You didn’t need to stay up all night Tuesday to know that Vice President Biden would receive more votes than Donald Trump. He did. You also knew, or should have known, that if Trump didn’t win, he would challenge the results and bring in the lawyers.
As of this morning, the election has not been called, but the lawyers already are at work. That’s where we are now. Put in the vernacular, we’re in a world of sh*t.
I feared this result, but frankly did not expect it. My crystal ball saw a “Blue Wave” consisting of a strong Biden win (including the states of Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan), a Democratic majority in the Senate, and, of course, retention of a Democratic majority in the House.
As of this morning, I still expect Biden to win the election, but we may not know for sure for days or even weeks. It also now appears I was wrong about the Senate but right about the House.
My Cloudy Crystal Ball
Spy readers familiar with my discussion of the 2020 race know that I expected a “blue wave.” At the risk of encouraging the small group of spirited Trumpers that repeatedly call me an idiot and sometimes worse, let me say that I was wrong. This election was not a blue wave. It is risky to guess what prompted the better-than-expected Trump vote, but it appears that Trump’s campaign themes of law and order and the national desire for the pandemic to end may have played a role. (This latter theme is ironic because Trump’s leadership on the pandemic has, in the view of many, extended and worsened the crisis.)
And my prediction that the Republican party might not survive the devastating loss I predicted was obviously wrong. Even if Biden wins the election, my prediction of the demise of the party was, shall we say, premature. I underestimated the number of voters who support Trump and the Republican party.
All this is not to say that I understand why that is the case. My 99 percent negative assessment of the President, especially on his handling of the coronavirus, stands. I can only hope that Trump will change his stripes if he ends up winning re-election. What would I like to see? Less racism, more empathy, more science and acknowledgement of climate change, and a lot less tweeting. Ok, I am not holding my breath.
And fortunately, despite the legal challenges, I still expect Joe Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2021. And I still expect that this election marks the effective end of the Trump era.
Positives About the Election
While the election results surprised many of us, several things that happened in this election cycle are indisputably positive.
First, unprecedented numbers of us voted, including many people who never voted before. Many voters waited in line for hours to cast their ballots. I’m anxious to see the details. The high participation numbers and participation rates give me hope for our democracy.
A second positive was that people voted despite the challenge of voting amid a worsening pandemic and the doubts raised about the integrity of mail-in ballots. This determination was a demonstration of confidence in democracy.
Third, the election, despite the President’s claim of fraud earlier this morning, appears to have been free of fraud or interference by foreign adversaries. Hopefully, the legal challenges now being filed by the President will be dismissed, assuming of course that the challenges are baseless.
Finally, another positive is that the Biden campaign pioneered a new form of pandemic-adjusted campaigning — the drive-in rally. Biden demonstrated best practices by structuring his campaign style around the CDC guidelines.
On the negative side were several things — all the handiwork of President Trump. First were his Super-spreader rallies. One can only wonder how many people were infected or will die because of attending one of these events. When the history of this campaign is written, I expect he will be severely criticized for recklessly ignoring safe practices.
Another negative was Trump’s intimation that he might not leave office if he loses. To his credit, his 2:30 a.m. speech at the White House this morning did not repeat this claim. Trump should have promised to accept the election results. As of this morning, he hasn’t.
One other negative is the content of the Trump campaign. He never put forward a vision for the next four years. Instead, he campaigned on fear — fear of the suburbs being destroyed (translation, the suburbs becoming more racially diverse), fear of Communism, and fear of Joe Biden raising taxes. Trump also repeatedly attempted to paint Biden as both senile and corrupt.
Additional analysis of this year’s vote may establish that both efforts were at least partially successful and contributed to Trump’s better than expected vote in several States. If that proves to be the case, it is unfortunate.
Trump also declined to take responsibility for the current economic crisis despite how he responded to the pandemic earlier this year. Remember that Trump admitted to Bob Woodward, author of “Rage,” that he knew how dangerous the virus was at the same time he was telling the public it was not a threat. Was that Trump’s worst lie? It’s difficult to judge responsibility because he told more than 20,000 of them during the last four years.
A final negative is Trump’s plan to stretch out the election with legal challenges to mail-in ballots. On Wednesday night he claimed fraud. This was expected, even though the evidence appears to be non-existent. As a result of Trump’s legal challenges, which he said he would take all the way to the Supreme Court, we may not know the results of the election for weeks. Hopefully, however, enough States may yet certify the election outcome to identify a winner and end the uncertainty.
The control of the Senate, as of Wednesday morning, appears to remain in the hands of Republicans. That’s not final, but the odds are in the party’s favor. Several “endangered” Republicans pulled off victories, including Joni Ernst of Iowa, McConnell of Kentucky, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Republicans also surprised some of us, especially this writer, by winning in Montana.
If the current projection proves accurate, we are likely to have “split government” for at least the next two years. Biden, assuming he won, will have to work with a Republican Senate. That means that his more aggressive stimulus and domestic policy agendas will have to be developed with bipartisan cooperation. While that will not make everyone happy, it could mark a turning point in the polarization of Washington. Democrats and Republicans will have to work together.
It is regrettable that this election did not produce a definitive result. The next several weeks will be interesting. I think my prediction on that may prove accurate.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.