Tag Archives: election

When You Put It That Way…

As we watch the dust settle from the November election, many of us are torn: we are immensely relieved that Trump was emphatically defeated, but disappointed that the polling was so wrong, that the Democrats failed to take the Senate and win the many statehouse races around the country that looked within the party’s grasp.

Dana Milbank addressed that disappointment in a recent column for the Washington Post.

Milbank reminded his readers just how significant the election results were, and noted that the recriminations and dismay fail to do justice to “the historic victory that Democrats, independent voters and a brave few Republicans just pulled off.”

They denied a president a second term for the first time in 28 years — putting Trump in the company of Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover. President-elect Biden — just writing that brings relief — received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, in an election with historically high voter turnout. A president who loves to apply superlatives can now claim a RECORD, HUGE and BIGGEST EVER defeat….

Ousting a demagogue with the loudest megaphone in the land is not an easy undertaking. Trump’s opponents had to overcome an unprecedented stream of disinformation and falsehoods from the president, even as his party normalized the assaults on truth, on facts, on science, on expertise. Trump’s opponents were up against a strongman who used the Justice Department, diplomats and the intelligence community to harass political opponents, who used federal police to suppress public demonstrations, who engaged in a massive campaign of voter intimidation and suppression, and who used government powers for political advantage: enlisting government employees to campaign for him, sabotaging postal operations, putting his name on taxpayer-funded checks, using the White House for a party convention. And Trump’s opponents had to contend with a Fox News cheering section and social-media landscape that insulated millions from reality.

It would be great if We the People could now just breathe sighs of relief and go back to our apathetic ways–back to the time before Trump where majorities of citizens essentially ignored politics and government–leaving policy to the political class. A sweeping victory that included the Senate would undoubtedly be seen as a signal that “our long national nightmare is over” and we can return to our previous preoccupations.

That would be a mistake. Perhaps a fatal one.

The Trump administration has been a symptom. A frightening one, for sure, but a warning that when large numbers of citizens take a protracted absence from participation in the democratic process, bad things happen. People like Mitch McConnell gain power. The rich and well-connected bend the laws in their favor. Politicians who place the exercise of power above the common good are entrenched. The planet suffers.

In past posts, I have enumerated many–certainly not all– of America’s structural issues and the way those issues have facilitated our transformation into a kakistocracy. We the People have our work cut out for us, and just as the obvious dangers of the Trump administration served as a wake-up call for millions of Americans who had been ignoring our downward spiral, the fact that seventy million Americans voted not just for a frighteningly mentally-ill ignoramus, but for the party that enabled him, must serve as a warning.

Americans who live in the reality-based community cannot afford to lapse back into complacency and the never-well-founded belief that “it can’t happen here.”

 

Stuff That Makes Me Feel Better…

Here and there, evidence of progress against hate and division makes me feel marginally more hopeful.

 Juanita Jean reports that Fort Bend, Texas elected its first Black sheriff since 1869. (Fort Bend was Tom DeLay‘s old district.)

A reader sent me an editorial written as the final results were being tallied. It was headlined “Stop Saying America is Divided. It Isn’t” and it made some important points.

What’s always been certain is Biden winning the popular vote. What’s surprising is his winning more votes than anyone. I mean, like, ever. He’s at more than 71.7 million votes, as of this writing. That breaks Barack Obama’s record in 2008. The number is going to go higher as votes come in from California and other western strongholds. Some estimate that his final tally, when it’s all over but the shouting, could top 80 million. That plus the Electoral College victory equals not just a landslide defeat of one lying, thieving, philandering sadist. It’s a wholesale rejection of GOP orthodoxy. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 50.7 percent of the popular vote. Biden could eclipse 52.

The essay goes on to dispute the “conventional wisdom” that the country is divided symmetrically, pointing out that the Democratic presidential candidate has gotten more votes in seven out of the last eight elections.

As the author argues, the electorate is divided, but that division is not 50-50.

Biden is on track to win the biggest coalition this country has ever seen. He’s on track to best the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious coalition of his former boss. Continuing to insist uncritically that the US is divided down the middle not only blurs the line between country and electorate, it minimizes Biden’s and his coalition’s achievement. The majority has ruled. There is now a consensus. The incumbent should have one term. America should be a democratic republic, not a white-wing autocracy…

Some ask why 40 percent of the country voted for dictatorship. It’s simple. Democracy empowers people that 40 percent—representing 69 million voters—don’t like. As I argued Monday, it brought us Barack Obama. It will bring us Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. If you can’t accept that, if you can’t accept the political legitimacy of non-white people in positions of power, you’re probably willing to do anything to “right that wrong,” even if that means killing yourself. Yes, we came very close to seeing the reelection of a chaotic tyrant. More important, however, is a massive majority saw the danger and put a stop to it.

He’s right. The sad thing, however, is that 40% minority includes a majority of white Americans. 

Finally, Heather Cox Richardson adds her considered, informed analysis.She began by reminding us of the degree to which Trump and his team have governed by creating their own reality. When that tactic fails, they are at sea.

