Last Saturday, after all major news media outlets announced Joe Biden’s presidential victory, ebullient Biden supporters (or more precisely, Trump opponents) took to the streets to celebrate. Mr. Biden obliged the crowd of supporters—oddly, the largest crowd he has ever had—and gave a speech accepting the job of president of the United States.
Few people, conservatives or progressives, seemed to have the wherewithal to remind the country that the media do not call elections and that many states’ election results are still being contested and ballots are still being counted. If President Trump wins these states in the final count, or if his lawyers prove that Mr. Biden cheated, this presumed outcome will be reversed. To simply ignore this key fact and pop the champagne bottles prematurely serves only to mislead and confuse so many Americans about the process—which may very well be the point.
Even for those 70 million Americans who voted for President Trump and knew this election had yet to be decided, the media pronouncement of President Biden was a huge blow to their confidence. Despite the polls and bad press leading up to the election, Trump supporters had good reason to believe Trump would win reelection, remarking on the size of his crowds, the enthusiasm of his supporters, and Trump’s successful first term. Sure enough, at the end of Election Day with most of the votes counted, Trump was blasting through the expectations of a blue landslide and, in fact, was bringing about a Republican landslide.
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Then, the counting stopped, mystery ballots—all for Mr. Biden—started pouring in, and the former Vice President became President-Elect by the end of the week.
In such a time, it’s hard to remember that hope is a virtue. It isn’t a mere feeling of optimism, nor is it some kind of mental escape from unpleasant realities. It is the habit of persevering in faith, a drive to effect one’s convictions. The virtue of hope doesn’t rely on positive feedback, ephemeral excitement, or supposed approval from society’s elites; it is rooted in something much deeper. Real hope breaks through the lies of the world and sustains the spirit. When that hope dies and degenerates into despair, the virtue of hope morphs into the feeling of hope. The spirit can’t be sustained, so a fleeting emotion serves in its place.
For this reason, celebrations of a Biden victory before all the votes are in is actually evidence of a hopeless culture. It is the act of people who don’t believe what they’re saying, so they continually reinforce a falsehood until it seems real. A child hears stories about the tooth fairy from his parents, repeats these stories to himself, and partakes in the ritual of leaving his tooth underneath his pillow, awaiting her visit. In the same way, many on the Left hear stories of a Trump defeat, repeat these stories to one another on Facebook and Twitter, and partake in a rigged election that is magically transformed by the ballot fairies. At no point does the child or the Biden voter actually validate his beliefs, but instead does all he can to shelter himself from reality.
By contrast, most conservatives have never had this luxury. If they ever cherished hopes in their elected officials and the American government, this was always in spite of the ubiquitous fake news, corrupt leadership, and betrayals from fellow conservatives. Anyone who felt hopeful and expected this feeling to last was indeed delusional. However, most conservatives still trust that reality will reassert itself once more and that justice is possible—that is, they have the virtue of hope.
Keeping alive hope in God’s promises, Christians throughout the centuries miraculously endured every trial and horror imaginable. Through hope, they not only faced physical death without fear, but overcame death to keep faith alive. Christians today should imitate their example as they face the scandals and incompetence of today’s elite both inside and outside the Church, which threaten a spiritual death. In matters of faith, the virtue of hope is indispensable.
And in matters of politics, especially now in a contested election, the virtue of hope is again indispensable. This is a greater matter than which candidate wins. It’s about of preserving a system from disintegrating altogether. We need to hope in an honest accounting of the votes as well as a serious effort to reform this process.
Conservatives who celebrate gains in the House and keeping the Senate all while ignoring the presidential election seem to miss the point: enabling one crime will easily open the door to many more crimes. Leaving this matter unsettled will lead to a country where national elections are predetermined by an oligarchy of party elites and billionaires, while average citizens have no way to redress it. Americans can then expect a national election between Democrats and “Republicans” to look like this year’s Democratic Primary, except the Republican will look like Joe Biden and the Democrat will look like Bernie Sanders.
Some might take solace in the seeming calm that is promised by a Biden-Harris administration, but this will be short-lived. In the long run, the country and its people will be crippled. Even if an unexpected Trump victory incites groups like Antifa and BLM to set cities on fire again, Americans will finally have the will and the means to eliminate this kind of terrorism permanently. Instead of feeding this beast (which was the only course of action during an election year), it can be starved and slain for the good of democracy.
For now, the fear that people have in questioning this election should not determine our hopefulness. Rather, recovering the higher goods of truth, justice, and freedom should encourage us to hope in a fair election outcome and a brighter future for the country.
Otherwise, we’ll become a hopeless country, with one side feeling powerless to decide how they’re governed and other side pinning all their hopes on those governing. Such hopelessness will likely result in radicalism, mass addiction, and general stagnation. As Peter Kreeft writes in The Fundamentals of the Faith, “The soul without hope is a dead soul.” America has been sick with political corruption for a long time and is now on life support with this stolen election. Making it out alive in the coming months will depend on the collective virtue of hope from all of us.