Thoughts about a still-divided America

Bill Walczak

Back in 1997, I was on a trip to promote peace in the former Yugoslavia and war broke out while I was in Pristina, the capital city of the Republic of Kosovo. We heard machine guns firing at night and learned about massacres the next morning, and we were quickly ushered out of Kosovo. Back in Belgrade, Yugoslavia’s capital, we passed the American embassy, which had an American flag flying in front of it. It was a wonderful and comforting sight to see.

De Tocqueville talked about Americans’ tendency toward very passionate elections, but noted that they usually come together afterward. The Civil War notwithstanding, Americans have had more years of unity than not. In driving to the Cape on weekends over the last few months, I found the Trump black and blue flag rallies at the Bourne Bridge astonishing in their exuberance, as were the anti-Trump middle finger salutes from those driving by. Will Americans continue to be passionately divided, or will we come together?

Last week, Donald Trump received the second highest total number of votes for the presidency in the history of our country, with the highest number going to the man who defeated him in the election, Joe Biden, who earned, as of this writing, four-and-a-half million more votes.

Republicans did well nationally. While the majority of voters decided for Biden as president, the electorate also voted to retain most of the Republican senators while dismissing some Democrats in the House of Representatives. I’d say that in the end, the majority decided that they didn’t want the new normal to be non-stop Trumpian chaos, but that only extended to the presidency.

So where does the down-ballot election leave us?

Barring an electoral miracle in Georgia, where there will be two Senate races in January, we’ll continue to have stultifying divided government for at least the next two years along with a Supreme Court that will likely stop Biden from implementing new progressive legislation, even if the bills are somehow approved by the Senate.

But Biden, as with Trump and Obama, will govern via executive order and regulatory changes to reverse many of the execrable policies implemented by Trump: the separating of immigrant children from their parents; the supporting of policies that increase global warming; damaging Americans’ ability to get access to health care; building relationships with authoritarians and dictators, to name a few.

Regarding the US Senate, it’s hard to imagine Mitch McConnell becoming bipartisan. He saw his role following the Obama election in 2008 as making sure Obama would be a one-term president. He’ll probably see the same role for himself for the Biden presidency. We’re likely to have a Congress unable to agree on anything of importance, with never-ending brinksmanship and vituperation. We can look forward to continued voter suppression by Republican states, efforts that resulted in voters having a difficult time doing so by mail and forced them to stand in long lines to cast theirballots. And there will be more gerrymandering as a result of the 2020 census.

Will Trump succeed with the courts in overturning the election? The Supreme Court will likely not take a stand; the justices don’t have to. Any such decision would require them to overrule a number of states, which control their elections. And in the process, the Court would delegitimize itself in the eyes of most Americans. Trump’s goal at this point seems to be to delegitimize Biden and keep his own options open for 2024.

While Trumpism will still control the Republican Party, Donald Trump will likely be beset with tax fraud prosecution and the need to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for his failing businesses. Will he leave the White House? I enjoyed the Biden campaign’s response: “The United States government is perfectly capable of removing trespassers from the White House.”

The election means that the country will finally have strong leadership to deal with the pandemic, and the Trump noise will be lessened in our faces and in our ears. The man who on a daily basis exacerbated our divisions, enhanced bigots and despots, and made the world less safe for ourselves and our progeny, will have no official power. We’ll have a president who is back on track to try to deal with global warming, immigration, systemic racism, health care, international relations, and the virus.

Following this contentious election, my daughter asked me to mount a flag holder on our house, and we pulled our American flag out of storage in our basement. My four-year-old granddaughter, wearing a blue and white shift with red stars, announced “This is my Kamala Harris dress.” As I walked around Savin Hill, seeing the American flag produced a warm feeling that reminded me of encountering it in Belgrade almost a quarter century agio Perhaps de Tocqueville’s observation of Americans will hold going forward. I hope so.