Five Things, 11/24/20

John ScalziAnd what five things am I thinking about today? Well!

Biden gets 80 million votes: According the Cook Political Report’s Popular Vote Tracker. That’s ten million more than Obama got in 2008 — the previous record for a winning presidential candidate — and currently about six million more votes than Trump got. Percentage-wise Biden’s above 51% while Trump’s at a hair above 47.1%. And this is apparently the best voter turnout in about a century, percentage-wise, with roughly two thirds of eligible voters having voted. As a fan of voting, this warms my heart.

Also, this is a reminder that this election, on the presidential level at least, was not actually anything approaching close: Biden won by a lot in the raw numbers of the popular vote, won by a sizable percentage of the popular vote, won most “battleground” states by wider margins than Trump won in 2016, and, of course, bested Trump in the electoral vote battle with quite a lot of room to spare. I understand it is in the nature of the Trump partisans to suggest this election was closer than it was, and I likewise understand it is in the nature of many Biden voters to want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but, once again: This was not anything approaching close. Trump lost, big time, definitively, and unambiguously.

But the Democrats lost seats in the House and might not take the Senate! Some of you are likely saying. To which my response is: And? I don’t think the modern GOP should be held up as a model of good governance in just about any respect, but I will tell you this much, if everything were reversed, the Republicans would be screaming from the top of their lungs about their “mandate.” I don’t think it would be a bad thing for the Democrats to take a moment from hand-wringing and take a goddamn victory lap or two. And also to tell GOP-leaning people warning them against hubris to take a whole seat and enjoy sitting for a bit.

The market speaks: How does corporate America feel about the transition? It seems pretty happy about it — stocks got a jolt yesterday when Janet Yellen was announced as Biden’s pick for Treasury, and the Dow Jones got up over 30K for the first time in the wake of the official start of the transition. Trump tried to take credit for it, of course, because he would, wouldn’t he. But we know that the reason it’s up is he’s on the way out. In a larger sense, given the general tone of Biden’s staff and cabinet picks — deeply not-radical, and deeply experienced  — it seems like there’s a general sense of relief that grown-ups are going to be in control again soon. Heck, even General Motors is cozying up to Biden, and you know what they say: What’s good for General Motors is good for America.

Yeah, okay, but what about those 74 million Trump voters? Well, what about them? They’re a third of the population, but hard as it may be to believe, not every one of those 74 million people who voted for Trump is a MAGA hat-wearing, Trump-flags-on-the-pickup-truck, switched-to-Newsmax-because-Fox-is-too-liberal sort. While there will always be a hard nugget of these sort of racist dickheads, not to be ignored or discounted, it’s also very likely that a substantial number of the people who voted for Trump will get back to their lives, now that Trump’s dimwitted coup attempt was shown to be farce. He’s a loser now, and there’s no path back from him being a loser. His invulnerability spell has worn off. And while that hard nugget of racist dickheads will continue to argue the election was stolen, I’m going to suggest that at this point most people know better, or will, soon enough.

Again: Not saying that suddenly a whole bunch of Trump voters are suddenly going to say they voted for Biden, or that the GOP, taken as a whole, is going to learn anything — the national GOP response to losing is never “maybe we should stop being racist authoritarians,” it’s always “maybe we weren’t racist and authoritarian enough.” But Trump’s luck has run out. He lost and in January there will be a whole bunch of lawsuits waiting for him, and eventually most of the egregious things he’s done in office will get laid out in public because the government won’t be his personal obstruction machine anymore. It’s not getting better for Trump, and I think that’s going to have an effect on a non-trivial number of his voters. Perhaps it’s already begun.

Then again… there’s that whole thing in Georgia at the moment where some always-Trumpers are threatening to boycott the Senate runoff elections, thus throwing the upper house to the Democrats, because they’re in a fit of pique about the GOP not being attentive to Trump’s tender feelings at the moment. While this is very much of a “don’t threaten me with a good time” scenario for anyone who’d love to see Mitch McConnell stuffed into a box and punted into the proverbial river, I myself am not going to get too excited about it. The runoff elections aren’t until January 5, and there’s a lot of time between now and then, and in that time, Trump’s power will be waning. Also, I think Republican voters in Georgia will be sufficiently motivated regardless of what a bunch of whiny losers are stomping their feet about.

If I had to guess, I would say ultimately this would-be boycott of the GOP isn’t going to have much of an influence. What’s more likely to have an influence is Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts, and the fact that Perdue and Loeffler, the GOP senate candidates, appear to be nakedly corrupt as shit. We’ll see!

Ugh, that was a lot of politics, let’s end with a cat picture. Yes, let’s!

Spice, looking at the camera, looking a little bored.

— JS


51 Comments on “Five Things, 11/24/20”

  1. I’m generally an optimist, but I’m not super optimistic about the Georgia Senate races. It just seems like too much to hope for.

  2. Always good to end with the cat! I have many friends who voted for Trump and they are not the racist dickhead sorts. I suspect Georgia will split those seats to give the GOP a 51-49 advantage and also give Murkowski or Romney some influence. Not Collins, she just got 6 more years and probable won’t care for the firs 3-4 of those.

