Remember to breathe forgodsake the world isn’t ending—well actually it could be with climate change if Trump stays in power and McConnell has his way–no no not yet anyway no world ending yet.
Friday night-Saturday morning. I stay up until two. Then I’m awake at three, 4:30, 5:30, and I finally give up and stay up at seven. I’m like a crazy lady, staggering around. Dare not eat more, the very thought of food–yeech. Can’t sleep either, too wired. The morning chorus is twittering in the garden, but instead of the usual serene pleasure that bestows I find it irritating—don’t the damned birds understand the gravity of the situation? I mean, I know this is insane, but somehow the news might announce the win and I wouldn’t be there. (Obviously, they simply cannot announce a Biden-Harris win without me present or the whole system would collapse.)
Now, finally, there it is. This Republic has a new president-elect.
This Republic has its first-ever woman vice president elect.
Its first black American vice-president elect.
Its first South Asian American vice president elect.
This Republic has its first female, black, South Asian American vice president elect.
I start to cry and can’t stop. It’s four years of shock and disgust, of mothers desperately seeking their caged kids at the border, of black men being murdered, of poisoned air and water and discourse, of women rapidly losing their basic human right to reproductive freedom, of Dreamers unable to sleep; years of cowardice and culpability, old people dying alone with no family present, of dictators being welcomed and democratic leaders being spurned, cruelty and sadism just for its own sake, further sickening of the planet, four years of the drift toward destruction. I weep and weep. My whole body aches, as if it’s been held in the tightest tension for four years and now, releasing some of that tension loosens waves of pain along joints and tendons and muscles. Friends call from all over the world, laughing and crying at the same time, too.
People are pouring into the streets all over the country, in fact all over the world, in relief and jubilation. They bang pots and pans, they sing and dance, they honk their car horns and blow whistles and ring bells. There has never been such a spontaneous outpouring of celebration.
I can’t think straight enough yet to follow the strands towards which this victory leads. I know for one thing that it legitimizes Barack Hussein Obama and his administration. I know that it legitimizes the fractured campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton in retrospect. I know that it sends a strong message to the Senate, even if the Senate remains in GOP hands. I believe it send a strong message to the Court.
I’m obsessed with Georgia and the runoff in January and regaining the Senate even by the narrowest margin. I’m obsessed with those ballot counting volunteers who kept counting although shaking with fear from Trumpian mobs on the other side of the doors shouting Stop the count!
I’m obsessed with Kamala Devi Harris, who wore shining splendid white—the color of women’s suffrage—to the acceptance speeches, Kamala Devi Harris who named all women as her ancestors: Black and South Asian and Latina and Native American and white and disabled and old and young; Kamala Devi Harris, who made a point of saying that although she is the first to hold this post she will not be the last.
There is a massive amount of work to do, in the next three especially high-danger months, and thereafter, for years, even to just get back to where we were when this long national nightmare began. But it is now not only possible; it’s inevitable.
In July of 2017, after the first 6 months of Trumpist hell, I wrote in this blogpost:
“There will come a day–I promise you, I affirm to you, I swear it to you, there will come a day when this republic will sit up, slowly blinking awake, groggy, aching all over, with a killer headache, a touch of vertigo, and roiling nausea; will sit on the side of its metaphorical bed with its allegorical head in its symbolic hands, and mutter, “What in hell just happened?” Our nation will suffer overlapping symptoms: part hangover, part recovering Stockholm syndrome, part PTSD survivor. It will happen once the already-in-free-fall regime of Donald Trump will be fully exposed.”
Oh yes, there will be obstruction and delay, mendacity and greed, confusion and anger. Oh no, Trump and his followers won’t just vanish back into the darkness from whence they came.
But the people did speak. The process did hold.
Let the carrillons ring out: Jubilatione in Excelsis!
Joyous Election Week, sisters and friends.
This blog will be on hiatus next week but will return week after next,