As an American, I would like to apologise for scaring the crap out of the people of New Zealand.
It has been scary for slightly more than half of us too. And while it's not quite yet over and while it will take time to restore your trust, I'm sure most of you are somewhat relieved too.
I think the absolute low point for me came the night after the election. In a tweet that will live in infamy, our President "claimed" for himself states that had barely begun to count their votes. This was pretty shocking, because even populist demagogues like Putin and Erdogan pretend to wait for the results.
"We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ... the State of Georgia, and the State of North Carolina. ... Additionally, we hereby claim the State of Michigan." Hereby claim? I hereby claim this land for Spain!
Was he for real? Had militias been mobilised? Or was it just a dumb bluff from a beaten man? Well yes, turns out it was. As the numbers inexorably turned against Trump, even Rupert Murdoch began to distance himself. First Fox called Arizona for Biden, undermining Trump's hope to seriously play his phoney rigged election "claim". Yesterday, all of Murdoch's various organs agreed that with Pennsylvania, Biden had won.
It must have been a hard four years for you too. Like watching an old friend stumble first into trouble and then into tragedy. We elected a cruel and rude man who called for a Muslim ban here and talked about "America First" as though we no longer cared about anyone else. To prove it, he renounced decades of commitments. We pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord just as climate disaster loomed. We pulled out of the World Health Organisation as Covid raged. We started trade wars. We acted like we couldn't be trusted.
It went from the big to the small. In August Trump tried to hide his Covid bungling here by pretending New Zealand was having a "big surge" of new cases. You had nine that day. We had 42,000. On Saturday we had 132,000. You had two.
Yes, I know we've stretched our friendship a bit in the past. Like in 1985, when we refused to honour your sovereign right to a nuclear-free country and insisted on our right to park a nuclear-armed destroyer in one of your ports. When you wouldn't cave, we pulled a giant hissy fit that lasted 20 years. We suspended our military obligations to you under the ANZUS treaty and downgraded you from an "ally" to a "friend". But that is behind us, I hope. We did upgrade you back up to ally in 2008. And you'll be pleased to know, the destroyer was sunk for target practice in 2000.
It was nothing personal. Americans really like New Zealanders. After Trump was elected, we sent you our very handsomest ambassador, a male model and competent AM Show guest host too, even if he dodged your quarantine. But even with Scott Brown to look at, you must have been increasingly worried about what was afoot back here. You could see we had changed. Couldn't we see it too?
Alas, about half of us thought and still think Trump is a pretty good look. Authoritarianism is often much easier to see from abroad. At home, it looks like a mixture of patriotism and new-found national purpose. The ravings of a mad king seem entertaining, powerful or just different. Abroad, with clearer if more distant eyes, it looks shocking and even scary.
I told you last week that Trump would lose and it looks like I got that part right. Trump has filed lawsuits, there will be recounts, but the outcome isn't likely to change. I said it would be "close-fought" in the battleground states, and it certainly was. I said it might be bloody and I am happy that so far I was wrong. There were a few angry crowds summoned to counting centres and a car of right-wing goons with assault rifles was mercifully stopped near one. But so far, not bloody.
I said a Covid Army of the Dead would drive our seniors away from Trump, and it did - although not nearly as many as I thought it would. But just - just enough to elect Biden.
The data for that will take a while to sort through, but exit polling from our Brookings Institution shows the shift. According to its report last week: "What is new is the shift toward more Democratic (or less Republican) support among older segments of the population: ages 45 to 64 and ages 65 and older. This is the first presidential election since 2000 that the former age group shows a Democratic advantage nationally. And while the actual voting patterns did not reveal a predicted flip to a Democratic advantage for seniors age 65 and older, their Republican margins were reduced from 7 per cent to 3 per cent."
It would have been nice if we could have realised without help from a horrible lethal disease that an utterly incompetent man who endlessly lies, bullies and threatens to suspend democracy is not the best choice for a leader. It would be nice if half of us - including some of my kin - didn't still prefer him. It would be nice if we didn't have 236,000 Covid dead here, rising to perhaps 400,000, depending on what Trump now finally does post-election. But he has been defeated and America has been given a second chance.
That's not nothing.
Dick Brass was vice-president of Microsoft and Oracle for almost two decades. His firm Dictronics developed the first modern dictionary-based spellcheck and he was an editor at the Daily News, NY.