Trump Appointee Won’t Let Transition Move Ahead
Trump Plans Campaign-Style Rallies
A ‘Terrifying’ Coronavirus Surge
Trump Advisers View Legal Challenges as Futile
Many In Trump’s Inner Circle Accept Defeat
Bonus Quote of the Day
• Sunday Mailbag
It is unlikely that song was written about Joe Biden, since Yip Harburg composed the lyrics when the future politician was less than a year old. Still, it's a pretty good summation of the response that 75 million or so U.S. voters had yesterday, along with countless millions more people across the world, when every major media outlet called Pennsylvania, and thus the election, for the now president-elect.
Here is how some of the major outlets' websites had it shortly after the news broke:
As you can see, the media jumped on board very quickly, across the spectrum. Well, except for OAN. If you were relying on them for news, not only would you not be aware of Biden's victory, you wouldn't even be aware there's an election going on. Denial—it's not just a river in Egypt.
Every major outlet has also called Nevada for Biden, incidentally. So, even if Arizona and Georgia fall out of his column (unlikely in both cases), he is still a winner, with 279 EVs. He delivered his second speech in as many nights last night, thanking Americans for their votes, and reaffirming his commitment to unity and to being a president for all Americans. Biden's former running mate, Barack Obama, also tried to be a unity president, and that did not work out so well. However, it is at least plausible that #46 will be more successful than #44 on this front, either because: (1) some Americans are more willing to follow the lead of an "aw, shucks" blue-collar white man than an urbane, highly educated Black man; and/or (2) many Americans are so sick of 25 years of divisiveness—and four years of ultra-giga-super-mega-maga divisiveness—that they will welcome a change in tone. Time will tell.
The President-elect also announced that he's going to roll up his sleeves and get right to work. On Monday, he will unveil a 12-person COVID-19 taskforce, to be led by former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and Yale University's Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. Here, he is modeling the approach that Barack Obama took to the first major crisis that faced him—an economy in severe recession—upon his election. Biden did not actually resort to declaring that "there's a new sheriff in town," but he might as well have said it, since that message was as plain as day.
In addition to being the 46th president, Biden will also be the oldest occupant of the Oval Office, the first Delawarean, and the second Catholic (after John F. Kennedy). Because he will end up with "only" 280-310 EVs, and because the results took several days to become (essentially) official, some voters will walk away thinking this election was close. In truth, it really wasn't. The built-in advantages that the Republicans have with the Electoral College kept Trump's EV loss from being too lopsided. And the delay in the results was caused by the unprecedented turnout, the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots (that many states did not begin counting until Election Day), and election officials' knowledge that they needed to dot every i and cross every t to protect themselves from being embarrassed by Donald Trump's lawyers.
If we consider what a herculean task it is to knock off an incumbent president, Biden's 2020 campaign suddenly starts to look pretty impressive. He'll be the eleventh president to pull off the feat; here are the popular vote shares for the other ten:
|Year||Candidate||Popular vote share|
|1932||Franklin D. Roosevelt||57.4%|
|1840||William Henry Harrison||52.9%|
Biden is headed for a shade more than 51% of the vote, which will put him in the top five. And if we limit ourselves to elections that took place after the Civil War (and thus the establishment of the two modern major political parties), then only FDR outpaced the President-elect. There's no shame in coming in second to one of the most gifted politicians the world has known.
Of course, the election of Kamala Harris as vice-president-elect is also historic. She will become the highest-ranking woman and highest-ranking person of Asian descent in American history. She also spoke last night, paid homage to civil rights icon and congressman John Lewis, and said that now that the door has been opened, others will surely follow in her footsteps, just as she followed in Lewis' footsteps. Given Biden's style of leadership, Harris will certainly be given substantial responsibilities in his administration, and will have much ability to influence policy as she positions herself to become his successor. For the next four years, her service will make an implicit argument to voters about which party is friendlier to people of color and their issues, and she will undoubtedly inspire many young women and young people of color to shoot for the stars.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the contest, the obfuscation continues. Appropriately, Donald Trump was golfing when he learned that Pennsylvania had been called. Speaking to reporters after, he insisted that he has won the election, said that he has no intention of conceding, and vowed that he and his lawyers will fight on until the bitter end. "The simple fact is this election is far from over," Trump declared. "Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victory."
The problem here—and even the President must know it—is that his remaining options are all the longest of long shots. As we pointed out yesterday, recounts never shift more than a few hundredths of a percent of the vote. Trump is down 2.6% in Michigan, 2% in Nevada, 0.6% in both Arizona and Wisconsin, 0.5% in Pennsylvania, and 0.15% in Georgia. Those may seem like small numbers, but the biggest shift of votes in a statewide recount in the past 20 years was the 0.02% shift in Florida in 2000. Even Georgia would require a shift more than seven times larger. Keep in mind that there just aren't that many "controversial" ballots—at least, as long as West Palm Beach is not involved—and that "new" votes that turn up tend to be distributed fairly evenly between candidates. There's basically no such thing as "Oops, this Biden ballot is actually a Trump ballot!" It's almost always "Oops, this ballot should have been counted for Biden!" or "Oops, this ballot should have been counted for Trump!"
As to the pro-Trump lawsuits, they are not going well. The Sharpie lawsuit in Arizona, which the campaign joined, has already been abandoned. There was simply no evidence that Sharpie ballots are treated differently from ball-point-pen ballots in that state, probably because they aren't treated differently. Evidence is also a problem in the latest Pennsylvania lawsuit, which alleges that some Pennsylvania counties have defied court orders to segregate late-arriving (but still legal) ballots from on-time ballots. The filing even admits that in every county that Trump's lawyers have talked to (42 of them), the correct procedure was followed. However, they assert that the other 25 counties might have broken the rules, even if Team Trump can't prove it.
If Trump's lawyers do pull off a minor miracle, and come up with a persuasive, evidence-based case to bring before a judge, they are still far from out of the woods. They would need to somehow invalidate an inordinately large number of ballots, something a judge will be loath to do, and would have to do so in multiple states. A comparison to Bush v. Gore is instructive here; that case involved just one state, a tiny lead (less than 2,000 votes), and a situation where the Supreme Court was upholding the existing result (a Bush win). Multiple states, much larger leads, and the fact that a court would be overturning the existing result are all giant legal hills to climb.
And speaking of the Supreme Court, it isn't much of an ace in the hole for Trump anymore. It is true that, for at least the next two years, the justices probably don't have to worry about court packing or any other schemes undertaken to weaken their power. However, they still have to be concerned about the Court's image. They might be willing to roll the dice if the White House hung in the balance. But they are considerably less likely to help Trump, and to risk their reputation for calling balls and strikes, when it just means turning a loss into a slightly more narrow loss. We would guess that few Trump election cases, if any, make their way to SCOTUS, and that any that do will be denied certiorari by John Roberts & Co., or else will produce rulings that favor Biden.
And finally, there is the largest problem of all: The whole (non-OAN) world has declared Biden to be the winner. Americans are absorbing that reality, and Biden is proceeding as president-elect (speeches, policy statements, announcing his transition team). There's no going back now. Even Jared Kushner is reportedly working on the President, and gently trying to convince him that maybe the time has come to concede.
Ironically, Trump's petulance and foot dragging, which have played a significant role in how things have unfolded this week, may have been the best thing for the country. If there was some amount of pro-Trump tension that had built up among those of his supporters who are prone to violence, then releasing all of that at once on Tuesday night might have led to violence in the streets. But this result has been something of a slow release, as Biden marched closer and closer to victory over the course of five days. We will see, but this transition could turn out to be peaceable after all. If you want to see how an honorable man accepts defeat and congratulates the winner, take a look at John McCain's 2008 concession speech. (Z)
This was the trickiest mailbag we've compiled in the year or so that we've been doing this feature. First, because we got close to 1,000 messages this week (968). Second, because of the...rather bipolar nature of the messages that were sent midweek, as opposed to those sent in later in the week. For example, consider this, sent in by reader B.M. in Denver on Tuesday night:
Longtime follower of this site, possibly from the very first post you made 10+ years ago—no fault to you but I can't follow this anymore. Clearly polling is a highly inaccurate science that can not be taken seriously. I will no longer follow any poll. And this is coming from someone whose job is building data.
We got a lot of messages like that on Tuesday, some of them saying outright that the site, our work, etc. are worthless, and have no further purpose. The messages from several self-identified Donald Trump voters were particularly...pointed. We can only hope they don't talk to their mothers like that.
Here, however, is a follow-up that B.M. sent in on Thursday evening:
I will have to say that, despite my initial drunken complaint as I was nervously watching the polls, they may have been more or less correct, just totally off on the total percentages in the Midwest. Obviously the Senate polls were bad, though late polls in Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina were showing tightening. I still love your site, but I will be highly skeptical of polls showing a Democrat with a 10%+ lead over a Republican in Wisconsin in the future.
Obviously, we want to represent the variety of opinion out there. At the same time, we don't want to share sentiments that the reader may no longer hold, or that may no longer make sense. But since most folks didn't send in follow-ups, picking and choosing required a lot of judgment calls.
Also, it turns out that formatting the anagram contest results so that they are readable is quite a task, even for an experienced HTML programmer like (Z). In order to have time to get it right, we're going to have to push those results to Tuesday's posting. The good news is that if anyone else cares to participate, the cutoff is now pushed to Monday at 6:00 p.m. PT.
The Election, Responses
E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: From a French friend of America: I just want to say a huge thank you, Americans. Even through the darkest days of this nightmarish ending presidency, I've never lost faith in the fact that you would eventually prove that you are still a great people, and that your inspiring democracy, which was under siege, works just fine. It's not perfect, of course, just like any other political system, but it works.
More specifically, as a white guy, I really want to emphasize one point: I want to deeply thank Black Americans, who, all across the country, in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Georgia—I could go on and on—just rose and made their voices heard. After all you've been through, after all these centuries of suffering, and despite what you are still going through, you basically saved the America we love around the world. You are the backbone of this country, the witnesses of all the chapters of its often dark history. And with this election, you made history once again. Your perseverance and your confidence in the system is just remarkable and an example for all of us. Everybody in the world owes you big time. I couldn't be more sincere—thank you, thank you, thank you, Black folks. We've heard you.
G.W. in Boca Raton, FL, writes: The day long celebration reminds me of films I have seen of the liberation of Paris or photos of V-E Day. I hereby declare November 7th to be V-A Day. More wine!
F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: Now that Donald Trump has lost Pennsylvania, you Americans can say to him "YOU'RE FIRED!"
J.D. in Massapeequa, NY, writes: Goodbye to Donald Trump, the orange menace, who is directly responsible for more American deaths than any human being in history, has divided our great nation, fomented hatred more than any politician in modern history, and has brought our democracy to the brink of authoritarianism.
Goodbye to our nation's 4-year nightmare.
Welcome Joe Biden, everyone's Uncle Joe. You have your work cut out for you. Please restore sanity and democracy. Save us from the pandemic. Save the economy from the brink of disaster. Heal our divided nation. Don't disappoint the people that elected you—the oppressed minorities, the put-upon middle class, the seniors who have been forgotten, the suburban women, the environmentalists, the progressives, etc. At the same time, reach out to and hear people like southern Latinos, non-college white men and others, who are so angry that they actually allowed the last four horrific years to happen, so that they know they are not forgotten and that they will never let that happen again. Show everyone that we don't have to be enemies, that there is such a thing as common ground, and that compromise can be better than war. You can do it!
Welcome Kamala Harris. You are a wonder who is breaking so many ceilings. The first woman in the executive branch and the first Indian-American as well (plus the first Black vice president). Make us all proud of you. If the Senate ends up evenly split, you will be one very busy VP.
Welcome Dr. Jill Biden, who brings class, intelligence, competence and family love back to the White House.
Welcome back Tony Fauci, our beloved Brooklyn-Italian brother-in-arms and the most respected infectious disease expert in the world. Come back in from the sidelines and back into the limelight and help Joe make our country the world leader in fighting the pandemic, instead of the world leader in succumbing to it.
J.C. in Honolulu, HI, writes: What a tremendous historic event. Our nation has elected our first female vice president. I know Geraldine Ferraro is smiling down on our nation.
B.D. in Columbus, OH, writes: I'm not sure I would put Florida into the reliably red column quite yet. I can see why Democrats lost Miami-Dade, and I'm sure they can see it, too, which means strategies will change there. But I also think we forget about a large bloc of voters that should have been able to vote in Florida and weren't: ex-felons.
In fact, all across the country, I think folks are undervaluing what the Biden campaign achieved. They are on track to have a truly massive popular vote win and a more-than-comfortable Electoral College win in the face of a pandemic, voter suppression, USPS slowdowns, legal challenges, confusion in many states about what was and was not allowed, manufactured personal smears, and huge misinformation campaigns. Including in the Miami-Dade area.
Do I wish we could have achieved a blue wave? Of course, and I'm particularly concerned about those House losses and downballot legislatures. But I do wish people would send more kudos to Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon and her team. Quiet, focused, competent, and disciplined, they just kept it up. They didn't get distracted by noise. They knew what they wanted to do. And they have done it. Bravo, Jen. You have earned a job with Democrats for life as far as I'm concerned!
W.F. in Chambersburg, PA, writes: I would love to see a photo taken in the Oval Office of President Biden and former President Obama drinking beer from Scranton. James Buchanan will no longer be Pennsylvania's only U.S. President. Although the American people seem to be as divided now, as they were in 1856.
J.H. in Lake Forest, CA, writes: The origin of this verse is unknown; it's been around since at least 1956, though in slightly different form:
The election is over; the results well known;
The will of the people is clearly shown.
Let's forget our troubles and show by our deeds
That we'll give our leader all the help that he needs.
So let's all get together and let bitterness pass;
I'll hug your elephant and you kiss my donkey.
B.M from Birmingham, AL, writes: Dear Democrats,
Congratulations! It appears you have won the White House. While Donald Trump will not concede, I will. A part of me is a little relieved, as the last 4 years have been such an emotional roller coaster. I hope we are off that ride for awhile. That said, don't get the big head. Anyone who believes that Biden enters the White House with a mandate is fooling themselves:
- There was no blue wave to validate the notion that Americans are ready for the progressive agenda.
- The Senate, in all likelihood, will stay red, and you almost lost a seat in Michigan.
- You did lose several seats in the House, which I do believe was a slight indictment of how that chamber has behaved.
With that, you have promised to get rid of COVID-19. Challenge extended, and Republicans are rooting for you. We want America physically healed from this heinous disease. Please don't kill the economy to do that. On that note, you have been handed the keys to an economic Ferrari. The engine is humming and American manufacturing is busting at the seams. I work in manufacturing and raw materials are scarce, prices are rising and demand is soaring. Be a big person, thank Trump for it and promise to continue to feed it. Environmental policies done correctly are acceptable to Americans, but slowly implemented and not at the expense of the American worker in favor of foreign countries who don't play by the rules. The country is ready to take a breath. We kicked Trump out to prove it. It is your chance to come to the middle and be a Presidential administration for all Americans. Many prominent Republicans came to your aid in the hope of returning to a more sane time, don't make them regret it. Please don't swing the pendulum way back the other way.
A Republican who wants to give you the chance you never gave Trump
A.T. in Seattle, WA, writes: Obviously, I am relieved that Donald Trump has been voted out. The federal government will not miss the brain trust that chose the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot as the venue for a press conference.
But I am also deeply disappointed. The margin needed to be greater for so many reasons. The Democrats needed to take the federal trifecta to begin repairs, and they needed the mandate to do so. To actually address the pandemic and help those who have been impacted. To pass new civil rights and voting rights bills. To deal with the Supreme Court if it proves to be as nakedly partisan as it seems. The list goes on for miles. The Democrats needed to make gains in state legislatures to at least have a little more influence in protecting voters' rights and preventing racial and partisan gerrymandering. The Republicans needed to spend at least a little time in the wilderness. Perhaps they would have discovered that they need to build a new majority coalition to regain power instead of doing everything they can to destroy democracy in order to cling to their remaining power while clearly in the minority. (It didn't happen after 2012, but one can dream.)
