Last week I was full of the nervous anxiety you feel when you know something big is about to happen, and you’re just counting down the clock. This week I’ve been full of the nervous anxiety of indefinite waiting. And yet, in that time, so much has happened in the world. In this week’s Extra! Extra! we share some reflections on the 2020 election and news on events from Vienna to Poland to Ethiopia to the Philippines to New Zealand to Chile.
Election 2020 Updates
Natalie: It seems clear, between the expanding margins in the remaining states and the president’s tweets this morning, that this is the path that the Trump campaign will take next. They will move out of state court and into federal courts, in part hoping to lean less on the facts — after all, there are none to buttress their claims of fraud — and more on exacting political favors from those judges he put in their seats.
What’ll be interesting to me is seeing in which states the Trump campaign calls for recounts in. Aside from being highly unlikely to flip the results of an election, they’re also an expensive gambit — the Wisconsin recount will cost the campaign $3M, for example — and the campaign was threadbare before the election. It’ll be interesting to see if some strategy starts to coalesce around which states to challenge or if we’ll just continue to see the campaign throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Some Reflections on What We Know So Far
Natalie: These last few days have been a lot for many of us. Even if the numbers remain what they are — that is, Joe Biden winning the presidency by an unprecedented amount and flipping Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Georgia (!!) in the process — the sting of these last few days will still linger. As she is wont to do, Roxane Gay really gets to the heart of the matter here.
There is part of the country that sees “equity as oppression,” that believes “in democracy that serves their interests,” and Biden has to govern in that…we have to live in that and I don’t really know how.
Natalie: Joe Biden was not my choice in the Democratic primary…he was not my second choice or my third or even my fourth…but I understood — particularly as a black woman from the South — about why folks were coalescing around him. There was a pragmatism at the root of it all…but Julia Craven makes an argument about policy that I don’t think really stands up, when compared to exit polls from the primary. State after state revealed that black voters embraced the policy ideas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren but ultimately voted for Biden because they, ultimately, didn’t have as much faith in white voters to support those ideas in the campaign.
Himani: Natalie, you once said to me, “Black people know white people better than they know themselves.” I was reminded of the truth of that statement when I read this op-ed from Julia Craven. I’m also reminded of this Tumblr post that was shared with me earlier this week. As theteej writes after seeing countless white people grieving that there wasn’t a Big Blue Wave on November 3: “But what they were really grieving was their own innocence. Their naïve assumption that they could be the heroes in a story, in a history of violence that was expressly built for them, even if they wanted to deny it.”
As of writing this, Vox has already called the election for Biden, but the Associated Press hasn’t yet. I went to bed last night looking at a less than 2,500 vote margin in Georgia thinking, “the fucked up part is that, were it not for the rampant voter suppression in Georgia, we wouldn’t be waiting” and woke up this morning to see that the razor thin margin had shifted the other way. Regardless of what happens in Pennsylvania, Georgia is looking like our last hope for Democrats to regain control in the Senate. And the person we have to thank for that is Stacey Abrams. A Black woman who was shafted by the system (of course she was) but continued to put in the work anyways (of course she did) because she knows how to play the long game: that none of what any of us on the left want to see happen is possible without restoring the franchise to Black voters. Because the racially targeted voter suppression that is rampant in this country is one of the main reasons why this system is, as theteej writes “expressly built for them [white people]” and why as, Craven writes, Black voters don’t have the same luxuries of choice going into the voting booth that white voters do.
