When elections are finally over, it’s common to hear folks say that the people have spoken. Indeed they have, but not in unison. President Donald Trump, in losing, received over 70 million votes, nearly as many as the winner, a measure of how deeply divided the nation is politically. The approximately 70 million whose candidate lost will hopefully accept that defeat gracefully, unlike what happened when Mr. Trump was elected, but they aren’t likely to convert to liberalism and so the nation will likely remain divided along political lines. Joe Biden, the presumed president-elect, promises a return to normalcy and a kinder, gentler approach to governing. But his was not the overwhelming victory that most polls suggested he would achieve and it remains to be seen if his low-key leadership style is persuasive enough to bring a divided nation together as one, big, happy family. Let’s hope that it is, wish him success and rally around the new commander-in-chief.
Any well-run organization will self-critique after every important evolution and so must our nation. This election was messy as many predicted it would be because of the record number of ballots cast by mail and the vastly-different rules and timelines in effect among the states for counting and processing them. Most of us feared close, contested election results, leading to recounts and extensive litigation and that’s what appears to be happening. Mr. Biden won the White House but the GOP most likely will retain control of the Senate, so divided government will likely continue. This will serve as a check on the ability of the more progressive wing of the Democrat Party to implement its extreme agenda, pack the Supreme Court, approve statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and end the filibuster. Mr. Biden thus will be better able to govern as the moderate he claims to be when the Sanders and Warren supporters are not nearby.
Mr. Biden ran more as the anti-Trump candidate than on his own modest record of accomplishments. The election was close enough that Trump might have won had he somehow been able to act a little more presidential, lay off the stupid tweets and show a little more humility. So, my observation No. 1 is that character and manner do matter in a candidate. Accomplishments and promises kept almost got Trump re-elected but character flaws mattered enough to cause him to lose too many female votes to win. Some Trump supporters must be wondering, like “My Fair Lady’s” Prof. Henry Higgins, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”
Observation No. 2 is that while accomplishments may sometimes count even more than character, they may not be enough. Biden won mostly because he wasn’t Trump and he’s usually a nice old gentleman, except for occasional crabby spells, but as a candidate he had little else going for him. He had no coat tails and couldn’t carry the expected number of Democrat congressional candidates to victory with him. He, therefore, has no broad mandate except to govern as a moderate and keep the extreme left wing of the party that helped get him elected at bay. He now will own the job of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to restore the economy and lost jobs, reassuring our allies and adversaries that we are paying attention to the rest of the world, dealing with an increasingly aggressive China, providing health care for all and securing the borders.
Observation No. 3 should be a no-brainer. Voters should pay no attention to polls. The only folks who have a reason to are those in the mainstream media and those trying to raise money for candidates who use poll results for their own purposes. How many times do pollsters have to get it wrong before voters finally get it that most polling processes are flawed? It’s time pollsters looked into another line of work.
Observation No. 4 is that money can’t always buy elections. Hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted by wealthy liberal elites to back congressional campaigns that failed big-time, notably in efforts to defeat GOP heavyweights like Senators Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Joni Ernst and Susan Collins.
Observation No. 5 is that extensive mail-in balloting will usually produce a mess until 50 state legislatures can agree on standardized rules for handling ballots and stick strictly to them. If they can’t, then Congress should provide guidance. Rules for conducting elections and dealing with ballots are a responsibility of the states but Congress can set guidelines if necessary and it clearly is, especially with regard to deadlines. Some states manage to do it right. Others, not so much. Mail-in ballots should only be provided to those who apply for them. Anyone who still believes that mailed-in ballots are not highly susceptible to mishandling, deliberate or otherwise, probably still believes in the Easter Bunny.
Observation No. 6 is that while democracy is sometimes messy, elections shouldn’t be. “Every vote needs to be counted” is a silly canard. Votes from dead people should not be counted nor should duplicate votes or votes from non-citizens or children or from people too careless or incapable of following simple instructions. We really should worry a little less about foreign interference in our elections and a lot more about our own incompetence in running them.
Finally, observation No.7 is that foreign affairs doesn’t take a time-out while we try to decide who our commander-in-chief is going to be or while he is busy campaigning all day or while he is a lame duck. You may have noticed that relations with Communist China are deteriorating. China has clamped down further on Hong Kong’s freedoms, is threatening Taiwan and has announced it has authorized its ships to fire on vessels it determines are violating whatever it claims as its territorial waters. Is anyone paying attention? With all that’s going on in the world, it strikes me as remarkable that in a pre-election poll of likely voters regarding their ten principal concerns in voting, foreign relations ranked last.
Hopefully, the poll got this wrong, too.