Sometime very soon — quite possibly today — Joe Biden will secure the 270 electoral votes he needs to become the 46th president of the United States. Pennsylvania will put him over the top; and it’s possible he will also flip Georgia.
Tune out the crazy and the hysterical. Ignore the hand-wringing about recounts and lawsuits. Biden is on track to win more than 300 electoral votes and more popular votes than any presidential candidate in history — possibly more than 80 Million.
And he will have decisively defeated Donald J. Trump.
Could we talk about that for a moment?
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 76 days until the Inauguration.
The timeline of the vote counting on Tuesday seems to have obscured a basic fact here: the American people have fired Trump.
Yes, Democrats underperformed, and yes, millions of Americans voted for the Orange Man. Trumpism was not thoroughly repudiated the way many of us wanted. It is also true that Trump will remain a toxic presence in the GOP.
But, we are getting some exceedingly strange takes, like one that declared “Trump’s losing. He also won again,” arguing that “even in a loss, Trump’s clout and support has somehow grown.”
There was more like that.
Over at Axios, we were told that “Win or lose, President Trump will emerge more powerful than ever inside the GOP, by defying expectations for himself and lifting fellow Republicans to surprise victories in the House and Senate.”
Actually, no. Really, no.
He will not be “more powerful than ever,” because he won’t be president anymore.
Being president is quite powerful.
Being a defeated ex-president is quite a bit less powerful.
Being a disgraced ex-president is even worse.
Sure, Trump will hang around and retain “a powerful psychic hold over the party.” He could also “create a parallel government-in-waiting, wielding control over Republicans, and heckling and hounding Biden — and the media.” He might even try to run in 2024 and could effectively freeze out other candidates for months, or even years.
But the reality is that on January 20, 2021, Trump will be leaving the White House as a one-term president, rejected by the voters, stripped of power, and facing a world of legal and financial hurt.
He will also be trailing clouds of failure.
It’s worth remembering this: Donald Trump began the year with his impeachment and trial for abusing his power; he badly bungled a pandemic that has infected more than 9.5 million Americans and killed 234,000 so far. His failures and corruption will have a long tail, lingering for years over our culture, economy, and lives.
None of it will look better in retrospect.
He coarsened our discourse, trafficked in racism and poisonous conspiracy theories, and winked at voter intimidation and violent vigilantism. He will undoubtedly continue to do so.
His failed campaign devolved into a series of reckless super-spreader events. All the while he continued to abuse his office for personal gain, lied incessantly, and tried to weaponize the Department of Justice against his enemies. He called men and women who served their country “suckers and losers,” and his financial house of cards was exposed when we got a look at his taxes.
If Trump’s history is any guide, he has saved the worst for last, as he launches his post-presidential grievance movement.
Donald Trump’s final days in office will be like so much of his presidency; chaotic, bitter, corrupt, and shambolic. He will undermine the institutions of our democracy, scatter pardons like skittles, and he will embarrass his friends. He will be petulant and vengeful. He might not even show up for the Inauguration.
But two days ago, the voters threw him out of office. It was a very specific and very personal verdict rendered by the largest vote in American history.
And Trump knows it, even if the pundits don’t.
Rage against the vote. I have a possibly contrarian take here. Despite the volume of the Trump/GOP complaints about the election, and despite the lawsuits and protests… it feels like they are really just going through the motions here.
As Judd Legum notes, Trump’s various lawsuits sound ominous, raising the possibility of court decisions that could overturn the results of the election. “But if you look at the details of these cases,” he notes, “they are far less menacing. They appear mostly designed to generate headlines that Trump is contesting the outcome, rather than cases that could determine the outcome of the race.”
Rudy is a tell.
Actually, it seemed very much on brand this year. But Rudy’s presence also suggests the deep unseriousness of the legal effort. I had some thoughts yesterday:
Another tell? The protests are incoherent to the point of self- parody:
Emily Nussbaum @emilynussbaumSo in some parts of the country, Republican crowds are chanting “count those votes“ and in other parts, “stop the count“??
Recount? Here in Wisconsin, we have some experience with that.
Scott Walker @ScottWalkerIf it holds, 20,000 is a high hurdle. https://t.co/Mb9Z0siYhY
1. The Day After
In 2016, 46 percent of the American people voted for Donald Trump. They were willing to take a gamble on an outsider, a businessman, a celebrity, against an unpopular Hillary Clinton. They could also tell themselves there would be constraints on his behavior, from his own party, and from Congress.
Now, after four years of seeing Donald Trump govern with results that are, I think, pretty horrifying, and faced with the choice of giving him a second term—in which he would assuredly be less constrained—the American people rewarded President Trump with an increased share of the overall vote. Having seen him in office, almost half the country wanted to give him four more years.
I don’t see any way to gild this lily.
To some very real degree, as Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
2. The Problem of the Male Voter
There is a problem with masculinity in this country. The gender gap is now a chasm, and speaking as someone who, until Trump, was more politically in line with men than women, this difference is becoming one of the defining facts of political affiliation. This is a big subject, one I’ve begun exploring in a recent book about feminism, but we need to think more deeply about how we’re raising boys. America leads the world in unstable families, with significant numbers of children growing up without the steady presence of two parents. And there is lots of research suggesting that fractured families are more damaging to boys than girls. Boys are coming of age without good male role models to teach them that masculinity means being strong, not whiny, leading by example, being responsible for others, truthful, loyal to spouses and children, protective of the weak and vulnerable, reliable, and competitive in an honorable way.
One instance of Donald Trump receiving tens of millions of votes could have been considered a quirk—and attributed to his TV stardom, Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity, Jim Comey’s misplaced interference. But two elections that give such a person scores of millions of votes suggest a deeper disorder.
3. The State of the Nation
For the last four years, the sophisticates and the climbers on the right have waved away the notion that Donald Trump was a danger to the liberal order. He was too clownish to be dangerous, they said.
Today, there will be sophisticates and climbers who try to wave away Trump’s words. It doesn’t matter if the president claims to have won Pennsylvania, they’ll say. His saying so doesn’t make it true. It’s “regrettable.” It’s “distressing.” It might even be “irresponsible.” But, you know, no need to get hysterical.
They are wrong.
4. All of Trump’s Anti-Democratic Attacks Have Failed—So Far
In Bush v. Gore, the majority focused in part on the perceived unfairness of only recounting some ballots and not others—it hardly laid out the precedent which Trump seems to see in it, that courts decide elections. To the contrary, Justice Scalia took pains to state in the majority opinion that it was a ticket for that train only: “our consideration is limited to the present circumstances.”
Trump showed his hand early—that he was running against the electoral process itself, not against any particular candidate—and so far that gambit has failed.
Trump’s Borat strategy.
nikki mccann ramírez @NikkiMcRKayleigh McEnany says if Trump loses PA they will go to the supreme court to get ballots mailed before or on election day thrown out https://t.co/rNWA959Nwr
This should do it.
1. A Cold War Between Red and Blue America
Once upon a time, a popular-vote victory as decisive as Biden’s projected win would likely have swept his party to broad congressional gains. Democrats’ only modest advances in the Senate and modest retreat in the House testify to the durability of the divisions between a Democratic coalition rooted in the places immersed in the changes forging 21st-century America and a Republican coalition that dominates the places most apart from, and skeptical of, those changes. In America’s domestic cold war, this election was more like Antietam, a brutally bloody stalemate that wounded both sides, than a Gettysburg or Vicksburg, which pointed to a decisive victory for one side over the other. The election did more to underscore the impermeability of the nation’s divisions than to offer a path toward the reconciliation and unity that Biden has promised.