Rachel: This is unfortunately just a confirmation of things we already knew, in a few ways. First of all, that among his supporters, Trump’s reaction to the pandemic or lack thereof is unfortunately not going to make a dent; if evidence or even threats to their personal health were going to make a difference, they would have a long time ago. If anything, Trump’s underlying rhetoric around the virus – any reference to the impact your choices have on others is an attempt to control you, truly strong/powerful people don’t have consequences for their actions, science is usually a hoax – has reified their belief systems. More important than that, though, it brings me back to the ‘voting against their own interests’ discourse we’ve seen applied to white voters, especially working-class white voters, who have continued to vote Republican and vote Trump even when it meant losing things they desperately needed, like jobs, healthcare, or stimulus money. I need pundits and white laypeople to finally let go of the narrative that this is a baffling choice to “vote against their own interests” and look at the situation objectively to acknowledge what’s happening: white people are rational actors, not helpless confused children; they can see the facts as well as anyone else and their choices indicate that they consider their priorities to be harming Black & brown folks and maintaining their place in a racial hierarchy, and they are in fact voting in that interest. Reckoning with the fact that many, many people in the US have prioritized racism as a value over their own lives and that of their families in a pandemic is intense, for sure, but there is no space left to realistically consider anything else, and in thinking about Trump folks from here on this is the framework we all have to acknowledge (even when it comes to our own friends and family, white folks).
Himani: This truly seems like an unprecedented turning point in Mississippi. I honestly didn’t even know about this century-old, incredibly disenfranchising policy that, basically, rigged elections in the favor of White people. I’m (cautiously) optimistic that in the elections to come we’re going to see even greater changes and movement towards racial equality in Mississippi.
Rachel: There will be so much talk about electoral demographics and analysis of breakdowns in racial voting blocs in the days to come, and certainly, we should talk about it! I do want to make sure that it doesn’t get lost, as Native issues so often do, that Native voters had both remarkably high turnouts and remarkably high returns for Biden this election, incredible when you also factor in how poorly resourced and suppressed our government keeps most Indigenous communities. Native communities have been under attack from the Trump administration for so long, and have been hit so hard by COVID with no relief or resources in sight; it’s worth noting in the larger election narrative how hard they showed up to oppose Trump, especially in many battleground states like Wisconsin, where more than 60 percent of eligible voters in Menominee County registered this year, and Arizona, where Native Americans are 5.6 percent of eligible voters and went overwhelmingly for Biden. Related, while Democrats as a whole haven’t won significant and in some cases have lost House seats, we’re seeing a record number of Native women elected (although, to be clear, not all the Native women elected here are Dems); Cherokee, Ho-Chunk, Laguna Pueblo, Chickasaw, Navajo, Native Hawaiian, Tohono O’odham and Ponca members are all represented.
Natalie: This is such great news. Of course, I’m thrilled to see the Native American caucus gain new membership and seeing Sharice Davids win re-election. The Navajo Times adds some specifics: “Apache, Navajo and Coconino counties, the three that overlap the Navajo Nation, went solidly for Joe Biden, with…a 97 percent turnout for Biden compared to 51 percent statewide.” That’s really unprecedented and I hope Rachel’s right that it means that Native issues will be elevated in the Biden/Harris White House.
Environmental Havoc as U.S. (#1 Contributor to Emissions) Leaves Paris Agreement
Natalie: Earlier this week, the United States formally exited the Paris Climate Agreement. The nation that is responsible for a disproportionate amount of emissions has absconded on its responsibility to do something about it. And while a change in the White House will help, no doubt about that, I wonder how much losses in Maine, Iowa and (probably) North Carolina will cost us in the fight against climate change. Sure, we might be able to win the Senate seats in Georgia in the New Year or be able to gain ground in the midterms (2022) but particularly on climate change, immediate action is absolutely crucial.
The Super Typhoon, Eta, the earthquake…they’re all stark reminders that we can’t keep waiting to do something.
And We (All) Really Need to Do So Much Better
Himani: This is one of the most infuriating things I’ve read in awhile (yes, even in the midst of all this bull shit that Trump is pulling). All these Western and developed countries selling off cars with poor emissions and low safety to developing countries so that they can say they’re meeting their climate benchmarks…? I’m almost at a loss for words on this… It feels like yet another version of the U.S. selling ridiculous amounts of non-recyclable plastic to Asian countries so that Americans feel good about all of the waste they’re creating in the world. The “reduce” part of the equation seems to be eluding us. The only real answer to climate change is to reduce consumption, not shift it somewhere else “out of sight, out of mind” as they say.
