Well, as my old roofing boss used to say, it’s all over but the crying. Except for the Senate runoffs in Georgia that’ll decide whether Democrats, and particularly Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, actually get to, you know, govern. Oh, and the Civil/Cold War between the forces of white supremacy and those of us who bought that whole Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness line and think it ought to apply to everyone. That’s still on, too.
So I guess nothing’s over. Which can be depressing as fuck to think about. So let’s take a minute to unpack some shit and see if it makes us feel better.
Start with the big enchilada, the make-or-break thing we should all be resoundingly pleased by, even if we let the polls fool us into thinking we’d be surfing a blue tsunami to happy ending town: Donald Trump has been defeated. As of January 20th of next year, he will no longer be President of the United States.
Can I get a fuck yeah?
I said, CAN I GET A FUCK YEAH?
Seriously, electing a President is not a magic bullet that solves all our problems. Our system of government is too complicated for that (which is a good thing: if the last four years taught us anything, let it be that). But the President can do a *lot* without Congress. Rejoin the Paris Accords? Check. Reboot our foreign policy so we’re not best buddies with the autocrat set? Check. Disband the concentration camps at the southern border? Check and double check.
Pretty much everything Donald Trump has done the last four years — most by Executive Order and personnel choices in key positions — can be undone by Joe Biden, because the only legislative accomplishment of that time was the giant tax cut for the .01%. All the broken shit Donny T and his band of grifters left in the wake of their fire sale? We can at least start getting it fixed. And with an Attorney General and Department of Justice — and US Attorneys nationwide — some of the corruption we’ve seen over the last four years — and, Gawd willing, some of the Hatch Act and Emoluments Clause violations — can be investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted.
Speaking of which, there’s a whole raft of legal and financial trouble coming Donald Trump’s way, stuff that’s been held at bay *only* because he’s been President. He, his spawn, and the ecosystem of grifters and opportunists that formed around them are all gonna spend time in the dock. If Gawd loves us, we’ll get perp-walks and frog-marches on live TV. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Getting big things done is going to be a lot trickier. Especially if Mitch McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader, which is pretty much a veto in terms of *any* kind of legislation. It’s why the only things that have gotten done since he has been are a giant tax cut for the people he works for and a shit-ton of judges — including the hat trick he scored on the Supreme Court — installed to lifetime sinecures on the federal bench.
Is there a chance he won’t be? Slim but not zero. If Stacey Abrams can mobilize in Georgia to win both the Senate runoffs there in January, Democrats might get to a 50-50 tie. Which means they get the majority, since Kamala Harris’s only Constitutional duty besides being our backup President is to be President of the Senate, which duties involve one thing: casting tie-breaking votes.
*If* we get to that 50-50 split, and *if* all Senate Democrats can be successfully whipped into line, they can take a procedural vote to abolish the filibuster — an arcane Senate tradition that means it takes 60 votes to call a vote on anything, and the direct reason nothing’s gotten done in Congress for the past decade. Without abolishing the filibuster, NOTHING gets done. No Medicare For All, no Green New Deal, no statehood for Puerto Rico and DC. No stimulus, either, since we taught Republicans during the Obama years that there was no cost to ni shagu nazad-type resistance to allowing Democrats to govern.
So it’s important to be realistic. Which is something folks on the left can have problems with. I don’t mean to poke at you, but remember the hundreds of millions of dollars that went to candidates like Jaime Harrison and MJ Hegar and Amy McGrath? That money could have funded a lot of local and state government campaigns, the winners of which will redraw Congressional districts next year, because the Census. We blew it in 2010, and it looks like we blew it again this year. It’s going to make it harder than it had to be to do anything, because restoring fair representation to Congress and expanding the franchise and turnout are what gets us the majorities necessary to do big things like manage the pandemic and reverse climate change.
Anyway. We are where we’re at, and it looks like the next two years are gonna be a lot of cleanup and backfill, at least at the federal level, and trench warfare with Mitch McConnell to keep the lights on. Unless we — and by we I mean Stacey Abrams and her highly effective network of organizers and activists — can flip those two runoff Senate seats in Georgie. Then we can whip our Senators to abolish the filibuster and get to governing. Minus that, we’re gonna have to give our elected representatives some leeway, cuz nothing gets done without the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress.
But, again. Donald Trump won’t be President anymore. Isn’t that fantastic? Just utterly delightful?
So what have we learned?
First thing is you really, really can’t trust the polls. We were all shellshocked in 2016 by how off they were, and it doesn’t look like they were much better this year. There’s a bajillion possible reasons why, but my money says the biggest problem is that pollsters don’t factor in Republican vote suppression schemes. Sounds a whole lot more likely than the ‘shy Trump voter’ who doesn’t want to admit who he’s voting for, at least to me. I mean, does anybody really believe shy Trump supporters exist? Conservatives and Republicans are so tribal that even after the four years we all went through, after the catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic that’s half-crashed sociey and the economy, more of them — some seventy million of our fellow Americans — voted for him this year than in 2016.
Republicans — who are the party of white people — have looked at the same demographic trends the rest of us have. More than that, they’ve conceded the argument over how to run our society, because their arguments suck and their policies are disastrous. They can’t win power at the ballot box. So they pursue it by other means, like the SCOTUS fuckery, gerrymandering, vote suppression, and low-key (for now) domestic terrorism. There are no limits, nothing they won’t stoop to. Because they’re in a war for the soul of America, which they believe they own because God said so. That’s why they demonize liberals, and fuck their own health and economy to own us. For a long time, the American left hasn’t wanted to recognize that. But there’s no choice now, and it’s about goddam time.
This leads to my next takeaway: it’s time for Democrats and the left to stop pretending these people are economically-motivated or persuadable. We won this time because of turnout — Joe didn’t have very long coat-tails, you may have noticed — particularly by organizers and activists of color, who are the heart, soul, and future of not only the Democratic party but the left in general. It’s time, I think, for those college-educated white folks like myself — you know, the ‘Democratic wing of the Democratic party’ — to take a step to the side and ask how we can help. I’ve seen — and participated in — a lot of presumption about whose party it is and how to proceed. It’s time we recognize that presumption for the privilege and entitlement it is, and adjust our behavior accordingly.
I guess what I mean to say is that pursuing social justice is likelier to get us to social democracy than the other way around. It’s sure a lot likelier to rouse up the people who actually vote for Democrats.
In the end, simply put, it’s about power. Once upon a time there may have been comity and civility and blah blah fucking blah, but we’re past all that now. If we want nice things like a functional ecosystem and a fairer, more just economy — where we, like, actually take care of everybody, and invest in everybody, and try and make the whole Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness thing real for everybody — we have to keep eyes on the prize, we have to keep showing up, and we have to listen to and follow the BIPOC folks leading the way.
The last thing is a little more speculative. An idea that’s been nagging at me. That maybe it’s time to set up a parallel effort, a para-state, if you will, that moves in the direction of social justice and social democracy on a voluntary, opt-in basis. A kind of vast, decentralized, international mutual aid society in which those of us who believe we’re all better off when we’re all in it together can prove ourselves right by, you know, actually pitching in and doing it.
That all said, I just want to come back around one last time to say that even though the work is still just begun and the opposition is both intransigent and without moral compunction, we won a real victory in defeating Donald Trump, one we can build on til, eventually, we get to that bright, shining, just, and prosperous future we want for ourselves and everyone.
I feel pretty good about that.