by M. Anthony Davis
Last night was one of the longest nights I’ve had in recent memory. Even as I woke up this morning to the latest polls, I still feel like I’m processing everything that happened, and the election still isn’t over.
As it stands now, Biden has just been projected to win Wisconsin. If Biden’s lead in Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan hold he will win the election. Whether or not Trump accepts that victory is to-be-determined.
To be clear, I am not a Joe Biden supporter. However, I do believe Biden will be beneficial to our country as we navigate COVID-19 and its impacts on our communities. Trump has proven himself unfit to lead with his disregard for human lives and refusal to believe or trust science. The death toll, unemployment rates, and civil unrest we are currently witnessing in our country forced my hand in this election and for the first time in my life, I cast a vote for a U.S. President. As a Black man, I do not believe a win for Biden will drastically change my life or directly improve the lives for Black people moving forward. But I must acknowledge the disproportionate impacts that COVID has had on Black communities, and I do trust Biden to address the virus responsibly and allow scientists and doctors to guide us to the quickest and safest recovery possible.
My biggest takeaway from last night is the overall vote count. As of this morning, Joe Biden broke Obama’s record for most votes received in a United States presidential election. However, this does not guarantee a Biden victory. I have read about the electoral college, I have had numerous “smart” people explain the electoral college to me, and I still must say: It will never make sense to me that receiving the most votes in a presidential election does not equal a victory. And I could use this column to explain voter suppression, the amendments to the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering, or any of the other ways elections in our country can be skewed or stolen, but I won’t. Instead, I will point out the fact that as I sit here and write these words, Donald Trump has received 66,714,904 votes.
That number is staggering to contemplate. Over 66 million Americans voted for four more years of Trump. After more than 230,000 American COVID deaths, over 150 consecutive days of protests in Seattle, numerous protests around our country, and even after the President sided with white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys – telling them, for instance, to “stand by” during a presidential debate – 66 million of us still want Trump to be our leader. And I say “us,” because it is us. Americans. This is who “we” are, like it or not. As we turn the corner on election night and go back to our lives, always remember that about half of us (currently a little over 48%) voted for white supremacy.
As I reflect on election night, those 66 million will be what I remember. Not Trump’s infamous speech where he demanded that states where he led in the polls stop counting ballots and states where he was behind count every one, declaring his victory in the same train of thought – no, that is not my takeaway. What will stay with me is the fact that half of voting Americans want that man to continue leading us.
But this will not be a pessimistic article. There were many significant victories last night. When I finally made it to bed around 2:30 am, T’wina Nobles (28th LD), Tanisha Harris (17th LD), Jamila Taylor (30th LD), April Berg (44th LD) were all ahead in the polls. If that holds, we will see four Black women win huge victories. That’s worth celebrating.
We also had some big wins locally, which I feel are the most important votes we can make. Local elections are the ones that will directly affect our everyday lives. The King County Charter Amendments that are currently on the way to passing will be huge victories along the journey toward police reform. It would be disingenuous of me to not mention that the only way I feel we can fix the justice system is by dismantling and reassembling it in its entirety, but short of dismantlement, reform is our best bet.
King County Charter Amendment 1 mandates a hearing to establish facts in all cases where people are killed by cops. Even in cases where people die in jail, die on the way to jail, or die in police custody, there will now be a formal inquest to investigate what happened. Charter Amendment 4 provides law enforcement oversight that includes the legal right to subpoena documents and force cops to testify. I’m not totally convinced this will work, but it was passed, and as citizens we must hold police accountable to this charter as best we can.
Charter Amendments 5 and 6 were big ones. Amendment 5 made the King County Sheriff a position appointed by the King County Executive and King County Council, instead of elected, and Amendment 6 allows King County Council to create the job duties and job description for the King County Sheriff. The idea here is to make the King County Sheriff more consistently accountable to the people he or she serves and to give the King County Council the ability to shape the Sheriff’s duties. For example, if the King County Council wants social workers to respond to 911 calls instead of police, they now have the right to make that happen. Whether this will make citizen interactions with police safer or if policing itself becomes more efficient – that is yet to be seen. But these Charter Amendments are a direct response to our community demanding changes to policing, and even though defunding the police to invest in communities instead would have been a better option, this does feel like a step in the right direction.
In closing, I encourage everyone to breathe. Today is a new day, and tomorrow will be another. No matter what ultimately happens in the presidential election, our lives will go on. Trump is not the first racist president we’ve lived through and he won’t be the last. A Biden win will not guarantee an end to the school-to-prison pipeline, or an increase in the wealth of Black families, or even stop police from killing us. Community will always and forever continue to fight for these things. So, take a deep breath, rest up, and no matter what outcome we get, be ready to jump back in the ring to fight for justice.
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.
Featured image by Alex Garland