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DELIVERANCE

November 7, 2020


The race was called for Joe Biden today at 11:24 a.m.





To say we're relieved is a major understatement.


By "we" I mean, of course, we on the left, or moderates, or whoever cast a vote for the Democratic ticket this election. Thrilled is actually much more like it. So thrilled that I bet many of us today felt (not to be dramatic) like someone rescued from a life-altering, terrifying accident — like those people trapped in a mine for days (brought up to the surface in the bright sunlight, shielding their eyes, unsteady, famished, and dazed.


People who haven't lived through 2020 (my intended audience — or, at any rate, those who don't remember every detail afterward) may find it notable that I had such an extreme reaction to what as, of course, great news. But I did, and maybe a lot of other people did, too.


I saw the announcement first on TV.

Just an hour after CNN made the first announcement, crowds thronged plazas, roadways and parks all over the U.S.




Then came cheering, horns honking, whooping and people shouting outside in my neighborhood. And beyond — I could hear the cheering coming in every direction, close to me as well as far away.


Immediately, I wanted to run outside and join the celebration. Stephanie had just left on a motorcycle ride, so my first thought was to jump in the car and go grab some footage of the public reaction for this blog. (Yeah, old reporter habits die hard.)


But I didn't do that. Weirdly, I was suddenly overcome by a irresistible urge to take a shower. Really. And after I got out of the shower I needed to eat, urgently, even though I hadn't been hungry ten minutes before.


Finally I felt steady again, and did go out. And not much in my life has felt as good as driving around on this crazily warm day in November, cheering with Americans who were as elated as I was.


Spontaneous celebrations like this were happening all over the country today. (Taken on my iPhone while driving, about 2:00 p.m., Montclair New Jersey)



It wasn't until about an hour ago (it's now 11:30 pm, almost exactly 12 hours since the announcement) that I realized that what I'd had was a post-traumatic reaction, not a joyous one. (Oh it was joyous eventually! But the joy took a while to kick in.)


More than half of America has been through hell these last four years. Unless you are a diehard Trumper, it's been nothing less than agony to watch what felt like a steady dismantling of our Constitution, our laws, our system of government, our moral code, voting rights, our way of life — in short, our America.


And we were not the only ones worried about us. I think it shook up the whole world that the model democracy, the United States, was teetering on the edge of a cliff. As many people around the world know from experience, countries do fall. Malignant regimes do take hold; democracies die. (We have only to look at Venezuela, whose situation bears some terrifying resemblances to ours, to see how easily a rich country can become an impoverished one, or a free country one that's oppressed by authoritarian rule.)


Such regime changes happen all the time, but no one ever thought it could happen here.


In Europe they rang church bells for America tonight, the way they did at the end of World War II. In Scotland, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, maybe elsewhere, there were fireworks, celebrations and people tweeting, "We are celebrating with you, America!"


Celebratory fireworks over London earlier tonight. Photo: The Hill



In some ways, today felt more like an ending than a beginning. Overjoyed as many of us were to see the winning team appear onstage at 8 p.m. as President- and Vice President-Elect (she radiant in cream-colored silk; he visibly delighted to have finally attained a goal set more than 30 years ago), this was more than an election-night celebration. This was deliverance.


The first address by President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris took place last night in Wilmington, DE.


The winning ticket! Photo: Andrew Harnick, AP


We let the system work the way it was designed to — not just this interminable week of vote-counting, but for all of the past four years. This one, of course, being worse than any of the others. Through our shock and anxiety, our outrage and tears, we managed to coalesce and hold on.


We voted in record-setting numbers, standing in lines that went on for blocks, in the heat and cold. We voted by mail, even when the blue USPS mailboxes disappeared from street corners. We voted even when there were too few drop-off boxes, or the rules were challenged in court and changed. We left our houses in a pandemic, in masks, and voted.


Celebrities and well-wishers sent pizza, people danced and sang; some brought bag lunches and lawn chairs and battery chargers for their phones. Whatever it took, the people cast their votes.


Future generations won't be able to fully understand what it was like to live through this period of time, despite well-meaning attempts like this one to describe it. I hope they won't have to experience anything like 2020 in their own lifetimes.


But without going through the terrible part, can they imagine what deliverance felt like today?


Many of us were in tears on election night in 2016. The nationwide peaceful demonstrations that took place the following day remain the largest-ever protests on American soil. Those were tears of dread and heartbreak.


Tonight, we were in tears again. This time they're tears of release.




In Philadelphia last night. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell, AP



President Trump still hasn't conceded the race. His campaign has already filed multiple lawsuits claiming the election was fraudulent (adding to the many he filed in advance of the election), and we've been told still more will be filed on Monday. Even if every challenge is thrown out for lack of evidence, as many legal experts believe will happen, America is still facing a battle.


In fact, given the higher-than-expected number of Trump votes this election, it's certain that even after the man himself exits the White House, Trumpism will continue to reverberate in this country.


Trump with supporters.


But tonight, it comes down to this: we managed to haul ourselves over the high bar. We were first through the tape, or slid into home plate, or whatever metaphor you like. As in sports, politics requires a winner, and this time he's ours.


It feels like we've never been so grateful in our lives.




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