The margins are statistically insignificant but politically momentous.
As the resident political scientist on my block here in Israel, I was asked my predictions for the US presidential election. My answer was that “Trump will win the election and Biden will steal the victory.” So far, my prediction is looking good, as was that of a local Kabbalist who prophesied last week based on verses in this week’s Torah reading that President Trump would win on Election Day. I don’t have any faith in Kabbalists but he was right on target. Of course even he couldn’t anticipate what would happen in the days after Election Day.
We keep hearing that there is “no evidence of fraud,” which is especially rich when the people proclaiming that are often the ones who are preventing third-party observation of the post-election counting. There certainly is evidence of fraud – lost or tossed ballots, boxes of ballots suddenly showing up at polling places, polling officials (in Arizona, especially) guiding Trump voters to use Sharpies, not pens, so their ballots can’t be scanned, ballot harvesting, backdating mail-in ballots, accepting post-election ballots with no legible postmark, and the sheer impossibility of verifying the legitimacy of unsolicited mail-in ballots that were returned. To perpetrate election fraud on a massive scale in one state, all you really need is a cooperative postal worker, a cooperative polling official and a cooperative vote counter. It is not unrealistic that elements of the US intelligence services, who toiled mightily to deprive Donald Trump of his first victory, could easily manipulate the counting of electronic votes as well. All this will come out in due time and all of it will be to no avail.
Need it be mentioned that those now trumpeting “no evidence of fraud” were the same people who pushed the Russia collusion hoax for three years with absolutely no evidence at all? Irony is lost on partisans. But such is politics, and fraud is not unknown in presidential politics as those who recall the election of 1960 could attest.
My neighbors are mostly upset about the returns to date. Most Israelis are huge Trump supporters, not only for what he did for Israel but also because they remember the Obama-Biden years, the terror, the moral equivalence, the pressure on Israel, the threats, the intimidation, etc. But people here are absolutely perplexed about the American electoral system. It is hard to explain how each of fifty states has separate systems – electronic, levers, push buttons, paper ballots, mail-in, absentee, overseas, etc. Each system is overseen by partisan officials and, at least on the state level, by partisan judges. It should be no great surprise that almost every state now in contention, in which the vote totals are changing dramatically, is run by Democrats. As one neighbor said, it is an election system that would embarrass a third-world country. Attempts to reform the system – say, voter ID laws, fingerprint verification to prevent multiple voting by the same person, or even on line voting with individual passwords – are all thwarted by Democrat politicians in order to prevent…you guessed it, voter suppression and voter fraud.
And how do you say “Electoral College” in Hebrew? I haven’t figured that out. Worse, on the radio this morning, the host was interviewing an American reporter, speaking Hebrew (I couldn’t catch his name), and asked: “why do different states have different numbers of electoral votes? Who decides that?” The journalist hemmed and hawed, and said it is based on “population,” and the host let it go. Yikes. The electoral votes in each state are based not on population but on representation – the sum total of the number of House representatives in each state plus the two Senators. Thus the minimum number of electoral votes a state could have is three (one Congressman, plus two Senators).
This journalist was being interviewed as an “expert.” One takeaway from the last few years is how journalism has become a lazy profession. It is not that journalists don’t work hard – many do – it is that so much reporting is based on polls. Someone takes a poll, and the results are a story, regardless of the subject or accuracy of the polls, and the results are supposed to reflect the will of the people, which is preposterous. And journalism loves anniversaries, because such retrospectives are easy to write and mostly fluff filling empty space. Between the polls, the anniversaries, and the agenda each outlet pushes, journalism is in a sad state. It will get worse because it will be impossible for Biden to grant the same access to the press that Trump did, and the press will cover for Biden as it has throughout the campaign. Hunter Biden will disappear, as will interest in Trump’s tax returns.
It is too early for a post-mortem, which in civilized societies awaits a corpse, and even though anything can still happen the trends are not looking promising for the Republicans. Sure, against all predictions, the Republicans will retain the Senate and made inroads in the House, but the presidency is the big prize. And although it is somewhat farcical to ask how someone won or lost in an election that hangs on a rounding error of votes, it still must be pursued: how could President Trump lose to a career politician of no great accomplishment, who is ethically challenged, and whose cognitive abilities are in such decline that is inconceivable that he will still be president in four years? How is that possible?