  3. Color me unimpressed by a 1.5% change in the Dow. If you see a secular trend, then you can talk about joy over the definitive passing of Trump. But I’m about over economics pundits attributing every random fluctuation in the stock market to whatever the big news of the day is. If the Dow loses 1.5% tomorrow, we will say that on second thought business is unhappy with Biden? Why don’t we just admit the truth — the Dow can fluctuate by a percent or two just because it is Tuesday. Day to day changes are random. Only a consistent trend over time demonstrates a meaningful change.

  4. Ending this with a cat pic was a good move. Wow, 1/3 didn’t even vote in this election. That only makes me feel better because that means there are less racist and more indifferent people than I surmised.

  5. In the end it doesn’t matter. We will open the borders, and the new Americans who come in will never forget what the GOP did to them and their families.
    The Rs are done, finished, over with. Trump was their last gasp, now it’s time for the reckoning.

  6. With more than a million people paying for airplane rides last Friday, the market couldn’t help but smile. Presidents really don’t mean a great deal to the stock market, three promising vaccines for Covid means more. Oh, and historically democrats have done better for the market, a 4.25 percent GDP rise over a 2.5 percent republican gain.

    I have long thought that trump was pretty much paralleling the path of Warren G. Harding, though Harding did have a few good things to stuff under his belt. Harding lost and things like the Teapot Dome Scandal rose from the ooze. Now his Wikipedia page is so full it doesn’t even mention his having the Army end the Battle of Blair Mountain.

    After Teapot and few other things cam out, Harding’s legacy was trashed and his followers couldn’t get away fast enough. Modern Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists will have to carve a new niche, then the government will treat them like the vermin so many of them are.

  7. 80,000,000 is the second-most votes ever cast for a single human being in any election ever.

    The most is 85,607,362 for Joko Widodo’s re-election as President of Indonesia last year.

  8. I’m somewhat optimistic that a peaceful transfer will occur but I scare easily when I see something that suggests otherwise. This article is the latest one to scare me:

    When you have people saying:

    “If President Trump comes out and says: ‘Guys, I have irrefutable proof of fraud, the courts won’t listen, and I’m now calling on Americans to take up arms,’ we would go,”

    Then I get even more scared. Hopefully, it’s just talk or a bluff. Trump bluffs a lot and many times he backs down when challenged. I hope this is the case and recent news indicate it probably is now that he has allowed the transition team to start work.

  9. Timeliebe, Pretty sure that beautiful feline is “Spice” — Sugar has more light fur and is less orangish.

  10. Spice is still not impressed. I am SO looking forward to not cringing when reading news about the President (AFTER 20 Jan 2021).

  11. Thanks for the breakdown of Trump voters. I’m a liberal Democrat, happily in an interracial marriage with another guy and my brother (who voted for Trump) has never been anything but 100% supportive.

  12. I agree with you about taking a victory lap. I’ve spent the last week visiting, every 5 minutes or so, just for fun.

  13. But but, 2024!?! He’ll be Biden’s age now.
    He could try to replicate the feat of that great Republican Grover Cleveland.

  14. That is one great photo. The detail and color in the eyes is great.

    Btw is there a way to get the system to save your name? I have to enter my email and name every time. I don’t use FB or Twitter or any such social media.

  15. It’s absolutely great that Biden got 80 million votes, and I’m delighted that he’s going to be president, and we can start to reverse some of the shit that Trump put into place. It’s terrific that we can again look at staffing news and say, “Yeah, that’s good. That’s normal.”

    But I do want to caution people. Remember the ecstasies of 2008? And then in short order we found that we don’t elect messiahs. Obama was about a B+ president, and that’s what we should be expecting from Biden.

    We’re not going to get a universal basic income. We’re not going to get a deeply slashed military budget. We will get improvements in Obamacare but we’re not going to get Medicare for all. We will still have a lot of Republicans in the Senate to deal with, and there will have be to be compromises, and that is all right. And not to mention that we still have a pandemic to deal with.

    There’s a lot of hard work ahead, and we just have to get through it.

  16. Hey, Steve!

    I think it’s worse than that. Both Clinton and Obama came in with a progressive shopping list. Each got trashed by their own party. The troglodyte-Dems killed real national health care, green initiatives and gay rights advances. Twice.

    ‘Tweren’t the Republicans. That’s a Democratic Party myth, blaming it all on those recalcitrant Repubs. For the first two years of each, the Dems owned the government, with votes to spare. And what did we get from them? Yeah, weak-weak sauce.

    Even if by some miracle we do win both seats in Georgia, anyone who thinks a Democratic party with no votes to spare is going to enact major advances has paid no attention to history.

    What we’ll get is competent government. something we used to take for granted, but now it’s something we have to strive for. Dammit.

    pax / Ctein

  17. Its a reflection of the insanity of the Electoral College that this election was actually very, very close. Certainly closer than Trump’s 2016 bid. In 2016 there were three tipping point states that put Trump over the top: WI, MI, and PA. Trump won those three states by a combined margin 107,105 votes. In 2020 the three key tipping point states for Biden were WI, AZ, and GA. If he loses those three it’s a 269-269 tie and Trump wins in the House. Biden’s combined margin in those three states was 42,560. For perspective, 42K people would only fill 2/3’s of an average NFL stadium… So even though Biden won the highest percentage of the popular vote of any challenger since FDR vs. Hoover and even though he received 80M freaking votes, if 22,000 people had voted differently we’d buckling in for Trump 2.0.

