What a difference two months make in a democracy.
Until Nov. 3, the country was submerged in a colossal chaos. America’s vote set up motion for change.
Four years ago, a billionaire tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump had made a grandiose promise, “We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning.” Charming words, no doubt.
Americans were so enchanted that they tolerated and even indulged in red flags such as “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” as well as repeated mockery (paraplegic condition, women’s appearance, Muslims, Mexicans, gays).
After all, wasn’t that the man who had written “Art of the Deal,” (ghost writer Tony Schwartz had done it), the man was so rich, he didn’t need money, he was going to self-finance his campaign. He – the self-made man – was now engaged in a crusade to “drain the Washington swamp.” Americans fell for his spell. The Electoral College elected him, despite his opponent Hillary Clinton earning 3 million more popular votes than him, something unique to America.
His vice president Mike Pence was obsessed with looking like a good Christian rather than practicing Christ’s teachings. Complacent Pence said yes to every affirmation and action of Trump, forgetting that Jesus didn’t condone wrongdoing [he did whip the merchants who desecrated the Temple.]
A billionaire, Betsy DeVos, who as a student never set foot in a public school, was made Secretary of Education.
Jeff Sessions was made the Attorney General, a reward for being the first Senator to support Trump’s candidacy. (Sessions later used all the muscles of his post to act as one more lawyer for the president, as did his successors Matthew Whitaker and William Barr.)
Oddly, Elaine Chao, spouse of then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was made secretary of transportation, a strange, intimate blending of the legislative and executive branches, raising eyebrows about separation of powers.
Ben Carson, (who later, on National TV, mixed up REO – Real-State Owned, foreclosure properties – with OREO, the cookie) was made Secretary of Housing.
Scott Pruitt, a long-time defender of the Gas and Oil industry, was gifted with the strategic Environmental Protection Agency – EPA.
Sean Spicer was made speaker of the White House (later he would shamelessly try to convince Americans that lies were true, as did his successors Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany).
With that cast of characters, America was set for a colossal Greek tragedy of intrigue, lies, selfishness and death.
During his tenure, Trump told 31,000 lies and misleading claims, 21 per day in average. He mocked COVID-19 and his inaction largely contributed to the death of a quarter million Americans.
In his first year as a President, he paid $750 in Federal Income Taxes. Again, he paid $750 in 2017. How would historians explain that the owner of luxurious buildings and golf courses in the U.S. and overseas, paid virtually no taxes?
Four years into this chaos, then candidate Trump’s words “you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning” did however, materialize, albeit wrongly. Americans got sick of winning (world record of COVID-19 fatalities and record job losses and unemployment). America lost credibility in the international community (World Health Organization, United Nations, including with the Paris Accord signers and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO).
Yes, Americans got sick and tired: 81 million American votes decided that enough was enough, with the largest voter turnout in American History. Trump was the loser on both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
That was unacceptable for a man who, during his entire business career, had used powerful teams of lawyers to impose his will on over 3,500 cases – “the plaintiff in chief,” in the words of lawyer and former federal prosecutor Jim Zirin.
The president and his allies filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts. They lost 61 times. Judges repelled election fraud over and over again.
Trump made a desperate move, a phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger: “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” A clear fraud attempt.
When all failed, Trump incited his electoral base and various extremist groups, heavily armed and blinded by hate, to try to kill legislators – even Trump’s Vice President – and take over the government. The never seen, abhorrent attempt was dominated. Democracy prevailed.
Joe Biden, a Pennsylvanian from blue collar Scranton is now our president. Biden is a man twice devastated by personal tragedy – the death of his first wife Neilia and daughter Noemi in a car accident, and the brain cancer and death of his son Beau, a UPenn alum. Biden, an imperfect man (who is?) with a long and accomplished political trajectory, built on dialogue and concessions when the common good requires them.
On January 20, the curtains were opened for a new play of hope, of recovery and hard work rather than empty, divisive words. And there has been change already.
The daughter of Indo-Caribbean immigrant scientists, Kamala Harris, is the vice president.
Native American Deb Haaland, a single mother who lived in shelters and friends’ homes and on food stamps before becoming a lawyer, is the secretary of interior; she carries the voice of the so long voiceless original inhabitants of America’s lands.
Economist Janet Yellen, who as the chair of the Federal Reserve Bank achieved low interest rates, job and wage growth and participated on the 2007 financial recovery, is now the Treasury Secretary.
Xavier Becerra, the son of a Mexican immigrant, well-known for actively defending the Affordable Care Act and women’s health, is the Health Secretary.
The son of poor Puerto Ricans, Miguel Cardona, whose family moved to Connecticut where they lived in housing projects and who started his educator career teaching fourth-graders, is the Education Secretary.
Michael Regan, a Black man who for nine years during the Clinton and Bush Administrations worked as air quality control expert and until recently ran the North Carolina environmental agency, now directs the EPA and is aiming at reconstructing it.
Pete Buttigieg, Harvard and Oxford alum, fluent in 7 Languages and openly gay, is the Transportation Secretary.
Once again, the words carved on Lady Liberty’s pedestal resonate in America:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
What a difference two months can make in a democracy.
COVID-19 daily deaths have been reduced from 4,380, on Jan. 20, to 1,177 by March 17; 84 million people, meaning 1 in 4 Americans, are now vaccinated. Biden’s election promise of 100 million vaccines in 100 days is becoming a reality.
A record package of $1.9 trillion was approved to support the U.S. pandemic recovery; residents are receiving, for now, a $1,400 check.
Biden has signed 37 executive orders in response to various critical issues: COVID-19 response, racial tension, undeserved communities, immigration and refugees, healthcare policies, prison system, education, climate crisis, census effectiveness, voting access, etc.
What a difference two months make in a democracy!
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Election Day in Nazareth
Nov. 3, 2020 was Election day. Pennsylvania neighborhoods were still featuring their Halloween ornaments in that cold and windy day. Residents of Nazareth-PA (6,000 inhabitants) casted their vote at the Nazareth Middle School, one of the polling sites. Citizens didn’t mind waiting three hours to do it, some for the first-time. In the end, 159 million votes were casted nationally.
Americans elected Joe Biden, born just 60 of miles north of Nazareth, in Scranton. A historical record of 81 million votes – translated to 306 Electoral College votes – gave him the Presidency; his opponent Donald Trump got 74 million votes – meaning 232 Electoral College votes.
This set of pictures memorializes the historical Election Day in Nazareth.
Voters waited in long, socially-distanced lines to vote in the 2020 presidential election at Nazareth Area Middle School. Photos by Jesus Zaldivar.