Some will point to Trump’s handling of the Corona virus, unfair because no country has a handle on it, and others to the relentless opposition of the Resistance that is now four years strong. People just want a respite, and voted against their interests to do it. They feel, correctly, that a Trump defeat will not provoke massive rioting and looting by his supporters, because, after all, why would Republicans burn down their own stores? The whole point of looting is to burn down someone else’s business. They want peace and quiet, probably at some cost to their liberty, and so they don’t consider that they might wind up with neither peace nor liberty. Expect a reckoning – an explosion of political correctness, the suppression of contrary opinions, a boost to public shaming of dissidents, and a crackdown on the free exercise of religious worship. Sacred doctrines will be trampled in order to promote new orthodoxies. Everyone who doesn’t toe the BLM line will be tagged as a racist. America will become a more unfriendly environment in which to live.
If Trump loses, why will he have lost? The simple explanation is always that the loser did not get enough votes, and here, Trump, not a politician, made the mistake of never reaching beyond his base. In fact, he seemed to delight in offending large groups of potential voters as long as he energized his most faithful supporters. And he did increase his vote total substantially, but his opponents increased theirs even more. The media helped, always interpreting Trump’s musings in the most unfavorable light possible to further their own anti-Trump agenda. Again, remember Salena Zito’s astute observation that Trump’s enemies take him literally but not seriously, while his supporters take him seriously but not literally. It is hard to survive the daily drumbeat, the drip-drip, of negativity to which Trump was subjected for four years, including off-the-record comments that were soon on-the-record, and illegal intelligence leaks from the Oval Office that titillated his enemies but will no longer be tolerated in a Biden/Harris White House.
Trump lost because he lost the game of extremes. I have never seen a president this loved and this hated. No one was neutral, and it was a joke that on election eve, pundits still spoke of “undecideds.” People shouted at him “We love you” at rallies, something unprecedented in American political history. And many, many people absolutely loathed him for reasons that I have never quite understood, but loathing of the foaming-at-the-mouth type. Every breath he took, every word he uttered, and even every good thing that he did was a dagger right in their eyes. In their view he could do nothing right or decent, ever.
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both evoked these strong feelings. She too was reviled by many, loved by many (but without the ardor that Trump aroused in his supporters). It was a clash of two divisive individuals, and Clinton turned out to be slightly more detested.
This year was different. Biden, doddering, doltish, corrupt politician that he is, does not evoke any hatred in people. He may not be liked by everyone but he is reviled by almost no one. In a choice between a polarizing President on the one hand, who, for all the good that he did in office, still provoked unremitting disgust among his foes, and a mushy, smiling, befuddled careerist on the other, the amiable oldster prevailed (maybe). Even people’s burgeoning 401-K’s were not enough to overpower this irrational abhorrence of Trump that so stirred his enemies.
The irony is that four years ago only Donald Trump could have defeated Hillary Clinton. An out-of-the-box Republican was needed to confront and overcome that corrupt establishment. But this year, only Donald Trump could have lost to a senescent Joe Biden. Any other Republican – a Pence, a Haley, a Cotton, maybe even a Cruz – would have swept to victory. Trump’s negatives were just too high, and the fact that he never made a concerted effort to reduce those negatives should be his post-election analysis. Whatever cheating is going on, this election, given Trump’s record, should not have been that close.
He bet that if he made the election a referendum on himself, he would win. So far, that bet has not worked, and given the machinations of the system that are difficult to surmount, it will not work.
His legacy will be as the most consequential one-term president since James Knox Polk, a man who made substantive campaign promises and fulfilled many, if not most of them, revived an economy, fought no unnecessary wars, revolutionized the Middle East, put America first, and restored pride in the American experiment.
America’s enemies across the globe are celebrating. That should dampen the jubilation among Biden voters, and all Americans, who face a bumpy, uncertain road ahead.