I personally needed the margin to be greater. I needed a reason to believe that there is at least some sanity and reason remaining in this country. I was willing to move past this nightmare if we could just clearly say that we made a mistake. I don't think it would have taken much to make it clear. More than 5 points nationally? 3 points in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania instead of less than 1? A win in either North Carolina or Florida? A Senate majority? I just needed something, anything, to hang my hat on. And the polls were saying I would get it, for what little that was worth. But it didn't happen. We nearly chose to keep this disaster going for four more years. After all the damage Trump's done, after the hundreds of thousands of people who have died on his watch, more than 70 million people still voted for him, and for those who enabled him. I thought after this election I would have hope for this country, but I do not. Instead, I am sure that we are just going to continue the partisan rancor and the delegitimization of our own democracy until it's a husk of its former self and an even bigger embarrassment to the world.
S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: It's Thursday as I write this. The election outcome still hangs in the balance and three emotions churn within me: shock, disappointment, and anger.Shock: How can not just a 40% base, but 48% of the voting electorate still support this President after the past 4 years? This is not the country I thought we were.
Disappointment: I truly believed the Democrats would expand their caucus in the House, narrowly take control of the Senate, and easily win the presidency. Even with a Biden/Harris win, we have at least 2 more years of gridlock.
Anger: Never. Ever. Will I ever put faith in any poll unless Ann Selzer is running it. In 2016, I bought into the rationalization of "within percentage of error" and "undercounting education as a factor." 2018 reinforced that rationalization. Going into 2020, the polls pointed to steady numbers often near and above 10% in favor of Team Blue. And yet, here we are. I'm well reminded of the old adage: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
Indeed, shame on me.
The Election, Donald Trump
S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: With the questions and theories in yesterday's post asking how Trump voters can ignore his incompetence and corruption, not to mention authoritarian behavior, I think the obvious answer was missed and it's not that complicated: Fox "News."
My Trump-supporting friends and family are upper middle class and educated. Not the "low information" voters we usually think of. They just live in that Fox "News" bubble and completely believe Trump has done all these great and amazing things and would have done more if not for those American-hating socialist liberal Democrats.
Talking to them is like talking to a Holocaust denier. You just can't, when Fox "News" has already convinced them that every photo is a fake, every witness is a liar and it's all controlled by the "deep state." I check in on Fox "News" enough to know I'd probably believe that too if it was the station I kept on all day.
It's actually kind of brilliant how Donald Trump and Fox "News" get out in front of every issue by accusing Democrats of doing all the horrible things that he himself is doing. Trying to fight back against that, I hear how I sound like the crazy conspiracist to them. The sad truth is, it's much easier to manipulate people than it is to convince them they're being manipulated.
What I find so frustrating is that nobody pushes back. Why is nobody holding Fox "News" accountable for all the blood on their hands? Not the Democrats and not the media who, in their efforts to be "fair and balanced," give legitimacy to Fox propaganda with every false equivalency.
Fox "News" created and fed Trump the narrative of Democratic controlled cities burning under the boot of Antifa and Mexican street gangs, not the other way around. Every child taken at the border is because Fox "News" gave Trump the cover he needed to explain it away. Every COVID-19 death is because Fox "News" told Trump to politicize it and embrace ridiculous conspiracies and miracle cures. Think of all the lives that could have been saved if only Sean Hannity told Trump face masks were a good idea.
Forget about breaking up Amazon, why are no Democrats advocating for reinstating media ownership limits and public service requirements for a broadcast license? Reagan's FCC got rid of those and that's what set the table for a Fox "News."
If a company knowingly sells a faulty product and that product hurts people, well, that's the very definition of a class action lawsuit. Surely, Michael Bloomberg could throw a few million dollars at some clever lawyers to loudly and relentlessly make that case. There's plenty of evidence.
You don't have to win a lawsuit to be successful at changing the conversation and dismantling some of the Fox "News" narrative. Anything to loosen the Fox "News" iron grip on the Republican brand would go a long way towards returning some normalcy to government and getting meaningful things accomplished again.
R.B. in Queensland, Australia, writes: As a foreigner and someone who has friends on both sides of your divide, I feel like I might be able to offer a perspective on why so many people broke for Trump. You mentioned briefly how you thought that the presence of Che Guevara symbolism at BLM matters protests might spook undecided voters. This is true, but it's emblematic of a wider problem. If you'll bear with me, I think I can explain.
In Asia, as you may know, there is very little knowledge of Nazism, but the people are completely familiar with Imperial Japanese crimes. It is not uncommon at all to see people using Nazi symbology or references. A politician there might retweet a photo of someone in SS cosplay. That isn't because the politician approves of Hitler. It's just because the thought "this might offend people" would simply not occur to them, because they have not been trained by their culture to despise Nazism. To that person, Nazism might carry the same emotional weight as Genghis Khan or Caligula (that is, virtually none). On the other side, someone in the West will feel a visceral emotional reaction at Neo-Nazism, but if they see someone fanboying over the IJA, there will be no emotional reaction.
Basically, from what I can see as a neutral bystander, exactly the same thing has happened in the United States. A Democrat-leaning American will become very offended if they see some politician giving exposure to a white nationalist. However, that same Democrat-leaning American would not be offended at all to see a politician associating with, say, Angela Davis. Davis is a BLM activist who campaigns against mass incarceration and yet explicitly refused to condemn mass incarceration in the Eastern Bloc, and smiled as she shook hands with Eric Honecker despite being completely aware of the hundreds of people he'd had shot for trying to emigrate.
Does that mean that the Democrat-leaning person approves of Stalinist regimes? No, obviously not. But just like the Korean looking at a swastika, there will simply be no emotional reaction when they learn she is a Tankie. The idea that this might offend people will simply not occur. It's just not a big deal. They've watched 500 movies and read 500 articles about how dangerous fascism is, and only 3 about the crimes in the Eastern Bloc. Stalinism is "bad" abstractly, but not "bad" emotionally.
Republicans are exactly the same, just inverted. Frothing at the mouth to condemn things they've been acculturated to hate while being completely emotionally indifferent to things they haven't been conditioned to hate. Committed partisans on both sides no longer belong to the same culture as their opponents or the people in the middle. Your very moral instincts, what your gut feels when you look at various things in the world, is now determined by whether you grew up in a family with an (R), (D), or (I) next to their name.
And that is why, I think, you had such an unexpected turnout of minorities breaking for Trump. Because if you are an actively religious Black voter, or a small business owner, or a refugee from an autocratic state, and if you are in the middle, in that species between (R) and (D), you might have seen people in those protests, or in the opinion pages of respectable magazines who scare you, people that the Democrats gave exposure and validation to. And the fear of the radicals that their side seems to tolerate and condone outweighed, marginally, your fear of the radicals that the Republicans blindly tolerate and condone.
G.T. in Johnson City, Tennessee, writes: I'm a black-sheep blue voter who grew up and still lives deep in Trump country. It seems to me that your response to BH from Nottingham, about whether 70 million voters voted for authoritarianism could have essentially been reduced to: "Republican voters generally are more hypocritical and willing to compromise many of their values to advance one or two positions."
At one point, I'd have said that was just anecdotal evidence, but the Trump administration and Senate Republicans (looking at you, Lindsey Graham) have made it obvious these last 4 years. It was finally enough to get my 73-year old mother to vote Democratic ticket for the first time ever.
S.F. in Pemberton, NJ, writes: With claims by Trump supporters that lots of dead people "voted," I'll assert that the majority of those votes were for Donald Trump. I have as much evidence to support my assertion as they do.
A.M. in Brookhaven, PA, writes: I think I see where Donald Trump is coming from regarding the difference between legal and illegal votes. His friend Vladimir Putin explained to him that a legal vote is one where the box next to his name is selected. An illegal vote is one where it is not selected. So, just counting the legal votes would give Trump the victory...in a unanimous election.
