Long after the final vote, long after the electorate’s verdict was clear, a curious thing began to happen recently in the spatio-temporal perplexity of Trump-era politics: Finally, it began to happen. feel like the election could be over, really and really.
The 2016 election.
Such a closure has never been acquired. For the remainder of President Trump’s tenure, that first contest hovered, like a ghost the size of James Comey, over every inch of the proceedings – with the incumbent recounting his triumph on every opportunity, investigators scouring the campaign that brought him down. brought there, the Democrats organizing their resistance (and constant internal bickering) around the question of how they managed to lose in the first place.
Most of those questions have faded. New, dark questions have replaced them.
What if 2020 – miserable and endless 2020 – was doomed to become the new election season that will not end? What if the unsubscribing of revisits and recriminations after 2016 was not a one-off event but a precedent?
Of course, any electoral cycle is important, its ramifications felt (and its particularities often re-examined) for the years to come. But political races are not meant to be unlimited in a successful democracy. “Four more years” is generally understood as a song about governance and not as a campaign relocation.
Official finality benchmarks, like President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s assertion of victory this week in the Electoral College, are both essential and insufficient to move the country forward.
Many data points were not encouraging. Mr Trump has led much of his party to an unfounded and dangerous deadlock to reverse his loss, making it clear that for this president there are two types of elections: the ones he wins (and which he talks about constantly ) and those allegedly rigged. against him (which he talks about constantly).
In this regard, those who are weary of Mr. Trump fear that the 2020 election may indeed end only one way.
“When Donald Trump decides to leave,” said Carly Fiorina, who ran against him in the 2016 Republican primary and strongly opposed his efforts to reverse the vote. “And I don’t think he’s considering leaving.
The other vestiges of 2020 are not either.
The tensions exposed in the Democratic primary, when progressives challenged Mr Biden of the left, seem doomed to overshadow his tenure, if complaints about some of his cabinet choices are instructive. (Many supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others, still wish their preferred candidate won the White House instead.)
After a fall campaign filled with Republican accusations against Mr Biden’s son Hunter, a federal investigation into the tax affairs of young Mr Biden will likely loom at least early in the new administration.
And from a practical standpoint, the last major front of the 2020 vote has already been pushed back to 2021, with two Senate rounds in Georgia early next month to determine control of the chamber.
Even those on the winning side at the top of the November poll were reluctant to move on, reluctant to abandon the five-alarm urgency with which they approached the Trump presidency every day.
“Why are we still working?” Jess Morales Rocketto, progressive strategist and assistant to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, questioned aloud before responding. “In an election year, historic protests, a pandemic – for people who do this as their job, I think it’s almost like, ‘If we stop working, what would happen? Could it get worse? It couldn’t be worse. Please don’t let it get worse. ”
In previous campaigns, Ms. Morales Rocketto said, politicians have toughened themselves up during the fall by repeating a common emotional balm: at least we’ll have a break when it’s over.
“In 2020,” she said, “I think people have stopped saying this.
Yet while the current sense of democratic oscillation – with several million voters poised to linger on a 2020 result they see as illegitimate – seems unlikely to abate in a matter of weeks, there are also There is reason to doubt that Mr. Trump will be able to maintain his current level of ubiquity once out of the office.
The pomp and platform of tenure cannot be replicated. Time is passing. And while Mr. Trump may well use the coming months to tease a possible 2024 campaign as he denounces the phantom injustice of his 2020 defeat, perhaps some potential rivals in the next Republican primary will eventually show less. deference if the alternative waits. until 2028 for a shot at the presidency.
Many in the party suspect there will be an ongoing following for whatever Mr. Trump has in mind, even though what he mostly has in mind is playing the 2020 hits.
“He’s going to be the freshman hanging out in the high school parking lot over winter break, wanting to recreate the magic,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist who worked on Jeb Bush’s candidacy in 2016 and the 2018 House elections. “And the students are going to want to come hang out with him.”
The persistence of the pandemic also appears likely to fuel a sense of persistence, hanging Americans in the grip of 2020’s darkest feature.
It is not lost on veterans of this presidential campaign, as defined by the coronavirus, that the electoral college codified Mr. Biden’s victory the same week that vaccinations began in the United States. Perhaps a return to relative normal will prove the true coda of the year, whenever it happens.
In the meantime, the next procedural step will come on January 6, when Congress meets to ratify the voter count. Four years ago, Mr Biden presided over the session as vice president, hammering a hammer with impunity and brushing aside the largely symbolic objections of a handful of Democratic lawmakers who hoped to deny the reality of 2016.
“It’s over,” Biden said at one point, drawing Republican applause.
It was and it was not. But it now seems, for better or for worse, supplanted by new anguish and grudges. And how long could it really last?
“I can’t wait for 2020 to come to an end,” said Mr. Gorman, “in early 2025.”