Well, I’ve held my tongue this fraught week long enough.
I began designing the Noise cover around Tuesday. The “Post-Election Issue,” I called it, wrapping its edges in a photo I took last week in the grim bowels of downtown Albany. It’s a brick edifice upon which a tagger scarred a simple sentiment: “Y?.” Whoever’s responsible, I’d like to shake his hand. It fits my outlook as a general philosophy, wracked in hope and doom.
I had no faith in the election’s outcome. In 2016, I watched the nation devour its better nature over bad newsroom pizza and Pepsi as we built the following morning’s paper. The numbers were unbelievable, and I’m still not sure whether to attribute Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump to hubris or midlife naivete.
After that evening, uncertainty ruled my existence. I met our inherited universe with equal measures of amusement and disgust, aghast at the malevolent idiot — at least Nixon adopted the pretense of humanity; he also played a mean piano — we were dumb enough to crown. Even as a kid in the '80s, I knew Trump exclusively as a cosmic punchline, a preening gasbag begging for idolatry.
I was born just days before Tricky Dick trounced George McGovern in '72, and 2020 unspooled like that movie. Or 2004, when we thought reason had finally bled to death. Or 2016. In this scenario, Trump, unstoppable by man or scandal, would flatten Joe Biden like a train across a penny. Liberals were just too certain of victory. So, y’know: “Y?” Why four more years of numbing heaviness? Why believe in the goodness of man? Why raise the sun every dawn over semi-permanent winter?
Over the next few days, as remaining states played coy with numbers in an astonishingly tight race — tighter than I’d expected — the “Y?” took on another meaning, primarily “Why is this taking so long?” It was 2000 on steroids, minus the hanging chads and Republican subterfuge (this time the Democrats would be cast as villainous thugs). Night after night, America would retire to the same percentages that had stalled vote tallies since morning. We ascribed it to caution, but frankly, I think some of those places were milking it like an attention-desperate brother. I imagined someone in a Nevada election office gingerly opening the last box, giggling to himself. Percentages ruled the news cycle. They ruled our Google searches, our conversations, our lives. They ruled all — fucking math.
By then, I’d dumped the “Post-Election” concept. (Kept the 18th century font, though.) Mike McInally came through with a cover-worthy story, albeit after obsessing, like me, over the numbers, slamming "Refresh" with the zeal of a pellet-loony rat. The Noise should remain largely apolitical except in questions or passing references. Or this editor’s note, which I agonized over for hours.
I'd grown so accustomed to the stalemate that when the smoke appeared to clear this morning, it took me by surprise. I was walking home from the local store with a muffin for my sweetie, listening to the Replacements’ “Alex Chilton” (I believe in the power of Westerberg) when my phone blew up with news. The Associated Press had called the election for Joe Biden. What? I swore Donald Trump would somehow steal it away, that a clutch of votes would suddenly be discovered in Pennsylvania, liberated from a Walmart parking lot, and I’d be tithing Sunday in church, freshly converted. But no: the Democrat prevailed. The Democrat with a female vice president. You know, the sensible ones. Two people who spoke the language of calm conciliation. Adults. How did that happen in 2020? Hadn't progress gone the way of sundials and Pepsi Blue? Weren't we hanging BAs to propriety?
Nevertheless, our road to this once-impossible chapter remains intolerably long. The fallout will be excruciating. Bloody recriminations await. Howls of pain. Shards of terror. Violent words, flailing fists, hot tears. The dogs will not go quietly. Thank God for rock ’n’ roll. (cf)