Days before the most consequential election ever, Becca Andrews, a journalist at US news site Mother Jones, reveals what it's like living in Trump’s America and why, along with tens of millions, she’s holding her breath expecting the worst
That headline is not a question – I wish it were. I wish it were not some grim proclamation that sits under my ribs. Oh, how I wish it were anything other than a dull surety that has held me in place as the last four years have played out in the United States. Now it’s rooting ever deeper into me as the pandemic continues to grip my country and every day brings a new nauseating wave of anxiety. Yes, welcome to the US election 2020. And as if things weren’t bad enough, Gwen Stefani is going to marry Blake Shelton. (Yeah, that’s right, I have feelings about all sorts of things, so sue me.)
US election 2020: Trump’s unlocked Pandora’s box
For four years, Donald Trump, a B-list reality TV star, a peak example of someone who is famous for being famous, has been the president of the United States, and there is no outcome in the 2020 election that can erase the damage he has done. The ills cannot all be gathered up and locked away in Pandora’s box now they have spread and multiplied.
The worst qualities of my country have been laid bare, where once they were hidden, to a certain extent anyway, under a veneer of social norms. The racism, the misogyny, the hate, the narcissism, the lies and the tweets (ranging from grammatically baffling to completely unintelligible). It’s going to take more than a new president for democracy to truly recover from all of that. It’s not that the base inequalities are new, but they seem more virulent and undeniable now. Maybe this means we can start taking them on.
Biden’s unlikely to make drastic changes
I, and literally tens of millions of others, are holding our breaths, expecting the worst, but ready to accept the best should it materialise. So, let’s say Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidency, no muss no fuss no showdown at the Supreme Court. Although Biden’s been slowly pushed to the left by the primary process and the overall evolution of the Democratic party, he’s still one of those guys who’s more likely to colour within the lines than make drastic changes.
To be clear, I am not saying Joe Biden will make a terrible president – what I am saying is if Trump leaves office, there will be a real need for reconstruction, and that we’ve fallen so far calls for radical action. It’s been years of children locked away in cages simply for seeking safety. The parents of 545 children separated at the Mexican border cannot be found, their records lost in a labyrinth of bureaucratic failure (at best). We’ve had years of irreversible damage to the planet, of gaslighting from the highest political office in the land, of white supremacist dog whistles and of more conservative power in the courts. One presidential election cannot undo all the damage.
Where do we go from here?
Clearly, a national cultural shift is in order. Priorities need to change. Black lives must matter. Healthcare must be a human right (and abortion must be healthcare). Truth must carry weight. Humanity must take precedence. To be sure, there are glimpses of pure good amid all the chaos. Teenagers leading all manner of national protests, exhibiting bravery beyond their years. Americans of all backgrounds taking to the streets condemning the murder of Black people by police officers.
The existence of the Squad – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley – women of colour in the House of Representatives are making it clear they’re not apologising for pursuing equality and justice. Kamala Harris is our first Black woman to be vice presidential nominee and truly, if you take anything but joy from the look on her face when she dances on the campaign trail, then you really need to think about why that is.
Progress is slow, it is not linear, it is painful. Donald Trump may be president for four more years. Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, it’s going to take a lot of work to fight for the sort of country America purports to be – one where all are created equal.