I’ve been watching scenes of happy celebration around the country, as Democrats rejoice over Biden’s final, late-called victory. I’m a registered Republican who voted Hilary in 2016 and Biden in 2020. Maybe I’m a Democrat now. I don’t know. Certainly most of the Republicans in Utah would say that I’m not a “real” Republican. But I find it very difficult to feel anything like celebratory excitement right now. I wish I could. I don’t think it’s because of Biden. It’s because of Trump.
In 2016, when the election was called for Trump, I wasn’t one of those people who went to bed, thinking that it wasn’t true. I knew it was. I’d believed that morning and every day for weeks leading up to the moment that Hilary would win. And then the world shifted and I was frankly terrified. I kept imagining unlikely ways that America would be saved from Trump. Maybe Obama just wouldn’t let Trump take office. Maybe Evan McMullin would be elected instead (yeah, I know that one was particularly stupid). But the truth is, I live in a red state. Most of the people around me had voted for Trump. Mormons who shrugged off his disgusting personal morals (the way Democrats had shrugged off Bill Clinton’s morals) because of the need to have someone who would defend the “right” policies: mostly pro-life stances, but also tax policy and an aggressive American stance in global politics.
For many months after the inauguration I’d hoped would never happen, I was upset at everything Trump did that seemed to go against American democracy and precedent. I felt sick to my stomach day after day. I wrote apocalyptic novels about the future. And then a revenge novel with a particularly gory final scene. I didn’t march, though. Why? Looking back, I think it was because I didn’t believe that anything I did mattered. I didn’t believe in people anymore. In Americans. That was part of the problem. I’d tried to talk to people in 2016 about Trump and it didn’t make a dent. They didn’t listen. They didn’t care. Or they just thought he was funny and I was too “politically correct.”
By about late 2017, my reactions to Trump’s daily transgressions of the norm (and the law) had become numbed. I just didn’t have the energy to keep feeling that level of outrage anymore. Maybe this was Trump’s secret clever plan, but I honestly don’t think he is really that smart or even capable of waiting more than two seconds to say what he thinks or demand what he wants. There was no plan behind any of this. It was just a grown toddler’s tantrums (I have five children and remember the toddler years very clearly).
In 2020, I had no hope that anyone who lived around me would vote for Biden. Sure, I’d seen Mormon Women For Ethical Government do great work. I admire the hell out of them. And — I was too tired to help them anymore. What work they did was never enough. It was never finished. There was never victory. There was only a turn to the side and then more of the same. Disrespect for “illegal immigrants,” attacks on the autonomy of a woman’s body by those who would normally call themselves libertarian and would call out government intervention in medical procedures — for men. Disgusting things said about LGBT+ people under the guise of religious “righteousness.”
I voted for Biden. I wanted Biden to win. And I braced myself for what felt inevitable: that the polls were all wrong, that Trump would win again, and that we’d have four more years of this nightmare. Roe v. Wade would be overturned. Same-sex marriage would be illegal once more. More legal attacks on the rights of transgender friends and family. More sneering at disabled people. More racial policies enacted under the name of a good economy. More movement away from people being able to get healthcare at a reasonable cost, no matter their “pre-existing conditions.”
So Biden won in the end. Good. I’m relieved. But somehow I can’t find any other feeling inside myself. Just a little relief, and then the sense of the enormity of what is still to be done stares me in the face. How are we going to undo all of what has happened in the last four years? We’ve lost the Supreme Court and who knows how many other judges. We don’t have a mandate. We don’t have the Senate. How is anything going to change? I don’t see the election as a repudiation of Trump. I wish I did. I am still afraid for the future, afraid to really hope America is “better than this.”
I suspect this is a trauma response. I don’t have hope anymore about almost anything. My personal life has gone to shit in 2020, and the pandemic that forced me away from most contact with family members hasn’t helped.
Biden wasn’t who I would have hoped for (I voted Warren in the primary). I guess he was the best we could manage to vote in, just barely, in a painful squeaker (talk all you want about the popular vote, this was very close).
You keep celebrating. I’m still in mourning. How did we get here, America? How?