Opinion: Is the 2020 election really almost over?

Voters cast ballots on election day.
It’s election day, but that doesn’t mean the election — or our political divisions — will end.
(Los Angeles Times)

All presidential campaigns eventually descend into a bone-wearying marathon, and this one, of course, ever more so. In fact, the nation has been subject to President Trump’s reelection effort pretty much since he took the oath of office 50 months ago.

So it’s been one long badgering of the American people by a president whose core binary message hinges on “love me, hate them,” with “them” being a shifting list anchored by immigrants, liberals and the media.

On election day, most people ache on one level for relief. Your candidate wins, loses, whatever, you just hope the din ends either way, like a jackhammer that’s been banging away on the street outside finally falling silent.


Except, of course, the jackhammer operator just went on break. It’ll be back.

Gen Z’s childhood was defined by 9/11, the Iraq War, Guantanamo, Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 financial crisis. And now Trump. They’re fed up.

Like pretty much everyone whose politics reside left of center, I fervently hope that Trump loses this election by such a wide margin that the nation will know soon after the polls close that the die is cast, and that we won’t have to worry about a sputtering finish framed by lawsuits, recriminations and more erosion of Americans’ faith in our democracy.

To be sure, a clear victory for Biden won’t quell the cries of voter fraud and other dark fantasies spun by Trump and his most fervid backers. But a decisive loss should push them back to the margins whence they came.

Despite the polls, a Trump loss is not a foregone conclusion. And if Trump loses, even in a rout, our problems as a nation are not over. We will still be afflicted with infection, held down by a pandemic-wounded economy, and riven by race, class and region. We tend to debate in shouts, not seeking resolution but planting flags more deeply into soft ground.

So the nation will awaken Wednesday morning the same as it will on Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration: distressingly disunited. Our elected leaders reflect our decisions as voters, and the dysfunctions that brought Trump to power in the first place are potent, and persistent.

Yes, Biden has put together a wide platform of Democratic policies, but this election has never really been about issues, or Democratic versus Republican policies, despite the dense menu of problems we face. This election has been a referendum on Trump, and his vision of America.

District attorneys are elected one to a county, so the power of conservative politics and rural outlooks continues to hold inordinate sway in Sacramento.

And even if Biden wins handily, polls show that while Trump voters tended to be strongly for him, Biden supporters tended to be voting primarily against Trump. That’s a subtle but important distinction; it would be hard for Biden to plausibly claim a mandate if he won primarily because he wasn’t Trump.

As challenging as this election cycle has been, the hardest work for a President Biden still looms. And even if we know late on election night, or early Wednesday morning, who won, the jockeying, game-playing and sniping will continue. It won’t be the ruckus of the campaign anymore but the din of our noisome political system settling into its inefficient routine.

Different jackhammer, similar sound.