G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: Republicans are going to have to twist Donald Trump's arm to get him to not hold a swearing in ceremony on the south lawn of the White House while Biden is being sworn in at the Capitol Building. A concession speech is out of the question. The most Trump might do is a concession tweet that includes accusations about election fraud.
There has been discussion of shy Trump voters, but I think the truth is Trump didn't reach anyone in 2020 that he didn't reach in 2016. The difference is enthusiasm/laziness. In 2016, many Trump voters didn't show up because they thought Trump was doomed, but even more Clinton voters didn't bother to vote or cast a protest vote because they thought the election was a done deal. In 2020, the pool of voters was pretty much the same, except for the dead voters and those too young to vote in 2016. Both sides were motivated to vote, but there were more for Biden.
This site will have plenty to write about for the remainder of Trump's term. Trump will at least have a following on right-wing media. His antics as former president would only be worthy of mention on this site if he remains a player in the Republican Party.
J.E. in Pennington, NJ, writes: Narcissists don't lose quietly. Psychologists often recommend going "no contact." With that in mind, it is pleasing to see the major networks cutting away from Trump's speeches as soon as he lies. His marginalization is well under way. The era of Biden is about to begin.
C.F. in Nashua, NH, writes: I was stunned by your answer to the question as to whether Trump will run in 2024. I believe he will start campaigning early next year.
Have you been around for the past 4-5 years? Trump is a cult leader who has at least 40% of the country (95% of Republicans) as his followers. Age, prison, revelations of Russia, will only increase his zealots' devotion. The experience we have strongly indicates this. He has never indicated that he cares about anyone, even his family, more than himself, so he is the only choice while he still can run.
In 4 years he will easily win the Republican primary, and almost certainly win the presidency after that (possibly even from prison). Biden will have not been able to do anything as president given that Mitch "my top priority is making Obama a one term president" McConnell will always be the Senate Majority Leader.
J.N. in Columbus, OH, writes: I contend that Donald Trump is that strange individual who will value himself over even his family until he dies. I think that if Trump is around, not in prison, and reasonably healthy, he'll try to run in 2024. And if he's around at all, he'll not allow (or will actively sabotage) his family's attempts to run in his stead. The family's best chance for winning in 2024 is that Trump rallies for another year or so, and then dies. Then they have a base in place and an opportunity to utilize it. If Trump dies in 2023 or 2024, their chances go way down. Either way, Democratic minded voters have been put on notice: Vote every time as if your country depends on it because for the next few years, it will.
J.G. in Cushing, Maine, writes: I think another reason a Trump run for President in 2024 is not very probable is because he would be afraid that he might lose again. How much better for him to be able to claim that he would have been a much better candidate than any of the two (or more) running, and a much better president than the one chosen. He could be on Fox every night and twice on Sunday.
J.M. Silver Lake, WA, writes: In an answer to B.H. in Nottingham, you mentioned that "Within a few years of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and Hideki Tojo, to take four examples, their nations had functional democracies." While that's certainly true, we might find it cold comfort considering that those nations "bellied up" to the democracy bar only after a double shot of MacArthur, poured down their throats with a bayonet chaser. Given current realities, global bartenders seem much less benevolent, and the "buzz" will not be democracy as we know it. It'll be a most authoritarian hangover. Fortunately, sobriety seems to have carried the day!
V & Z respond: When you produce as much content as we do, as rapidly as we do, sometimes you end up producing some real clunkers, and that was one of them. In retrospect, we wish we had made the comparison to other authoritarian-adjacent American populists, instead. William Jennings Bryan's movement did not survive him, and Huey Long's only lasted because his successors (his wife, brother, and son) made significant adjustments.
R.E. in Birmingham, AL, writes: This makes Twitter worthwhile:
Bye-Bye Beelzebub.— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) November 7, 2020
V & Z respond: Hm. A song about a man who sells his soul to the devil.
J.S. in Amsterdam, Netherlands, writes: Picture taken by the AP's Evan Vucci:
L.C. in Brookline, MA, writes:
Humpy Dumpsterfire hawked a Great Wall
Humpy Dumpsterfire had a Bad Fall
And all of the President's asses and yes-men
Just couldn't get poor Humpy back up again.
The Election, Tactics, Strategy, and Lessons
M.H. in Boston, MA, writes: First, a note of gratitude to the vote counters. While we have become suspicious of many of our democratic institutions, there has been no reason so far to doubt the integrity of the vote counters. This is a minor miracle.
Second, if current trends hold, it will mean that three of the last six elections were decided by the equivalent of statistical noise. As I write, the vote differences in three key states are 0.6, 0.3, and 0.08 percent. We need a better way to run elections. At minimum, every state should award electors proportional to the state vote, rather than winner-take-all. An even better solution would be the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
J.F. in Ft. Worth, TX, writes: I believe that the results of this nail-bitingly-close election (6 states were all more or less up in the air 4 days after the election) should put to rest some of the tropes and lazy analysis of Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016.
First off, the assumption that if she'd just visited Wisconsin once or twice, she'd have carried the state. I believe that piece of false narrative can now be jettisoned. The Biden-Harris campaign not only did not ignore the Midwest states, but were laser-focused on them throughout the year. They did everything but promise free puppies to every voter in Wisconsin. The result? Wisconsin went from Republican by 0.77% all the way to...Democratic by 0.7%. I believe you tend to call this sort of thing "within the margin of error". Lavish attention by the Biden-Harris campaign moved the needle in Wisconsin from barely-R to barely-D (if, in fact, they really moved the needle at all).
Second, the assumption that Hillary lost because she was "unlikable" and had "huge negatives." I believe that piece of false narrative can also be put firmly to rest. You yourselves said that Biden was very likeable, did not generate any large amount of animosity in the voting populace, and was "the kind of guy you wanted to have a beer with." Essentially, the exact opposite, likeability-wise, of Hillary Clinton.
The result? Clinton beat Trump by 2.9 million votes (2.1% of the vote) and lost the Electoral College by 107,430 votes spread over 3 states. Biden is leading Trump by 4.2 million votes and is winning the Electoral College by little more than a percentage point in 4 different states (Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona).
Unlikable Hillary Clinton lost a squeaker of an election due to several thousand votes across 3 states while winning the popular vote handily. Likeable Joe Biden won a squeaker of an election due to several thousand votes across 4 states while winning the popular vote handily. An FDR/LBJ/Reagan landslide that is not.
There are larger forces going on in this country than are explained by trivial BS like "who is the more likeable candidate" and "how often did they visit here." This election could not show that more clearly.
K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: I am saddened to report that Valencia County, NM, has broken its 17-election run as a bellwether county. Trump, 17,245 votes vs. Biden, 14,051.
V & Z respond: Affirming our point about how bellwether states/counties/cities are bellwethers...right up until they're not.
K.P. in Enumclaw, WA, writes: So much for the prognosticative (totally made that word up) power of Ohio and of Valencia County, NM; Vigo County, IN; Westmoreland County, VA; Ottawa County, OH; Juneau County, WI; and Sawyer County, WI. They all went for Trump.
This election (along with the entire Trump era) will go down in history as the one that turned conventional wisdom on its head.
L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: It seems to me that because of poll-driven expectations people are really overreacting to the House results. In 2016, under essentially the same map, with Trump at the top of the ticket, Republicans won 241 House seats to 194 for the Democrats. Since then tweaks to the map in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida likely added 6-10 seats for the Democrats. However, that still would have put them barely over 200.
Yet in 2020, with Trump again at the top of the ticket, Democrats will likely end up with 20 or so more seats than they did in 2016 after adjusting for interim map changes. That really is pretty good, if you ask me.
I think Democrats were spoiled by their stellar 2006-08 results, but normally a big gain should be followed by some retrenchment. It's clear that Trump (much like Obama) brings a lot of low-propensity voters to the polls. That leaves an extra hurdle for the Democrats, so really, holding onto the House is a pretty good accomplishment.
It will be interesting to see what happens in 2022. Usually the sitting President's party loses seats, but if once again Republican turnout drops off without Trump on the ballot, Democrats may do better next time than people might expect.
The more I look at this election from a high view, ignoring poll-driven expectations, the more it looks like a pretty decent result for the Democrats. No matter what, the fact that on January 20, 2021 Donald Trump will no longer be President of the United States is grounds for celebration.
L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: Something to ponder: In the past century the face of the South Carolina Democratic Party has changed from Ben Tillman to Rep. Jim Clyburn. The metaphorical RPM from Tillman's grave would probably power quite a generator.
S.A.J. in Elberon, NJ, writes: I think focusing on the pandemic was correct for the presidential election, but it undermined downballot races. A lot of people (and boy am I surrounded by them) became convinced that Democrats loved the pandemic, and were using it to make life unpleasant for people, to discourage small business formation, to force independent contractors into serf-like jobs (I know a bunch of performers who are being forced to rely on "actual job" jobs) and generally to put the economy into a coma where the only way out will be through government-run economic stimulus programs. These are the people who wanted to "citizen's arrest" Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). She may have marketed pandemic-fighting the worst, but while Republicans took the easy-to-defend position that "as long as fewer people you know have died in this pandemic than have died of infectious disease in your whole life, nothing needs to be altered," too few Democrats in authority realized that "We can save hundreds of thousands of lives by making sacrifices; it's government's business to make whole those who sacrifice more than they can bear" was a message that needed to be promoted constantly, and in many ways.
C.P.S. from San Jose, CA, writes: My prediction that Donald Trump's rallies would hurt him because it would show non-attending voters that Trump was ignoring the COVID-19 crisis has, unfortunately, turned out to be almost entirely wrong. I am now convinced that Trump's rallies are one of the largest explanations for the disappointing election results. Those voters (including infrequent voters) whose fear over losing their jobs outweighed their fear of the disease accepted Trump's message of "There's nothing we can do about COVID-19. Let's just open up the economy and get everyone back to work." While such a policy is both medically and economically unsound, enough voters bought into it to give Trump an enormous boost at the polls.
O.L. in Munich, Germany, writes: Of course, we are all very smart in hindsight. Still, I believe it was a big mistake of the Democrats not to do lots of door-to-door canvassing. The GOP did. You have to woo the voters! Here in Northern/Central Europe, we do not hide in basements; you can meet people if you wear a mask and keep a certain distance. So an election campaign needs "boots on the ground"—millions of them!
The Republicans just never give up. You have to give it to them. With that I do not just mean their illegitimate tactics, such as undermining the credibility of the voting process. They also use legitimate ways to fight for every vote. Canvassing, wooing women and minorities, and so on. The latter is democracy. The election was screwed up by the Democratic Party in the last couple weeks. Ann Selzer of Iowa gauged it, actually, and we all did not believe it one week ago.
The Democrats really need to up their ground game in a big way. Money does not buy elections, especially not money spent on too many TV ads. They will really want to win, not just beat Donald Trump (or any other Republican). Become real fighters for your cause! You'll need to want to win real bad. Otherwise the other side will win again.
C.D. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: I'm reminded of the phrase from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign: "It's the economy, stupid!"
Democrats lost that focus this year. Yes, the rest is important too. But at the end of the day, many (most?) voters worry about their pocketbook first.
Democrats never talked about how solving the other problems (COVID-19, Global Warming, BLM, etc.) would help the economy. If they had, we might have seen that rogue Blue Wave.
S.R. in Wyomissing, PA, writes: On Thursday, you noted that the shifting party compositions may have "changed the 'rules' of turnout." I don't think you could be more correct. As we enter the seventh party system (and as the election results seem to make it unlikely that the GOP will quickly and fully abandon Trumpism), I think the new Democratic coalition is now the one with more reliable (and more) voters. Also, even though the GOP managed to make this election a lot closer than anticipated, that seems to be more of Trump's sui generis, force-of-nature effect on his cult than a long-term GOP trend.
The bottom is falling out for the GOP. Although many of us thought Trump would hasten the downward trajectory, it seems more likely he just stanched the flow for two elections. The future looks bright for the new Democratic coalition of city-dwellers, suburbanites, educated voters, voters of color, women, LGBTQ+, and latter-day hippies (and anyone I may have missed). In short, if Biden pulls it off in Georgia (and I think he will), I think the Democrats will be favored to win both Senate seats in the upcoming run-off, as Trump won't be on the ballot, just like in 2018.
K.E. in Peoria, IL, writes: Joe Biden has now received the most votes for a presidential candidate, but the candidate with the second most votes is now Donald Trump. Trump has the ability to turn out Republicans like no one since Reagan, and I wonder how future elections will go with him out of the picture. I don't foresee him helping any future candidates that don't have the last name Trump, or perhaps Kushner. In 2018, without Trump on the ballot the Democrats picked up a huge number of seats in the House; in 2020, with Trump on the ballot, they lost a few that they had gained.
I don't have any doubts that there are still a lot of regularly reliable Republican voters who will turn out every election, but without Trump commanding his millions of followers devoted only to him. I wonder if the party will start hurting for votes in the future.
The Election, Polling
J.B. in White Plains, NY, writes: It seems pollsters absolutely blew it again. Will they ever recover? What I appreciate on your site, versus something like 538, is your algorithms seem to just present us the data, whereas theirs try to "interpret" it. It seems Nate Silver is like the M. Night Shyamalan of quants—he had his one hit over a decade ago, and everything since has been a lot of hype, but with no real delivery.
Anyhow, Biden had a national lead of what, like 10 points, and only 5% of voters were "undecided," so it shouldn't have moved the needle that much. There was also much talk about how there weren't "Shy Trump" voters this time around, since voting for a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic candidate is now socially acceptable for 40% of the public. My guess? It was COVID-19, but it worked in reverse than was expected. Politicos thought Trump's bungling and complete lack of response to COVID-19 would lead independents to want someone to give us national guidance on how to deal with the pandemic, but in reality, they wanted the absolute shortest-term solution, safety be damned, and will vote for the person who will open schools and Applebee's ASAP. And once again, they're embarrassed to admit that.
V & Z respond: I...see...dead pundits.
D.G. in Montreal, Canada, writes: Polls are the opiate of the Democrats. The future will be bright! The demographic wave (which we've been hearing about for a decade) is finally breaking! Just sit back, hold tight, and all will be well...one day.
We (and after seeing the results of the survey, I have no scruples using that pronoun) need to stop putting our faith in this future that never materializes, the promise of which just keeps us hanging on. We need to accept that 70 million of our fellow countrymen are being driven by a completely different set of values. We need to get off our high horses and actually communicate with them...preferably without using the word 'deplorable.'
M.C. in Plymouth, NH, writes: A new poll has shown that, by a margin of 8 points, Americans believe polls are accurate.
J.A. in New York, NY, writes: With the obvious caveats that the counting isn't done yet, and that we should all be patient, I think everyone will probably be going into another post election tizzy about how the polls performed, and what happened.
It looks like the polling was largely correct for most battlegrounds, excepting those states in the former industrial north (and Iowa). I think they underestimated the large number of angry white men and women who are afraid they are being replaced. It looks pretty consistent that Trump overperformed the polls in those states by about 5 points. The polls also semi-missed in Florida; I just don't think they anticipated the Latino vote turning toward Trump the way they did. If Biden held the same margins as Hillary Clinton from 2016 in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami Dade, and Osceola counties, the state would be essentially tied, but that 23 point swing toward Trump in Miami Dade doomed it from the beginning for Biden.
The national poll aggregates also seemed to miss by about 3 or 4 points, which I think tracks with the same angry white men and women surge that we saw in the former industrial north.
J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: So I suppose last time the polling bugaboo was non-college men. This time perhaps the polling bugaboo is the pollsters neglecting to recognize the broad ideological diversity contained under the "Latino" umbrella?
P.D. in Memphis, TN, writes: Since the election has been called, it's time for a little bit of early post mortem that might help to understand the blue wave or lack of it.
Turnout in 2016 was 59.2% of eligible voters. If you go back through the data, you don't get to 60% again until you go all the way back to 1968, when George Wallace ran as a populist independent.
