It’s been some week. We have to talk about the presidential election.
As of this writing, former Vice President Joe Biden has won but nobody in media wants to acknowledge it, or jinx it, yet. He’s going to have 306 electoral votes no matter how many lawsuits, recounts and temper tantrums Donald Trump attempts to use to stop it. Because of this weird limbo there are some things we have to remember.
First, a concession is not required. It’s a formality, a courtesy the loser extends to the winner and a gesture to his supporters and to the country supporting the peaceful transfer of power. If the loser doesn’t concede, he still loses. You don’t get to be President forever. No magic speech allows that. We as a nation need to stop acting like Trump conceding or refusing to means anything other than that he’s a sore loser; his consent is not required for Biden to take office.
Second, the AP does not determine the winner. CNN also does not determine the winner. Yes, they call races, but the votes are what matter. We do not have to wait patiently for the AP to say it’s OK before Biden is allowed to assemble a transition team and make a victory speech. They decide the winner, and we did, and it’s Joe Biden. Everything else is just meaningless ritual.
Soon, possibly before this even runs, those complaints will pass and we’ll move on to the next phase: Trump refusing to leave. He’s going to tear down the entire American government and probably attempt to start a full-blown civil war rather than look like a loser, and we have to prepare for that. It’s going to take all our voices and actions to insist the voters’ will be done because being passive in the face of injustice is letting it happen.
On the bright side Vanity Fair reports Trump may barricade himself in the Oval Office, which means we may get to watch him get dragged out by U.S. Marshals. That’s something to look forward to.
Finally, even after that, even after Biden is all moved in to the White House, even if the Democrats end up taking the Senate in the two Georgia runoffs, it’s not over. There’s still work to do. Just because a sane person is President, just because a compassionate person is at the wheel, that doesn’t mean the problems are solved.
Remember that tens of millions of people went out of their way, took time out of their day and went out during a pandemic to cast their vote for another four years of Donald Trump. More than 70 million of your fellow Americans lived through the last eight months and said, “Yeah, you know what? Please sign me up for four more years of this.” And they’re still out there. They’re still going to influence policy.
Most of the Republicans in the Senate that enabled Trump this whole time? The ones that actively helped him get us to this point? They’re still there. They’re still United States senators with all the power that conveys. They’re going to continue to shape policy.
The white nationalist terror groups aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’re angrier and more unpredictable after taking this loss. Qanon and the right-wing media ecosystem on YouTube and Facebook that feeds it? They’re still there and they’re ready to lash out. They’re almost certainly prepared to strike back and will only escalate as they get backed into a corner.
Even the Democrats can’t be counted on to do the right thing without pressure. The Democratic party as it stands is extremely, excessively averse to conflict. Remember that after the Democrats took power in the House with a massive, national mandate to hold Trump accountable, it took a full year before they attempted to impeach him, and even then it was the shortest, most half-hearted impeachment in history. Biden’s win doesn’t mean we can stop applying pressure, it only means that now it might actually have an effect.
All that said, enjoy this win. For the next four years, if nothing else, we can be confident that the President of the United States won’t steer the nation off a cliff for no reason. We can occasionally let our guard down and relax. That’s not nothing. We can use any relief we can get. Even if two of Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock or Cal Cunningham don’t win and Mitch McConnell is able to continue his reign of obstruction, he can no longer create further destruction to our government and society.
The fight is far from over. There’s still a lot of work to be done to stop the bleeding before we can even begin to start piecing our country together again. But this can be the turning point, as long as we don’t get too comfortable before the job is done.
Here’s what we wrote four years ago. Times were—are—bad. They’ll get better.
— Editors Daniel J. Willis, Roman Gokhman, Chloe Catajan, Tim Hoffman, Max Heilman and Punitma Malhotra.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.