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I was a student in Washington, D.C. the last time we did this dance. Like many, I greeted Election Day 2016 with a grin, anticipating history, the ringing in of America’s first woman President. Instead, I witnessed history of another kind and, like many, remember all too well the dismay that followed. An eerie silence blanketed my college in the wake of that event. In the days that followed, each walk across campus carried me past no-less-than three distinct groups of grown folks weeping in despair before I’d made it to class.

There was a lesson to be gained in that moment about the futility of high hopes. Democrats overlearned it.

On this election, in Democratic circles, even the suggestion that Biden might win is met with the inevitable, “we said that last time.” We’ve grown guarded, refusing to feel that same hurt we felt four years ago. We were fooled once, no one wants to be fooled again.

That said — and, here goes nothing — I think Biden will win.

Call me crazy, but the polling has convinced me. Biden leads by nine points nationally, five plus points in many key swing states. I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but I think he’ll pull it off.

But, after years of division, dereliction and ire, I wonder, will that be enough? I long to see the blue tsunami that pollsters seem to think is possible. But even in that best of outcomes, I find little cause to hope that election day will remedy our present circumstance. The effects of Trumpism will be felt long after this week’s result, no matter how today’s tide sways.

Trump’s policy changes can’t be quickly corrected. On climate, where time is no ally, we are far further behind today than four years ago, following the Trump-led exit of the Paris Climate Accords and rollback of over 125 environmental protections. Internationally, our reputation is deeply damaged, alienating allies like Germany and heightening tensions with China. Obamacare, abortion rights and LGBTQ rights all hang in the balance, with crucial decisions expected from the Supreme Court in mere weeks.

The crown jewel of Trump’s first-term, our newly minted 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, will hand down rulings for a decade or more to come. In the face of controversy and precedent, Trump and the Republican Senate delivered three new Justices to the bench, all under 55 and each with his or her own clear ardently conservative record on the issues of the day — abortion, healthcare and gun ownership among them. Last week, during his victory lap on the eve of Amy Comey Barrett’s ascension, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commented, “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.” He was right.

Most importantly, any hope of a “return to normalcy” assumes Biden’s inauguration would usher in an era beyond the reach of Trump’s actively destructive nature. It assumes that Trump will follow the lead of presidents past, withholding comment for the betterment of the nation. That, I fear, could not be further from the truth.

Trump has fomented the racial animus and economic anxieties of, depending on the day, 40-ish percent of the U.S. voters, his base. Even today, despite all our nation has suffered, his approval rating is 95% amongst Republicans. The darkest element of that group, white nationalists and the far-right, have found in Trump a hero. When he speaks (or tweets), they listen. Donald Trump did not affix bigotry into the fabric of America, it existed long before his arrival, but he did use the office of the President to legitimize its cries. Having cultivated a fanbase that would watch him “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without turning its back, it is impossible to imagine Donald Trump resisting the platform they offer.

So no, I don’t have hope that things will return to normal once Trump leaves office. History can only march forward. It will take more than replacing one 70-something year old white man with another to bring back the “normalcy” we once knew. And who would want to anyway, when the cultural impact of Trump was most often one of revealing, rather than inspiring, hatred.

The election of Biden is necessary. It’s hygienic. But it’s hardly cause for hope.

When searching for hope to latch onto, I look instead to our past. I consider the division sowed throughout the 20th century, marked by decades of geopolitical conflict, political corruption and racial division, and find slim solace in knowing we made it through to the other side. I look also to the youthful, multicultural coalition that overtook American cities’ streets in recent months — our future — pressing truth to power, demanding our nation make good on the promise it sold. They tell me better is possible. Then I rest easy knowing that, given a longer view of history, these things have a way of working out. Hopefully.


Cole Brown is a Philadelphia native and the author of 'Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World'.