  18. Brendon, you aren’t the first person who has commented on this site about how close Biden’s victory was in the electoral college or by a three-state vote total, and I’m sorry–no offense intended, certainly not to you personally, but I just don’t get it. In any context. Why do you consider AZ, GA, and WI to be Biden’s “tipping point” states? WI, okay, I can see that one–but if Biden had lost AZ and GA and won WI, MI, and PA, he’d still have won the electoral college by 279 votes. (Actually, if he’d won PA and MI and any one of WI, GA, and AZ, he’d still have won the electoral college. More, if he’d lost WI while winning MI, PA, and either AZ and GA, his total would actually have been higher. But he wasn’t supposed to win either AZ or GA, and the vote margins in each of those states were thinner than in WI, so leave it at WI.) 279-259 might have been frighteningly close, especially compared to the popular vote totals, but still: Biden won the election by turning WI, MI, and PA back to blue, not by winning AZ and GA. AZ and GA were just the states that made it a substantial victory, not all that close as electoral college wins go. The “tipping points” in both 2016 and 2020 were WI, MI, and PA, and Biden won those three states by substantially more votes (250,000 to about 95,000) than Trump did, with Michigan making the biggest difference.

    I agree that the electoral college is a deeply goofy way of choosing a president, and 2016 in particular demonstrates just how goofy. (To be clear: I say that because of the difference between the electoral college total and the popular vote, not because of who won.) But in 2020, the popular vote and the electoral college vote agreed, and calling 2020 a “very, very close” election just doesn’t make sense to me. It really wasn’t as close as 2016 in the raw vote totals, and it was exactly the same in the electoral vote.

    In other words, I don’t think that 2020 a particularly good an example of “why we should get rid of the electoral college.” We’ve certainly got better ones to look back on and regret.

  19. I’m all for victory laps. But you know, change doesn’t come from the government. Change comes from people, changing the way people near them and then in general think, changing what the society in general finds is right. Government gives you reforms. Sometimes, when the stars align, you may get a lot of sweeping reforms in a short period of time. But that’s when you’ve spent possibly decades laying down the groundwork. What you should expect from government is competent government. Where you should expect change is, well, yourself and other people interested in making that change happen.

    This all also means that I tend not to be too disappointed when governments don’t perform miracles. Especially if it’s a country such as the United States that, from a Northern European perspective, has a centre-right party (Democrats) and a far-right party (Republicans) and where a figure that would be a slightly-left-of-center traditional Social Democrat in Northern Europe (Sanders) is often seen as a far-left radical. I’m just happy when they perform reforms that go into a right direction. Of course, the problem with this is that with some things, we’re really running out of time. Such as the climate crisis.

    Anyway. It’s great to see the US back in the game again.

  20. Trumpists might not be wholly comprised of ultra- racist, Maga Hat sporting, flag brandishing bath salt zombies, but the ones not under this heading shouldn’t be dismissed as generally innocuous political opponents likely to retreat into silent petulance.

    I think we need to be very concerned about the degree to which the more “reasonable” Trump supporters handwaved the four-year assault on the rule of law, violent put downs of BLM protests, a deadly, partisan and feckless pandemic response and racist, immigration -related atrocities like family separations and forcible hysterectomies for female concentration camp prisoners.

    We need to be a bit more concerned about the rather sizable selfish contingent bent on doing Thanksgiving as usual and attending huge weddings as one of 7, 000 bare-faced guests.

    I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s a lot easier to dismiss and/or relax in the presence of Trump enthusiasts when the stances they take and the policies in which they believe aren’t likely to harm you or yours in any significant way.

    The ones in my square of California (keep in mind that this is a blue state) have and continue to be vocal and worse when expressing their attitudes toward liberals and marginalized groups.

    I strongly suspect that a good portion of the “reasonable” ones are on parlor expressing their willingness and ability to assist the war effort in any way they can.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt that I am.

    I also hesitate to dismiss as outliers’ stories of post-election harassment by white supremacist Trumpkins bent on making black and brown America pay again.

  21. @Janne, change can come from people. From what I’ve seen in people, in the US, in 2020, in their own voices … that terrifies me.

    I don’t have words to not both-sides this. I’m not a centrist. I can no longer keep an open mind about Republican candidates, so I’m not an independent or undecided. In my voting-age life, my GOP presidents have been George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Both got to the White House over the wishes of the people we chose to lead us, and by unhappy coincidence both of them are defined by their disastrous governance.

    I’ve also seen the GOP devolve from “government is the problem” rhetoric to internalizing it as an ideology. They no longer believe in governance. Under Bush 43, Republicans lied to get us into a war and from 9-11 to the 2006 midterms, the GOP response to criticism was “Why do you hate America?” They governed on that for 5 years. We then had the Tea Party in 2010, which was truly when the GOP disbelieved governance. This was a crescendo to Trump, and the GOP now rejects objective reality.

    I’m not a Republican because I don’t want to be judged by the company I keep.

    I’m a liberal, and I use that to mean something to distinguish me from the company I am keeping. I can keep company among the left, and in California that’s unavoidable in any place that’s not sparsely populated mountain or desert. Yet I am not one of them and can’t be moved.

    I’m not a progressive (meaning self-described, or a Bernie Bro, or AOC stan, or a Chapo Trap House listener, or one of those people with a rose emoji by their name). The tendency among this group is to pursue a maximalist Scandinavian-style social democracy agenda, believing this is the key to ending inequality. The thing is, what they want is a unicorn. They want too much, too soon, and have no interest in the details to making their vision to work.

