And the winner is … Joe Biden.
It’s been over a month since the U.S. presidential election and, as most of us know, our soon-to-be-former president, Donald Trump, has pulled out all the stops to make us believe he won.
But, no, he didn’t.
Trump thought he was going to win, anticipating a replay of 2020. And, for a short time on election night, a lot of Democrats were shaking in their boots, thinking Trump might pull off a repeat. As many experts predicted though, early votes counted were cast on Election Day, most coming from Trump supporters. The president had encouraged them to skip voting by mail and, instead, to vote in person. Biden’s supporters, cautious of contracting COVID-19, voted by mail, in much greater numbers.
As the vote counts poured in that Tuesday night, same-day votes, which were counted first, gave Trump an artificial lead. With that early lead, Trump came out in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and, from the White House, declared himself the winner. Not so fast, Mr. President. We’re still counting votes here.
Five days later, the Saturday after election day, the major television networks and the Associated Press projected Joe Biden the winner, earning 306 electoral votes, the same number as Trump in his 2016 victory. The big difference four years ago is that Trump pulled off his win with a 3 million popular vote deficit against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, it took Biden garnering a 7 million vote plurality to earn the same number of electoral votes. (That’s the curious workings of our nation’s archaic Electoral College system.)
To the surprise of virtually no one, President Trump, to this day, has refused to concede, insisting he won the election. That’s contrary to the vote count, not to mention, common sense. His legal team tried every avenue possible to invalidate election results, from alleging votes were cast fraudulently to claiming voting machines changed votes for Trump to Biden. None of their claims have proven true. In numerous cases brought before the courts, judges have dismissed lawsuits filed by Trump’s team, often with damning summations. Some of the harshest judicial rebukes came from judges appointed by President Trump himself.
Especially painful for me, as a person of color, was watching Trump’s legal team single out major urban centers like Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta, cities with large percentages of African American voters. When I was a child, members of my race paid for the right to vote, often with their lives. And yet, here in the 21st century, we face the reincarnation of voter suppression, encouraged by the president of the United States, no less. I guess we haven’t come that far after all since the Jim Crow laws of the 1960s.
Truth is, Donald Trump would have had a better chance of winning a second term had it not been for a crisis he chose to first ignore, then later mock. He’d inherited an economy that was already humming along nicely when he succeeded President Obama in 2016. All he had to do was keep the good times going and, for a while, he did. That was, until the deadly novel coronavirus reared its head. However, rather than confronting the threat of the virus head-on, he chose to ignore it.
Trump’s catastrophic handling of the coronavirus sent a healthy economy into free fall, the effects of which we’re still suffering.
In the now widely heard exchange between Trump and legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his book “Rage,” we received a preview of how the president would handle the virus. On tape, Trump could be heard admitting to Woodward that he knew, weeks before the nation’s first confirmed deaths, that the virus was airborne and dangerous. His words, the virus was “more deadly than even your most strenuous flu.” He added, “This is deadly stuff.” Still, as the virus began to spread, despite what he said to Woodward, the president chose to downplay its severity to the public.
To be fair, back in April, Trump did take a brief stab at seriously confronting the virus. Unfortunately, that effort didn’t last long. By the waning days of the 2020 campaign, as the number of confirmed deaths topped 200,000, he’d routinely make light of its seriousness.
He ridiculed the danger of infection, encouraging his supporters to rebel against the idea of wearing masks, making the point of not wearing one himself. Of course, we know how that turned out, as the president was later hospitalized with the virus. But he wasn’t done yet.
Having access to the world’s best medical care, Trump was soon released from the hospital, then hopped right back onto the campaign trail. At his rallies, he’d mockingly shout “COVID, COVID, COVID,” telling us how sick he was of hearing about it. His crowds cheered their approval.
The president’s routine included the claim that we’d hear nothing about COVID-19 after Nov. 3, implying the virus was all a ruse created to defeat him. Six weeks after Election Day, how is his prediction looking? Tragically, we’re approaching 300,000 American souls lost to the virus.
Lest we forget, America suffered another crisis in 2020, stemming from the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. He was killed by a city police officer during an otherwise routine arrest. The officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck until he was dead. Weeks of protest followed in all 50 states, some violent (as a result of opportunists), but most were peaceful. Floyd’s death ripped the scab off the systemic racism that plagues our country. But, rather than using his bully pulpit as president, offering balm to soothe the soul of a hurting nation, Trump capitalized on the divisions that have plagued us for decades.
American presidents have traditionally offered an olive branch to those who may not have supported them in the election. Not Donald Trump. He cares only about his base supporters. Everyone else? We were “them,” the others. Faced with two major crises this year, Trump’s fatal political mistake was assuming he did not need the rest of us in his bid for a second term. He capitalized on our prejudices to further tear us apart and build his brand when he should have worked twice as hard to unite us.
I asked a friend, a Trump supporter, if he thought Donald Trump was an empathetic person. He was honest enough to admit, no, he didn’t think so. When I pointed out to another Trump supporter that I wanted a president who knew how to show compassion, his response was he didn’t want a “nanny” president. Well, neither do I.
But, what I do want is a president who possesses and demonstrates those important human qualities of compassion, empathy, humility and, yes, love.
Policy issues? We can debate them later. But, before we even get started, I have to say this.
The ability to share the emotions of others, whether they be of joy or deep sadness, is necessary, I think, for the man or, hopefully, one day, woman, who wishes to serve as president of the United States.
I believe Joe Biden possesses all of those qualities.
Elijah Jones is a proud Hattiesburg native who enjoys writing. Email him at email@example.com.