The State of Government Around the World: The Grim
Himani: Things have not been looking so great in Ethiopia for months now. In addition to this news about the potential for war in the northern region of the country, there was a massacre in a central region (Oromia) over the weekend that left over 50 people dead, although some reports suggest that is a gross underestimate. There is a long history of ethnic tensions in East Africa that I can’t provide any meaningful insight on because I just don’t know a whole lot about it. This latest issue in Tigray, though, is at least partly a response to the federal government’s putting off the 2020 elections until a vaccine is available for COVID-19 or (in other words) indefinitely.
Natalie: Given that nonviolent resistance has its origins in India, this does not surprise.
Himani: That is incredibly true, and I also think about the fact that the RSS, the ruling BJP party’s paramilitary sibling, was established pretty much the same time that Gandhi was promoting nonviolent resistance. That modern India’s acceleration towards authoritarianism has its roots in the same independence movement that gave birth to nonviolent resistance. What we’re seeing in India is how susceptible democracy can be to corruption, that some people wield difference as a weapon because winning is the only thing that matters. What we’re seeing is yet another reminder of how precarious democracy really is.
Himani: The violence in Vienna is horrifying, as well as some of the brutal murders that have happened in France recently. But I do worry that Westerners respond to situations like this in ways that only further create the environment for resentment and (in some cases) extremism. Macron’s hypocritical leaning into “religious freedoms” at the expense of granting French Muslims the respect and autonomy that other religions get in France has, understandably, angered Muslims the world over. As far as I know, there’s no connection between what’s happened in Vienna and what’s unfolding in France, and I’m not trying to claim there is one. But I do worry that the Viennese response will mirror what’s happening in France, which will only serve to further alienate Muslim communities in Europe.
The State of Government Around the World: The Hopeful
Rachel: This article was fascinating to me, and I’d love to hear other thoughts on it; the dek at least on social media seems to argue that the reason NZ/Aotearoa hasn’t been fertile ground for far-right extremists is that Murdoch-owned media enterprises, like Fox, aren’t as present there. Reading through the article, though, that thesis seems less specifically argued; it notes that several politicians and public figures have tried to brand political campaigns as far-right Q-Anon-inspired crusaders, and all have flopped pretty embarrassingly. It’s true that it doesn’t seem FOX or a similar surrogate is a big presence in NZ, but it also doesn’t really account for how big a factor social media and especially YouTube and Facebook are in these movements, especially QAnon; at this point extremist media doesn’t recognize borders, and so it feels to me that the story is more complicated. The other point of note is that the overall rate of satisfaction with government in NZ is very high compared to other nations and has remained so for decades, whereas in the US it’s consistently dropping; maybe overall satisfaction and stability just make the population less vulnerable to radicalization. However, several Scandinavian nations also have responsive governments with high rates of satisfaction, and white nationalist movements still have a foothold there, too (although I’m not versed enough in their electoral landscape to know how far-right politicians are faring). Would love to hear from folks abroad about this!
Natalie: The pushback on this abortion ban has been one of the most inspiring things to watch over the last few weeks…and, of course, I can’t help but wonder if/when an attempt to undo Roe comes to pass in the United States, if we’ll be as bold or as brave.
Himani: In what has turned out to be an incredibly difficult and depressing year, this is probably the most uplifting news I’ve read. When the protests broke out a year ago, many writers pointed out how Chile was the living example of what happens when you take free market economics to its endpoint, and it was atrocious: A seemingly meagre four cent fare increase had such serious consequences for so many people because of the decades-long income inequality. As I followed the protests in Chile, I really could never imagine that it would end in rewriting the constitution that had made those free-market principles the rule of law. There’s so much difficult work ahead for Chileans and not much time to do it in, but this truly feels like a bright moment in this otherwise grim year.
Rachel: I can’t agree enough with Himani; this has been incredibly heartening and centering to watch. I’ve noted a couple times in this column how meaningful it has been to me to watch ideology, organizing and protest tactics be communicated between nations and communities, from Palestine to Hong Kong to Chile to the US; I’m so happy for the Chilean people about this development and it helps me sustain hope that this kind of change is possible elsewhere, too.