    I’m also not … I don’t know what the descriptor is for this group, but if I knew it I probably wouldn’t say it because they are easily hurt. It’s a non-Black person describing themself as Woke unironically. It’s someone who is really well-educated, probably has a postgraduate degree and might have a faculty job. What gives them away is the vocabulary that appears nowhere else in lived experience except for a thesis or dissertation. They vocalize their emotional and physical distress and tend to meme affirmation messages. I check my privilege to the point where I can walk on eggshells with the grace of a ballerina.

    Again, this group’s heart is in the right place and we should be grateful for them for raising their voices and spotlighting the manifold injustices of US history especially for us who are cishet, white and/or male. Yet, an ideology based on a politics of the lived experiences of individuals and shared experiences of groups is a doomed project.

    It will open more wounds than it will heal — a key bloc of the Trump coalition is the mirror image of this, an identity politics of the powerful and privileged whose status is in doubt. And the progressives do raise an important point: The material well-being of people is as important as their emotional and psychological well-being.

    Both progressives and this avant-garde group though are rooted in movements with an imagined conception of a better future but lack a conception of power to get us from here to there or a proof of concept on how it should be done.

    Liberals at least have this. Liberals are less progressive and less woke or not at all, but are also less rigid about these categories. Liberals, like our conservative opposites, can point to a lived history and an actual conception of having wielded power — as well as the capability to moderate and clean up from more intemperate movements.

  22. You would think I would be sick of politics after the past mind-numbing five years, reaching a fever pitch of insanity in the last year. But I’m actually feeling more engaged than ever. Maybe I’ve developed a flat-out addiction to MSNBC and Colbert, but I’ll take it. I’m optimistic for the first time that I can even remember.

  23. Thanks, John an excellent summary.

    @ Brandon
    Math’s not my strong suit, but even I understand that Biden will win the EC by exactly the same numbers as the trump “historic landslide” (sic). He’s got a popular vote margin of 8 million and won the swing states by larger margin than trump did in ‘16. In other words, a strong mandate.

  24. In general, I agree about unicorns, utopian visions and well-meaning but privileged denizens of woke Ville.

    These types will dogpile a black person for speaking in a specific rhetorical situation and in a way that offends their well-meaning sensibilities.

    More importantly, nothing says offensive and counterproductive like ethnically and culturally privileged “allies” whose outrage on our behalf stems from the assumption that we’re defenseless lambs too weak or ignorant to mount an effective counterattack against white supremacists.

    Such assumptions almost always give birth to tone arguments designed to silence us when we dare to set boundaries or are insufficiently deferential or appreciative of their efforts.

    We also get strawman arguments to the tune of “you just want me to apologize for being white.”

    These things make me want to quit talking to white people about race altogether.

    If I’m reading you correctly, you seem to be arguing that identity politics will ultimately “open more wounds than [they] will heal.”

    My question is, who will be wounded and how?

    Robin DiAngelo, Bell Hooks and other critical race theorists and scholars are quite correct in their observations about race relations in America.

    Hooks, in particular, eschews buzzwords in favor of easily digestible terms that black folks and their allies recognize and experience on a regular basis.

    White fragility has and continues to rear its ugly head, particularly in conversations with those who dislike wokeness and cancel culture.

    It’s easy to see how the criticisms of “woke culture” are, at their core, attributable to fragility and status anxiety, especially when most of said critics tend to operate on lower difficulty settings and out of the line of fire of those that the woke are trying to combat.

    So again, who will be hurt, the targets of woke culture or those they are trying to protect?

    Is the solution to sit patiently as incremental justice unfolds?

    Should the woke roll over and go back to sleep until privilege holders and protectors have an epiphany?

    Most importantly, who will be wounded in the meantime?

    Overcorrection is certainly not the way to go, but waiting patiently for folks with no reason to wake doesn’t sound like a winning strategy, either.

  25. Bobson:”The thing is, what they want is a unicorn. They want too much, too soon, ”

    “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

    The civil rights movement was progressive. The biggest hurdle to civil rights was the white moderate. I.e. the “liberal”.

    If a progressive holds a sign saying “justice now!” rest assured there is a liberal somewhere in a chair saying “maybe we should wait”.

  26. Brendon: Trump’s margin in the three states you mention was 76,000, not 107,000. But why quibble?

    John is right. Check 2001, for example, Bush “won” by winning Florida by 537 (or whatever) votes, yet they immediately acted like they had a HUGE mandate and governed accordingly. You cannot be like Obama, bend over backwards to accommodate people whose only agenda is to beat you at any cost, and, in effect, negotiate against yourself.

  27. Jeff, mea culpa for the math error. The point I was making was simply that Biden’s actual margin of victory came down to 42,000 votes spread across three states. If he’d lost those three, he’d have lost the election. To me that seems closer than Trump’s margin of victory which was produced by 76K votes spread across three states.

    In 2020 it looks we had roughly 90M people vote — when an election involving 90M votes comes down to 42K votes that seems really close. And I do think that it reflects many of the fundamental problems of the EC because from any other reasonable perspective Biden’s win was very solid. Largest share of the popular vote since 1932 for a challenger. Largest total number of votes ever won by an American presidential candidate. Yet, it really did all come down to 42K votes — and if those votes had gone differently Biden would still have had the largest vote share since 1932 and the largest total number of votes ever, but he’d be going home to Delaware and Trump would be getting sworn for term number 2.

