This year, V-Dem, an international project tracking democracy around the world, wrote, “The United States of America is the only country in Western Europe and North America suffering from substantial autocratization.” As The Washington Post reported, the group’s data shows that only one in five democracies that start down such a path is able to right itself before full-blown autocracy takes hold. Another Trump term would have furthered America’s transformation into an illiberal state like Hungary, Poland and Brazil.
Beating the odds required an extraordinary coalition that ran from Angela Davis to Bill Kristol. It required young progressives disappointed by the losses of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to nevertheless mobilize for Biden. It required some traditionally Republican suburbanites to put the good of the country over partisanship.
And while exit polls showed that Trump improved his margins among Black and Latino voters — especially Cuban-Americans in Florida — we still owe Biden’s win to people of color. As I write this, he’s ahead in Arizona, which is possible only because he got an enormous share of the Latino vote there. He has a tiny lead in Georgia — a state that was solidly red when Trump took office — in large part because of the heroic work of Stacey Abrams and her New Georgia Project, which has registered and organized Black voters in the face of relentless voter suppression.
Because of the perversities of the Electoral College, and because some pivotal states counted mail-in ballots last, the election was a nail-biter — but it wasn’t close. As Nate Silver tweeted, “Going by the popular vote, this will probably be the second-least-close election since 2000.” The American people decisively rejected Trump.
There will be time later on to argue over what, if anything, Democrats can do to win back people who like demagogic strongman politics. There will be time to start thinking about how to address the damage wrought by a president who, along with Fox News celebrities and other right-wing figures, is going to convince a large part of the country that their loss is illegitimate.
Trumpists believe that they represent “the people” in a quasi-mystical sense; they speak as if they have an organic connection to the country that their enemies lack. Reconciling them to a system in which they are but a loud minority won’t be easy, if it’s even possible.
Yet for now, an existential threat to liberal democracy in America has been vanquished. Trump will almost certainly continue to vandalize the country during the lame-duck phase of his presidency, but soon he will no longer be able to rule over us. He will be cast out of the White House, disgraced, to meet his creditors and New York criminal investigators.