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Presidential Hangover: The Morning After

By the time you read this, we may know who the next president of the United States will be. But as I write this on the morning after the election, America remains unsure. What is clear to me, though, is that for the second straight presidential election it feels like we’ve all just woken up from a night of binge drinking with a terrible hangover. Worse yet, we had blackout moments, and as we look in the bathroom mirror, we are horrified to see a green-and-purple dragon tattooed across our entire face. Slowly, the details, though fuzzy, come back to us. We begin to recall how in our drunken stupor we went to an all-night tattoo parlor. “I can’t believe I did this, never again!” each of us proclaims.

On November 9, 2016, Americans woke up to the news that Donald Trump had been elected president the night before (those of us who had stayed up late on Election Night already knew the results). It all seemed so surreal. Don’t get me wrong, I voted for Trump and was as enthusiastic as anyone about his victory, but I still couldn’t believe it: at any moment, I expected to awake from the dream and describe what I had dreamt – that Trump was president of the United States – and then I expected responses of laughter and comments such as “wow, that must’ve been some crazy dream!”

This year’s election is no different – but this time, the crazy part was voting for Biden. Not because there is anything inherently bizarre about fielding a presidential candidate who has close to 50 years of experience in national politics, including having been vice president for eight of them. In fact, on paper, Biden’s qualifications are impeccable. Instead, the problem is with Biden himself, and how rapidly he continues to deteriorate before our very eyes. He’s that old relative who’s just not “the same” anymore – even though he has an even older brother who’s sharp as a tack. Embarrassed, folks might say to him: “oh, I thought you were the older brother,” and later, say among themselves: “for the most part, his brain seems ok. He confused a couple of things, but when I asked him if he recognized me, he said yes.” This type of behavior is fine for deciding to let grandpa keep driving for a while yet, but not for choosing someone to begin a four-year term of arguably the most grueling and demanding job in the world. Some will argue that Biden’s diminished mental capacities are significantly overblown, and that may be true. Then again, this is the presidency we’re talking about, and so even if the diagnosis is exaggerated, there’s still cause for concern.

What is alarming about all of this is that roughly half of Biden’s supporters believe that he won’t make it through a complete term. And yet, they seem perfectly willing to elect him president and simply let nature, and the Constitution, take their course. It is obvious that the reason for this illogical and downright unhinged behavior is a pathological anti-Trump obsession: getting Trump out of office is the ultimate goal, and outside of assassinating him (though some might just wish him dead from natural causes), they’ll do anything to make that happen.

Granted, even this analysis is subjective, as it comes from a Trump supporter. To be fair, there are many Americans who sincerely believe that Trump is the worst president in history – or at least in their lifetimes – and so to them, the baffling phenomenon of this election is not why the country would vote for a candidate they strongly suspect isn’t all there, but rather why they’d vote for four more years of what they deem utter desecration of our Republic. No matter how you slice it, we the people nominated these two candidates, and now, on the morning after the all-night party, we have to live with the consequences.

I would also be remiss if I ignored the true pro-Biden sentiment. Surely, many people who voted for him are genuinely confident in his ability to lead, and believe that he will be a strong and effective president.

For America’s sake, if Biden does emerge victorious, I hope they’re right, and I hope there are plenty of them who believe it. On a personal note, if Biden does win, it will be the first time in my lifetime that I think the election result was a bad one to the extent that the country was clearly headed in the right direction and changing presidents midstream would thwart all of that good momentum. And that is precisely why I, as an American, hope that whoever in sworn in on January 20 is fully backed – at least by his own supporters – and not just a lesser of two evils choice. In Trump’s case, that sentiment is present in droves. The Republican Party has become his, and non-Trump Republicans are essentially partyless at the moment. In Biden’s case, I’m not so sure, although given his overtaking about 24 other Democratic hopefuls in the primaries, it seems that the Democratic base has spoken loudly and clearly that the radical left wing of their party is a very squeaky wheel, but not a very large one.

Although it benefits Trump to have a united legion of Republican voters supporting him, the essence of that support is often the type of doubling down that, in turn, causes the other side to find Trump all the more repulsive. As for Biden, until proven otherwise, he remains the “anybody but Trump” option.

I will follow up with more analysis about why Trump won reelection or why Biden unseated him, as I think there are plausible explanations for either scenario. Meanwhile, with two consecutive presidential election morning-after hangovers, as a nation we ought to consider returning to the days when voters had tremendous confidence in their candidates’ qualifications, character, and stamina, and the only items left to vote about were ideology and proposed solutions.

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