    And I agree that the attitude the Biden administration should take is that they won a historic mandate because when it comes to the what the people actually expressed at the ballot box Biden-Harris *did* win a historic mandate. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the election that actually mattered, the EC, wasn’t absurdly close and doesn’t reflect the massive structural challenges the EC presents.

  28. Driving through Fulton County, PA, yesterday (fittingly enough, the county seat is McConnellsville), it seemed as though there were somewhat fewer Trump signs, huge flags, etc. than in August. We were hoping to see people in the act of taking their signs down. Probably they do so under cover of night. One new wrinkle was the appearance of “Who killed Seth Rich?” signs – this, only hours before Fox News settled with Rich’s parents for promoting the rumors surrounding the case. I fear there will always be a tendency for human brains to seize upon conspiracy theories.

  29. As any economist or stock analyst will tell you “the stock market is not the economy, and the economy is not the stock market.” Frankly I don’t know why any U.S. president would want to take credit for the whimsical markets.

    After four years in the White House our current president is still clueless to the difference between the markets and the economy. That was obvious when stocks fell after Trump tweeted, “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.” And Trump continues to tout “your 401Ks” when millions have lost their jobs.

    The markets don’t reflect what is happening in the economy. Tens of thousands of businesses have permanently closed because of the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of people in food lines in Texas and the rest of the country because of lost incomes. COVID-19 infections and death rates continue the rise in the U.S. and the markets and our current president are oblivious.

  30. The most extreme instance of Democrats sabotaging progressive changes, it’s hard to surpass their rejection of Nixon’s plans for a form of universal health care, which included employer mandates, buy-in option for a greatly expanded Medicare/Medicaid system, and cost control through HMOs and other measures. The unions objected to an extra deduction, apparently.

    Round two never happened, thanks to Watergate.

  31. Brendon: The point I was making was simply that Biden’s actual margin of victory came down to 42,000 votes spread across three states. If he’d lost those three, he’d have lost the election. To me that seems closer than Trump’s margin of victory which was produced by 76K votes spread across three states. In 2020 it looks we had roughly 90M people vote — when an election involving 90M votes comes down to 42K votes that seems really close.

    But it didn’t come down to 42,000 votes. If you want to contrast the two elections in terms of three states, you really need to use the SAME three states in both elections. Biden won MI, WI, and PA by a lot more than Trump did in 2016. I’d also point out that if Trump had lost WI, MI, and PA in 2016, he would not even have tied the election (as would have happened if Biden had lost GA, AZ, and WI in 2020); Trump would have lost the election. However, if Biden had lost WI, MI, and PA in 2020, he also would have lost the election–which is why those are the tipping point states in both 2016 and 2020–but again, Biden won the three tipping point states by around 250,000 votes, while Trump won them by 95,000 or so. And Biden didn’t really need WI to win, since he took AZ and GA, too.

    Look. I don’t think any of us should rest in our easy chairs saying “Job Done!” and toasting each other in victory at this point, or saying “See? You/we can relax now” to the people who spent the Trump presidency with their hearts in their throats, wondering what would happen to them next. None of us can relax. As several people point out in this thread, there is a great deal of work left to be done (and no, I’m not talking about the Georgia Senate races–or at least, not only). 74,000,000 people voted for Trump. For some of them, sanity may return; Trump’s behavior this past month may be a bridge too far, and the aura of “I’m a winner!” had been replaced with the Loser label. I devoutly hope that happens, for their sake and for the country’s sake, but I’m not counting on it and I’m not automatically forgiving them (if they do come to their senses) or any Trump voter for the last four years. Forgiveness has to be earned by more than just an “Oops, my bad.” But none of my fears for the future change the fact that the 2020 presidential election was not particularly close as far as U.S. presidential elections go–and that means that those of us who wanted to change the course of this country did make a start. Maybe it’s like turning the Queen Mary, a long, slow, process–but you know what? Change usually is. The electoral college doesn’t really make working towards that change all that much more difficult, goofy as it is and much as I think it needs to change.

    Sorry. I seem to have gotten a bit heated, especially since I don’t disagree with what I think is the important part of your comments–we live in a divided country, and the electoral college is not a democratic (small-d) way of choosing a president–but honestly: denying facts isn’t good on any side of the political discussion, and saying that “Oh my God! This is election was SO CLOSE!” is really twisting what actually happened.

  32. But the Democrats lost seats in the House and might not take the Senate! Some of you are likely saying. To which my response is: And?

    Not winning the Senate means the door stays open for a Trump wannabe to walk through. Biden can do good work through executive action, but any real reform will require the force of law. Clearly, the Department of Justice requires stronger oversight. The Hatch Act needs enforcement mechanisms that go beyond what is currently in place. Congressional subpoenas are apparently useless. We can’t claim to have survived trumpism until the system of checks and balances are repaired.

