Monday, November 9, 2020

Dancing in the Streets—The Witch is Dead

Jubilant throngs in Washington took their celebration to the to the White House where Donald Trump cowered inside after returning from a morning of golfing.

Who knew that Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 soul hit would become the semi-official theme song of Joe Biden victory celebrations not only in the U.S. but around the world? 

And people did dance, in American streets, in Coronavirus sequestered homes, even in Supermarket aisles.  In far-off Belorussia where their own streets have been crowded with protests against authoritarian regimes and the oppression of women took heart from the American defeat of a fascist regime and danced as well.  There was jubilation in London, Paris and the capitals over other allies who had felt abused and neglected by a United States gone mad.

Commentators were stretching for anything to compare with the spontaneous eruptions after the AP and other news outlets finally officially declared Biden the President Elect when Pennsylvania finally fell decisively in his column.

Certainly nothing like it had been seen in a Presidential election in memory.  Let’s face it, Joe Biden is a nice enough guy and a steady hand, but in a normal election celebrations would have been confined to a hotel ballroom packed with his staff, donors, and party operatives.  Even Vice President Elect Kamala Harris’ glass ceiling shattering success as the first woman, first Black, first Asian, and first bi-racial on the ticket would not normally have triggered such jubilation.

The celebrations were much more about the defeat of Donald Trump and Trumpism than for Biden and Harris.  After days of nail biting anguish the announcement unleashed spasms of relief.

But it is still a deeply divided country.  Trump supporters are as dejected as Biden fans are elated—and many of them are enraged.  They are taking their cues from their beloved idol who not only refuses to concede, but is still screaming fraud and totally unsubstantiated charges that the election was rigged and a vast conspiracy of just about everyone is lying.  His lawyers, including the clearly deranged Rudy Giuliani are busy filing law suits that stand no chance of reversing the outcome even with his packed Supreme Court.

On the day and night of street celebrations, Trumpistas laid mostly low and avoided confrontations.  There were demonstrations in Arizona, Detroit, Philadelphia, and elsewhere but they were dwarfed by the displays of jubilation.

Trump supporters were mostly subdued during the Biden victory celebration, but that restraint is not apt to last.

The danger is in coming days when individual psychos may feel empowered to get their revenge on any of the alleged conspirators to steal the election for Trump or simply against their neighbors who put out the wrong yard signs.  More serious yet are the Militias and White Nationalist extremist groups who are heavily armed and semi-organized might take the opportunity to launch their longed dreamed of civil war/race war.  The Boogalooers, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and others remain incredibly dangerous.

In the meantime Biden is pressing forward with transition plans with which Trump has no intention of cooperating.  On the contrary, look for him to sabotage everything, destroy documents, and leave executive offices and Cabinet Departments in chaotic shambles.

And, of course, there is the uncertainty over control of the Senate.  Pending the result of two run-off elections in Georgia where Democrats face up hill races, the best that can be expected is a 50-50 split with new Veep Harris voting to make Chuck Schumer Majority Leader.  Odds are however that Mitch McConnell will keep his job and declare a strategy of total obstruction to all administration appointments and initiatives.  Biden will be handcuffed on his biggest objectives that he cannot achieve by executive order.  Look for at least two years of Congressional trench warfare.

Despite it all, we have enjoyed our moment of triumph and on January 20 Biden and Harris will be officially sworn in as President and Vice President.

I return today to a favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson.  In 1798 Jefferson was Vice President to his old Revolutionary friend and comrade John Adams do to the original Constitutional provision that awarded the vice presidency to the man who finished second in the Electoral College.  The Founders had not foreseen the rise of political parties.  But Adams and Alexander Hamilton created the Federalists who were interested in protective tariffs, a central bank, a vigorous executive, protection of the privileges of the landed elite, and opposition to the radical egalitarianism of the French Revolution.  All of that was an anathema to Jefferson, James Madison, and other who created an opposition Democratic-Republican Party. Things were looking particularly glum that year with an undeclared naval war with France brewing and Adams packing his appointments of judges, marshals, land agents, and other functionaries with Federalist loyalists.  The Alien and Sedition Acts potentially criminalized Republican activity.

In a letter to John Taylor on June 4, 1798 Jefferson wrote:

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt… And if we feel their power just sufficiently to hoop us together, it will be the happiest situation in which we can exist. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.

Jefferson, of course, did not believe in actual witches, but he was adept in the use of metaphor.  And he was prescient.  A little more than two years later he was swept into the Presidency and the power of the Federalists largely smashed in the election that has gone down in history as the Revolution of 1800.

Thar quote has given me comfort before including when Democrats dramatically lost control of the House of Representatives in 2002 and when Trump defeated popular vote winner Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And now it seems that once again the Reign of Witches has been vanquished


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