What a roller coaster of a week it has been.
Some weeks last a lifetime, and this was definitely one of them. I won’t soon forget the feeling I had at 8pm on Tuesday night, when I heard Wolf Blitzer on CNN say that the results in Miami-Dade (Florida’s biggest county) were worse for Biden than they were for Clinton. Thus began the gut-wrenching, slow-motion electoral roller coaster that dragged out until Saturday before we finally saw the outcome so many of us hoped, prayed and worked for.
Before I start my Twitter and news holiday—I need a detox in service of my capacity to focus on Other Things—I thought I’d capture some reflections.
To be sure, the results are a tremendous relief. We were, in my opinion, on the precipice of falling fully into an autocratic society and we voted (by a small margin in the states that really mattered) not to fall off that cliff.
That said, we all need to reckon with the fact that 70 million Americans voted for us to stay on the path we’re on. 70 million Americans are willing, in my view, to trade the best parts of our history, values and institutions for a narrow sense of self-interest and the worst kind of identity politics.
I expect the meaning of all of this will be up for grabs for a generation.
But while I felt, after the 2016 election, a sense of curiosity to better understand the experience of hardship, loss and anger from white, working-class America, I’m tapped out of interest. I find it much more plausible that, rather than economic despair, what we are seeing laid bare is the reality of our engrained, deeply-rooted, institutionalized racism, fear, selfishness and xenophobia. Worse, we are doomed to repeat these mistakes if we don’t find a way to face them head on.
For a sobering take on how America voted, check out these electoral maps made by Ste Kennedy-Fields.
To be clear, it’s not that I don’t think the anger, or the challenges, are real. We’ve gutted our economy of well-paying, dignified blue collar jobs; our educational system sputters along when there’s ample evidence of how to fix it; drug addiction is spiraling out of control.
But hardship and outrage need a protagonist—which they have—a story, and, apparently, someone to blame. And I can’t escape the notion that the 2020 blame game can only be understood in the context of a deeply pernicious American identity narrative, one built on oppression and marginalization, one in which separation and demonization are central elements of our national narrative. Surely we can do better.
For a much much better articulation of this sentiment, I’d encourage you to listen to the words of Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude, “It’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders… This is us. And if we’re going to get past this we can’t blame it on him. He’s a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us.”