In the interests of full disclosure, I did not watch Tuesday’s debate between Biden and Trump–a decision grounded in my effort to protect what remains of my mental health. I simply cannot bear the sound of Trump’s voice.
I did, of course, read the reviews and descriptions of what sounded more like a food fight than anything else. If there was unanimity on anything, it was that the event was embarrassing and unedifying–at best–and a shit-show at worst.
Among the most thoughtful coverage I read was a “morning after” rumination by Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo. Marshall had previously described Biden’s campaign “theme” as one of relief and reassurance–he dubbed Biden “The guy who will end the nightmare,” and for those of us who have definitely experienced this presidency as a nightmare, and worried that we might not wake up, that’s a winner. But it was an observation–a comparison, really– in his “morning after” column that really resonated with me.
Beyond all the individual offenses, one of the underrated sub-themes of anti-Trumpism is exhaustion. One of the deepest traumas of living in the home of an abuser stems not from the outbursts of physical violence, verbal abuse or manipulation but the accumulated stress of ambient tension, uncertainty, the reflexive, unshakeable hyper-vigilance. It is exhausting in a profound way. Trump is exhausting – I suspect even for some who share his dark values. This was 90 minutes jam-packed with everything that makes Trump exhausting. Living with an abuser means being trapped in close quarters with the abuse, being unable to run. In a month voters get the chance to walk away.
This analogy hits home, because it is so perceptive, so “on the mark.”
Americans who follow government and politics have been exhausted by the daily offenses, the violence routinely being done to the Constitution, the rule of law, rational policymaking and elementary decency. We have lived with anxiety, fear and mounting anger for four long years. The assaults have been unremitting, and yes, we are tired. Spent. Exhausted.
But we aren’t too exhausted to vote, and that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic that we are nearing the end of the nightmare.
Election Day may be messy, or in the best case scenario, repudiation of our abuser may be sufficiently overwhelming to nullify his efforts to disqualify the will of the voters. I can’t believe there are enough racists and know-nothings in America to keep him and his GOP enablers in office.
As Marshall noted about Trump’s display of ignorance and vitriol at the debate,
This is who Trump is. It is especially who he is under threat. His campaign is about nudging undecided voters into fears about general social disorder and frighteningly assertive black and brown people. He ended up embracing white nationalist militias and saying they were necessary to crush the left in the streets. He yelled what is supposed to be implicit.
The most important thing remains that Trump had to shift things in his favor and he failed. Since he’s already losing that’s a big loss. I suspect it was even worse for him. Maybe a turning point.
Joe Biden doesn’t excite voters the way Barack Obama did. He’s no orator, and he doesn’t pander to a rabid base, a la Trump. He is–as the leftist purists sneer–an old white guy. Part of “the system.”
He is also a thoroughly decent, competent and honorable public servant. He won’t abuse the office and he won’t abuse us.
He is a sane adult. That alone makes him immensely superior to Trump.
Once we’ve rested, once the nightmare is over, we can start the process of repairing the systems that enabled– facilitated !– the election of the most unfit person ever to hold the office. More on those systems and what it will take to fix them in coming days….