Thu 2020-Nov-19

Well, that was somewhat… unsatisfying

Tagged: Politics / Sadness

Today the AP finally called Georgia for Biden, after the hand recount. But the Senate still hangs fire until the runoff in January. And apparently, 73 million Americans somehow voted for Trump?!

AP's electoral map Today the AP finally called the last state, Georgia. [1] AP has an official policy of not calling a state where the result is (a) very close, or (b) legally subject to a recount if demanded by one of the contestants. Both were true in the case of Georgia. In an abundance of caution, the ballots were hand-recounted (“risk-limiting audit”, in the parlance of election workers) shifting votes by a few thousand but leaving the result unchanged: a win for Biden by a 0.2% margin of Georgia voters.

So Biden wins the Electoral College, 306 Biden to 232 Trump; 270 required to win. There are, unfortunately, a number of complex steps that must happen next in the arcane, archaic, and downright silly US election system. Trump seems hell-bent (and I use that term in its proper theological sense) on interfering at each stage:

  1. He began suing in every state he could, to assert there was widespread election fraud. He’s lost every one of those suits, because there is no such evidence. Trump even fired his DHS chief of CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) this week [2] for disagreeing and pointing out this was probably the most secure election in US history, refuting Trump’s rather desperate claims of fraud everywhere. (And really: if Democrats rigged the election for Biden, why didn’t they pick up a few Senators along the way, as long as they were in there?)
  2. Each state must next “certify” the vote, i.e., give their official imprimatur on the resuts as genuine. In Michigan, Trump has tried to interfere with this by getting the Republican members of the canvassing board to withold certification. [3] There was also some discussion of certifying the vote for all of the state except for Detroit, which is heavily Democratic and thus would flip the state back to Trump. Aside from the general chaos, a deadlocked certification would mean the legislatures could decide the matter. In states with Republican legislatures, this would mean they could (theoretically) throw out the election votes and send Electoral College electors for Trump instead.
  3. Once the votes are certified, the electors are chosen for the Electoral College. They become potential pressure points to be suborned into being “faithless electors”: switch from Biden to Trump because nobody can tell them not to do so. It’s probably a crime to bribe an elector, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were not, since to my knowledge it’s never been tried. If he can just create enough chaos, then Congress can step in and decide who the electors are, possibly flipping the election.
  4. On Dec 14, the Electoral College votes. Perhaps there’s a way to sow chaos there, though I hope nobody proves me wrong.
  5. In January, Congress certifies that the Electoral College has met properly, and then counts the votes. That’s 2 points of potential blockage: Republicans could refuse to certify the Biden electors, or could mess up the Electoral College vote somehow. In that case, the House of Representatives decides the presidency. But: they cast 1 vote per state, so sparsely populated Wyoming gets 1 vote the same as California. A majority of the states are Republican, so they could throw out the election and hand it to Trump that way.

So… lots of places for things to go wrong.

As if that’s not enough, both Georgia’s Senate races go to a run-off on 2021-Jan-05. Democrats must win both of them, or the Senate will stay Republican. A Republican Senate means no judges confirmed, no legislation on health care, tax reform, climate change, or anything. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already said he wants veto power over any Biden cabinet appointments. His record as a dog in the manger, blocking everything is well-documented.

So getting anything moving in the US depends on winning both those Senate seats in Georgia, at which point the Senate will be 50-50 with Vice President Harris casting tie-breaking votes. Democrats will still have difficulty doing anything, since they will need absolute unanimity to get all 50 Democratic Senators on board; the most conservative Democrats will effectively have veto power. And that’s the best outcome.

So here at Chez Weekend, we donated (a small amount of) money to the Warnock and Ossof campaigns for Senate in Georgia. We did it through the Warren Democrats page for flipping the Senate at ActBlue, but you can find other ways to give them a few bucks and maybe save the world. Please do that, if you can.

That’s scary stuff.

But what really scares me: the election was not a landslide; 73.6 million Americans voted for Trump. They can’t claim they didn’t understand who Trump is, since he’s been in our faces for years now, yelling and throwing things and generally crapping on the republic. These voters took a look at the chaos, the incompetence, the corruption, the grifting, the quarter million dead beause of mishandling public health in COVID… and said “Yeah, I’ll take another 4 years of that, please.” Who are these people? How can they be that irrational and still function?! Last week Scalzi, over at Whatever, summed up the situation in his essay “The Sound of a Landslide Not Happening” [4]:

Instead, Donald Trump received seventy million, four hundred thousand votes — 47.7% of the total vote. Four years of being worst president in modern history gained him seven million, four hundred thousand more votes than he received in 2016, and nearly two percentage points more of the total voting electorate. Seventy million, four hundred thousand American voters lived through four years of corruption and incompetence and eroding social norms and decided they wanted another four years of that. They saw a president be a bully and a bigot and a thug, and voted to give the bully four more years. They saw four years of a man siding with fascists, and then sided with him.

The demographics say these are mostly angry white voters: mostly older, mostly less educated, mostly straight, mostly religious in one of the more extremely performative Christian styles. [5]

That is… pathological. And it’s what scares me most: half the US population is, as far as I can tell, outright crazy in a self-destructive way that they want to impose on the rest of us.

Notes & References

1: B Sprunt, “Joe Biden Wins Georgia, Per AP Call, Following State’s Release Of Hand Recount”, NPR, 2020-Nov-19.

2: E Nakashima & N Miroff, “Trump fires top DHS official who refuted his claims that the election was rigged”, Washington Post, 2020-Nov-17.

3: D Fahrenthold, et al., “Trump’s escalating attacks put pressure on vote certification process”, Washington Post, 2020-Nov-19.

4: J Scalzi, “The Sound of a Landslide Not Happening”, Whatever, 2020-Nov-08.

5: New York Times Infographics, “National Exit Polls: How Different Groups Voted”, 2020-Nov-03.

Published Thu 2020-Nov-19

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