Don’t worry, I have not given up on this blog. I’ve been quiet here recently because I’ve been busy with other writing projects and study.
One would think that the recent US Presidential Election might have aroused me from blogging slumber. But I was content to let the events take their course, finding solace in the knowledge that there was nothing that a random blogger in the UK could say that would affect the outcome. On the night of the election itself I was content to listen to a few podcast episodes, and then retire to bed. By the time I properly started paying attention, the initial ‘scare’ that Joe Biden might lose had passed, as it became clear that any early deficits in his vote-count tally would be made up when the ‘blue’ urban counties started reporting.
Its only in the aftermath of the election that I have fallen into the trap of ‘doomscrolling’ social media, and find I have some thoughts to share.
The verdict of history
There has been a great deal of commentary on how the Biden win was hardly decisive, and that it would have been preferable that he secured an electoral college landslide. This is true, but I’m just glad that Trump lost, and that, moreover, he will be remembered as having lost. Over at FiveThirtyEight, Clare Malone posted a great article on ‘How Trump Changed America,’ in which she made this pertinent point:
It is difficult to imagine that history will look favorably on Donald John Trump after he leaves office on January 20, but I feel certain that history won’t be able to stop looking.Clare Malone, ‘How Trump Changed America’ FiveThirtyEight.com, 7th November 2020
This is as it should be. While it is slightly galling that Donald Trump will be forever remembered, one hopes he will become a byword for incompetence, The Worst President Ever, a salutary tale and a warning to future generations of Americans (and indeed, world citizens). This will be important even in the short-term: people are already warning that the next would-be authoritarian will be far more competent than Mr Trump.
Reaching out across the aisle
President-elect Joe Biden says that he will govern for all Americans and is expected to make an attempt to ‘reach across the aisle’ to Republican politicians in a bid to get things done. However, very few of those legislators have (at the time of writing) acknowledged that he has won the presidency, and are instead keeping up the pretence that the election depends on the outcome of investigations into vote fraud. Republican senators failed to properly co-operate or compromise with President Obama, and so we are right to be pessimistic about the possibility for cross-party collaborations.
On Twitter, my timeline is filled with people condemning the idea that Biden should seek to compromise or work with people who appear to condone racist and sexist policies, and who have enabled Donald Trump’s corruption of the institutions of American Democracy. Why, ask the activists, should we pander to such people?
My response is a pragmatic one: what else could possibly work?
I recall the famous Churchill quote about how democracy is “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
I think a similar argument applies in this case. If the problem is a partisan divide, then embracing and perpetuating the division will only exacerbate and prolong the hideousness. ‘Reaching out’ to Republicans may churn the stomach, but it is the only possible approach that might work.
Moreover, there exist Senators such as Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) who are amenable to co-operation.
And I’ll say something else on this subject: Many people were struck by the religiosity of Joe Biden’s speech on Saturday evening (broadcast at 2:30AM here in the UK).
It is striking just how religious Joe Biden’s rhetoric is. It would be impossible over here, but he clearly sees it as a uniting force. A reminder that America is some way from being a secular nation.Stig Abell (@StigAbell) November 8, 2020
‘Making the first move’ in reconciliation attempts would also be the Christian thing to do. Jesus’s various exhortations, from “suffer the little children” to “forgive those who know not what they do” are not platitudes, but radical demands to forgo usual human emotions in favour of a far more difficult road.