He planned to challenge the counting of the mail-in ballots in the courts, all the while telling his supporters that Democrats were stealing his victory. If he could gin up enough chaos, he could buy time to throw the results into doubt and, perhaps, get the Supreme Court to enter the fight. There, he hoped for victory with the help of the three justices who owed him their seats.

He planned to subvert the election, staying in power thanks to his extraordinary ability to control the narrative, making people believe things that are not true.

The only thing that could stymie that narrative was overwhelming turnout from Democrats. To make that impossible, Trump’s team arranged to keep voters from the polls in places like Florida, and Texas, and enlisted Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to delay the mails so ballots would not be delivered in time to be counted.

But, in the end, their plans could not completely suppress those Americans fed up with the Trump administration. As I write tonight, Biden and Harris are winning the popular vote by more than 4 million votes, and the numbers are rising. If it weren’t for our antiquated Electoral College system, this election would already be over, decisively.

In the years to come, researchers will determine just how many Biden votes were suppressed–not cast or not counted. That number–which includes the  disfranchisement of 1.5 million ex-felons in Florida, despite an overwhelming vote in 2018 to restore their voting rights–will add to the margin by which the majority of Americans rejected Donald Trump.

Our job is to keep the arc of history moving toward justice.

 

Tweets With Filing Fees

The Trump Campaign is filing a veritable blizzard of lawsuits in an effort to cling to power–or at least, convince Trump’s base that the election has been “stolen” from him. As one observer has characterized those lawsuits, 

Trump is dealing with state election officials the same way he deals with contractors he’s stiffed. Just scream BS accusations at them and sue the hell out of them and hope they relent. It’s not gonna work in this context [of state election law].

As a number of legal observers have pointed out, there is no discernible legal strategy to these suits, which range from fabricated to weird to just plain silly, as a description of one such suit illustrates:

The campaign alleged that a poll watcher saw 53 ballots separated out from a bin of other ballots and so that must have meant that they weren’t delivered on time to be counted by 7 PM Tuesday. But asked if he had any evidence—at all—that they weren’t delivered on time, he said he didn’t know. The campaign put up another poll watcher who said he had “questions” about the chain of custody of those 53 ballots. Did he have any evidence they arrived late? Nope. An elections official then testifiedthat those 53 ballots “were, in fact, received by GA’s Election Day deadline, saying they were handled separately because they didn’t show up on a manifest of absentee voters so they had to be checked.” And the case was dismissed after having wasted a lot of people’s time, including an election official in a state that right now has both a presidential and Senate race down to the wire.

ProPublica had a similar take–and also, the best comment on the “strategy.”

“A lawsuit without provable facts showing a statutory or constitutional violation is just a tweet with a filing fee,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Levitt said judges by and large have ignored the noise of the race and the bluster of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. “They’ve actually demanded facts and haven’t been ruling on all-caps claims of fraud or suppression,” Levitt said. “They haven’t confused public relations with the predicate for litigation, and I would expect that to continue.”

One of my Facebook friends–a former reporter (from back in the days when our local pretend-newspaper had such things)–posted a really good summary as the counting continued on Friday morning:

Trump supporters and other Republicans, this is the time to show exactly how patriotic you are.

If the vote counting trends continue, Trump is going to lose.

There has been no real evidence of fraud. In fact, the same ballots with Biden votes showed votes for other Republicans down the ballot, for the House and Senate, where the GOP made gains. Republicans have watched every count. Republicans lead many of the vote counting operations and the states with close votes.
Evidence matters. And there’s none to indicate fraud. If some turns up, the courts will sort it out.

In the end, you have to accept the results as the will of the people. It’s democracy working. You don’t have to like the outcome. You can bitch and moan and complain about Biden for the next four years. That’s what I’ve been doing the last four. That, too, is democracy.

But a peaceful transition is one of the great hallmarks of our country. If we can’t do that, we’re nothing better than a banana republic.

Patriotism isn’t just about the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. Patriotism isn’t just flag waving in the sun. It’s also about accepting that, in a democracy, sometimes the other side wins.

My only quibble with this excellent comment is that we really aren’t a democracy. Hillary Clinton won the 2016 popular vote by just under 3 million votes; as I type this, Joe Biden has garnered over four million more votes than Trump. In order to be a democracy or a democratic Republic, we really, really need to get rid of the Electoral College.

 

The Crowding-Out Effect

Tomorrow is the most important Election Day in my lifetime. Among other things, the results will tell me whether my longtime faith in the common sense and goodwill of my fellow Americans has been justified or misplaced.

Hopefully, after tomorrow, this blog can return to discussions of rational, albeit debatable, policy proposals, commentary on interesting research results, and occasional forays into legal disputes and political philosophy. Hopefully too, we will have occasion to use a phrase introduced by Gerald Ford: “our long national nightmare is over.”

One aspect of that “long national nightmare,” of course, is the incredible amount of destruction it will leave in its wake–regulations that must be reinstated, laws that must once again be enforced, corrupt people who must be held accountable, and a return to public health directed by medical scientists rather than politicians, among many other things.

The opposite of “nightmare” is a good night’s sleep, and if all goes well, we can once again look forward to days when we haven’t had to think about the President of the United States, followed by nights when we can once again sleep soundly because–whether we agree with administration policies or not– a sane and honorable person is in charge.

