First the good news:
The fact that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prevailed over Donald Trump and Mike Pence is obviously the most important thing that happened on Nov. 3. The removal of Donald Trump from the office that he has so besmirched is a victory for U.S. democracy, for the U.S. reputation in the world, for character and decency.
That Biden-Harris won with almost 80 million votes, in the highest turnout election since 1900 in America, signaled extraordinary interest in the election, very high support for the Democratic ticket, and many Americans’ eager passion for booting Trump from office.
By recent American standards, the vote was not especially close. As I write, Biden has just under 77.9 million votes and 50.8%, while Trump has 72.6 million votes and 47.4%. If we didn’t have the vestigial Electoral College to contend with, the result of the election would have been obvious by about 10 p.m. on election night.
But even with the Electoral College, the success of the Democrats in flipping Arizona and Georgia and almost taking North Carolina, together with regaining Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, bodes well for the future of the party at a national level.
The election of Kamala Harris to the vice presidency is a historic breakthrough for women, Blacks and Asian-Americans. Together with the youthful, diverse, multiracial coalition of voters that pushed Biden and Harris to victory, this looks like a win for those of us who believe American greatness looks like inclusive multiracial democracy rather than white hegemony.
Finally, the willingness of the Fox News straight-news people to call the election honestly — even at the cost of making an enemy out of Donald Trump — was an act of responsibility and civil courage.
But here is the bad news:
“Donald Trump got almost 73 million votes, and some of these voters are utterly committed to him in a cultlike manner.”
Donald Trump got almost 73 million votes, and some of these voters are utterly committed to him in a cultlike manner that we have not often seen in American politics.
The election was close enough that Trump is not quite finished yet as a political force. Too bad, indeed.
The structural cleavages in American life are so strong that it apparently does not matter how awful an individual might be or what little interest he seems to show in democratic values — if he reflects the most visceral passions of our tribe, he’s our guy. That’s a really good way to flush a democracy.
Trump has so far not conceded and may never concede. He is daily fomenting absurd conspiracy theories about the election being rigged, and many appear to believe him. He signaled that he would do this, and he has done so. It will have at least three negative consequences: delaying the transition process in a time of a national medical emergency, delegitimizing the new president in the eyes of millions, and positioning Trump as the martyr hero of a Lost Cause. Even though it will not win him the election, it is a deeply selfish and destructive act.
“Never forget that there are millions who no longer claim to be evangelicals in part because of this political fusion of white evangelicalism with not just the GOP but with Trump and Trumpism.”
White evangelical Christians voted for Trump at 76%, according to exit polls. That is down from 81% in 2016. Who knows, the lost 5% may have made a difference in close states like Michigan, Arizona and Georgia. And one must never forget that there are millions who no longer claim to be evangelicals in part because of this political fusion of white evangelicalism with not just the GOP but with Trump and Trumpism. Still, the results are deeply demoralizing — although not surprising — to many of us who once claimed that religious identity.
But it’s not just white evangelicals; it’s white people, of whom 57% voted for Trump, including 58% of white men and 55% of white women. “Whiteness” — not as a skin color, but as an ideology that combines historic (and contemporary) privilege with current fear, resentment and grievance — is the most corrosive force in the U.S. body politic. And because whiteness blinds like acid in the eyes, its reality and its effects are invisible to those most deeply affected by it. Non-white people see more clearly, and they are the ones who saved our democracy.
On finding hope:
Some days since the election, I have mainly felt discouraged by the bad news just outlined. But recently I had the joy of participating in a post-election conversation at McAfee School of Theology with Gerald Durley, a fellow Atlantan, and a veteran civil rights crusader, pastor and activist. Durley was brimming with hope: overjoyed about the results in Georgia, thrilled with the breakthrough selection and election of Kamala Harris, confident that this has been a victory for God and goodness, mobilized for further progress and effort.
Durley’s hope, grounded in the depths of his faith, helped remind me to focus on hope over dismay, confidence over fear. And it reminded me of various places where I feel like I have seen God at work in this awful year, and right now — in the spontaneous summertime protests and November celebrations in many of our major cities, in the compassion, empathy and humility of Joe Biden’s brief, well-chosen public words since the election, in the promising pandemic task force that he already has named, in the victory of voter rights over voter suppression, and in the sheer coming deliverance from our modern-day Pharoah, for which I and so many others have been praying and working so earnestly.
And so I choose hope today.
David Gushee serves as Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. He is the past-president of both the American Academy of Religion and Society of Christian Ethics. He is an author or editor of 25 books. His most recognized works include Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, Kingdom Ethics, The Sacredness of Human Life, and Changing Our Mind. He earned the Ph.D. from Union Seminary. He and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta.