As the sun rose on Saturday 7 November, change was in the air. Joe Biden had recently overtaken incumbent Donald Trump in key swing-states to come within touching distance of the White House. Despite the understandable hesitation from newscasters to call it, there reached a point where Biden’s victory seemed assured.
This didn’t come as much of a surprise to those who were paying attention. While Trump had led early in the counts, many of the swing states had decided they would tally mail-in ballots – which tended to be from Democrat leaning areas – last. Democrats also voted by mail in far larger numbers, partly due to Trump’s insistence to his base that they get out and vote in person. What made things more confusing was the constant calls of victory from the Trump camp. When a seemingly significant lead had been announced, one or more of the President’s team would call it as a victory. The incredulity of these remarks is no different from deciding your team won a football match because it’s 3-2 at half time. Caveated of course with the notion that if more goals are scored it’s due to performance-enhancing drugs. And only if they’re against you.
Many of the White House team had long been casting doubt over the legitimacy of mail-in ballots. Now that the election was veering to the left, cries of victory were replaced with accusations of fraud. Shady practises were outlined in even hazier terms as many of those close to the President tried to lend credibility to the notion that the whole election was a Democrat steal. As the media began reporting Biden’s favourability to win on Saturday morning Trump wasted little time in calling a press conference to outline his legal battle against perceived corruption. The setting? The Four Seasons in Philadelphia. A fitting location due to Pennsylvania’s importance to the race. And what better place than the Four Seasons Hotel, an enormous glass testament to hospitality.
But then came the clincher. At around 11:30 am Trump clarified, via Twitter of course that the hotel was not the location of the press conference. Instead, the designated epicentre of disinformation was revealed to be Four Seasons: Total Landscaping.
Much like it sounds this was a business devoted to the design and curation of outdoor spaces and was unlikely to be brimming with conference facilities and function rooms. The surroundings were also a far cry from the hustle and bustle of downtown Philadelphia. The shop itself, much to the delight of everyone following the story was sandwiched between Delaware Family Crematorium and Fantasy Island, a purveyor of adult entertainment. Perhaps this positioning was a subtle message. The crematorium a hint at the death of democracy? The landscaping to symbolise a new future? A porn shop because why the hell not? A more logical solution was for once a far more entertaining prospect. The idea that some political aide, flustered with the prospect of losing their job during the pandemic no doubt booked the wrong venue. Even more hilarious is the notion of a receptionist picking up the phone and doing nothing to inform the distressed intern that they had got the wrong Four Seasons. “Yes this is Four Seasons. Of course, you can host your press conference in our parking lot, let me just ask Bill to move his van.”
Regardless of how it transpired, the stage was set and Trump dispatched attack dog 2.0, Rudy Guiliani to kick off proceedings. It’s easy to forget that this is a man once famous for taking down the mob as a top lawyer. He also won the hearts and minds of many Americans where he showed great leadership as mayor of New York in the aftermath of 9/11. In stark contrast he now found himself spewing unsubstantiated vitriol outside a porn shop. How far the mighty fall.
The actual press conference was about as unhinged as the setting. The main takeaway was that the election is not over despite the appearance that it was and that the legal team lawyers would fight to make sure democracy won. This came, of course, with the assurance of lengthy legal disputes promising to turn an anxiety-inducing week into months of uncertainty. My heart goes out to those in the country dealing with the prospect of Trump seizing victory through the justice system. It sounds like a story liberal parents tell their kids at night if they want them to behave.
Despite all the uncertainty, two parties seemed to come out of the confusion on top and neither of them political. Four Seasons Landscaping has now started selling merchandise including hats, jumpers and stickers with the tag lines “Make America Rake Again and “Lawn & Order”. The porn shop “Fantasy Island” also reported a boom in sales after the presser. This was after a brief lull in business as patrons of adult entertainment were no doubt off by the idea of being caught on camera sneaking into the establishment. Unfortunately, the Delaware Family Crematorium hasn’t reaped the rewards of this highly localised economic boom although given that the election and its surreal aftermath seems to have taken everyone’s mind off Covid, this is perhaps only a matter of time.
The whole saga really epitomised the chaotic narrative swirling around the election results. The claims of fraud are perhaps no surprise: Trump has been raging about this possibility for months so it would seem unrealistic to expect him to stop now. So far no real evidence has been found aside from a few lone whistle blowers without anything concrete to back it up. With Biden destined for the throne, I must admit part of me will miss the circus with Trump as the ringleader. I’m sure many other writers will as well, slightly deflated by the prospect of a predictable and no doubt quieter four years ahead. In the words of one US commentator, Americans have decided they would like to have a President that they can ‘have on in the background.’ There are still a couple of noisy episodes of the current show to go, however: Trump may have lost the election but he still wants to top the ratings.