For those who wanted out of the Trump reality show, that physical response of exhaling gave expression to our relief
I don’t know about you, but I got my catharsis today.
That feeling I was looking for from this election — that our nation would reaffirm our shared values and repudiate the corruption, lies and incompetence of the Trump presidency — was evident everywhere on Saturday.
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In the streets of New York, Oakland, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, St. Louis — where spontaneous celebrations erupted — the joy of the moment was unavoidable. There were horns and signs and actual dancing in the streets. The days of suspense leading up to the networks finally calling the election for Biden came bursting forth on a sunny, brisk November Saturday when the people spoke and shouted and sang.
As an exhausted MSNBC anchor Joy Reid said about New York, “This city is alive. These people are awake. We feel like we can breathe.”
I’ve lived in NYC my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like this pic.twitter.com/KVZakF7F5n
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) November 7, 2020
Another political commentator, the former GOP political strategist and anti-Trump commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, tweeted: “A weight has been lifted off America’s chest.”
Watching people erupt in celebration into streets, is giving me profound joy.
A weight has been lifted off America’s chest.
It’s been a hard and dark four years for so many of us.
I cannot think of better people than @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris to lead us out of this nightmare.??
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) November 7, 2020
The president golfed. Much of the Republican establishment was silent. (More on this later.)
Trump watches celebrations of his defeat as he returns to the White House from playing golf on Saturday. (Getty) pic.twitter.com/tj5YSYcWIg
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 7, 2020
But for the rest of us, those who wanted out of the Trump reality show, that physical response of exhaling, the ability to breathe, of a weight being lifted, was echoed in many places, including in Van Jones’ emotional confession on CNN where he broke down and wept on the air.
“I can’t breathe — that wasn’t just George Floyd,” he said, in tears. “That’s a lot of people feeling they couldn’t breathe. Every day you’re waking up and seeing these tweets and you’re going to the store and people who have been afraid to show their racism are getting nastier and nastier, and you’re worried about your kids and you’re worried about your sister.”
Watch Van Jones after the call for Biden. Just watch this. pic.twitter.com/Us8jpKu79f
— The Recount (@therecount) November 7, 2020
While my experience comes nowhere near what Black Americans have felt for the last four years, I felt the same sense of relief at the outcome of this election — a sense that as a country we walked up to the brink of disaster and turned away.
While we’ve spent days watching the vote count unfold, the result remains a resounding rejection of this presidency. The popular vote was overwhelmingly in Biden’s favor by at least 4 million votes (so far). And the electoral college vote was decisive, however close it might have seemed until Saturday’s call. Biden flipped Pennsylvania, won back the traditionally Democratic states of Wisconsin and Michigan, was certain to flip Arizona and might yet flip Georgia. On Saturday, the Associated Press electoral vote stood at 279 to Trump’s 214 with four states yet to be determined (North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Alaska).
It’s worth noting that we did not see armed militias. We did not see Proud Boys. Trump may not have publicly embraced the conclusion that Joe Biden won, but he also didn’t do what some had feared: He did not incite violence, he did not call for his supporters to take to the streets and reject the conclusion of the voters. Bullies, when confronted, usually shrink down to regular size. That’s how it’s looking.
Personally, I’m really looking forward to an end to the daily insults and aggression from the highest office in the land.
A word on the yawning silence coming from the opposing party. It may be because Trump has not conceded Republicans feel they cannot congratulate Biden. But I think something else is at play.
The face of the country has changed. Trump’s white, pseudo-populist base, is a fading minority. And Republicans see “their” America, their presumptive power, their version of normal and how it ought to be, receding into the mists of history.
This is not a one-off election, it’s the next step on the path of what America is becoming before our eyes: diverse and full of nonwhite voters. In that America, unless Republicans adapt and pivot, they do not have a prayer of holding power without cheating, gerrymandering, court-packing and other short-term power moves. (And yes, I know that Trump won more of the Black and Latino vote than in 2016. It’s still very a small proportion of those communities.)
That must cause the GOP great pause. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is a first in history, not the last. She follows our first Black president, whose election everyone said was impossible before he won. The number of qualified Black women in public life is stunning — a pipeline of contenders to come.
The demographic change that’s been coming is here. So that, I think, is why Republicans are having a hard time with today’s result. It’s the path we’ve been on. And they must wonder where they fit, how they get back to power, in this new world.
In the meantime, we welcome a return to the country we believe in, with great big billowing gulps of breath. Namaste.