Elections can change the course of history profoundly. I saw it happen as a correspondent in Israel when Menachem Begin captured the vote in June 1977 to become prime minister of the state’s first right-wing government. He overturned 29 years of Labor rule.
And then came a surge of Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, what Begin defined as “liberated Israeli territory.” And then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem in November 1977. And then the Camp David Accords in September 1978 hosted by President Jimmy Carter. And then the signing in Washington of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in March 1979.
We know elections have unexpected consequences, even in the United States. The biggest surprise in most of our lifetimes came four years ago with the ascendance to the White House of Donald Trump, a flamboyant billionaire real estate developer with no experience in politics or governing.
His arrogance flaunted itself during his campaign in January 2016 when he proclaimed in signature Trump fashion, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters.”
As a born and bred New Yorker, I’ve been to Fifth Avenue many times. It’s a lovely street, gliding along the east side of leafy Central Park. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is there, near Rockefeller Center, its ice skating rink a winter lure. The avenue is home to the Easter Parade, which was canceled this year because of the coronavirus.
It takes a particular mindset to project a scene of shooting someone on one of New York City’s glorious thoroughfares as a means of attracting voters. His statement served as a preview of what was to come, a mini trailer to a 4-year-old horror film that would furrow the brows of world leaders.
Trump frightened tens of millions of us with his racism, far right authoritarianism and ultranationalism bordering on fascism, division, chaos, lying and a narcissistic personality disorder behind it all that disrupted, disturbed and disheartend governments and people around the globe. But for the other dictators, that is. That President-elect Joe Biden defeated Trump in an historic election is a blessing.
“When the Devil’s ambassador from Hell is soundly defeated, we should all be crying tears of joy and salvation,” said Robert Morgart, 76, an adjunct professor of strategic management at Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M.
More poignantly, CNN commentator Van Jones, who is Black, broke down crying on live TV shortly after the network broke the news that Biden had won. His startling reaction echoed the relief felt about Trump’s defeat by the nearly 75 million people who voted for Biden, the most ever for president.
“This is vindication for a lot of people who have really suffered,” he said. “You know, ‘I can’t breathe?’ that wasn’t just George Floyd. That was how a lot of people felt. They couldn’t breathe.”
“Every day you are waking up,” Jones said, wiping away tears. “And you are getting these tweets, and you don’t know, and you go into the store, and people who have been afraid to show their racism are getting nastier and nastier to you. And you are worried about your kids. And you are worried about your sister. Can she go to Walmart and get back into her car without somebody saying something to her. And you spent so much of your life energy just trying to hold it together.”
It’s understandable that he cried, for himself, his family, his country because “the character of the country matters. Being a good man matters. I want my sons to look at this.”
Tears came as I typed those words. It hasn’t been easy for any of us who despised Trump for what he was doing to our beloved country, at home and abroad.
And it isn’t over. It won’t be over until noon Jan. 20. There’s a lot of space between now and then for Trump to cause a great deal of mischief. We don’t know how he will react to his defeat. He already refused to concede, mounting spurious court challenges.
Dr. Brandy X. Lee, a psychiatrist who taught Yale students and is the author of “Profile of a Nation: Trump’s Mind, America’s Soul,” emailed Salon diagnosing the president’s narcissism in reacting to loss:
“. . . When there is an all-encompassing loss, such as the loss of an election, it can trigger a rampage of destruction and reign of terror in revenge against an entire nation that has failed him.
“It is far easier for the pathological narcissist to consider destroying oneself and the world, especially its ‘laughing eyes,’ then to retreat into becoming a ’loser’ and a ‘sucker’ —which to someone suffering from this condition will feel like psychic death.”
It’s an understatement to warn that we could be in danger.
And the Republican Party increased its numbers. The problem is in the Senate where its leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, may wield a great deal of power to thwart Biden’s agenda. He did that to President Barack Obama.
And behind them all will be Trump, somewhere out there with the support of the more than 70 million people who voted for him. He needs to be controlled before history suddenly is changed to a direction none of us want to go.