Knoxville’s most active Joe Biden supporter drove thousands of miles, knocked on scores of doors, made hundreds of phone calls on behalf the former vice president’s presidential campaign, toughed out a serious health challenge and kept on contributing through the pandemic. So, he ought to be a happy man now that his guy is the president-elect, right?
Yes. Except for a nagging worry.
“One of the things I’ve learned over the last four years is never to dismiss anything as so base or so low or so stupid that Donald Trump won’t actually do it. It’s hard to dismiss out of hand the possibility that they would try and pull something like this,” Mark Siegel said after I asked him if he was worried about the possibility that Donald Trump might attempt to overturn the results of last week’s election.
He’s also disappointed that Democrats weren’t able to flip more Senate seats and didn’t expand their majority in the House of Representatives.
But of course, he’s happy with Biden’s Election Week performance. What’s not to love about 306 (probable) Electoral College votes and a record-setting five million-plus popular vote margin?
“I’m feeling great about the vote in the presidential race, which went about how I thought it would. Saturday (the day the media outlets finally called the winner despite no concession from President Trump) was sure a fun day,” he said.
Overall, his memories are good: Kamala Harris’s Alpha Kappa Alpha pink and green-clad sorority sisters dancing around a parking lot during a get-out-the-vote rally next door to the Love Kitchen early voting site; beholding Biden campaign advisor Symone Sanders school an apathetic young college student on why he should vote (and for whom).
It’s been a long road for Mark Siegel, who retired from his job as an administrative judge because he wanted to make a difference this year’s presidential campaign.
One of Siegel’s biggest challenges started the day before his candidate won the South Carolina primary, when he started seeing double. The double vision went away the next morning but came back before the polls closed. He made a one-eyed drive home to Knoxville the following day and began a round of doctor’s appointments and testing before the condition went away.
But all in all, it was a deeply satisfying primary season.
Then COVID-19 hit, and since Tennessee is never much of a factor in presidential elections, he decided to work remotely in a nearby state where his efforts stood to make a difference. He chose North Carolina, which he figured stood a better chance of turning blue than Kentucky or Georgia. He became co-chair of East Tennessee for Biden-Harris. He plans on doing some remote work on the upcoming Georgia Senate run-off.
A few months ago, his fellow Democrats were ribbing him for his unswerving support of the former vice president, who was struggling in the polls. Bernie Sanders had the youth vote. Elizabeth Warren had the women. Mike Bloomberg was opening a campaign headquarters in Knoxville and Pete Buttigieg was wowing folks with his giant brain. Biden, who had run twice before, was too old, not sexy, and going pretty much nowhere while Sanders piled up primary wins and Bloomberg threatened to upend the field.
“Ridin’ with Biden” had morphed into “Slidin’ with Biden,” but Siegel never lost the faith. One of the things that makes him maddest about this campaign has been the trashing of Joe Biden.
“I feel great about Joe,” he said. “What kills me is every time he gives a high-profile speech, people say that’s the best speech he’s ever given and I’m like, ‘I saw him do that about five times in South Carolina.’ So, it’s really good for the nation to see what I’ve seen in Joe Biden for the last year and a half. He’s personally positioned to become an FDR for our time.
He likes Biden’s choice of running mates, too.
“I think it helped him an awful lot. Kamala Harris will be a great VP, and should she need to become president, I have no worries about her ability to do that.
“I will be a supporter of the Biden administration and will be doing my best to do anything I can to help our nation recover from where Donald Trump has left us. I don’t have any particular plans right now, but if it comes down to it, I may be standing on the steps of the Supreme Court screaming ‘Count the Votes! Or ‘This is what democracy looks like!’ There’s a possibility that in order to preserve this democracy, it will require us to fill up the streets of Washington, D.C. I’ll be there.”
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.