The lawyers sink their teeth into what remains of the election between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden and it's so close that neither concedes. As they prepare to do battle in the courts, America is reminded of what happened 20 years ago:
Those excruciating 35 days of George Bush vs. Al Gore and the high drama of those dangling Florida chads.
What's different in America between then and now?
Just look at the plywood on the downtown storefronts of the big cities for post-election violence.
America has undergone a profound and confusing realignment. But we've had difficulty processing it as a people, with journalism becoming infinitely more tribal and partisan and Big Tech putting its news thumb on the scale for the Democrats.
And despite some weepy nostalgia expressed by a few of the squishier pundits longing for a return to "normalcy" -- whatever that is -- America won't revert to the centrist reign of the wise men. The center of both political parties collapsed long ago under the sodden weight of the corrupt elites.
The left knows this. Conservatives know this. And no matter how the 2020 elections go, there is no returning to "normalcy."
All that plywood on glass storefronts in downtown Chicago, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, the boarded-up windows along Rodeo Drive, tell you how much things have changed in the 20 years since Bush and Gore.
That plywood is a declaration of realists. Merchants risk their own money in business. That wood cuts through the political spin offered by liberal Democratic mayors.
Are the mayors really worried about the Knights of Columbus coming downtown to trash and loot if Trump doesn't prevail? Are they worried about being devoured by suburban Girl Scout troops?
No. They're worried about the same thing that the merchants are worried about. They're worried about the left and looters who have engaged in political violence as an expression of force for months. Protests that began as a legitimate, angry reaction to the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, soon morphed into something else. They had little to do with Floyd and everything to do with the 2020 presidential campaign.
Forgive me, but I don't remember the cities furiously boarding up 20 years ago, as Gore's lawyers faced off with Bush's lawyers in Florida or governors ordering the National Guard to stand ready. And many of today's angry woke warriors, including those who've thrown frozen water bottles at the heads of cops in those "mostly peaceful" protests, were far too young to remember.
Where were today's protesters back then, when the Daleys of Chicago lashed a stout stick to Al Gore's spine, demanding to count the votes in Florida again and again until the votes came out right, like Johnny Rocco wanted in "Key Largo?"
Many were kids. Twenty years ago, they were children watching "Blues Clues" on TV and grabbing orange slices provided by their moms at their soccer games.
Twenty years ago, the Democratic Party still had its share of moderates, who talked about the American Dream of a colorblind society, where merit was rewarded. All that's changed. The universities have done their work. Now the Democratic Party is ruled by identity politics. And those who dare talk of a colorblind society are denounced as racists to be sent to sensitivity sessions.
Just 20 years ago, the Democratic Party was still the party of the working class, of the little guy, of people who don't make a living on Zoom. Democrats were the party for those who worked with their hands and stood on their feet and put in their shifts.
Twenty years ago, Republicans were the party of the elite, of Big Corporate, the party of suburban middle managers climbing that ladder to the C suite.
But now, in the realignment that began long before Trump was elected in 2016, Democrats have become the party of Big Tech and of Wall Street. And the technocrats, including federal bureaucrats (and some pundits) aren't as worried about their paychecks. They meet and work on Zoom. They have the ability to send their kids to private schools that are not on coronavirus lockdowns.
And the old Democratic working class? They're with Trump. They sent their kids to those endless Republican-backed Middle Eastern wars. They watched as their jobs were outsourced to foreign lands. They grieved as their communities were savaged by opioid addiction.
They were ridiculed by Barack Obama as bitter clingers hanging on to their guns and religion. Hillary Clinton put them into her basket of deplorables.
And now, for wanting their kids back in school, for wanting to be able to work and earn their living, they're denounced as belonging to a dangerous cult.
All this leaves them no place to go. They've been put into a pot, with the lid on and the heat turned up.
Whoever prevails in this election, I'll consider that man my president and pray he does well. This might be a good time for each of us to step back off the corner, avoid tribal confrontation and remember that on the other side are our brothers and sisters.
No matter who eventually becomes president, those boarded storefronts and the growing blue state revolts against the coronavirus lockdowns tell you this:
America isn't a rubber band ready to snap back to "normalcy" or what it was just 20 years ago.
The center is broken. We're in the time of populism now.