If there is one word I have heard over and over during this political season, it is “exhaustion.” Trump’s desperate need for constant attention, his bizarre tweet-storms, insults and various insanities have sucked the oxygen out of our public life. He has been in our faces, on our television screens, Facebook feeds and comedy routines. As several columnists have recently noted, he has crowded out so many activities that we would otherwise enjoy–books of fiction, works of art and music, conversations with friends that didn’t give rise to disappointment when we discovered their willingness to look the other way so long as their 401K stayed healthy…

Last Thursday, at the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote about all the things we’ve lost.

After listing the “big” things–the lives lost to COVID, the children whose parents can’t be located, the people whose livelihoods have disappeared, and after acknowledging the greater significance of those losses, she speaks for so many of us:

When I think back, from my obviously privileged position, on the texture of daily life during the past four years, all the attention sucked up by this black hole of a president has been its own sort of loss. Every moment spent thinking about Trump is a moment that could have been spent contemplating, creating or appreciating something else. Trump is a narcissistic philistine, and he bent American culture toward him.

I’ve no doubt that great work was created over the past four years, but I missed much of it, because I was too busy staring in incredulous horror at my phone….

Conservatives love to jeer Democrats for being obsessed with Trump, for letting him live, as many put it, rent-free in our heads. It’s a cruel accusation, like setting someone’s house on fire and then laughing at them for staring at the flames. The outrage Trump sparks leaves less room for many other things — joy, creativity, reflection — but every bit of it is warranted. The problem is the president, not how his victims respond to him.

If the polls are right, if Biden wins convincingly, Americans will nevertheless be on pins and needles until January 20th. We won’t be out of the woods until this blot on our nation and our history is gone–and even then, we will be left with the alt-right haters and know-nothings who have spent the campaign brandishing guns, refusing to wear masks and cheering ugly pronouncements at Trump rallies– voters motivated by fear and grievance who want only to “own the libs.”

Buckle up. We’re about to see how this horror show ends.

 

Omens…

Our ancestors looked for omens in animal entrails. My nerves–already stressed to the breaking point as we approach Tuesday’s election–sent me on a somewhat more modern search, which may or may not be more accurate.

The polls, of course, are comforting–except when they aren’t. I compulsively visit FiveThirtyEight.com. daily, where the odds, at least, strongly favor Biden. But then I remember how strongly they favored Hillary…

I look at the unprecedented number of Republican defectors: not just the Lincoln Project and Republicans for Biden, and the other groups out there doing television ads, but the 20  Republican  former U.S. Attorneys who warned last week that Trump endangers the rule of law, the 600 prominent Republicans (including numerous former office-holders) who’ve endorsed Biden, the 700+ Intelligence and national security officers who signed the letter I posted last week, warning that Trump is a threat to America’s security and place in the world…and numerous others.

Then there are those “never before” newspaper endorsements.

The conventional wisdom is that newspaper endorsements have little to no effect on voters in big national races, but Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has racked up a string of first-ever endorsements from a wide array of publications, including Nature, Scientific American, The New England Journal of Medicine, the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, and Surfer. On Tuesday, Biden got another one, from USA Today, one of the largest U.S. newspapers by circulation.

USA Today (or “McPaper” as we detractors call it) has an ideologically diverse editorial board, but the board has unanimously endorsed Biden.

“If this were a choice between two capable major party nominees who happened to have opposing ideas, we wouldn’t choose sides,” USA Today’s editorial board said. “But this is not a normal election, and these are not normal times. This year, character, competence, and credibility are on the ballot. Given Trump’s refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, so, too, is the future of America’s democracy.”

As of last week, at least 119 daily and weekly newspaper editorial boards had formally backed Biden. Probably the most surprising was The New Hampshire Union Leader, which hadn’t backed a Democrat in over a century.

Culture change is harder to quantify, but public opinion seems to favor progressive positions. Seventy percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage while only 28 percent oppose it, according to a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. That’s the highest level of support the institute has ever recorded for same-sex marriage. The percentage of Americans who support a woman’s right to control her own reproduction is up, too (Pew says it’s 61%), as is the percentage supporting Black Lives Matter.

The fact that nearly 80 million people have already cast a ballot is an even harder sign to decipher–yet I look at the long lines, many if not all clearly representative of American diversity, and the unprecedented number of young voters, and I have trouble believing that they demonstrate an outpouring of support for Trump. I look, too, at the  GOP’s rush to confirm a rigidly ideological judge before the election as evidence of their desperation and their own clear belief that they’re losing…..

All of this should comfort me. It doesn’t. 

For one thing, there are columns like this one.

And even if Biden wins, who knows what this lunatic and his corrupt and thuggish enablers will do if the results aren’t overwhelmingly clear on Tuesday? What additional harm can he do between the election and January 21st, even if he accepts a loss? We’ve seen the brutishness, brazen criminality and irrational behavior of his supporters, egged on and encouraged by this embodiment of their rage and grievance. Will they take to the streets?

The only thing I’m sure of is that I am too old and way too tired for this. Maybe I should look for some animal entrails…