In case anyone's missing the point here, you don't get that level of turnout without a populist candidate exciting certain groups, or very high racial animosity and several playing to it, one way or the other. And those groups excited by populists are generally angry, disgruntled whites with low turnout in normal election years.
Without a populist to excite them, they aren't going to vote. They "may" have Trump running in 2024, but I doubt it. He's going to be pushing 80 really hard and it's very apparent to any objective observer that he's not all that well. Four more years of raising money are going to take it out of him—and that's presuming he's not in jail and that he hasn't fled the country to do a show on RT America.
You can't run a campaign on RT America. Moreover, it's apparent from the midterms that Trump's populism doesn't rub off on other candidates very well at all.
And then there's polling. The polls are correct, it's the model of the turnout that needs to be adjusted, and they can't possibly do that. Nobody could guess the turnout based on "is this guy a populist attractive to low-turnout voters?" Polls are fine in normal years. Populist years, or years of high racial tensions are another matter entirely.
D.M. in New York, NY, writes: The natural reaction is to condemn polls and suggest they are forevermore untrustworthy. I think that would be an overreaction. They were certainly wrong in two of the last three elections. Wrong in 2016 predicting a Trump loss, right in 2018 in predicting a blue wave, wrong in 2020 predicting a Trump loss and additional blue wave. What's the common denominator? Trump, who will be long gone by time 2022 midterms come around, when just like in 2018 his supporters will not show up. It is Trump and only Trump that the pollsters can't figure out. Unless and until the House turns more red in 2022, thereby proving it's more than Trump that they can't figure out, the polls should still survive.
M.A. in Rockwood, TN, writes: Now that the election's over with and we've seen the results, I think there really is something to the "shy" Trump voter theory, only "shy" is the wrong word.
Let me use my own county as an example: Throughout the election this year there have been very few campaign signs out for Trump, and a roughly equal amount for Biden. In 2016, there were a lot of signs for Trump, and yet Biden got the exact same percentage of votes in my county as Hillary did in 2016. Trump's percentage went up, but only because he got all the votes this year that went to the Libertarian candidate in 2016. Obviously, Trump's support in my county was about as strong as it was in 2020, but hardly anyone put out campaign signs to show their support.
I think what happened is that after four years of Trump in office—outside of his base that apparently has no shame—most of his supporters know he's a horrible person, are embarrassed and ashamed that they're supporting a horrible person and they voted for that horrible person anyway. This shame was apparently so strong that a large percentage of them lied about their support whenever polled, both to human and computer pollsters.
So it's not "shy" Trump voters, it's "ashamed" Trump voters. Or, perhaps more accurately, "hypocritical" Trump voters.
R.M. in Orlando, FL, writes: I know that everyone wants to know why the polls were so far off again this cycle. I maintain they were not off at all. They simply could not account for certain factors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donald Trump chose to ignore the pandemic and hold "super-spreader" rallies across the country, particularly in swing states. Meanwhile, Joe Biden opted to use his money advantage instead of rallies to advertise on TV and social media. In addition, the Republican ground game was far superior to Biden's, again because of the pandemic. I think it is now clear that rallies and ground game are more effective than expensive media advertising.
The result was something impossible to poll for. Rallies and ground game are more effective the closer you get to Election Day, while polls always lag about a week behind the political "present." As they say, a week in politics is a lifetime. I firmly believe that Trump had this right and Biden had it wrong, or, put another way, Trump did not care about the pandemic while Biden did, and that gave Trump a campaign advantage. That advantage could easily be 3-5 points nationally which would entirely account for the difference between polls and results. The same holds for state elections for the Senate and House.
E.D. in Saddle Brook, NJ, writes: It's funny how the polls were surprisingly off in the first presidential election after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. And somehow they were even more off in the following election, when the incumbent's primary campaign strategy was to try to use every means available, legal or not, to prevent people from voting for his opponent.
D.B. in Oceanside, CA, writes: We know that Trump is willing to do whatever he can to win, and that Russia is willing and capable of influencing vote totals. Maybe the pollsters were right, and it's the cheating that caused the polls to be inconsistent with actual vote totals. If polling error is smaller in states in which cheating was unlikely to help Trump win than it is in states where cheating would benefit Trump, it may be reasonable to suspect cheating.
J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: I seriously don't get it. Why are so many people saying the polls were in error, even worse than 2016? Polls measure are you likely to vote and who you are voting for. They do not measure if your vote has been stolen from you. They do not measure if your ballot was mailed in but did not arrive because the USPS lost it and refused court orders to search for it. They do not measure if you mailed your ballot in time and subsequently the rules were changed so that the ballot doesn't count. They do not measure if you sent in your ballot on time but then the Supreme Court ruled that the ballot should be held separately if it arrived after Election Day. They do not measure if the USPS purposely slowed down the sorting and sending of ballots, and yours never arrived, but with a recent COVID-19 surge, you understandably felt that you couldn't go and safely vote, though you previously had every intention of doing so by mail. They don't measure Trumpblican Election Fraud. And I predict when all is said and done, we'll find the number of those who cast valid votes for Biden are a lot closer to the pollster numbers.
L.H. in Ljubljana, Slovenia, writes: I think Ann Selzer's polling might have been correct in both of her final two polls. She worked with samples below 1,000 people, but I am sure she must be doing some tracking poll on the side, or else have other field information that gives her confidence in her polls. One thing that could have caused the shift were rising corn and soybean prices at the end of September; they increased 5-10% vs. the previous month, and broke the 2020 record. Cash from sales was due in October, just in time to placate the anger of the farmers.
J.M.P. in Asheville, NC, writes: Ann Selzer just made every other pollster look like bush leaguers.
S.A. in Clinton, WA, writes:
gen·ius / jēnyəs/
1. Ann Selzer
D.M. in Spokane, WA, writes: Congratulations on getting it right for the presidential election. For those who are quick to bash the polls and your predictions: I looked at the eleven closest states on your map, and the results that you presented (this was prior to the last states being "called" for Biden). I used the percentage you predicted for Biden and the percentage reported for Biden. For one state, Arizona, you were 4 percentage points off. You were 3 percentage points off for another, Pennsylvania. You were 2 points off for 3 states, 1 point off for 2 states, and 0 points off for 2 states. Only North Carolina, and Florida finished for a different candidate than the one you predicted, and both predictions were within the margin of error. Based on these results, I'd say that the polls, and your map based on the polls, were right on.
Most people do not understand that there is a confidence interval for the percent of the vote predicted, or the percent approval in a poll. The public needs a lot of training regarding any statistical concept.
D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Brooklyn is now erupting into screams, whoops, drum rolls, car honking, applause for joy. My staid, middle-class neighbors are on their front lawns shouting, cheering, weeping that "it's over".
But enough of that. Let's get wonky. I did a quick check of recent polls and using no method other than eyeballs and confirmation bias, it strikes me that Emerson did the best job of the pollsters that poll nationally. (Sigh, I used to love you Quin...)
Suggestion: after you guys get the week or two of sleep you need to recover from all this (never mind your day jobs), please conjure up a mathematically sound evaluation and ranking of the national pollsters.
V & Z respond: I'm sure we'll have a number of pieces along those lines.
J.L. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: A friend of mine works for NASA and is a staunch Democrat. Looking at the election, he said he was encouraged by Joe Biden having a projected 90% chance of winning the election. "On the other hand," he said, "if that were the odds on a space mission, I would not launch the mission."
I replied, "But if I were a doctor with a cancer patient, and the survival and recovery rate of a surgery were 90%, I'd feel VERY confident."
It's all perspective, right?
The Election, Voting
E.H. in Stevens Point, WI, writes: I wondered about your assertion that recounts have never flipped a state. I thought I had heard about it happening in the 1960 election. So I did a little searching online, and I found an interesting article about fairly credible accusations of fraud in that election which were printed in The New York Herald Tribune. The loser of that election, one Richard M. Nixon, asked the paper to stop the investigations, saying that "no one steals the presidency of the United States." Nixon did not demand any recounts nor did he contest the election. I find it interesting that a man who later became (in)famous for presidential corruption did not want to question the legitimacy of John F. Kennedy's election, because it might "tear the country to pieces." Times have indeed changed.
