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America's 'mailed fist'

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 13, 2020 5:00 am Updated Nov 13, 2020 8:47 pm

I spoke too soon.

I thought that, based on past US elections that I have witnessed or read about, including the one in 2000 (George W. Bush vs. Al Gore) — where the decision was brought up to the Supreme Court, with Gore gallantly conceding after — US elections were in no way like Philippine elections.

As the popular saying goes, in the Philippines, there are normally no losers or winners, only ‘yung dinaya and ‘yung nangdaya (the one who was cheated and the one who cheated), depending on whose camp you’re from.

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed two Philippine presidential candidates take their oaths on the same day, with a people power revolt rising in favor of Corazon Aquino, with the US finally intervening through Sen. Paul Laxalt’s advice to Ferdinand Marcos, “To cut and cut cleanly.”

A deluge of greetings came from world leaders not long after.

It’s been more than a week now since the US elections, and after the jubilation when the Democratic candidate breached the 270 electoral votes needed for election (according to CNN and BBC, among other news organizations, Biden got 279 electoral votes and Trump, 214 as of Wednesday), came the confusion. President Donald Trump doesn’t think it’s game over so he isn’t conceding. Because he thinks victory was snatched from him, he has a legal armada behind him. Sounds familiar?

Sounds familiar to me.

President-elect Biden with his grandson. AP

According to cnn.com, Biden has received (so far) a total of 77,037,035 popular votes, the highest for any President in US history, while Trump got 72,088,188 votes. Surveys largely predicted a bigger Biden lead, and the fact that it was a “nail-biter,” a “slow burn,” as it was too early to call till the weekend after the elections, means Trump really put up a good fight. And his bailiwicks are not to be underestimated.

According the Washington Post last Nov. 8, “Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was elected the nation’s 46th president Saturday in a repudiation of President Trump powered by legions of women and minority voters who rejected his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his divisive, bullying conduct in office.”

My sister Mary Mae Mayor voted by mail. Since she’s from California, the elections there were never a nail-biter for her, with 64 percent of the state coming in blue. But nationwide, she found it “nerve-wracking” as she anticipated Trump’s next moves.

Filipino-American award-winning film director Ramona S. Diaz, whose A Thousand Cuts was recently included in the DOC NYC’s Influential Awards shortlist, disagrees that the elections were a “nail-biter.”

“I’ve spent every presidential election night since 2004 (Bush The Younger’s second term) with the same people in my neighborhood. They’re an eclectic mix of academics, politicos, business people, artists, writers, etc. We meet in the same house every four years. Amongst the regulars are the trio we call ‘the mappers.’ They know the ins and outs of the electoral map like the back of their hand. So in 2016, they called it for Trump when he won Florida at around 10:30 p.m. when the actual election was not called until around 1:45 a.m. the next morning. We went home depressed early.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, after being declared the winner with Joe Biden of the presidential election. AFP

“This year, it took a little longer because of COVID. While the Trump campaign urged everyone to vote in person (‘COVID? What COVID?’), the Dems urged everyone to mail in their ballots. Ballots that are filled out at the polling places are counted first and mail-in ballots are counted next. People who had been paying attention closely knew that Trump would pull ahead early in the evening in the battleground states making it seem like he was winning big. It was the so-called red mirage. If there was a landslide, the elections would have been called by around 10 p.m. but barring that, the trio was certain we would know by Wednesday morning which way the wind was blowing when they started counting mail-in ballots. So about Wednesday by mid-day, as the mail-in ballots were being counted in Philadelphia and Biden was pulling ahead at a steady clip, they were pretty sure Biden had it because if he took Philadelphia, he would win it all. Like the trio always say, it’s a numbers game based on reliable givens. Urban votes go to Dems and rural voters tend to vote Republican. There are Democratic strongholds and Republican strongholds. Given that it’s easy to read the map.”

In an article titled, “On a Mail-In Ballot and a Prayer, Biden Wins the White House,” Christianity Today said, “The lifelong Catholic won faithful voters whose mail-in ballots delayed counts in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and, finally, Pennsylvania to overtake the incumbent president in an election marked by record-setting turnout and pandemic precautions.”

As my husband Ed has told me, America’s “mailed fist” came in the mail-in votes that colored many states blue on the US map.

Joe Biden, who turns 78 on Nov. 20, will be the oldest elected POTUS in history. He will also be the second Roman Catholic, the first being John F. Kennedy, who was the youngest elected president of the US ever at 43.

“Joe Biden is a good, gentle, decent person,” says Philippine Ambassador to the US Babe Romualdez. According to Romualdez, the President-elect called him up on Nov. 7, a day before the latter’s birthday, to greet him. According to the envoy, Biden even remarked, “We’re both Scorpio.”

Biden’s running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is as much a part of the news as Biden is. She is the first woman, and the first person of color, to be elected to the second highest post in the US.

Already, memes abound about women having to protect their feet as so many glass ceilings have been broken with Harris. After all, she could be the Democratic party’s next mailed fist. *