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Everything has changed and nothing has changed

When Pennsylvania’s Blue Drift finally took Biden to 270 electoral votes, the response of many Americans was extraordinary. Across the nation they came out into the streets, their joy and relief palpable. Some stood in front of the White House with signs that said “YOU’RE FIRED,” or “BYE DON.” There was a gravity-defying lightness to the celebrations, as if these Americans were saying to one another, “It’s finally over!” It was the end of something.

And while the vote was not a full-throated repudiation of the last four years, it was good enough. The majority had finally spoken.

As we know now, however, Trump and his cohort will not go quietly into that dark night. The lawsuits that decry voter fraud, ballot irregularities, and the ubiquitous, “Stop the Steal” continue, predicated on conspiracies and fevered assumptions of cheating, promised evidence that has yet to be found. But then these last four years have been a quilt of hollow allegations and feeble explanations, buttressed by alternative facts. Nothing has changed. Donald still throws mud against the wall intending to leave a stain.

It was not unexpected that on election eve Trump gave an unsettling, rambling speech in which he declared victory. And four days later he tweeted, in all caps, “THE OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED INTO THE COUNTING ROOMS. I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES. BAD THINGS HAPPENED WHICH OUR OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE. NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM!” Mike Pompeo, sycophant at State, when asked about a peaceful transition of power, told the press, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Trump will never agree that the math of this election is irrefutable, and so he will never concede. He will never invite the Bidens to the White House for a congratulatory sit-down, and it’s unlikely that he will attend the inauguration. Acting with grace is not in his DNA. Instead, until January 20, he will, as he did with President Obama, try to delegitimize Joe Biden’s presidency while blocking Biden’s team from having access to government offices, secure communications, classified briefings, the FDA and the CDC, while withholding the Warp Speed vaccine distribution plan. Trump and his enablers are willing to place our national security in jeopardy while indulging Trump’s delusions that he will be declared the winner of this election.

And yet, in the alternative, strangely, it’s been reported that he talks of a 2024 triumphant, dear leader return to the presidency. Perhaps a parade, jets overhead, military helicopters buzzing the flag-waving crowds frantically clapping. And still Rudy Giuliani continues the hunt for those ballots lying somewhere in a damp ditch.

Meanwhile, as this retributive transition continues, the nation finds itself once again on a pandemic precipice as cases rise (184,000 just on Friday) with more than 1,000 deaths daily taking us soon to 250,000. And the virus fatigue felt by the nation pales in comparison to that which is being experienced by the overwhelmed front-line health care workers and staff who are in this déjà vu-all-over-again moment, caring for the desperately sick and dying.

A national tragedy is unfolding before us. For multiple thousands, giving thanks this season has been obliterated, grief and loss framed by an empty chair and a silent mourning.

What is also taking place before us is an administration that has walked away from the virus, relying on a Darwinian herd immunity and a promised silver bullet vaccine while demonstrating a depraved indifference for what can and should be done now — a national emergency declared and all prophylactic measures such as masks and social distancing mandated. The walkaway malfeasance by Trump and Pence is, well, stunning. We can only wait until Jan. 20.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.

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