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A return to blissful, maddening normalcy


More than 160 million Americans voted this year. While we may not have all had joy in our hearts, it was a peaceful process. And, in two months we will have a nonviolent transition of power.

Whatever the motivation, the turnout this year was impressive. And on both sides. This wasn’t a blue wave or a red wave. It was a concerned wave. And it has left us with a split government in which both sides will have to temper their expectations for the next two years.

Spending too much time on cable news channels or social media can lead us to believe that more people agree with us than really do. Elections force us to recalibrate.

I was once among those who believed President Donald Trump was so unpopular that Democrats could run their most progressive candidate and still win. I don’t think that now.

Of all the 29 candidates for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden may have been the least aspirational. But he gave Democrats the best chance to beat Trump. Those in Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t recognize that, but more pragmatic voters in South Carolina did.

The victory by Yvette Herrell also forced me to recalibrate my beliefs about the Second Congressional District. It is more solidly conservative than I thought.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature said they plan to change that when district boundaries are redrawn following this year’s Census. But that's going to take some pretty creative gerrymandering in a state as geographically large as New Mexico with just three districts.

And, while I’m sorry to see Xochitl Torres Small lose her seat, it’s probably not a bad thing for New Mexico that one of our five congressional delegates will be a Republican. It’s probably more reflective of our state’s political makeup.

Every newly elected president claims to have a mandate. In his victory speech Saturday, held in a parking lot instead of some glamorous hotel ballroom because of the coronavirus, Biden said his mandate from the voters is to cooperate with Republicans.

He won’t have much choice, should the two Senate seats in Georgia remain in Republican hands after the upcoming special election, as is expected.

In his first few days, Biden will establish a national strategy to deal with the pandemic and rescind many of Trump’s most harmful executive orders. But to accomplish his own agenda, he’ll have to go through Mitch McConnell.

That will mean a return to the frustrating, maddening, gridlocked federal government we had in place before Trump blew into town. Or, as they say in Congress, business as usual.

It will be a bitter pill for Trump supporters, but also for those progressives who remained united behind Biden this year in a way that they did not for Hillary Clinton in 2016. I suspect there may be a difference in how those two groups handle their frustration.

Progressives are motivated by ideals, not persona. And they’re accustomed to setbacks. They will stay engaged and keep fighting.

Many of Trump’s supporters never voted until he came along. They don’t trust the government. Many don’t trust the Republican Party. They trust Trump. Will they stay involved after he is gone? And if they don’t, what will that mean for the party?

Leaders for both parties need to recalibrate in the coming days to better understand the messages sent by the voters, and how they will address those concerns.

In the meantime, it would be a great start if McConnell and Nancy Pelosi could agree on a pandemic relief package in the lame duck session.

Walt Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.

Walt Rubel