  33. Mary, for Biden a tie in the EC would have been a lose though, right? The GOP controls more house delegations than the Democratic Party and would have elected Trump. So but for 42,000 votes in AZ, WI, and GA Biden ties the EC and then loses the election. In 2016, but for 77K votes in WI, PA, and MI Trump would have lost. Now I understand the temptation of saying “but Biden won WI, PA, and MI by a much greater margin” — and that’s true, but not necessarily relevant to the question of “was the election close?”. I’m just looking at what it would have taken for Biden to lose the election. And but for 42K votes in WI, AZ, and GA Biden does not win the electoral college – he achieves a tie. That tie gets broken by the house in Trump’s favor. So from where I’m standing the bottom line seems to be that Trump’s margin of victory came down to 77K votes in three states. Biden’s margin of victory comes down in 42K votes in three states (granted not the same threes states). 42K votes seems like a very close margin in an election involving many millions of voters. And again, I get it, by any rationale perspective Biden won a large win — but the EC isn’t very rationale and Biden’s EC victory ultimately rode on a very small number of votes. Now absolutely he has every right to claim a mandate in light of the how the citizens of the nation as a whole voted — but its symptomatic of the problems presented by the EC that even with a very substantial popular vote win, changing 42K votes in three states would have left him a looser.

  34. Brendan: Biden a tie in the EC would have been a lose though, right?

    Maybe. There are things the democrats in the House could have done to have prevented a Biden win, as a previous Whatever post indicated. The point is, we don’t know–which means that a tie isn’t an automatic loss for Biden. And I repeat: it didn’t happen, and doesn’t seem all that relevant to a Biden loss in terms of vote totals, in that a tie isn’t a loss in vote totals.

    To get back to your insistence on focussing on GA, AZ, and WI–may I point out that however big Trump’s vote margin was in those three states in 2016, two of those were reliably Republican states. That Biden won GA and AZ is frankly amazing, no matter what the vote margins; he had to make up a LOT more ground there than the final vote margin indicates. Similarly, in 2016, Trump had to flip two more reliably Democratic states (PA and MI) to win, and did so by a lot less than Biden won them back by in 2020.

    You can pick any three states Biden won or any three Trump won/almost won and make the electoral college vote look either close or wide, but that’s dangerously close to sophistry, in my opinion. The fact is, Biden won the three states he needed to win to clinch an EC victory (PA, MI, and WI) and focussing on AZ, GA, and WI as a sign of how “close” the election was is misleading. If Biden hadn’t won in PA, MI, and WI, then what happened in AZ and GA would have been irrelevant. End result? Biden won both the electoral college and the popular vote by a relatively large margin; this election just isn’t all that good an example of how undemocratic (again, small-d) the electoral college is–there are better examples, and anyone who wants to argue towards changing the system would be better off looking back to those for evidence.

    And . . . as I type this, and go back over our comments, I suspect Our Host is about to bring the Mallet down on us for going around in circles (if not for getting off topic). So, maybe we need to accept that we aren’t going to convince each other–that we are interpreting the facts differently, at least–and let it go for now. Okay by you?

  35. There’s one way in which the election can be said to have been close.

    Biden got 306 electoral votes. Take away Wisconsin (~20K votes; 0.7%), Georgia (~13K votes;0.25%) and Arizona (~10K votes; 0.3%), and Biden wonds up with 269, one short of what he needed to win, and Trump winning a contingent election in the House.

    Contrast this to 2016. Trump got 306 electoral votes. Take away his 3 closest states, Pennsylvania (~44K; 0.72%), Wisconsin (~23K; 0.77%), and Michigan (~11K; 0.23%) and he would have lost. But his vote margins were bigger in his 3 decisive states.

    In this one way, Biden’s margin was narrower.

  36. Michael, only if you assume that Trump would automatically win a contingent election in the House. Again, I don’t think that’s something we can accept as Fact. But framing the numbers this way (rather than referring to “tipping point states”) does make the comparison more valid–it just doesn’t mean (it seems to me) that Biden’s electoral college win was all that close, overall, and hence I don’t find it particularly good evidence that the electoral college is undemocratic. Unless you believe that Trump’s victory in 2016 was not an even better example of how goofy the electoral college is? Because I think that that is much better evidence, myself. Ditto Bush/Gore in 2000, even before the Supreme Court got involved. Or, for that matter, any other presidential election in which the electoral college winner lost the popular vote (Adams, Hayes, and Harrison); 2000 and 2016 weren’t the first time that happened, after all, and I honestly don’t think we could stand a third occasion. I find it kind of a miracle that minority-win split hadn’t happened since the 19th century, as it is.

    I think pointing out that we’ve had two minority-popular-vote presidents in less than 20 years is better evidence than 2020 could ever be. We are again a divided nation–we can’t take this risk any more than we could afford to in the decades surrounding the Civil War (both before and after), or at least we shouldn’t. But arguing “this was close!” isn’t going to change people’s minds about the electoral college. At least, I don’t think it will. Rather, I suspect that pointing at 2020 as a “close” election when it really isn’t will let people relax into believing that the electoral college works, or at least is irrelevant and not worth trying to change, and that . . . is disturbing.

  37. You know what? I just realized something (hence the separate post–sorry, John). Part of my obduracy stems from the current context. If we revisit this conversation in, oh, about three months, once Biden is safely in the White House and Trump is banished to wherever, I may be able to accept discussions of the Electoral College and the closeness of the election as part of a conversation mostly about the Electoral College and how undemocratic it is. Right now, I immediately think “It wasn’t that close,” and “I have to speak up about how not-close it was, because Trump supporters want to believe it was that close, because then they can believe it was stolen.” And I just can’t hold back.

