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What happens next? An electoral reflection

Election times are stressful under the best of circumstances—and 2020 has hardly been the best of circumstances in any sense of the phrase. It was a long year leading up to Tuesday’s election, with the coronavirus’ devastating effects on all aspects of life, and with Trump stirring up fear regarding the election’s integrity and whether or not he will commit to ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. 

Tensions were certainly high in the days and months before the election—and then Tuesday happened, adding an entirely new level of uncertainty as what many Democrats feared would happen began to come true. 

I’ll be honest: I did not expect this race to be close. I thought voters would turn out en masse for Biden and Democrats would take the Senate. Was this overly optimistic, or even naive? It’s entirely possible. But I still find myself wondering how we ended up here, on Thursday night, biting our nails at a frighteningly close electoral race that—just like in 2016—many people thought would be a smooth Democratic win. Perhaps more importantly than how we ended up in this position is the question of what happens next—if Biden is declared the winner, will Trump concede defeat? Will the integrity of our election be maintained? And if Trump is reelected—where do progressives turn for the next four years?

Voting for Donald Trump is something I never will personally be able to understand; so the question of how we, as a nation, got to the point of an intensely close election in which around half of voters—as of Thursday night, 69,616,707 people—voted for Trump is also something that is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. These four years have not been smooth or successful for the Trump administration, and this last year has been the most politically and socially chaotic of any that I’ve experienced in my twenty short years of life. As of today, there are over 234,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, in absolutely no small part due to the Trump administration’s gross mishandling of the pandemic. 

The second Trump made the pandemic a partisan issue for him to dismiss, he surrendered any lasting appearance of having the American people’s best interest at heart. 

Given the current state of the union, in every aspect worse off than it was four years ago, and with a vicious pandemic raging unchecked through every community, why would millions of voters opt to reelect the man who is so clearly the cause of this chaos? And more than  that, how could we not know? How could the polls be so off once again that for all appearances it seemed that Biden would sweep the election and Democrats would regain the Senate with ease? 

But I digress. As I stated earlier, how we got here is important, but where we are headed now is more so. As of sending this edition to print on Thursday night, the election is very much undecided. 

While Biden is favored to win the election, I, and many others, are concerned about how Trump would face the loss of the election, and for good reason. 

As promised, Trump prematurely declared victory and began pushing the narrative of voter fraud and voter intervention in all of the key swing states. Even more than claiming voter fraud, he declared that he would stop votes from being counted, but only in states where he’s losing. Of course, even in these states, votes for Trump would still be valid—it’s only votes for Biden that are fraudulent. 

On Twitter early Wednesday morning, Trump claimed victory in two swing states that have been called for Biden, Wisconsin and Michigan. He is also now seeking to pursue legal action against Arizona and Nevada in order to slow votes being counted in those states. 

These measures are, of course, all massive red flags signaling a democracy in danger, but the more immediate question becomes one of removing Trump from office should he illegally stop votes from being counted or refuse to admit defeat. 

What would an unpeaceful transfer of power look like? And how can private citizens help to ensurea peaceful one? Protests, of course, go a long way. We are not at this point yet, but I worry about what will happen and how much violence could erupt if Trump does not accept the results of the election. 

And then there’s the still real possibility of a legitimate Trump reelection. While it grows increasingly unlikely with the primarily Democratic mail-in ballots trickling in, it is a real possibility that progressives must consider. Another four years of the Trump administration would have horrifying effects on both humanity and the planet. With the clock ticking on environmental destruction, I personally am terrified for what a Trump reelection would mean for the future of my generation and generations after us. 

With any luck over the next few days, these are issues that will remain hypothetical musings confined to the pages of a small town college’s newspaper. But maybe I’m just being overly optimistic again. Keep fighting the good fight, folks. Take care of yourselves in these stressful and uncertain times.

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