We are now entering the homestretch. Voters will finally have a say in whether President Donald Trump’s reign of terror and idiocy continues or ends.
Tens of millions of Americans have already made their choices known by voting early.
For many of us, this day could not come soon enough. For many of us, we quite literally weren’t sure if we, or the country, or the world even, could survive four years of a Trump presidency.
I can still remember election night 2016. I was in my office at The New York Times on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. I was prepared to write something about the results, as I had done in 2008 after Barack Obama’s first victory.
But as the news trickled in and networks and newspapers began to call states, it dawned on me that things were going in the wrong direction. I left the building. I walked down Eighth Avenue and then Seventh.
Occasionally I’d stop at a restaurant or a bar that had televisions turned to the channels tracking the results. Every time a state was called in Trump’s favor, people reacted in horror.
I ended up settling in at a familiar restaurant and ordering dinner at the bar so that I could follow the rest of the results on the television that hung just above it.
The race still hadn’t been called when I made it home to Brooklyn. I didn’t wait up. I knew this was not going to end well. I went to sleep.
When I woke up, the race had been called, and a stunned Trump had his victory. I was shocked and dumbfounded. “Is this really happening? How is this happening?” I couldn’t ditch the disbelief.
Hillary Clinton delivered her concession speech slightly before noon. Yes, this was happening.
I walked out to get coffee in my very liberal neighborhood. People moved around, silently, mournfully, as if in an eerie dream. There was measurable trauma. It persisted for weeks in my neighborhood, and indeed in the country.
People donated millions to Jill Stein’s effort to recount ballots in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. That effort fizzled.
We became very familiar with the 25th Amendment, which allowed the president to be removed from office by his Cabinet and vice president if he is deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That was never going to happen.
We counted on Robert Mueller, who eventually did too little and didn’t go far enough.
We waited for an impeachment, one that eventually came, but by then Trump had consumed the whole of the Republican Party. Republican senators by then had become his lap dogs. There was no way they were going to remove him from office, regardless of his guilt, regardless of the damage he did.
So, on some level, we all learned to cope. Some of us girded for the battle by becoming part of what we called the Resistance. Others, overwhelmed and consumed by a feeling of helplessness, simply checked out and focused on things they could control: love of family, community action, gardening, cooking, whatever they could think of to keep their minds off the madness.
We tried not to become numb to the constant barrage of lies and outrages. We wore the word “normalize” out. As Emily Dreyfuss reported in Wired magazine:
“Kory Stamper, lexicographer at Merriam Webster, examined a range of sources and found that people have used the word twice as much online in 2016 than in 2015, and that this usage spiked after Election Day by as much as 50%.”
We amped up our protests. We had the Women’s March. We showed up at airports to protest detained immigrants and refugees. We marched for immigrants’ rights. We protested in opposition to Trump’s family separation policy. Even the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer were laced with a dissatisfaction about the current political climate.
But none of these actions ever held the possibility of removing Trump from office or fundamentally shifting power. They were, however, building community among the disaffected, energizing them, demonstrating the collective spiritual power of direct action.
Now, finally, after biding time for years, members of the Resistance and all others unhappy with the state of things are able to take an action that will directly impact the president and power in Washington: They can vote.
And, pandemic be damned, that is precisely what millions of Americans are doing, as early as they can. There is an energy and urgency in the air. Here in Georgia, voting is all that anyone talks about: “Have you voted?” “When are you voting?” “Do you want to come with me to vote?”
This energy is different from the Obama-era energy, which, particularly during his first run, was filled with hope and excitement. This energy is warrior energy. It is defiant and determined. It is David-come-to-slay-Goliath energy.
And it feels very good to be part of it, to feel that we might be on the verge of being able to exhale and exclaim, “We made it. We survived!”