    We’re going to have enough problems dealing with the people who believe that the election was stolen without giving them even a smidgen of an inch, which is what I genuinely feel the “close election” argument is doing–and that probably at least partly accounts for the way I can’t leave the subject alone. I apologize, and I’ll back off for a month or two.

  38. I’ve seem to have struck a nerve with Sarah Marie and thinkthankthunk, and they are in agreement that it’s American liberals, their allies, that are at the root of their personal and political frustrations.

    I guess Freud’s narcissism of small differences or Rene Girard’s terror is vindicated. Way to go!

    What would happen if the liberal were to leave Sarah Marie and thinkthankthunk in a room together? The two would claw each other’s eyes out.

    If liberals are out of the way, woke culture and progressive culture have differences that are profoundly different and lead to opposite conclusions that will leave the culture with the upper hand making the other miserable.

    Progressive culture sees conflict stemming from real and perceived economic unfairness. Even when it’s not explicitly Marxist, the problem is material in nature (countable units of wealth and/or power with a few getting more and better units and the rest getting fewer and worse units) and is solved by changing the distribution in the opposite direction.

    Woke culture sees conflict stemming from real and perceived psychological unfairness. It’s harder to quantify and evaluate than economic unfairness because it’s inherently subjective, but a close approximation for measurement is identity. These identities then try to find common cause in shared lived experiences. This culture, though, does not seem to be interested much in materially redistributive issues. Instead, it sees identity groups possessing something else: lived experiences of trauma. The progressives’ conception of wealth and power affect them at the mental level, and forgo material claims believing it’s money and power itself that are corrupting influences.

    In the US, both of these groups tend to vote Democratic, which as an institution tries not to lean too heavily into either camp anymore. And voting for Democrats is pretty much by default. A Republican can blithely look you in the face, invoke some grand claim (to history, religion, morality, etc.) and then say the world is just and your misery is of your own making.

    To the progressive, the Republican says: Your parents raised a bad child/you did bad at school/you do bad at work or life. To the woke, the Republican says: You are too soft/you are too weak/you are too nice/you’re too obsessed with sex and/or feelings.

    You might like to have a political program on your own, but you have to settle for the party that will entertain your ideas. Only thing is, if we do implement your ideas, it’s slower than you like, it doesn’t help as many people as you like, and you never get to feel like you gain anything by participating.

    Yet there are people who are working behind the scenes on your behalf to advance your interests or defend them from reaction. Society’s problems aren’t because members of society are insufficiently progressive or woke. What Democrats lack in progressiveness or wokeness, they make up with expertise, experience and an ability to channel tensions toward projects that can work toward a common purpose.

    Without this, neither woke nor progressive cultures would have common cause against a more homogeneous adversary and instead spend your time litigating each others’ faults if you didn’t have a liberal to punch sideways at. Woke culture tends to come from the universities and people have the time and the place to evaluate their identities. (So do progressives, oddly enough, but they give voice to the problems and solutions of the American working class and rooted in fulfilling material wants and needs.)

    Woke culture tends to see the end of politics as therapeutic, as it conceives political conflict as abuse. Progressive culture tends to see the end of politics as redistributive, as a zero-sum smashmouth conflict of haves and have-nots. Their vocabularies reflect their values; woke culture uses multisyllabic words and phrases that require a higher level of education to understand. Progressive culture, meanwhile, speaks in the language of the commoner and the peasant. They use everyday words and don’t blush at vulgarity, profanity and insults but don’t think about how words can hurt.

    Notice how thinkthankthunk perceives liberals as timid or soft. On behalf of liberals, I disagree but your objections are noted. Now, how would Sarah Marie feel? Your perceptions of liberals’ lack of courage are common dog-whistles of how women and LGBTQ+ are perceived, and liberals have learned from woke culture to choose our words better because they are conceived differently by others and have the power to hurt. Who’s going to tell thinkthankthunk’s camp to watch their words? The working class doesn’t take too kindly to scolding.

  39. Sigh. I did call it, didn’t I?

    Translation: “I’ve always been kind to you people.”

    Add to that the healthy heaps of “be deferential and appreciative or else” and “we’re the adults in the room and you need us more than we need you” and you’ve got the same ole bog standard, lower difficulty setting faire marginalized groups have been choking down for decades.

    Attitudes like yours are the product of the kind of privilege that enables certain democrats to speak so dispassionately about political subgroups and marginalized communities to which they do not belong.

    They feel no urgency because they don’t need to, as neither they nor anyone they love or care about experiences marginalization, discrimination or subjectivity-related violence the way that “the other” does.

    From the safety of their identities, they shake their fingers at marginalized groups who either hesitate or flatly refuse to begin the healing process with Trump supporters.

    More often than not, their requisite (insert marginalized group here) friends (because there is almost always a …friend) are the go-along-to-get-along types, the kind that are so “cool” that they’ll shrug off racist jokes and tone-deaf observations about people of their community so that the privileged folks in the group aren’t themselves uncomfortable.

    They are why Michael Harriot’s Dear John letter to the democratic party continues to resonate with black folks, even as we continue to eat alone, wait up, slather makeup over the cuts and bruises and except the flowers.

    As an African American woman with multiple disabilities, I appreciate woke- culture’s efforts on my behalf.

    I appreciate that there are people on lower difficulty settings with the moral courage to call out members of their own tribe without needing to be thanked for it.

