Four and a half million votes is a substantial margin of victory. And yet it is also true to say that if over half the country is feeling great relief, roughly half the country not so much.
If it had been a landslide it would have been easier to believe that the last four years were, as a sign in a local anti-Trump celebration had it, “End of an Error.” An aberration. Not really us. As if the real America had just stood up (and looked kind of like Joe Biden).
The real America did stand up, of course, and the election provides a soberingly clear revelation of the sort of country we really are.
This is a country in which half of us experience Donald Trump not as the indecent, bragging, bullying, lying narcicist just all round nasty guy one half sees but as a good guy, their kind of guy, and more: a savior and great hero. The very same personal characteristics one half deplores delight the other half.
One half of us sees Obama as in the documentary currently showing on TV– “The Way I See It”–as a carismatic, eloquent, loving father and husband, so painfully all that Trump is not. And the other half apparently—somehow, bafflingly to our half, sees the same Obama as detestable and Trump all that the man he replaced is not.
There is a phenomenon called the “crater illusion”– you can see a moon crater as concave or convex, but not both at the same time. This would seem to fit perfectly how the two halves of the country see these two men.
This is a country in which half the citizens don’t hold it against Trump that his policies have probably killed over 100 thousand people who would not otherwise have died of the virus. (In a news story that appeared a couple of days ago, of the 300 hardest-hit counties in the country, 94% voted heavily for Trump.)
Roughly half of us would apparently prefer a country without journalism (and probably think the traditional media’s , including Fox News, reporting of the election’s outcome is “fake news”).
This is a country in which half the citizens are apparently perfectly comfortable with Trump”s failure to renew decades-old agreements with Russia protecting against the nuclear annihilation nightmare scenario of the Cold War.
Though a much higher percent are believers in human-made (and human-remediable) climate change, the half of us who voted for Trump presumably don’t care whether we do anything about that.
This is the sort of country, we learn by the election, for whom fascists and anti-fascists are morally equivalent. Who cheered when Trump told the Proud Boys “to stand by” with their guns. Who were tickled when a bus of Biden’s supporters was run off the road by Trump supporters near Austin, and Trump responded in a tweet, “I love Texas.” ,
Roughly half of us want to return to an America they presumably see as great, in which tens of millions of fellow citizens were without health care.
The roughly half the country who voted for Trump presumably get off on his playing fast and loose with basics of democracy, his documented attempts to suppress the vote, his hiring of a postmaster general who would help with that, his many attempts to cast doubt on the election process. It does not go too far to say that a vote for Trump was in fact a vote against democracy.
So while there is great relief for many at the ousting of Trump, it’s hard to ignore the other election result: evidence of what sort of country we are.
It’s a scary country.
Biden is passionate about the need for healing and it’s healing, at least for half the country, just to hear his appeal. Given what one half of us is like, wants, believes, there is a lot of healing to be done. It will probably take more than just deciding to take a more tolerant attitude toward each other.