I have a mixed reaction to the vote. Admittedly it’s three days after the event and I still don’t know for sure who won. But it does look like Sleepy Joe has. Virginia Haffernan, of the LA Times, wonders, given his lead, why liberals are going around moaning about a disaster. She quotes somebody to the effect that liberals tend to care more about winning hearts and minds than elections, and drags in Richard Rorty to argue those liberals are just not sufficiently pragmatic. Well, ok, she has a point. And she puts it well when she reminds us of all we have to gain if Sleepy Joe becomes President:
Here’s what we know if Biden’s lead holds: In a few months Trump won’t be in office. America’s disgrace will start to fade and its spirits will start to rebound. We will not have to endure those loathsome people in power anymore: Bill Barr, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Don Jr., Mike Pence, Stephen Miller.
We can reenter the Paris Climate agreement. Ar. Antony Fauci will deliver briefings on the pandemic. Our leaders will know their ABCs: Wear masks works, systematic racism is real, and the climate crisis is dire.
She’s right. Maybe we can breath, for a moment, a little easier. Or maybe not. Maybe the despair and the handwringing have nothing to do with liberalism or pragmatism, but with the simple realization that the failure to reject Trump more overwhelmingly suggests Trump may go but Trumpism may stay. That’s what Fintan O’Toole suggests when he writes:
This is the most important thing to understand about the postmortem Republican Party. The logic is not that a permanently minority party may move toward authoritarianism but that it must. Holding power against the wishes of most citizens is an innately despotic act. From 2016 onward, the GOP has become not so much the RINO Party, Republican in name only. It is the RIP party, repressive in perpetuity. When Trump said on Fox & Friends at the end of March that Democrats want “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he was openly redefining the meaning of the vote. Voting, in this formulation, is something to be “agreed to”—or not—by Trump himself. Democracy is no longer rooted in the consent of the governed, but in the contingent permission of the indispensable leader.