    Are there instances in which they do more harm than good? absolutely.

    Still, I’m not as worried that they’ll join forces with their tribe (tribe specifically meaning white folks on the left and right) in a pinch or walk past deplorable standards because they haven’t any skin in the game.

    Your initial post thrums with outrage at the whipper-snappers of the party who keep leaving social justice pamphlets on your lawn.

    Like most opponents of political correctness, you find the task of keeping mindful of groups to which you do not belong to be onerous.

    Snowflakes have invaded the party and put you on notice, so you now must “walk on eggshells” (cute little man of straw ya got there)so as not to inflame the mob of hypersensitive SJW’s and their marginalized charges whose obsession with the world as it should be is hampering their ability to understand or except the world as it is.

    Essentially, you want folks on higher difficulty settings and those willing to make waves on their behalf to sit down, shut up and quit rocking the boat because Being too vocal against the status quo is politically inconvenient.

    You don’t see the urgency because it doesn’t impact you in any meaningful way.

    You dress it up in a lot of analytical language, but it’s just so much lipstick.

    As for who’ll tell “working classfolks” (I’m sure I don’t have to inform you that the overlap between working class folks and marginalized folks is a thing) what to say, raises hand.

    I’m an equal opportunity caller outer, hence my refusal to let your anti-PC strawmen fly.

    Waves by, Felicia, from a higher difficulty setting.

  40. @Mary Frances

    When I say the election was “close,” I only mean that it would not have taken a lot to give us a different outcome. Trump doing slightly better nationally might have produced the margins he needed in the 3 decisive states, just as Clinton doing a bit better nationally might have denied him those margins in 2016. How close did our democracy come to dying on Nov 3rd, 2020? Uncomfortably close.

    On the other hand, I agree with your general point that it is absurd to call an election in which Biden won the popular vote by a huge margin ‘close’ in any way shape or form.

    As to a contingent election, had we come to that, there would have been one vote per state. At this point in the House elections, the Democrats have majorities in the House delegations in 20 states, the Republicans have majorities in 25 states (including 2 that voted for Biden – Georgia and Wisconsin), and 4 delegations are tied. One state, Iowa, has 4 seats, 2 of which were won by Republicans, one of which was won by Democrats, and one of which is unresloved and may come down to a single-digit margin of votes. If that seat goes to the Republicans, they would win a contigent election with 26 votes. If that seat goes to the Democrats, a contingent election would be a stalemate, and with no winner Nancy Pelosi would become acting President.

  41. @Sarah Marie: As you say, the work still to be done isn’t just for the Georgia US Senate seats. Democrats also need to start yesterday on preparing for the 2022 midterms. I haven’t looked up where the in-play seats are, but I’m certain it’ll be an opportunity to *really* flip it blue and to continue bucking the trend of Dem voters taking their eyes off the ball when the presidency isn’t at stake.

  42. Yay for Biden/Harris’s historically high vote count and six million vote margin. Statistics wonk that I am, I continue to track this still-unfolding story here, adding links as I find interesting relevant bits such as a recent Knight Foundation study of the diverse reasons why qualified American voters don’t go to the polls (and no, inability to get time to go vote isn’t a significantly prominent reason):

    The Trumpistas’ new Dolchstoßlegende is a serious medium-term threat to the Republic, and IMO needs serious attention. Having tens of millions of citizens buying into a dangerous delusion cannot just be shrugged off, and certain ringleaders ought, for starters, to be reviled as the quislings they have been acting like, e.g., Sen. Graham with his attempts to get Georgia votes discarded wholesale. The relevant question is not whether he violated criminal statutes, but rather whether he acted to sabotage his country, and he now gets to wear that well-turned coat.

    It’s going to take long years to get out of this mess, and incremental hard work rather than quick systemic fixes, fighting the pandemic, getting the conspiracy-mongering delusion out of politics, getting the big money out of politics, forbidding gerrymandering, protecting the right to vote, and so on. Stacey Abrams, in Georgia, showed us how to do an important part of it. We ought to do likewise.

  43. @CartoonCoyote:


    The attempt on the life of our democracy is a clear indication that hibernating from presidential election to presidential election is dangerous in the extreme, particularly when Qanon subscribers and other …characters are gaining enough traction to actually get elected to congress.

    Checks and balances have been bent over the table throughout the past four years, but the Obama administration illustrated how and why they can be weaponized by the opposition.

    Ultimately, Trumpists are not going to take their trouncing lying down. Those who don’t take up arms and hit the streets to go-a-huntin are likely going to devote their efforts to hobbling the Biden/Harris administration so that nothing, save the things that most benefit them and theirs, gets done.

    They are going to do everything they can to drown the house and senate in red in 2022, and we’ll definitely need to keep and encourage other democrats of all stripes to keep the same energy that had us coming out in force to oust Trump and his merry band of half-baked incompetents.

    We’re splintered right now, and the discontent is such that cohesion will be a bit of a struggle.

    Some of us know the sky is falling because chunks of it are taking bloody divots out of our heads and faces.

    Others are plugging their ears, hiding in their nice warm caves and denying the very existence of the thing we call a sky.

    Here’s hoping all factions of the party can grin and bear it, awkward family photo style, when the time comes to present a show of force at the polls.

    More importantly, here’s hoping there are candidates who actually give a damn about folks outside the “pragmatic” wing of the democratic party.

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