Trying to write something about this election is like trying to pick up a hundred pounds of sand in your arms. Things slip away. It’s big and unwieldy. Also, you wonder if you have anything to say that others have not already said better than you can.
Still, for my own sake if for no one else’s, I feel like I should say something, since I have fought, like half the country (and, alas, only half the Church) to see this day come.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the next President and Vice President of the United States.
The first and most important thing to say about that is that this is a time to celebrate. The American people have met and beaten the gravest domestic threat to the United States since the Civil War. Yes, challenges still lie ahead. But take a breath and savor that fact. It could have been otherwise. This monstrous man could have won again and we could have seen him complete the destruction of our civil order that he has thus far so ignobly advanced. We could have watched helplessly as this lazy, ignorant eugenicist fool adopted a “plan” for “herd immunity” that mean doing nothing while we were abandoned to sickness and death totaling millions.
But he didn’t. We beat him. And more than simply beating him, we have elected a decent and good man who is competent and who has already shown himself determined to seek the common good. That too is worth celebrating.
In addition, we have elected not just a woman, but a woman with both African and Asian roots whose very being is a repudiation of the racist, misogynist Freak Show that is the MAGA Cult. That too is worth celebrating.
Also, worth celebrating is the fact that we shall soon be governed by Competents who will take science seriously again instead of living in a cloud cuckoo fantasy land of lies. That is good news both for those facing COVID and for those facing climate change. Speaking of which, Biden will instantly rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and is already putting together a Pandemic Response. Since he already helped create both of those things before, he has experience.
For my part, as for many, Election Day itself was painful because of the Gomer Pyle Axiom of High and Low Expectations.
What is that, you ask? Simple. When you have high expectations, then anything less than crushing victory feels like a loss, whereas when you have low or no expectations, mere competence can seem like a revelation of glory. So when Gomer Pyle bursts forth in a voice of moderate talent, it feels as though a new Caruso has arisen. But when Michael Jordan misses a layup, it feels like the foundations of the earth have been shaken and everything you thought you knew was wrong.
Like many people, I was, if not certain, at least highly confident of a Blue Wave last Tuesday. Surely, I thought, after the spectacle of the past four years and the steaming cesspool of GOP Crime Syndicate Corruption, this would result in a shattering win for the Dems, not only for the Presidency, but for the Senate and House as well.
So it was deeply depressing to watch nearly half the country fulfill LBJ’s prophetic analysis of this deep, original sin in our national character:
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Sorry. But you can’t convince me that is not the fundamental dynamic at work here. Trump has run on and ruled by racism again and again. It’s his characteristic appeal and his base knows that. If you tell me “Maybe for some, but lots of people voted for him cuz he’s prolife” I reply that you are either ignorant, stupid, or a liar. And that isn’t just because he raised Planned Parenthood funding to record heights.
The reality is that the people who claim they only support him because he is “prolife” have proven this is a lie every single day for four years.
Because instead of defending the unborn, they have devoted their time and energy to defending every lie, cruelty, sadistic act, racist remark, misogynist bullying, sexual assault, kidnapping, call for violence, and criminal act he has committed. They voted for him this time, not because those things were bugs, but because they were features. If they had really only supported the prolife stuff and not all the other filth. they would have spoken against the other filth. They never did. They either remained silent or, as was far more often the case, they passionately supported it.
So yeah. It was heartbreaking to see not only half of America, but half the Church go for this filth for four more years. And for me, it was shocking.
But then I reflected on the fact that there are lots of people for whom it was not a shock at all. For millions of brown people, for instance, it was no shock. It was, in fact, confirmation of what they have been saying for years that I didn’t want to believe.
More than that, it was not a shock to God. Indeed, God seemed to me to be saying, “Prudence suggests learning from brown people in this hour instead nursing your wounded ethnic and religious pride that thought your tribe better than that.”
So that is the first (but by no means the last) lesson I am taking from this election. The enormous turnout of this election means that we have been given a very accurate diagnostic of the health of the body politic (and of the Body of Christ) in the US.
For those willing to prudently face reality (something the MAGA cult is dedicated to denying) we are being offered a scary, but hopeful, moment from Christ the Physician. The Election is the moment where he has taken that half of the Church willing to listen to the Spirit into his office, shut the door, and said, “Your tests are back and you may want to sit down for this. I have some bad news.”
Not hopeless news, mind you. But bad.
God diagnoses us so that he can heal us (with our cooperation). And as Peter says, “Judgment begins with the house of God” (cf 1 Peter 4:17). The reason our nation is so sick is because of a failure in the Church. We have failed to be the leaven we are supposed to be and have, instead, taken on the flavor of the culture like tofu.
I don’t claim to know how to fix blame for that, except that (as I hope to discuss in a week or so) the guiltiest culprit is me. Nor am I altogether confident about whether the disease had progressed or receded in my lifetime. My guess is that a century ago, much more than 50% of the Church would have been comfy with an unabashed racist as President.
Such things are hard to measure since progress is a relative thing and I tend to measure my ancestors by how far they moved the ball down the field given their point of origin, not by how closely they map to present mores. King David sparing his enemies summary execution was making a stride unthinkable in comparison with most Bronze Age Semitic kings. In comparison, Trump not having Biden taken out and shot is not a sign of his enlightenment by the Spirit, but simply a bare minimum adherence to the rule of law by a sullen child who wishes he had that power.
Similarly, I can say that while it is good that half the Church has opposed this goon and his corrupt racist agenda and that is probably better than what the the Church of 1870 would have accepted as normal, the other side of it is that it is shameful and embarrassing that only half the Church is capable of such an elementary moral position while the other half is at open war with the plain teaching of the Magisterium that such a vile position is “foreign to the mind of Christ.”
All of which is to say that once the celebrating is over, we shall have plenty of work to do and I will have more to say in coming days.
But for the moment, thanks be to God our Father through Christ our Lord for his servants Joe Biden and Kamala Harris: