Joe Biden won. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of major American cities ―Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami― on Saturday to celebrate the Democratic victory and the defeat of Donald Trump just minutes after CNN and AP confirmed that Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania was irreversible. At the Élysée Palace, Emmanuel Macron uncorked a bottle of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998 and gulped it down as if it were an ordinary American beer and he a truck driver from Wyoming. Justin Trudeau jumped for joy. Angela Merkel, more cautiously, only allowed herself a slight smile when an assistant gave her the news. Vladimir Putin shrugged his shoulders. “What can you do,” he mused. “It’s only four years. Such a ruckus for four years”. The President of Russia leaned out of the window of his dacha. “Four years will pass in a blink,” he said to himself, in a melancholy way. In four years, Putin will be 72, and he is terrified. In Havana, Miguel Díaz-Canel, locked in his office, raised a prayer of tearful gratitude to the heavens. Nobody knows, he has not even told his wife, but the President of Cuba has begun to believe in God and in his miracles.
Biden has won, and he will be the next president of the United States, unless Trump manages to achieve something that seems impossible right now: that the Supreme Court invalidate hundreds of thousands of votes in Pennsylvania, that the Georgia recount reverse the apparent advantage of his rival in that state, that thousands of Republican votes, still uncounted, appear in Arizona and Nevada. That is what Trump has led his supporters to believe could happen, that the courts will invalidate the election result, that they will stop the alleged fraud committed by the Democrats. Enraged Trump supporters in Michigan, Texas and Florida, interviewed by reporters from CNN or The New York Times, repeat the myth of the alleged counting irregularities, and declare that they are convinced that Trump would win if “all the legal votes” were counted and all of Biden’s bogus ones eliminated. So many times has Trump managed to escape from scandals that would have destroyed any other politician, that both his followers and his enemies have ended up believing that he is far smarter than he is. Trump, in fact, is an imbecile, “a fucking moron,” in the words of his first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, “dumb as shit,” according to his former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, with the intelligence “of a sixth-grader,” according to former Defense Secretary Jim Matis. His political skills are very limited, he understands little of the machinery of government and the laws, and he has only one resource that no one else has and that has helped him push forward at every crossroads of his public life, he feels no shame, he has not a shred of honor, there are no limits to his impudence, he can lie and cheat without blushing, he can even come to believe his own lies. But in this case, Trump is not lying to himself, but to others, to his gullible followers; he knows he lost, he knows how to count. The world has not seen a worse loser since Napoleon.
The numbers are clear, Biden won. But Biden’s victory, fair and necessary as it is, however happy it makes millions of people around the world who dare not imagine the terrible consequences of another Trump victory, is anachronistic, not in keeping with the character and tone of our age. Biden, a politician who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, the same year Richard Nixon was re-elected president, is a remnant of the 20th century, a relic of a style of politics that today’s rabid ideological polarization makes look naive, childish, archaic. Barack Obama made him vice president precisely for that reason, a symbol of normality and conciliation alongside the first African-American president, the man who said a prayer at the funeral of Senator Strom Thurmond, the most tenacious segregationist in Congress, serving as number two to the son of a black man from Kenya with a white woman from Hawaii. On January 20, Biden will enter the White House promising civility, harmony, national unity, to be the president of all Americans, but he is not remotely prepared. He neither has the intellectual resources nor the political capital to appease the angry contenders in a virtual civil war that is being fought not on the battlefields of Virginia or the Carolinas, but in Congress, in the courts of law, on television and radio, on the so-called social networks, and in the streets of Charlottesville, Milwaukee, Oakland, and Kenosha. Biden will be eaten alive by Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Squad, Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren, the thugs of the alt right and the Antifa commandos, the QAnon obscurantists who believe in the existence of a secret network of liberal pedophiles who sacrifice children in satanic rites, and the Black Lives Matter activists who demand the abolition of the police, the six conservative Supreme Court Justices, who could liquidate Obamacare, gay marriage and abortion rights, and Justice Democrats and other Sanders-inclined cabals, who will demand the unconditional implementation of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and deploy radical candidates