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On the Saturday after Election Day, a friend of mine from my days at the Women’s Campaign School at Yale posted a clip to her social media feed that summed up exactly how I was feeling. An African-American woman from the D.C. area, her post of the song “Everybody Rejoice” from the musical The Wiz matched the exuberance we saw in the streets of her city and in cities and towns across the nation and the world. This joyous romp comes near the end of the musical when the Wicked Witch is vanguished and the workers cry out, “Can you feel a brand new day?” I played that song over and over on my that weekend. All the friends and neighbors I greeted around town for days afterwards seemed lighter on their feet, shoulders no longer sagging. Several remarked that they felt like they would, at long last, be able to sleep again. Some said, “I can finally exhale.”

President-elect Joe Biden received more votes than any other president in U.S. history. At this point, he has 77.9 million votes; he leads the popular vote count over Donald Trump by more than 5.3 million votes. The numbers are sure to shift a bit over the next few weeks, but it’s clear that in the end Biden won a decisive victory. And yet, I know what so many of us are thinking: Trump still received 72.6 million votes from Americans who believe he should have four more years in office. This is an astounding number of people who watched this presidency and didn’t see the dumpster fire that embarrassed millions of us and put our very democracy in peril. I get it; I really do. But I’m urging all of us, at least for a little while, to celebrate.

In the end — despite Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud and the horrible complicity of so many Trump appointees and elected sycophants — the election generally went off without any major problems. Patrick Howell O’Neill, writing in the MIT Technology Review, points out that, “By any measure, the 2020 election scores better than any in recent history on security, integrity, and turnout.” David Levine, the elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, concurs. “I think how the election process has played out has been remarkable,” he said. “[The] entire country owes a debt of gratitude to state and local officials and those that have worked closely with them against the backdrop of foreign interference, coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest, and frankly inadequate support from the federal government,” Levine noted.

I understand that it’s been over a full week since all the major networks have called the U.S. election for the Biden/Harris ticket, and the president still refuses to concede. I understand that it’s embarrassing and alarming. I share your fears that it’s also dangerous for our nation for Trump to contest this election. All this is true. And although we’ve defeated Trump, we’ve not defeated Trumpism. But please don’t stay stuck in fear and disgust. We need your hope and determination to make things better.

We are not the same people we were in 2016. Many Americans are newly activated, finally turning out to vote in large numbers. They’re finally taking to the streets to stand with our Black and Brown neighbors. They’re finally seeing that democracy is not a spectator sport; we must be in the scrum. There’s a new awakening inside so many Americans and an understanding that this experiment in democracy is actually pretty young and, as it turns out, pretty fragile. I am inspired by the commitment I see to fighting for it. I see a shared urgency and sense of purpose. We will claw our way out of this darkness.

Becca Balint writes from Brattleboro on history, politics and culture. She currently serves as Senate Majority Leader in the Vermont Legislature. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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