With the election finally called, the “You’re fired!” signs have been coming out, as we all knew they would. And given Trump’s bravado, Biden would certainly be entitled to join in the crowing. But he’s not. And wisely not. After all, he has to govern Trump’s 47% of the electorate, and he can’t do that starting off with a nanny-nanny-poo-poo.
The worry, of course, is that Trump’s more rabid minions, fuelled by conspiracy theories spun by the likes of Q-Anon, are going to take up arms against what they regard as a socialist coup d’etat. I suspect there’ll be some of this, but I also suspect much of the putative polarization in America has been media hype. For the vast majority of Americans this Monday morning means back to work, school, play, and vacuuming the living room. God will be back in his Heaven, and the universe will continue to unfold, if not as it should, then at least as only it could.
While we were riveted to these four days of nail-biting, Covid 19 took advantage of our distraction by more than doubling the daily infection rate in America, from 60,000 to 125,000. That means, at a minimum, another 100,000 deaths by Inauguration Day. With or without a vaccine, it now seems to be the plan to end the pandemic by herd immunity. If with, well, fine. But herd immunity without a vaccine will mean a reduction of the population by about two and half million Americans. That might be the new normal for America, but as wartime Germany and Russia can attest, it won’t exactly be a new new normal.
Canada has a tenth of the population, and our deaths per infections are running at about a third of the American ratio. So without a vaccine, north of the border we’ll probably finish up with about 100,000 Covid deaths. As noted, this is the kind of thing the world has survived before, and it will again. But that’s small consolation to those citizens of the world who won’t.
But the key question, at least for me, is what Biden’s victory will mean for race relations in America. The murder of George Floyd has been an adrenalin jolt for both anger and activism. The two are not incompatible. In fact the latter owes much to the former. But just as white resentment has cathected Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter is cathecting white resentment. To lower the boil what America needs is not a Martin Luther King but a Nelson Mandela. Obama tried to be one, but he underperformed. The result: Donald Trump. No doubt Biden will try, but he’s the wrong colour. Kamala Harris may try, but she’s the wrong gender. But perhaps I underestimate either or both of them.
So as a not entirely disinterested observer – because as Chicago goes so, eventually, goes Toronto – in the months following the inauguration, I won’t be tracking the stock market, or the unemployment rate, or the pandemic, nor even any repair to America’s standing in the world. I’ll be tracking police reform. Because that will be the measure of whether America is on track to “a more perfect union” or just more Jim Crow.