Sorry. As John King or Steve Kornacki spent the night informing viewers from their respective magic walls, President Trump over-performed in myriad polling measures. There would be no landslides, only squeakers and clenched jaws — and, possibly, court fights.
Win or lose, Trumpism will not have been swept into the dustbin of history; it will remain all over the furniture. It’s part of the furniture. Unsweepable.
Anecdote isn’t evidence, but I’ll note that for the past two years, the demographics in my inbox who most fervently believed in a 2020 blue landslide were White liberal men and occasionally White liberal women. Surely, they insisted, what had happened in 2016 was a blip. Hillary Clinton had been uniquely flawed, the country uniquely complacent, Donald Trump uniquely novel. The results didn’t really reflect America. Black women would save the party; Black women would save us all.
The Black women who wrote to me, meanwhile, were exhausted and often worried. To them, 2016 didn’t feel like a blip. It felt like the America they’d already been living in for decades was finally made visible to the rest of the country. Yes, it had always been racist. Yes, it had always been sexist. Yes, yes, yes.
If you, like Biden, have had the recurring privilege of sadly shaking your head and saying, “This isn’t who we are,” what you really meant was, “This isn’t who I’ve ever had to see us be.” What you really meant was, “This isn’t my America. . . . Crap, is it yours?”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court was reshaped, and conspiracy theories multiplied, and 230,000 Americans died in a pandemic, and children were in cages, and however the race ends up, as of mid-Wednesday morning Trump had amassed 3 million more votes nationwide than he did in 2016: According to exit polls, he performed worse among White men, but slightly better among voters of color (Biden, at the same time Wednesday, was ahead in the popular vote by more than 2 million). On Tuesday a Georgia congressional seat was won by a QAnon believer, and a North Carolina seat was won by a 25-year-old Republican who used the dawning moments of his career as a U.S. representative to tweet out, “Cry more, lib.”
The bad parts of America are not blips, they’re characteristics. For every stone monument to democracy, an enslaved person forced to build a monument to democracy. For every “All men are created equal,” a reminder that it really did only mean men, and only some of them. For every barrier-breaker like Sarah McBride, the newly elected transgender Delaware state senator, who openheartedly tweeted, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” there is a “cry more, lib.” Do you know how hard it is to love this place sometimes?
Maybe the closeness of this election will make us revisit Hillary Clinton: It wasn’t so much that she was flawed as that we were. Older White male candidates don’t guarantee a tidal wave, either.
Still, votes are being counted.
Wisconsin was red for most of the night, and then Milwaukee and the mail-ins arrived, and around 4 or 5 in the morning, Biden pulled tenuously ahead. By 9 a.m. CNN’s chryon read, “Biden takes lead in tight Michigan race,” and a Detroit election official tersely told Chris Cuomo that more results could have come in while she was waiting on air to talk to him.
Pennsylvania isn’t guaranteeing anything until Friday, officials have said, and chances are decent that it will come down to Pennsylvania again. Georgia isn’t out of the game for Democrats, either — its mail-in ballots are still trickling in.
Biden might not lose. But some of the pillars of Americana he ran on — decency, truthfulness (or at least accountability for lying your tail off), a prevailing respect for science and history — may emerge all the shakier.
You can’t effectively repudiate a worldview that nearly half the country believes in. Or at least, is willing to vote for.
Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more visit wapo.st/hesse.