During this miserable lame-duck period, we must trust in a better future

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W e are stuck in this interregnum, between a maladroit trying to burn down the Republic and a Normal Joe, wondering what sort of rabbit someone might pull out of a hat, waiting on a vaccine, trusting it will pass.

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Control of the US Senate hangs in the balance, as Georgia voters head to the polls this Tuesday. It took 10 days to get presidential results out of the Peach State. Now we are again awaiting word, this time of whether Chuck Schumer or Mitch McConnell will control the 2021 calendar. In the meantime, the economy teeters alongside our constitutional order.

On Wednesday, Congress is set to consider certifying election results. A dirty dozen of Republican senators – plus 140 members of the House of Representatives – have said they will contest the results from certain swing states, despite Mitch McConnell’s urgings not to do so. They called this sedition in Abe Lincoln’s day.

You could ignore it all by immersing your head in football games you don’t care about any more. Some drink – these are the holidays, after all, and there is nothing else to do, hasn’t really been anything to do since March, so why not?

All the experts say we should remain calm and stay safe. But Normal Joe doesn’t raise his right hand and pledge on the Bible until January 20. A lot of weirdness gets sucked into the vacuum in the interim. On Saturday, Trump threatened to criminally charge the Georgia secretary of state, a Republican, for not cooking up the 11,780 ballots that the loser needs to win. Even Rudy Giuliani couldn’t dream up this kind of scheme.

The good folks at the nursing homes are in the dark about when they might get vaccine doses. We old folks at home are in the dark with them. We have no idea how to find out when or where we will get the jab. The state is working on it, we are told. So we sit here and drink anxiety with our morning toast.

During more ordinary times, these quadrennial weeks leading up to the inauguration are supposed to be a celebration of the world’s longest-running experiment in democracy. Instead, the president has called assorted wingnuts to Washington to protest what they believe is the Big Steal. “It’s going to be wild!” the tweeter in chief tweeted. Wild is not what democracy needs right now.

Then there’s Congress’s so-called Covid relief. The out-of-work bartender currently forced to choose between paying rent and paying for medical prescriptions probably needs a lot more than $600. Maybe Biden can wrangle some more, depending on how that Georgia vote count goes, followed by recounts and court filings. Maybe the bar owner can get a second swing at a payroll protection grant, but maybe not. It all seems out of our hands.

The Iowa legislature says its priorities are tax cuts, not supplementing unemployment benefits. You don’t know what will happen in one-party government. How far will Republicans go? There appear to be no limits when our congressman is calling to repudiate our electoral process.

Everything should clear up by 20 January if it all doesn’t blow up in the next week or two. The vaccines will show up sooner or later. Local budgets and property tax rates will get nailed down, not without pain. The Fox propaganda machine is cracking under pressure from the rest of the rightwing looneysphere. The Republican party is morphing by the day. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska says Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri is playing with fire, one young Republican Ivy League midwesterner to another.

Are these the death rattles of a discredited movement of narcissism and fear, or the birth of something worse that endures? The November election suggests the former but we are going to play hell getting there.

Until the Bidens are sleeping in the White House and not in a Delaware bunker, we sit in this helpless tumult of between. It’s about to turn. I believe this will pass. Let’s pray that hope will prevail.

  • Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is a Guardian US columnist and author of the book Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland