And Now, Some More General Thoughts on the 2020 Election
Earlier today I wrote a long piece about white supremacy and the 2020 election, which is here if you want to see it, but in case you’re wondering if I had any other thoughts about the election, here are some of them, in no particular order.
1. I am fucking relieved. In part because for a few days there the election looked closer than it would turn out to be, and if there’s one thing I know about the GOP, it’s that you never let the election get close, because then they are more than happy to steal it. Tuesday night it looked stealable, and I was trying to get my head in a place where I had to live another four years in a country with a corrupt dimwit bigot as president. I avoided most news and social media on Wednesday and Thursday, on the basis that if something genuinely bad happened, someone would probably text me.
Friday tipped Pennsylvania over and given where the outstanding ballots were still coming in from, and who they would likely to be for, I began to feel, well, better. And then after that, it was just waiting for the inevitable, which finally came on Saturday. Trump lost! He’s a loser! Biden won! He’s not a loser!
I thought when the official word came down that Biden had won it that I might cry. I did not, in part because the whole thing was extended over several days, and basically my psyche got to have some time to deal with the idea that Biden would actually win this thing. I did choke the hell up at several moments, however. In a larger, existential sense, the joy of not having to deal with Trump after January 20 is immense. And I am, let’s remember, a well-off cis, het white man. I cannot even fathom how relieved someone who is not white or cis or het feels right now.
This election is not the end of things, it’s just the beginning, and things will get harder, especially if Mitch McConnell is not punted as Senate Majority Leader. But I think it’s okay for the moment to be relieved. For four years, at least, we won’t have a president who is a real live grifting toxic piece of shit, and we won’t have all his grifting toxic piece of shit cronies to deal with, either. I will take that, thank you.
2. Related to this, while my previous post was a bit of a downer in terms of how many US citizens voted for Trump, in fact, I’m reasonably happy about events. Hey! 75 million people voted for Biden! That’s a majority of voters! And that’s likely to grow, both in raw numbers and percentages, as votes continue to be counted. This is a larger gap between voter numbers than Clinton got over Trump (remember: Trump lost the popular vote — most voters didn’t want him as president). I think the current estimate is that Biden will wind up with 306 electoral votes, which in a nice bit of irony is the number of electoral votes Trump got the last time around. Suck it, Trump! Biden got all your electoral votes and the popular vote!
More than that, these folks voted en masse — in the largest turnout, percentage-wise, in a century — despite active and real-time suppression of the vote by the GOP. The GOP wasn’t even pretending to be subtle about it this time around: You don’t fucking argue that one ballot drop-off location is sufficient for a county of four and a half million people, as the governor of Texas did, with a straight face. And of course there was Trump and his toadies, screaming about “legal votes,” i.e., the votes that were for him, not for Biden. And, well, one, fuck them, and two, given the election results, lots of the people who voted for Biden apparently voted for Republican senators and representatives on the same ballot, so one wonders how the GOP is going to square this with any more logic than “all votes for the GOP are inherently valid; all votes for anyone else are inherently not.” Which brings us back to point one: Fuck them.
It doesn’t appear that this particular election was notably plagued by voter fraud, any more than any other election ever is. There’s not an election fraud issue in the United States, it’s just the dog whistle that the GOP uses do it doesn’t have to explicitly say “we’re disenfranchising people who aren’t white.” Their problem this year, such as it is, is that the president and all his cronies are movie villains; they monologued well in advance what they were planning to do. Which, fortunately, gave the rest of us time to prepare, by voting early enough that ballots got in no matter how much the Trump administration slowed down the mail, by voting early in person, and by understanding that the entire GOP platform this year was “Keep People From Voting.” As I said on the day I cast my ballot, early and in person: Fuck you, I voted. There were literally millions of other people who said the same thing. And we won!
3. With that said, for the second presidential election cycle in a row, polls seemed awfully skewed and inaccurate, not regarding the national popular vote, but in the state and local races. Polls suggested that a number of Democratic senatorial candidates were up, and above the margin of error, and then on election day these candidates lost their elections by significant percentages. In both 2016 and 2020, polls seemed to offer, for lack of a better term, a “blue mirage,” where the Democratic support seemed stronger than it actually was.
Why? Got me, I’m not a pollster. But it’s a very real thing. The Biden campaign told its people to act and work like they were behind in the polls, and warned its voters not to become complacent. This was very wise! If the Democrats had ever let up, we might be looking at a very different presidential election result. The electoral college favors the GOP enough that a Democrat has to outperform in the popular vote to win, and sometimes even that is not enough: See 2000 and 2016.
(Yes, we should retire the electoral college, and yes, in a perfect world the president would be elected by popular vote with ranked choice. We don’t live in that world right now.)
I tried myself not to get too complacent regarding polls, but I still was surprised at how the Democrats underperformed in the senate races. Going forward my new plan is to simply subtract 5 points from the Democrat for any senate poll I see, and at least a couple points off any presidential poll. Seems a reasonable coping strategy.
In the meantime, remember that at this point control of the Senate is still up for grabs, due to the senatorial runoff elections in Georgia, which will happen in January. If you’re a Democrat, you might want to, you know, donate to those races (and vote in them, if you’re in Georgia).
4. As of this writing, Trump has not conceded the election and plans a series of legal challenges to it, which is unsurprising because he’s petulant fucking child who stomps his feet when he doesn’t get his way, waaaaaaaah. I don’t expect him to ever concede the election in any meaningful sense; at the very least he’ll whine and complain and gripe how it was stolen from him, which is a lie and is now a thing every news outlet will note, because he lost fair and square and the transition machinery is already in process. It doesn’t matter if he concedes; it’s not legally required and Biden will be the next president happen no matter how much he stomps his feet (unless he resigns and lets Pence have a couple of weeks in the big chair. Which would be amusing. And then Biden would still be president on January 20). But it’s certainly a reminder that he’s a petty and truculent waste of protein, and that to him losing is literally the worst thing that could ever happen to him.
It’s not — check with the New York State Attorney General about that, she’s got some plans to harsh his mellow starting at 12:01pm on January 20th — but I don’t mind if he feels that way. He deserves all the misery he heaps upon himself.
5. It took about 15 minutes from the race being called for Biden for conservatives and GOPers to start demanding that Democrats reach across the aisle to them, and Biden, because he’s Biden, has said nice anodyne things about wanting to be the president for all Americans, not just the ones who voted for him. It’s a pretty sentiment that I vaguely approve of in theory but as a practical matter think is… naive as things stand.
Why? Because, look: The modern GOP is a goddamned shithole of money-grubbing white supremacy whose entire political strategy is “fuck you, you get nothing,” and which sees conciliatory acts by the Democrats as a sign of weakness. If every time you reach across the aisle someone stabs you through the hand, you eventually stop reaching, or you’re a fool. I don’t mind if Biden makes some conciliatory gestures, or puts a couple of Republicans into his cabinet, or whatever. He’s a chummy guy and he’s old and thinks the relationships he had in the Senate 20 years ago still matter. And maybe he’s right! Maybe he can move whatever dessicated husk of a soul that resides in Mitch McConnell to cooperate on something. But I sincerely fucking doubt it, and I think he damn well better have a Plan B for after the first time that doesn’t work, which I expect will be, roughly, 12:02pm, January 20th, 2021.
6. By the same token, everyone saying that people who voted for Biden should be nice to the Trump voters’ tender feelings at the moment should maybe take a seat. As I noted in a tweet yesterday:
Trump supporters, if you are coming over here to complain to me that Biden voters are being mean today, I'm going to reply with the following picture and then mute and/or block you. I know this won't stop you. I just want to make sure you understand the process. pic.twitter.com/i60siY9Y8W
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 7, 2020
Let’s not pretend that quite a few of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 spent the last four years reveling in the fact that, since their idol was a raging bigoted asshole, they got to be a raging bigoted asshole as well. Four years of open racist bullshit, of science denial that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, of loud homophobia and transphobia and sexism, of morally plastic “Christianity” and of, yes, seeing “fuck your feelings” as a moral trump card, pun absolutely intended. I don’t have to care what you think, the big toddler I helped put into the White House said I don’t have to.
Then, the instant that big toddler loses, the people who they’ve spent four years screaming Fuck Your Feelings at, whose rights they’ve ignored and tried to curtail, who they’ve openly been bigoted toward, have to, what? Welcome them back into the fold with soothing, comforting hugs? Pretend the last four years didn’t happen? Accept as ground rules for moral behavior things that not only did Trump supporters not accept for themselves, but spent four years celebrating that they were released from? Those Fuck Your Feelings t-shirts didn’t come out of nowhere. There was a market for them. Trump supporters wanted them. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.
We are all Americans, and we all have to work to live together. But let me suggest that at the moment, there are some people who will need to work a little harder at it, and, surprise, it’s not the people who have been having “fuck your feelings” hurled at them for four years. If you’re a Trump supporter and you don’t think it’s fair that you might have to do some work here, well, honey, that’s your privilege showing, and as much as you hate it when other people point that out, it’s a hard fucking fact. It’s totally fair you have to put in a little more work to meet in the middle when you spent the last four years running as far from the middle as you could possibly get.
So get to it! You can do it! I believe in you!
7. Here’s what I wrote yesterday on Twitter about where we are at the moment:
Can't speak for anyone else, but let me say what today feels like to me:
It feels like a fever breaking.
It doesn't mean we're well yet.
It doesn't mean we can't relapse if we don't take care.
It means that the worst is over, and if we take care, we can heal.
And get better.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 7, 2020
Yes, I do actually mean it. Trump is a virus and he infected our body politic, a body that the GOP spent four decades lowering its immune system so that it could receive just the sort moral and political sickness that Trump personifies. And it worked! We got very sick, and we’re very sick still.
But it turns out our antibodies were stronger than suspected. We rallied despite the best efforts of the virus. And now we have the opportunity to get better. It’s not a done deal; the GOP is still out there trying to get us sick again, and our viral load is still regrettably high. But now, at least, there is a chance to rout it and get our body politic healthy again. That works for me, today.