Finally, after a week spent alternating between intense obsessive election anxiety and pretending to not have intense obsessive election anxiety for the sake of this or that middling zoom meeting, the specific four-year nightmare of Donald Trump earned its closing date. On Saturday, the vote was called in favor of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Donald Trump — who declined the opportunity to mail money directly to the voters in the weeks leading up to the election, who has spent the last eight months literally murdering his potential supporters — finally fell far enough behind in a few key swing states that the electoral college votes fell squarely into Biden’s hands. Yes, this specific nightmare is ending. But we are nowhere near achieving our actual dreams.
Still, we can take a minute to celebrate. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received over 73 million votes, the most of any presidential ticket in U.S. history. Kamala Harris will become the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black woman and the first South Asian woman to serve as vice president. Her chief-of staff, Karine Jean-Pierre, is a Black lesbian. We have a team who have indicated a willingness to listen and evolve on issues where they’ve let us down in the past, who are behind LGBTQ equality, who plan to restore our standing on the world stage and our presence in international efforts to tackle climate change. The second time I teared up on Saturday night was when Biden said he was assembling a team of scientists to tackle the pandemic. We have an administration that actually believes in science, a very useful tool during a medical emergency! (The first time I teared up was Kamala talking about her Mom, the third time was on my sofa at 10 PM watching celebration videos on TikTok from various cities set to “This is America”?)
Once again, Black voters and Black women voters specifically propelled the Democratic ticket to victory. They tipped the scales in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee and in Philadelphia to shift swing states into Biden’s hands, with an estimated 91% percent of Black women voting for the Democratic candidate. As Taylor Crumpton wrote in The Washington Post, “Black women are the country’s most powerful political force.” Georgia, a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, is swinging blue following an unprecedented effort by activists including Stacey Abrams, Tamieka Atkins, Helen Butler, Deborah Scott, Nsé Ufot and LaTosha Brown, whose created networks and work to highlight voter suppression brought an estimated 800,000 new voters to the polls this year. Furthermore, in Arizona and Wisconsin, Indigenous voters were a major force swinging the election in Biden’s favor. The communities most disenfranchised by the current system and corroded by the pandemic and its corresponding recession delivered this win. Meanwhile, exit polls show Trump continuing to be the more popular pick amongst white men and women and all people of color being much more likely to support Biden. Those same polls also show that the kids are all right — 68% of first time voters voted for Joe Biden, and he owes his success in part to powerful networks of youth organizers.
Listen. None of us here were stoked about Joe Biden. In July, when it was looking like he was set to be the nominee, 98.7% of our readers indicated that they were not enthusiastic about voting for Joe Biden. But we sure did!
On Saturday, despite a pandemic that inspires within many of us a constant simmering panic regarding being around other humans, many of us flooded the streets in cities worldwide to celebrate this historic election. I woke up on Saturday in West Hollywood to a lot of honking cars and texts, including a friend who declared a desire to “pop bottles” at the ungodly hour of 9:30 AM.
We knew people would be congregating at the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega — an intersection where the crosswalks are painted rainbows and the neighborhood’s many well-off gay men face a bounty of options for drinking and dancing — and so circa 1 PM, my pod and I were headed there in our masks to be, you know, “in community.”
Because Donald Trump — a profoundly stupid and hateful white supremacist / rapist / adult baby / misogynist / xenophobe / transphobe / capitalist / narcissist — had been voted out of office, and good news has been in short supply this year, and everybody needed one thing to be happy about for one minute. It was a restrained celebration insofar as most of us, at this point, have committed ourselves to a small group of humans we socialize with exclusively, and many stayed home to stay safe, which was the smarter choice. But there was so much joy in the air we fear.
One of my friends had decided to wear a royal blue suit and aviator sunglasses and scream “I’m Joe Biden!” all afternoon, a bit largely disfavored by her girlfriend but very popular with the crowds. So we were blazing down Santa Monica and she was leaning out the window doing finger-guns and screaming “Thank you for your votes!” to the crowded sidewalks. Then she ducked in to pass a champagne bottle to the front seat and leaned towards me and said, “just so we’re all on the same page here, we are celebrating for Joe fucking Biden right now, like we are all screaming right now for Joe fucking Biden.” She took another generous swallow and was back out the moon roof, screaming.
That about sums it up, you know?
Exactly four years ago, while we sorted through our collective devastation and fear regarding the actual election of the worst person of all time for the office of President of the United States, Rachel Kincaid wrote a post for this website called “We Grieve, and Then We Get To Work.” In it, she listed things we could expect to see in the coming years: a deeply racist, colonialist, misogynistic GOP having much greater freedom and power to create, block and enforce legislation; a violent colonialist agenda against Native people, a Supreme Court appointee best described as “a huge loss,” and “violence, from the white people all over the country… who voted for this.” She implored white people to listen to people of color in the coming years, and to “study the civil rights movement and other liberation movements, not like you’re getting ready for a test but like you’re getting ready to help people survive.” She was, of course, correct about what would go wrong, and also correct about what comes next.
We got rid of Donald Trump. And it is exhilarating. A dark cloud lifting, you could say. A moment of relief. A moment to scream and breathe and breathe again.
And if you have a shred of hope right now, if you, like me, are perhaps white and/or otherwise privileged enough to not have been personally targeted by the Trump administration, then we can’t let ourselves get complacent.
If this past administration: throwing migrant children in cages separated from their parents, declaring “good people on both sides” at a violent white supremacist rally, referring to Black Lives Matter as a “terrorist group,” ordering the U.S. border closed to immigration from Muslim-majority nations, pardoning legendary white supremacist sheriff Joe Arpaio, retweeting racist conspiracy theories, decrying the removal of confederate statues as “un-American,” flooding local police departments with military-grade weapons, referring to protestors against racialized violence as “looters and lowlifes,” attempting to undo DACA, gutting plans to expand internet and telephone access in tribal areas, limiting the use of consent decrees that monitor local police departments who violate citizens’ civil rights, suggesting that four congresswomen of color “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” taking zero action to prevent the spread of COVID (which disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities) while blaming its spread entirely on China, rolling back Obama-era housing rules to diminish racial segregation in housing, calling Kamala Harris a “monster” and Maxine Waters “an extraordinarily low IQ person,” doing anything his cronies could think of to prevent Black communities from voting, proclaiming racial sensitivity training a “racist” and “radical” program that teaches people to hate America, calling undocumented immigrants and/or gang members “animals,” pushing for a greater police presence in public schools, expanding ICE and private prisons, appointing exactly zero Black judges to the Appeals Court, hiring numerous white nationalists into top positions in his administration including policy advisor Stephen fucking Miller, removing caps on phone rates for prisoners, repeatedly scapegoating immigrants and communities of color as criminals and the primary sources of gun violence — among SO MANY OTHER THINGS — and, finally, received 71 million votes despite all of this —
— if this doesn’t wake us up to the incalculable human rights catastrophe of systemic racism in this white supremacist police state and implore upon us the urgency of doing everything we can to change that for as long as we live — then we don’t deserve hope.