By the end of the week, we hope, we will know who will serve as the American president for the next four years.
Twenty-four hours before Election Day, it feels as if this is a change election, and that the next two and a half months will be spent preparing for a new style of leadership, as President-elect Joe Biden assembles a new team.
But we have been wrong on this point before and that’s why so many are refusing to accept the obvious. President Trump’s approval rating has never risen out of the 40s. Biden has consistently led in public opinion polls since the start of the year. Voters say the number one issue in the country is the management of the pandemic and most voters say the current president has done a bad job on that matter. Joe Biden is campaigning against chaos. President Trump, win or lose, is promising more.
It seems like an easy decision. It is just hard to believe that the record number of people who have cast their votes so far, made the extra effort, because they want four more years of leadership by Tweet, justice by innuendo, and crisis management through denial. Yet if Trump somehow wins a second term, that is indeed what the American people will have chosen.
Let’s hope that’s not the case.
I hope our four year national nightmare, and international embarrassment, is about to end. I’m hoping that the president accepts defeat, with a measure of grace he has so far failed to demonstrate, and that he allows President-elect Biden to begin signaling new directions as soon as possible.
There is an accepted norm in American politics that says we have one president at a time. When an incumbent is defeated, or is coming to the end of eight years in office, he is allowed to finish his term while the president-elect quietly readies himself, out of the public eye, until he is sworn in. I hope that is another norm the current president is ready to shatter. I don’t think anyone would criticize Biden if he were to give a speech by the end of this week explaining, in detail, how he plans to get the pandemic under control. Clarity would be welcome. Such a speech might include a call for mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. Such a speech might include a reminder that Biden does not see public health as a partisan issue and might include a plea to all governors to stop risking the lives of their citizens to curry favor with a defeated Trump. That’s what I hope.
I hope that the president does not use his defeat to signal that he is not giving up. A few weeks ago, one of his advisers suggested that if he loses to Biden, he might try again in 2024. Let’s hope that’s not the case. Let’s hope that whatever is left of the leadership of the Republican Party, after the election, makes it clear the Trump era is over, and that the party is moving in a new non-Trumpist direction.
I hope Trump’s supporters can accept defeat as well. In 2016, most American voters voted for Hillary Clinton, and although it was painful and difficult, they accepted the fact that their candidate lost, wished the new president well and hoped for the best. Though they did not get the best, for the most part, they understood that the only chance they had to reverse the 2016 election, would be the 2020 election. They waited.
I hope a President-elect Biden does everything he can to reach out to those who voted against him to ask them to unite behind one president for the good of the country. And I know he will. I hope he reaches out to Republican leaders in Congress and I hope they reach back.
I hope we have all learned our lesson that our right to vote should not be taken for granted and that never again will Americans sit out an election, because they think their side is going to win, or because they don’t like the menu of choices. Over the last four years, I hope we have all learned the meaning of the phrase, “elections have consequences,” and if a new president is chosen, I hope we can all agree some of the consequences of 2016 need to be corrected.
I hope the 500 children, still separated from their families because of President Trump’s immigration policies, can be reunited. I hope foreign countries learn they can no longer interfere in our elections. I hope the Russians know it’s no longer acceptable to put bounties on the heads of American soldiers. I hope all our soldiers, sailors and others who serve our country, know the new president and the entire country supports them. I hope we can get this virus under control. It has claimed well over 200,000 American lives, devastated the economies of millions of American families, and cost us all one full year of our lives.
These are my hopes. Just some of them. They are all dependent on a certain outcome in the presidential election. Joe Biden must win. If he loses, and the majority of Americans make clear that they want four more years of Donald Trump, and endorse his policies, I have a shorter list of hopes.
If that is the outcome; four more years, then I only have one hope: That the nation I grew up in can survive whatever is in store. There is almost no limit to the damage President Trump can do if he sees himself as unrestrained, by the system, or the voters. I hope we never get to see what he has in mind.