V & Z respond: Indeed. Part of the reason that recounts were rare before 2000 is that they weren't legal in many states, but the other part of the reason is that they were seen as petulant and undemocratic.
D.M. in New York, NY, writes: Your answer to the question from L.L from Shelton, CT is incomplete and particularly misses the essence of what is happening in Pennsylvania.
You said that some provisional ballots are cast by people whose names don't appear on the voter rolls, and others are cast by people who voted absentee and then decided they wanted to void those and vote in person. The third possibility is that the voter requested an absentee ballot and decided to vote in person. The in-person vote cannot be tabulated until the polling place can confirm that the absentee ballot was never returned.
If you consider that many voters began to worry about on-time delivery, and if you consider the partisan nature of the mail-in versus in-person voting nationwide and in Pennsylvania, it is almost certain that the vast majority of provisional ballots in Pennsylavania are not from those with ID issues or those changing their minds about who they wanted to vote for. They are from people who changed their mind about the method by which they wanted to cast their vote.
It's also important to note that everyone should agree that waiting to count these votes is absolutely required.
V & Z respond: Thank you for the clarification!
D.R. in Koh Tao, Thailand, writes: I am an overseas voter for Washington state.
All of our voting is electronic, they e-mailed me a PDF file for my precinct, I filled it out, printed, signed, scanned, and e-mailed it back.
There is no requirement for a subsequent paper ballot to be sent in, possibly because Washington has had all-mail voting for years.
But I agree that it would be very hard to cheat in this situation. It would require knowing who is an overseas voter, what precinct, then sufficiently forging their signature and, most importantly, knowing that they are not going to vote. If a significant number of overseas ballots failed any of these conditions, it would set off alarms.
The high cost, low return, and risk makes it untenable to actually influence an election.
R.C. in Madison, WI, writes: You wrote that e-mail ballots were for overseas voters. However, in Texas they can also be used by voters who aren't necessarily overseas, but are 250 miles above the ground.
D.C. in Dallas, TX, writes: This is in response to A.D. in Fountain Hills, who was wondering why vote counting is so much faster for in-person.
I served as an Election Judge in Texas on Tuesday, in charge of a voting center. As you wrote, in-person votes are counted much faster, not only because they're tabulated instantaneously on-site, but also because voters can resolve ballot issues right there.
There are two additional reasons why mail-ins take longer. First is that, for in-person voting, voters don't even get a ballot to cast until we've determined that they are in the voter roll. This can take a couple of minutes per voter. For mail-ins, voter registration verification happens at the counting center, after the ballot is cast. So the time required to process each vote goes from a few seconds to a few minutes (or more, if there's an issue).
The second is that, at the end of the day, in-person votes are immediately ready in electronic format for uploading and reporting to the election results database. At the end of the day, my single most important duty is to turn off the ballot scanner, verify that the total number of ballots cast matches our pollbooks, and then deliver to election officials two USB sticks with the official ballot count from our precinct, as well as a sealed box of voted paper ballots (to use in case of recount). As soon as I drop that off, the vote count is posted and on the county website within a few minutes. (On Election Night, I timed it: Our precinct was listed as "reported" just 30 minutes after I dropped the materials off.) For mail-ins, the votes are hand-tabulated, then digitized in batches throughout the day.
So these little things, multiplied by hundreds of thousands of votes, really add up.
T.D. in Rogers, AR, writes: Tonight, a large man wearing a Raiders jacket and sporting a Trump mask tried to vote in our county.
My wife, an "election official" (air quotes are for my pride), told him he had to turn his mask around.
And he did.
V & Z respond: It's rare for Raiders gear to be only the second most problematic thing someone is wearing.
The Election, What's Next
L.C. in Amherst, MA, writes: Joe Biden is supposedly averse to dirty politics and strong-arm tactics, preferring a bipartisan approach. I'm fine with that except for one thing. I would urge the Biden administration to do whatever is necessary, to employ every means available, fair and foul (but not illegal) to pass electoral reform. The American political system has gotten very much out of touch with the real will of the people, partly because of the built-in slant toward the Republican Party provided by the Electoral College, and partly because of the willingness of the Republicans to resort to all sorts of dirty tricks and chicanery. Once the system is cleaned up, the real will of the people is more likely to be expressed in our elections and our elected officials can get on with the real work of governing. At that point, I'd be all for playing nice.
W.L. in St. Louis, MO, writes: American politics has tragically become tribal. It seems as if policies, principles, and platforms no longer matter...all that matters is (R) or (D) after the candidate's name. It seems as if we are in or headed toward a civil war. How does America move forward? How do we diverge from the current political climate? Here are my thoughts:
- Gerrymandering: We must abolish gerrymandering. These districts appear to cause polarization of candidates. It seems the only possible way to enter into federal-level politics is to be slightly more extreme than the incumbent candidate (for example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Marjorie Taylor Greene).
- Age Limits: My background is in retirement strategy. Based on formal training from the American College of Financial Services and many studies, we know that the average human experiences cognitive decline in their seventies. I don't care about the minimum age of 35 to become president. It's not like Americans are going to vote for some 25 year old...but our choices for president were between 2 septuagenarians? This should hold for all elected offices: I'd like to see a mandatory retirement of age 70, 72, or 75. 70 and 75 as round numbers, or 72 because that is the year in which Americans must take required minimum distributions from qualified money.
- The media (social and mainstream): These platforms seem to reinforce and create echo chambers of false information and there is no way out since you don't even know you are in it. They fan the flames of anger and strongly contribute to the "tribal" forces within our political system. But it seems our society is ill-equipped to fix any or either of these elements with such a reliance on the 1st Amendment.
The tribal forces are my only explanation for how the Republicans retained the Senate and how the overall election was so close. The Republican Party tried to make Trump a king. They have become completely unprincipled and have no direction. In fact, they voted on it this summer for a platform that was, in effect, "our platform is whatever Trump says it is at the time that he says it."
We are a divided nation.
M.C. in Chicago, IL, writes: To me there is one obvious cabinet carryover that I have not read anywhere: Ask Elaine Chao (a.k.a. Mrs. McConnell) to stay on as Secretary of Transportation. Being the wife's employer, plus the fact that these old Senators have known each other for years and were generally cordial to each other, might help a Biden administration get some of its initiatives passed.
J.N. in Freeland, WA, writes: It would appear that the Democrats' poor Senate performance pretty much rules out Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as Treasury Secretary—or any other post, for that matter. Leaving her Senate seat would allow Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) to appoint her replacement.
Speaking of narrow margins in the Senate, will Mitt Romney find opportunities to play the bipartisan statesman by supporting selected Biden initiatives?
V & Z respond: Although Warren's replacement would only serve a few months until a special election could be held.
P.S. in Arlington, TN, writes: Suggested cabinet picks:
- State: Barack Obama. We need to rebuild our image. He'd be the best guy to do it.
- Defense: Mayor Pete. Iraq Vet who served under Don't Ask Don't Tell.
- HUD: Stacey Abrams. What she did in Georgia was amazing after narrowly losing in 2018.
- AG: Elizabeth Warren. We need Donald Trump in jail and to "drain the swamp".
- Labor: Bernie. Reward the Progressives.
- HHS: Fauci. If he's willing, put him there to help spread the message about defeating this virus.
- Transportation: The first Republican to speak out demanding a concession from Trump (Mitt Romney?)
S.K. in Bethesda, MD, writes: I agree that Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are not switching parties. But I'm not sure either of them (or Mitt Romney) is so committed to Mitch McConnell's obstructionism that it won't be possible for them to force him to allow votes on some legislation that they think is reasonably bipartisan. Collins considered a run as an independent, and Murkowski actually ran as one. And Romney's seat isn't at risk.
They are all right of center and they aren't going to support a liberal agenda. But I can see some attempt at brokering going on around popular moderate legislation. I'm aware that the Majority Leader has a lot of control over the agenda, but if he wants to keep control, he has to be responsive to members who credibly threaten to abandon him on procedural votes. This sort of coalition-building is just the kind of thing Joe Biden would try. I'll bet one of his first calls was to Susan Collins, and I'll bet he's already spoken to the other two as well.
