Today
Sat 23 January 2021

CJ Werleman sets the scene, in the first of a series of reports throughout the night, for one of the most momentous elections in recent US history

Like many Americans and those around the world, I am hoping for the best – that the polls in the 2020 US election race will be accurate and that Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. But I will also be fearing the worst, knowing that there is no law or norm Donald Trump isn’t unwilling to violate and disregard in his increasingly desperate effort to hold onto power.

Faced with a now out-of-control pandemic – one that has already killed 250,000 Americans and is on track to kill a further 2,000 people a day – Americans are being encouraged to vote like their lives actually depend on it, which they do. They are being called on by the Democrats to help oust a commander-in-chief who deliberately downplayed the Coronavirus and dismissed the mass deaths which it has caused as simply: “It is what it is.”

Polls show that a clear majority of Americans are exhausted by Trump’s lies, conspiracy theories and scandals. They are done with his administration’s unprecedented level of incompetence, corruption, racism and recklessness, along with the damage the President has done to the country’s global standing and long-time traditional alliances.

It is for these reasons that this Presidential Election is being billed as the most important in living memory, with some framing it as a ‘battle for the soul of the nation’ and others, in more starkly Biblical terms, a contest between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

It is also for this reason that this year’s vote has induced a level of pre-election anxiety and fear like none that have come before it, as suggested by the record number of guns, bulletproof vests and bottles of booze purchased by ordinary citizens in recent months.

Much of this national anxiety is rooted in Trump’s deeds, particularly the way in which he has encouraged armed supporters to intimidate Democratic Party voters at polling stations, praised those who threaten or carry out violence against opponents and critics, and telegraphed his intent to steal the outcome of the election with the help of Republican Party friendly courts and legislatures.

But what makes me and my American wife the most anxious is the archaic and now undemocratic nature of the US federal electoral system. Democracy should be predictable and boring, not riddled with uncertainty, unfairness and inequality. It is incomprehensible that the outcome of the election remains so uncertain and unpredictable, given that polls and early voting data show former Vice President Joe Biden to be on track to win 15 to 20 million more votes than Trump.

Beyond the dysfunction of American democracy and Trump’s cravenness, we worry greatly about the safety and wellbeing of our American family members and friends as they go to the polls tomorrow, knowing that violent right-wing militias and individuals have scattered themselves across the country to disrupt and supress voting, and to encourage a violent response from counter-protestors.

The world watches and waits.

CJ Werleman will continue filing throughout election night updating Byline Times readers on any key developments


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