against supposedly moderate Democratic congressmen in 2022 and 2024. From the Oval Office, Biden will be able to hear the din of battles on Twitter and Facebook between clans on the right, on the left, and those whose only ideology is evil, ignorance, stupidity, or all of them at once. There is, of course, no moral equivalence between these forces, as there was not in 1861 between slaveholders and abolitionists, and so there will be no unity or conciliation during Biden’s presidency, no armistice is possible between these rivals. The result of this presidential election firmly indicates a parity that will not be decisively broken until one of the contenders wins forcefully not only on his side of the country and in a handful of swing states like Michigan or Florida, but also in rival territory, the Republicans in New Jersey, the Democrats in Arkansas, something still unimaginable. This war of secession is still a long way from its Gettysburg. For those who believe that the election was fraudulent, Biden will always be an illegitimate president, and every day that Trump refuses to admit defeat, he will further undermine among Republican voters the authority of the president-elect. For those who believe that Bernie Sanders should have been the Democratic candidate, and that the “corporate wing” of the party, funded by Wall Street, blocked his path to the nomination and the White House, Biden is nothing more than a president of compromise, of transition, the instrument to defeat Trump but not to govern, and they will immediately rebel against a likely centrist majority cabinet and begin to prepare for the inevitable battle for succession in 2024, if the president decides to retire after only one term. By then, Biden will most likely want to run away back to Delaware, cursing the moment when he decided to come out of retirement to be president, and Obama for not warning him not to do so.
Then, maybe Trump will come back. It wouldn’t be absurd to think that Trump would want to run for president again in four years, as nothing embarrasses him. He could win; he, or his clone, would start as favorite against anyone who gets the Democratic nomination. The economy, after the end of the pandemic, will take time to recover, and Biden will be blamed for that. Even moderate initiatives to control climate change, limit the possession of assault weapons, or dismantle the iron-clad institutional and cultural structure of racism, which would have no chance of becoming law as long as the Republicans control the Senate, would likely cause, if only proposed and debated, a Tea Party-like conservative rebellion like the one that rose up against Barack Obama, seized Congress from the Democrats and nullified his domestic agenda for six years. It is rumored that Trump wants to create his own television station, more to the right, if possible, than Fox News. There, at once owner, editor and star, Trump would launch his campaign to regain the presidency, or launch the campaign of one of his children. And maybe he would win, because Trump, not Biden, vividly represents our era, this brilliant Age of the Idiots in which every fucking moron in the world, armed with a smartphone, spreads his stupidity, his spite, his malice and his illiteracy with impudence and, worse still, with impunity. It is Trump, not Biden, who instinctively understands the cowardice, the selfishness, the cruelty of people, their credulity, their frivolity, the tenacity of their ignorance, their ability to hate. Consider this, think about it, always remember that 71 million Americans voted in November 2020 for Donald Trump, a coalition that includes everything from the Klu Klux Klan, QAnon and a dense network of neo-Nazi groups to the jovial Cuban grandmothers of Miami who took to the streets on Tuesday to celebrate Trump’s victory in Florida with a rumba by the Tres de La Habana. Not everyone voted for the same reason, many are supposedly decent people who wouldn’t hurt anyone, that is, they wouldn’t kill a black man or a homosexual with their own hands, and if they had to give a few coins to a beggar they would, but Trump united them with his evil energy, his vanity, his grotesque vulgarity, and his very simple vision of the world, presented with the vocabulary and the logic of a sixth grader, the apotheosis of individualism and tribalism, of personal triumph at the expense of the collective good, a new morality that legitimizes, rather than conceals, the excesses of greed, the effectiveness of lies, and the possibility of violence. Trump is the president these people deserve, and perhaps, the one we all deserve, the prophet of the new obscurantism, the great wizard of a medieval forest, full of monsters and superstitions, in which millions of people have already lost their way, never to find it again, in the United States and in all Western democracies. Yes, Biden won, but so did Trumpism, which, in reality, benefits more by surviving the electoral defeat, and taking with it the lethal energy of those 71 million votes, than it would have benefited from keeping the White House with an increasingly erratic and inefficient president and a dysfunctional, chaotic, unpopular administration. This defeat normalizes Trumpism, cures it, saves it from Trump, and shoots it into the future. “Four years, four years only,” whispers Putin, watching the rain fall in Moscow.