Optimism Is Dead Again

Who can be chipper with a president trying to steal an election?

Jessica Valenti
Published in
2 min readNov 12, 2020
Blurry rain-specked view of the White House on a gloomy day.
A view of the White House during rain from a motorcade. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Well, we had one day, at least.

One day to celebrate, to feel relief, to believe that things were finally turning a corner. When Joe Biden was announced as the president-elect on Saturday, it was sunny and warm, and everything felt possible. It was nice while it lasted!

Mere minutes after the election was called, people rushed out of their homes and businesses onto the sidewalks of my Brooklyn neighborhood to scream, clap, and dance. A woman banged pots and pans; cars honked as they drove down the street. I brought my 10-year-old out to join in, to give her a reminder that things could be good — that the near-constant state of anxiety she’s felt in the adults around her might be finally dissipating.

But that knot in my stomach is back, thanks to a Republican Party that, at best, is intent on humoring a grown man who doesn’t want to believe he’s lost. In our worst-case scenario, the GOP is enabling a coup — watching as the president spreads disinformation about nonexistent voter fraud and quickly replaces Pentagon leaders with Trump loyalists.

This comes at the same time as Covid-19 cases soar across the country, with my home state of New York implementing new rules to try to curb the spread of the virus as we inch toward a long and likely deadly winter.

And while I appreciate the entreaties to relax — that our democratic institutions will protect us and that help with the coronavirus is on the way both via a vaccine and a new administration that takes Covid-19 seriously — it’s hard to have lived these last eight months and not feel anything but dread.

Optimism, really? In this economy?

I have to keep a happy face on for my kid and her well-being, but I’m not pretending for anyone else. This is awful, and there’s nothing wrong with saying as much.

Besides, pessimism can be helpful — it’s what made me buy masks in January before they were sold out, it’s why I’m taking extra precautions around exposure to Covid, and it’s why I don’t trust that things will just “work out” when it comes to the presidential transfer of power. A little bit of gloom keeps you on your toes.

I miss that one day we had when people celebrated in the street; it’s clear Americans were in desperate need of a national catharsis. I just think we’re going to have to hold that memory tight for the next few months until a lasting reason for optimism is here.



Jessica Valenti
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.