After four endless years, the longest day – U.S. presidential election day – has finally arrived. I spent it thinking about the scorched earth left behind, and the possibility of green shoots ahead.
7 a.m. I wake to the news that Donald Trump, in his final campaign rally, introduced rapper Lil Pump as “Little Pimp,” which seems to perfectly encapsulate the last four years stuck here at the intersection of ineptitude and idiocy.
8 a.m. The only people more nervous than voters are pollsters, who do not want to be marked with failure two elections in a row. I check all the major polling sites, look at the lead that Joe Biden maintains and try not to think about The New York Times' cursed 2016 election meter, which ticked inexorably toward Donald Trump. I read a great survey on the polling site FiveThirtyEight about why some Americans never vote: The barriers are high (some voters can’t take off work, suppression tactics are in play, lines are long) and many people are just disillusioned.
9:30 a.m. Yo-Yo Ma is playing his cello on Twitter and encouraging people to vote. Other musicians are playing live for voters standing in line. Voters are dancing, possibly out of joy, possibly to stay warm. It’s enough to make your heart swell, until you ask: Why do they need to stand in line for so long? On a work day? In November?
11 a.m. I read a report from The 19th website about how women just might save this election by breaking for Democratic candidates.
We can trace this swell of anger back four years, when hundreds of thousands of women descended on Washington the day after President Trump’s inauguration for the monumental Women’s March. I was there, and I interviewed a trans woman who was a military veteran and carried an upside-down flag; and a mother and daughter, both wearing hijabs, who wanted the President to know they belonged in America as much as he did. You can draw a line from that moment to this one.
Noon: Shopping for snacks. This could be a late one. With a huge percentage of the electorate using mail-in ballots, it could take days before everything is counted. My husband reminds me that, when we were living in Los Angeles in 2000, he left to report on the presidential election with the cheery words, “I’ll be back in a couple of days!” That election wasn’t decided for George W. Bush until more than a month later, with the Supreme Court decision of Dec. 12.
2 p.m. My friend in Manhattan tells me his local liquor store is being boarded up. My friend in Los Angeles sends me a picture of her visit to her eye doctor in Beverly Hills: All the fancy shops have plywood across their windows. The eye doctor’s receptionist told her, “Honey, you’re going to have to go shop for Gucci another day.” To me, living in Canada, this preparation for violence feels like an incitement to violence.
5 p.m. I was hoping there would be a repeat of the 2016 livestream of pilgrims placing their “I Voted” stickers on suffragist Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Rochester, N.Y. Alas, there is none. What’s more, Anthony’s gravestone has been covered in plastic to protect it. Nothing says 2020 quite like a plastic-sheathed headstone.
6 p.m. I consult Hillary Clinton’s What Happened to see how she got through election night. Unbelievably, she took a nap. I only wish I could follow her lead. However, when she woke up, her path to victory was vanishing: “I felt shell-shocked,” she wrote. Girl, I know how you feel.
8 p.m. On CNN, it’s full Mad Max mode, with numbers and states flying all over the place like blown-out tires. It’s chaotic as votes are still being counted. The key state of Florida, with its 29 electoral college votes, is being minutely dissected. The map is red for President Trump in swingy Hillsborough County, where four years ago at a Trump rally I heard chants of “Lock her up” ring through the night. Shortsightedly, I thought those people were in a minority, and couldn’t possibly decide the fate of America. I was right about the first thing, and wrong about the second. Now, after four years of corruption and malice, those same voters seem to be doubling down.
10:30 p.m. One of the networks shows a clip of Joe Biden saying, “I don’t see red or blue states, I see American states.” What’s astonishing is that this is not just a bit of campaign-trail boilerplate, but a bold statement that only one of the candidates is making. A candidate who is very much in the centre, but who is seen in much of the country as a socialist. Many of the states are too close to call at this point, but no matter which way they go, it’s hard to see how blue and red come together after this.
Midnight: The pandemic, which has turned our world upside down, has also rocked this presidential race. Because of the high number of mail-in and early ballots, votes are still being counted in key states such as Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania. State officials are asking for patience as they count. Let’s hope everyone’s patience holds.
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