The American Election

It has been a long and tense night. I expected to write a blog to prove that my past protests that I was not a prophet and rarely if ever can predict what would happen had finally been shattered. For I predicted and expected a Democratic sweep in spite of all the nervous nellies that surrounded me. But once again I proved to be a disaster as a forecaster. What happened? Why was I so wrong?

Had my hopes squashed my fears and pushed the latter into the shadows of my life? That is not the reason. For I had analyzed the data. I had delved into votes by county. I still expected Biden not only to win Florida but to win decisively. And this was true even though I knew the Democrats would not do as well in Miami-Dade County in the south-east of the state. It was clear that Cuban Americans and the more recent arrivals from Venezuela would swing heavily in favour of Trump, but not enough to push him into a majority I believed. The Democratic majority would just be reduced.

However, in Broward and Palm Beach north of Miami-Dade I, like most pundits, expected retirees from the north to increase their percentage of the vote for the Democrats given Trump’s terrible performance in managing the COVID crisis. Further, in mid-Florida I expected the new suburbanites and the Mexican Latinos to go even heavier for Biden.  As I watched the initial results come in, I was reassured that I was correct. But within two hours of the polls closing in most of Florida, I was overtaken by depression. Though it took a few more hours until 12:40 for CNN to project the Florida electoral votes as a win for Trump, the direction became clear by 9:30 p.m. Donald Trump would win. And the votes from the Florida panhandle where the polls closed an hour later had just started to come in.

Wrong on Florida. But my hopes were soon dashed over my expectations that the Democrats would flip North Carolina. Biden had been running an average of three points ahead of Hillary in 2016. In the initial results, Biden was beating Trump 55/45. However, Trump took the lead by 10:00 p.m. But the early vote, the majority of which were Democratic, had still to be contacted. By 11:00 p.m., it was undeniable to me; Trump would win North Carolina. The hope that this state would fall into the Democratic column was a chimera.

At 2:00 a.m. Trump declared that he won North Carolina by 1.4% and 77,000 votes with only 5% of the vote left to count. It was clear that it would be very difficult for Biden to catch up and overtake Trump. But not impossible. I presume that is why the TV stations had not yet projected North Carolina as a victory for Trump. It was too close to call. Nevertheless, it was not so close that one could set aside one’s pessimism.

This was the case with Ohio. Ohio was a bell weather state. It almost always fell into the camp of the winner. Biden was in the lead in the first few hours which I had not expected. Further, only 29% of the early vote had been counted. But then Trump took the lead and gradually increased it. Ohio was going to end up in the Republican column. When Trump appeared in the White House to declare his victory at 2:00 a.m., he was indeed well in the lead there. He said he was 700,000 votes ahead, but 2020 Election Centre declared his victory at 2:55 a.m. with a vote of 3,065,441 (53.4%) compared to Biden’s 2,596,393 (45.2%). He won Ohio, but Trump could not avoid exaggerating. Why 700,000? Wasn’t a 469,000 vote win good enough?

For a short while, I even had hopes for Texas. The votes in the urban areas of Harris County and in San Antonio were going solidly for Biden. But in the rural areas, the turnout in the vote was tremendous and the proportions by which Trump led was enormous. Texas was lost even though the prognosticators refused to call the outcome for a few more hours. At 1:20 a.m. they called Texas for Trump.

Then there was Georgia. At first it seemed that Biden could pick the state up. Then it swung into the Trump camp. However, when the vote came in from Charlotte and especially from Atlanta and its suburbs, Georgia swung back. But this only meant that my hopes would be dashed over one state twice that evening. On the other hand, Virginia swung back into the Democratic column as the ballot counts for Richmond and Fairfax Counties flowed in. Further, my spirit was lifted by the results in Arizona. The expanding urban and suburban population around Phoenix soon stole that state from Trump. However, when Trump declared victory in Georgia, he was leading 2,366,242 (50.7%) to 2,248,032 (48.1%) for Biden. I was sure that he had won, but those who have to call elections obviously believed the state vote was too close to call.

Nevada also turned out to be a tighter race than expected. When two-thirds of the vote had been counted, Joe Biden led by just over 3,000 votes, 50% (553,7785) to 47.9% (530,571). Close but favouring Biden. It was another story in the old Blue Wall states. Just as the pundits predicted, and contrary to my own prophecy that we would not have to wait for the results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to be counted to declare a Democratic victory, the vote counting continued all night without declaring a victory. At 12:45 Joe Biden came on television to both thank his election workers and to cheer them on with the assurance that he was on the way to a victory. But the following figures seemed to tell a different story.

 Trump – %Biden – %
Michigan53.444.8
Wisconsin51.545
Pennsylvania5741.7

Yet President Trump tweeted that, “They are trying to steal the election.” However, we were told by the experts to be patient. The mail-in and early ballots were being counted last.  And the big turnout of Republican voters had been on election day. The Democrats could easily come from behind.

When Trump appeared on television at 2:00 a.m., he declared that he had won in all three states by significant and unassailable margins. The vote totals then were:

 Trump Biden 
Michigan53.3%2,103,70045.1%1,781,878
Wisconsin51.1%1,525,08647.4%1,416,615
Pennsylvania55.8%2,964,85443%2,287,865

Biden was narrowing the lead both in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But the gap seemed too great to catch up. Except when one heard that several million write in and absentee ballots – which evidently favoured the Democrats – had not been counted. Thus, though I was sure that Trump was correct that he had won all three states – and he only needed to win 2 of 3 to win a majority in the Electoral College – I was sure Trump had won. It was also true that Biden still had a realistic even if highly improbable chance to win.

But it was not as improbable as I thought. By 4:45 a.m., Biden was suddenly in the lead in Wisconsin. 90% of the absentee and mail-in ballot in heavily Democratic Milwaukee county had come in. Biden now led by 8,000 votes – 49.3%. Joe Biden had 49.4% (1,583,112) versus 49.1% (1,575,326). But three red counties still had to report their absentee and mail-in ballots. Except Trump had not won them by huuge margins in 2016. Further, these ballots were expected to favour Biden. Wisconsin had become a cliff hanger.

It was certainly not the case that Donald Trump had definitively won. As Vice-President Pence said at the White House at 2:00 a.m., he was sure at that time that they were on the road to victory. However, Trump declared that he had won. Any other conclusion would constitute “a fraud on the American public.” “A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it. We will not stand for it.” The issue had nothing to do with fraud. It was simply a matter of counting all the ballots before a victor was declared. Trump declared, “We want all the voting to stop.” But the voting had stopped. Only the counting continued. Nevertheless, Trump declared, “we already have won.”

“This is a fraud! We will take it to the Supreme Court,” presumably the same Supreme Court which he stacked with judges who shared his extreme right-wing views of a justice system. Of course, nothing had changed. This was the same way that all presidential elections had been conducted. Trump was simply lying. There was no fraud. There was no cheating. Nor any realistic prospect of cheating. Trump was scare-mongering. Why when the chances were that he would emerge victorious when all the ballots were cast was he sewing fear and doubt? Did he know something that I did not know? Or did he not believe this? Or did he not want to take a chance? Or was he preparing an excuse in case he did lose?

What happened? After all, Biden had run a brilliant campaign. No serious fumbles. He had reached out to the progressives in his party without altering his stance of such issues as medicare and they enthusiastically backed him. He seemed not only to have worked assiduously to cultivate minorities. He ran a campaign with substantive policies and his dedication and work ethic seemed formidable. It also seemed clear that although the Democrats reputedly did not have as good a ground game as the Republicans, they were determined to get out the vote. The Republicans had started their ground game after the last election and had spent $300 million perfecting it.

The Republicans were even more determined. And they did so by mass lining based around Donald Trump’s large rallies with crowds who largely did not wear masks and crowded shoulder-to-shoulder to hear their hero. But why do the masses of Americans, whether a small majority or even a large minority vote for and support a president addicted to lying? Why would they support a president whom they had witnessed over the past year how incompetently he had managed the COVID crisis? Why would they support a person directly and indirectly responsible for many if not most of the 225,000 Americans who ha died from the virus this past year?

Trump called a truly fair election a fraud while being the chief fraudster in the country. Trump may call for a campaign of law and order, but he has shown he has no respect for the rule of law. While he called for cleaning up the swamp in Washington, he had more associates charged and convicted than any president in my memory. He was not a detached leader but a skilled practitioner of cronyism. And the con. “We are rounding he corner. We are rounding the corner. The China virus will soon disappear.”

He lied to the American people and did not tell them that the virus was a very lethal airborne disease. Yet half the Americans voted for him even though he totally mishandled the pandemic, and, more importantly, even though Americans believed the pandemic was a top issue in the election campaign.  Why would American evangelicals and ultra-orthodox Jews support a president who boasted of being a pussy-grabber and whom a multitude of women had launched suits against him for rape and assault? Fourteen of his top associates had been indicted or jailed.  

Why indeed? It seems incomprehensible. Is that why I felt so sure that the would be defeated in this election? After all, why would they vote for a man who could not tolerate expertise and knowledge but favoured toadies and sycophants like his Attorney General, William Barr? Trump pardons the venal and pumps up his followers to call for jailing innocent political leaders. Trump blackmailed the leader of Ukraine to launch an investigation into the son of his opponent. Why would Americans support a racist who would assert that there were some good people among the storm troopers who marched and chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” Why would they vote for a billionaire who rarely paid any income taxes and when he did, it was just $750 per year?

I had expected a landslide victory by Biden. I had hoped for a landslide victory by Biden. Had my hopes blinded me to the real character of half the population of America? Was America sick or have I been blind?

At 6:45 a.m. I was ready for bed. I believe Nevada was close but in the Biden column. Wisconsin was close but in the Biden column. Pennsylvania was not close, but given the areas only partially reported – Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – Biden had a slim chance. In contrast, Biden had a good chance in Michigan when all the votes from Wayne County came in.

I went to bed crying and depressed even though Biden still had a chance. For whatever the results of the presidential race, the Democrats had only picked up one senate seat. It would be a Republican controlled Senate and more obstructionism even if Biden was elected as president.

What did this tell me about America?

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