Many of my European friends have told me that this election has restored their faith in the American system. Things went off the rails for four years, but the country course-corrected and now we’ve got the good ol’ USA that we know and love back. I caution them. Don’t overestimate this moment. This didn’t happen automatically because the process had fail safes. This was a struggle, and a victory barely won.
Look the hard work that it took to eek out a narrow electoral win. You see 306 to 232 and think that’s a big gap. Or you look at the difference in the popular vote tally and think it was a no-brainer. The margins in some states are heartbreakingly thin. It was close. Closer than anyone that understands what’s going on should be comfortable with.
When you take a look at all of the gerrymandering, voter suppression, and disinformation that had to be overcome, you’ll realize why the race was so tight. It wasn’t just a battle of ideology. The fight was to get every vote counted in spite of all of the obstacles voters had to face.
Don’t Overestimate This Moment
The United States still doesn’t have universal health care, a cornerstone of every developed nation in the world. The cost of a college education still leaves young people struggling to pay both their student loans and their living expenses. Housing in many parts of the country still isn’t affordable, because wages remain low compared to other parts of the world. Gun control, education, paid parental leave, and on, and on, and on. The death penalty exists. It’s the only country in the world that hasn’t ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. All things that other capitalist, “first-world” countries have had for decades, that Americans think constitute “socialism”.
There is still a battle over police reform. The debate rages as to whether communities would be better served by shifting funds toward social services. Instead of relying on untrained and under-trained officers, fund other agencies to handle people struggling with mental illness, addition, and homelessness. All of this brought to you by a privatized prison system that needs to turn a profit. I won’t get into the incarceration of asylum seeker in direct violation of both US and international law, locking kids in cage (which, yes, happened under Obama too, this is my point), and the separation of families.
Most importantly, there remains a huge percentage of the population that thinks the past four years were great, and want more of the same. I said it prior to the election in 2016, and I’ll say it again: even if he loses, there are people out there that think he’s a good idea.
The Status is Still Quo
If you think things will magically change, remember that this was the status quo for the eight years under Obama. The Republicans still control the Senate. The Democrats have a narrower majority in the House of Representatives. It’s already looking like the GOP will regain control of congress in the 2022 mid-term election.
This isn’t the end of the fight. This is a chance to catch our collective breath before the next battle begins. If we’re lucky, this is the start of a shift toward sanity. There’s still a long way to go. Don’t overestimate this moment.
My mother country still terrifies me. I still don’t want to go back. Having to return remains my greatest fear, and my biggest source of anxiety.