I’m not going to feel comfortable celebrating a winner in this election until every vote is counted and every lawsuit has been dismissed, but I’m quite sure who the loser is right now. Our nation’s fair elections are what set us apart from dictators all over the world, and the current president has done his very best to make his supporters lose faith in the process. This election was stolen from Trump supporters, but it was stolen by Trump himself. Mail-in ballots were first cast in 17th-century Massachusetts, so lets not act like they were invented to victimize President Trump. His supporters are energized, dedicated, and have voted in unprecedented numbers in this election. Their numbers are greater than Obama’s turnout, for crying out loud. Plus, that democrats didn’t pick up a bunch of seats in congress despite a presidential victory, should scare the pants off the DNC. That means that republicans pushed Biden to victory, but voted for their own party down ballot. So when the next election comes along and you have a regular, less controversial candidate? They can blow dems out of the water.

Now, imagine if republicans had been able to vote confidently via mail. Trump told them they had to vote in person and that mail voting was fraudulent, and when you are relying on people to show up in person and wait in line, there will be some folks who forget, don’t plan ahead, have to drop out of line to get to work, etc. Also, there are some supporters who are devoted to Trump but actually believe COVID-19 is a real and serious threat and wouldn’t feel comfortable waiting in a long line of people to touch a machine thousands of other people touched. The margins in these states are so small, and he kneecapped his own team by eliminating a perfectly legal form of voting. Or, you can get as assist from a republican governor like in Texas, where you aren’t allowed to vote by mail unless you’re elderly or not in Texas at the time of your vote because he declared that a pandemic wasn’t a legal reason to mail in your vote.

I honestly understand why some people assume the election was stolen. If you watch the news they watch, and get your updates from the President, all you hear is fraud fraud fraud. If you get your news literally anywhere else, journalists, pollsters, and election experts have been talking incessantly for months about this very scenario — Trump told his people to vote in person, and Biden told his people to vote by mail. If you vote electronically, once the polls close they just hit print and the ballots are counted (I assume it’s slightly more complicated but you get the idea). If you vote by mail, your ballot has to be removed from two envelopes, signatures matched, eligibility confirmed, bubble-filling deciphered, ballot flattened by a flattening machine, and then fed into a counting machine. The votes have to be checked by several people, including observers from both political parties. States like Pennsylvania tried to start counting the huge number of mail-in ballots before they would be faced with managing polling places on November 3, but republicans sued to prevent that change. If all the first ballots counted go for Trump, and then votes for Biden slowly trickle in after it looks like Trump has won in a blowout, of course that seems odd if you haven’t been listening to the experts and even secretaries of state all over the country who have talked about this very probable scenario.

“Why are they only finding new ballots for Biden?” First of all, counting is not finding. Second, Trump explicitly told his supporters not to use mail-in ballots. And we know they take his rallies and Twitter feed as law, so they voted in person. In massive numbers. And that is really the point, here. Count every vote, let all the lawsuits play out, because its important for us to know the weak spots in our most sacred of institutions. But don’t sow fear and mistrust without evidence because you don’t want to lose. No one wants to lose. But when even Fox News is calling the election for Biden, you can’t go on Twitter and claim you “won by a lot!” No ballots were cast after election day, they were counted after election day, and that happens every single time we vote. This year was extraordinary because of the high demand for mail-in ballots so people could avoid crowds during a global pandemic, and because our elections were so close, we had to count them all before declaring a winner.

You can’t send your goons to shout COUNT THE VOTES in two states and STOP THE COUNT in three others. When you deliberately put out garbage “information” and tell your people the election is being stolen illegally, they might think the only solution is to show up heavily armed at a building full of volunteer ballot counters.

My point isn’t that Trump is terrible, or that zero fraudulent ballots were cast. Even Karl Rove said there is always some “hanky panky” but it’s on a very small scale, and somehow stealing an election with hundreds of thousands of votes just isn’t possible. My point is that we have all still lost.

Though the Biden/Harris folks should be proud of an election won through tiny drive-in rallies with a candidate who wasn’t everyone’s first (or second) choice, I don’t envy them right now. How do we move forward? Biden’s message of unity is the most important right now, but will anyone listen? Not only are we an international laughing stock, but at home we are so divided that a single neighborhood could swing an election where 140 million people voted. How do you overcome millions of people’s distrust in national news? Not just the editorial programs, but the regular news desk folks? We have to detox from four years of “fake news” and fact checking our social media acquaintances. It has been exhausting.

The idea that we can all heal and hold hands after this seems like a fairytale. So many republican voters on my news feed have posted memes to remind us that after all this we are still neighbors and friends no matter who we voted for. Maybe in a normal election year, but that shows a serious lack of understanding of the effect Trump has had on the country. You can’t agree to disagree about the value of black lives. You can’t agree to disagree about immediately condemning white supremacy. You can’t call detainment camps full of children whose parents are missing a difference of opinion. Or the idea that we should lock up anyone who disagrees with our world view (even though all the people he suggests we lock up have been repeatedly investigated by republican committees and cleared of wrongdoing, including the Biden family).

Polls show a large number of folks voted Trump because they think he would do a better job rehabbing the economy after COVID-19. I disagree, because a key element for stable markets is stable leadership, and he has frequently crashed markets with a single impulsive tweet only to later walk it back. But even if it’s true Trump would be better for the stock market, that does not ensure that we will all be better off. The stock market is not everything for folks who don’t have the money to invest. When I’ve expressed concern about four more years of Trump, I have point blank been asked to identify ways in which I personally have been affected by his time in the White House. Putting aside years of anxiety, I find this question startling. Do I have to personally be separated from my children by a haphazard policy enacted without planning or foresight? Do I have to be a person of color to know that a leader who doesn’t condemn the Proud Boys when asked clearly and directly is unacceptable? Do I have to die of COVID-19 to know that denying science during a global pandemic is utter madness? If Joe Biden raises my taxes, or keeps the stock market at a low simmer rather than a rolling boil, awesome. As long as he doesn’t use his position to disenfranchise voters, promote hate, deprive people of their rights, tell trans people who are willing to die for their country that they aren’t welcome, threaten to put journalists in jail, and orphan minors who traveled here against their will, then I’ll be just fine.

The path from here will be painfully difficult. To win back the trust of the public who even turned their back on Fox News, a network objectively favoring Trump, and prefer to get their “news” from an anonymous conspiracy theorist who claims there is a cabal of child-eating pedophiles running the show and only Trump can stop them? Is there a plan for that?

There is no reason to be ashamed of being a conservative voter. Wanting lower taxes, smaller federal government, emphasis on local governments, a strong military, and opposition to dictatorships the world over? Those are areas where a difference of opinion is completely reasonable. But if you’re willing to get those things (though not all of them, because Trump does a lot of very unrepublican things) at the expense of your fellow countrymen? Then no, you can’t just agree to disagree. Encouraging violence, sowing distrust in our democracy, refusing to address the race issues in this country, and discouraging free speech that is unflattering? For those issues, there is a right and a wrong answer, and falling on the wrong side is supremely un-American.

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