On Saturday, shortly after mid-day, it was Pan in Pandemonium, not Pandemic. It was the sound of clanking cookware clattering from the windows and on the streets. Horns honked. People of all colors, wearing masks, danced, spun, and twirled on a triumphant, sunny afternoon.
Moments earlier, television news outlets, including the Fox Decision Desk, checked off the Pennsylvania box for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, putting the Democratic ticket over the top. Meanwhile, Jim Failla, host of the Fox Across America radio show, offered a different story. Failla reported that Pennsylvania remained undecided, claiming a 1.5% lead for the incumbent. There is no way to square the Fox Across America report with that of Fox election experts.
Failla acknowledged that Democrats and media declared the race over. He reported that the President pledged to fight the contest to the end, taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers were filing lawsuits in the battleground states to challenge the results. None of those suits had a meaningful impact on counting or stopping the vote, requested willy-nilly by the President’s lawyers, depending upon whether Trump was leading or trailing in a particular state. One of the cases reached the Supreme Court in a way. Justice Samuel Alito, sitting for the Third Circuit, declined Trump’s request to stop the count of ballots received post-Election Day.
Once the consensus election watchers called Arizona and Nevada for Biden the following day, the Pennsylvania vote was no longer necessary to secure Biden’s election. Biden has reached the required 270 votes without Pennsylvania’s 20. Trump’s best chance to discredit the 2020 count became all but irrelevant.
Failla meanwhile shifted into a philosophical mood. Being a commentator reliant on sports analogies, he likened the Trump Presidency to an administration temporarily interrupted but destined to rise again. He compared Trump’s defeat to the premature retirement of Michael Jordan. Jordan is generally considered the greatest basketball player of all time, who won three championships, took a year off to play minor league baseball, then returned to his Chicago Bulls to win three more before retiring for good. Failla must think of the Trump administration as a high-water mark in the American government and his loss to Biden, a voluntary intermission. Unlike Michael Jordan, Trump will be leaving involuntarily. Jordan stepped away after the first of two three-peats and, in large part, as a reaction to his father’s tragic death. Failla’s analogy predicts Trump running and winning in 2024.
On Saturday night, Biden and Harris took the stage, masked and distanced, to declare victory. Biden repeated his desire to be a president to his detractors as well as his supporters. Biden said, “I understand the disappointment tonight. But now let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature… To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies; they are Americans.”
Some of the Trumpers heard Biden, quoting Ecclesiastes, proclaim this a time to heal. They were heartened that Biden is a man of faith. Others hung on to Trump’s unsupported claims of widespread fraud. They remain unconvinced that Biden is an honest broker, hoping to find common ground with civility and goodwill. They blame a hostile media and a dishonest opponent for falsifying polls and blocking Trump’s reelection. They will not be part of the Biden fellowship.
When Joe Biden takes office on January 20th, in one sense, the symbolic clock will be turned back to 2010, of the Tea Party and a divided government. Ten years ago, Obama was blocked while trying to achieve progress on significant issues with a hostile House and a Democratic Senate internally split. Now, some problems, like Covid-19 and climate change, are universally existential. Because of the illness and unemployment triggered by the uncontrolled pandemic, an issue like health care may be existential as well, particularly if the Supreme Court declares the entire statute unconstitutional on a case to be argued tomorrow, with a sixth conservative justice joining the nine-member panel. Racial injustice is an existential issue nationally. Some of Trump’s adherents have described the controversy as the continuation of our ongoing civil war. They consider themselves partisans in that inglorious battle.
It is no longer Morning in America, as Ronald Reagan proclaimed decades ago. The pandemic and the crippled economy can be addressed, once the sciences of epidemiology and economics are embraced anew. Racial injustice remains an unsolved problem. It will take art, not science, to make progress on this fundamental issue. It will require civility, goodwill, and empathy. In matters of race, time is not on our side. It’s late afternoon in America, and the clock’s sweep second hand is ticking loudly in all our ears.