J.B. in Britt, IA, writes: As to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) being 89 and long in the tooth in 2022, there is no way Democrats have a chance to take the seat. His grandson is Pat Grassley, the current Speaker of the House in Iowa, who just oversaw an increase in the number of Republicans in the house this election. In my opinion, Pat Grassley is being groomed to take over his grandfather's seat in the U.S. Senate. It is even probable that Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) would appoint him to the seat if Sen. Grassley decides to retire early.
E.B. in Seattle, WA, writes: It will be interesting to see how the Republican candidates in the Georgia runoffs thread the needle on Donald Trump's behavior during the transition. If Trump cared about anyone but himself, he'd do everything he could to ensure that his party carried those seats. But we know that he doesn't care about anyone else and we can reasonably expect a cascade of petulant behavior that will remind many parents of a three-year-old who doesn't get the crusts cut off their sandwich.
So can Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) hold close to Trump without losing independent voters? Or, if they put distance between themselves and Trump, will the hardcore base stay home? On the third hand, can Trump think far enough ahead to realize that helping his party win will hamstring Joe Biden and would be a measure of revenge?
J.P.R. in Westminster, CO, writes: I was sure that Joe Biden had been the 46th vice president, which would have put him on track for semi-distinction of being that number for both of the highest offices of the land, but I just double checked Wikipedia, and he was the 47th VP. Instead, Martin Van Buren—who was both President #8 and VP #8—gets all the glory!
B.H. in Westborough, MA, writes: Alternative headlines for the item about the mayors of Rabbit Hash, KY:
- Kentucky Mayor Forced Out With Her Tail Between Her Legs
- Kentucky Mayor Loses in a Real Dogfight
- Kentucky Mayor Loses Dog-Eat-Dog Race
V & Z respond: You're quite the wag, aren't you?
C.K. in Kailua, HI, writes: In one of the more exciting races in our corner of the U.S., Squirt the giraffe has been named the new mayor-elect of the Honolulu Zoo, beating Rusti the orangutan in a neck-to-neck race. Squirt pledged to create a safer environment by protecting animals from poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and by committing to a cleaner, more sustainable environment by promoting renewable energy. He also committed to planting more trees for a "yummy browse for everyone."
V & Z respond: But did Rusti try to monkey around with the voting?
T.W. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: In the item "Dead Man Wins Election," you ask, "Have you ever seen a dead man do what Cal Cunningham will be forever famous for doing?" Such a situation was a plot point in the first film from director Kevin Smith, much to the after-the-fact chagrin of the live character involved.
V & Z respond: Rigor mortis is the new Viagra! (Z) has seen that film at least a dozen times, and can't believe this parallel did not occur to him.
R.J. in San Francisco, writes: I wanted to congratulate you on your survey results for managing to look so much, demographically, like science fiction fandom of the 1970s. If this analogy holds true to form, there are women participating in your site, but they are writing Votemaster/Zenger slashfic.
V & Z respond: A chilling thought.
S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: Last month, I spent two weeks trying to get Weezer's "Buddy Holly" out of my head, finally succeeding the weekend before Halloween. And then you had to go and mention Mary Tyler Moore in reply to J.I. in Drexel Hill, PA.
V & Z respond: Just remain focused on clearing your mind. We're sure you're gonna make it, after all.
B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Fibonacci Series reference! The fans are going wild over that! Thanks for the games. We needed new ones.
Four years ago, all of my friends and most of my family started playing a drinking game: You watch a Trump rally or speech, and every time he says something that is true or reasonably accurate or at least close to accurate, you have to do a shot of whiskey or tequila.
We're all in sobriety now. Teetotalers, every one of us. Haven't had a drink of alcohol since his second State of the Union.
I also have a Presidents game. I play harmonica and guitar (think Woody Guthrie), but I'm originally from Memphis, so sometimes I play blues. I needed a name for my Blues Persona. Eventually I noticed one of the soups in the school dining room, and a street sign I passed one day in Pennsylvania. That's how I became Minnesota Wild Rice, or alternately, Slow Blind Drive.
I also found a way to generate bluesman names: One of the great Bluesmen of all times was Blind Lemon Jefferson. That's the ticket: Health issue + Fruit + President's Last Name. Samples:
- Epileptic Elderberry Eisenhower
- Trick-knee Mango Carter
- Obese Orange Garfield
- Asthmatic Apple Adams
- Hangnail Kumquat Harding
- Carpal-Tunnel Watermelon Van Buren
- Hacking Cough Huckleberry Fillmore
- Bipolar Honeydew Hoover
- Depressed Raisin Roosevelt
- Post-Traumatic Pomegranate Pierce
- Mesothelioma Tangerine Trump
- And...of course...Erectile Dysfunction Banana Johnson
Also, our second son married a foreign woman from another country and brought her home to our country, America. With much effort, I have learned to communicate with her in her native tongue. (She also speaks our language, but with an obvious accent.) When you write, "In short, this is more nefarious Canadian troublemaking..." I worry, because this woman is from Canada then, eh? Her hometown, Thunder Bay, Ontario, is apparently a hotbed of Canadianism. And our son saw moose meat in her family's home freezer. Please continue to monitor the situation.
V & Z respond: Don't worry, we are. And to any Canadian spies reading this, don't think we've missed the fact that you've arranged for one of your operatives to play Joe Biden on "Saturday Night Live." The only question is whether the Ministry of Canadian Propaganda recruited Mr. Carrey while he was still living in Newmarket, Canada, or if it was after he relocated to Hollywood.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov07 Saturday Q&A
Nov06 Biden Inches Closer to the White House
Nov06 Saturday Q&A
Nov05 Biden Wins Michigan and Wisconsin
Nov05 The State(s) of the Presidential Race
Nov05 Let the Lawsuits Begin
Nov05 Georgia on My Mind
Nov05 Biden Looks Screwed Even If He Wins
Nov05 Florida Is a Red State Now
Nov05 Bloomberg Is No Kingmaker Anymore
Nov05 Another Megyn Kelly Moment, but without Megyn Kelly This Time
Nov05 Dead Man Wins Election
Nov03 One Last Look: The Election News
Nov03 One Last Look: The Projections
Nov03 One Last Look: The Early Voting Numbers
Nov03 Time to Get Out the Crystal Ball
Nov03 Did the Campaign Matter at All?
Nov03 Breathe In, Breathe Out
Nov03 Political Games
Nov03 Today's Presidential Polls
Nov03 Today's Senate Polls
Nov02 Biden Maintains a Stable Lead in the National Polls
Nov02 Trump Could Still Pull It Off
Nov02 Trump Holds Rallies in Five States, Biden in One
Nov02 Five Factors That Help Joe Biden
Nov02 Early Votes Have Passed Two-Thirds of the 2016 Total
Nov02 Scoop: Trump Will Declare Victory Tomorrow Night
Nov02 COVID-19 Is Surging in the Midwest
Nov02 The Election Could Make or Break State Trifectas
Nov02 The Lawyers Are Gearing Up
Nov02 GOP Loses a Round in the Voter Suppression Wars, but Fights on
Nov02 Tillis Is Everywhere, Cunningham is Nowhere
Nov02 Forget Nikki Haley; Maybe Liz Cheney Is the Future of the Republican Party
Nov02 Today's Presidential Polls
Nov02 Today's Senate Polls
Nov01 Sunday Mailbag
Nov01 Today's Presidential Polls
Nov01 Today's Senate Polls
Oct31 Saturday Q&A
Oct31 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct31 Today's Senate Polls
Oct30 Courts Get Involved Again, This Time in Minnesota
Oct30 Things for the Democrats to Worry About
Oct30 More on "Shy Trump" Voters
Oct30 Right-wing Media Try to Salvage Hunter Biden Story
Oct30 On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!
Oct30 The Delicate Art of Question Dodging
Oct30 Donald Trump, Flight Risk?
Oct30 Today's Presidential Polls