2016 Was Not an Anomaly

As of this writing, we lack certainty regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. But we know enough to be sure that 2016 was not an anomaly. Trump has already surpassed his vote total from 2016 by over 4 million votes.  In the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly a quarter million of our fellow citizens—due in significant part to the incompetent handling of the pandemic—Trump still has a path to a second term.  Despite the open corruption and self-dealing, despite Trump’s racism and misogyny, despite impeachment and a trial for pressuring President Zelensky into opening an investigation into Biden, 4 million more voters want a second Trump term.

Those 4 million additional votes for Trump include improving on his performance with Hispanic voters. While it is easier to see hindsight (as most things are), the combination of the Supreme Court preventing Trump from cancelling DACA, the targeting of previous fear mongering about “caravans” not being directed at Cuban-Americans (or not perceived by them as such), and the successful branding of Democrats as socialists by their GOP opponents seems to have resulted in a faster and clearer result favoring Trump in Florida than in 2016. Even some of those targeted by the caravan rhetoric have not been swayed from their support of Donald Trump. This election should mark the official death of the “demographics is destiny” idea that Democrats have been operating under for many years. As Chris Ladd puts it perfectly in this paragraph from a piece written November 2, 2020:

“Democrats’ POC coalition was premised on the notion that these targets of white racism would recognize their common interests and unite in resistance. Thing is, many don’t want to risk sharing the fate of Blacks in America. Educated whites and more affluent immigrants generally feel safe from being treated like Blacks, but less affluent newcomers on the margins of whiteness don’t. Rather than joining forces with this coalition, many immigrants see an alternative path to safety – becoming white.”

Becoming White: The Weakness in Democrats’ “People of Color” Coalition

Another key factor in Trump’s apparent Florida victory: the successful imposition of what is effectively a poll tax by Florida’s GOP governor and legislature prevented nearly a million Floridians who had completed sentences for felony crimes from voting. They did this in clear defiance of the 65% of Floridians voted in favor of automatic restoration of voting rights in 2018.

While the Democrats appear to have retained control of the House of Representatives (including all 4 original members of The Squad), the majority will be smaller than it was after the 2018 midterms.  Even as Cori Bush joins The Squad, QAnon will seat its first congresswoman, and Madison Cawthorn (known for a bucket list that included visiting Hitler’s Eagles Nest) will become the youngest member of North Carolina’s delegation to Congress–and of the entire body. 

As significant as the uncertainty regarding the presidential election is, the GOP appears to have retained control of the Senate as well. The electorate not seeing fit to punish any of the senators who have enabled all of Trump’s excesses has created a huge opening for a slightly more subtle authoritarian to successfully challenge Biden, Harris, or whoever else the Democrats put up for the presidency in 2024.  Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Tucker Carlson, and/or one of Trump’s children seem likely candidates to at minimum form exploratory committees if not follow through and run to succeed Donald Trump.  Even in the event Trump loses the 2020 election, I would not rule out the prospect of Donald Trump running for re-election in 2024.  

The Senate remaining in GOP hands even if Biden wins kills most (if not all) prospects for meaningful legislation to reform the issues we’ve seen during the past four years. If the latest anti-ACA lawsuit succeeds with the 6 conservative justices now seated on the Supreme Court, millions of Americans will lose the healthcare insurance they gained because of it and millions more (including myself) with pre-existing conditions at risk of becoming uninsured (and uninsurable) due to changes in employment. Without control of the Senate, Democrats would have little power to put a legislative fix into law. The same would be true of nearly any law the GOP chooses to make a court case out of. Because this same Senate has stocked the lower court with Trump appointees (mostly political hacks with law degrees rather than serious jurists), such cases reaching SCOTUS if lower courts don’t rule the way the GOP prefers seems more likely than not. GOP control of the Senate almost certainly puts a wrench in any plans Biden has for staffing cabinet and sub-cabinet positions requiring Senate confirmation.

While it appears that Biden may yet win the presidency, we know that for the second consecutive election and the third in just 20 years, a minority of American voters has (for now) successfully stymied the will of a majority of American voters at the ballot box thanks to the Electoral College.