I’m going to say it: I think Biden wins in a blowout, by a popular vote margin we have not seen since the pre-internet age. That’s a high bar considering Obama won by nearly 10 million votes in 2008.
I’m banking on the Hillary haters; the 24-year olds who finally came out to vote in 2018; the suburban women; the senior citizens and Black Americans who now have an answer to Trump’s 2016 question “what have you got to lose?”; and the folks in Wisconsin and Michigan who stayed home last time or thought a Jill Stein vote was a good idea. These are the change agents.
Starting in early-October, when I saw people queuing up for hours to vote, or rushing their ballots to the mailbox (“in case I get hit by a bus” a friend told me), I knew those voters weren’t looking to re-elect a President. They were looking to save a nation.
These are the mask wearers, the “suckers” and “losers,” and the people who understood it’s not a “hoax,” or a “witch hunt,” or “fake news.” These are people who understand that Charlottesville was not a standoff of “very fine people on both sides.” In 2017 the reality show had become reality and, two weeks in, Trump had already jumped the shark. Most Americans, including a lot of Republicans, are now exhausted and are ready for this nightmare to end.
Perhaps mine is magical thinking. Maybe Biden doesn’t win in a blowout. Maybe Biden doesn't win. Possibly this election drags out for weeks. Even with a clear Biden win tonight, could President Trump be the sorest loser in Presidential history concluding four disastrous years with 75 unbearable lame duck days?
As a college undergrad focused on 19th century American political history, hands down my favorite Presidential election was 1824. What a circus. Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William Crawford, Henry Clay. In 1824, the Presidential election voting took place over five weeks from late October through early December. Jackson got 41% of the popular vote to JQA’s 31%, but only got 99 electoral college votes needing 131 to win the election. (In those days, Vermont and five other states had no popular voting for President. Vermont’s seven electoral college votes were determined by a vote of the unicameral state legislature.) The nation was deeply divided: New England for Adams, the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic for Jackson and Clay, and the South split between Jackson and Crawford. The 12th Amendment, which was added to the Constitution in 1804, directed the House of Representatives to choose a President between the top-3 candidates. Fourth place Henry Clay earned Andrew Jackson’s eternal animus by throwing his support to JQA and Jackson lost the House of Representatives’ vote on February 9th. John Quincy Adams, having lost badly to Jackson in both popular and electoral college votes, became the sixth U.S. President. He appointed Henry Clay as his Secretary of State.
While I still enjoy a good circus, as a middle-aged student of history, I’ve become more appreciative of the Shakespearian undertones of the Election of 1800. Thomas Jefferson vs. John Adams was the main event. In the background, the political maneuvering of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr elevated the election drama to a fever pitch. Jefferson was the clear victor over Adams with 73 electoral college votes to the incumbent’s 68. But a Constitutional flaw (later remedied by the 12th Amendment) allowed Burr, Jefferson’s running mate, to also amass 73 electoral college votes. The election was thrown into the House of Representatives with the presumptive President-elect Jefferson and Vice President-elect Burr on the same Presidential ballot. While Burr assured Jefferson he had no intentions on the Presidency, John Adams’ Federalist allies in the House attempted to entice Burr in exchange for concessions to their policy priorities. Jefferson’s protégé, Governor James Monroe of Virginia, prepared to amass troops on the Potomac River in the event the Federalists tried to steal the election. Over a week in February 1801, it took 36 ballots for the House to finally land on Thomas Jefferson as the third U.S. President.
Meanwhile, between his defeat in the fall election and Jefferson’s March 1801 inauguration, President Adams set about reshaping the federal judiciary making a lame duck Supreme Court appointment of John Marshall, who would serve as Chief Justice for the next 34 years. He also signed the “Midnight Judges Act” reducing the size of the Supreme Court from six justices to five upon the next court vacancy thereby denying President Jefferson an appointment to the highest court. Adams slunk out of D.C. on March 4, 1801 refusing to greet his former friend and successor on Inauguration Day.
Frighteningly, several events that transpired during the elections of 1800 and 1824 are visible/plausible this year. The caustic partisan divisions in the electorate. Late term Supreme Court appointments. The failure of the popular vote to decide the election. An election that takes months to decide. The need for the House of Representatives to determine the outcome. Threats of violence. A sulking President who refuses to acknowledge his replacement.
Despite this wall of worry, I’m leading with nervous optimism. I’m aiming high for a convincing Joe Biden victory.
335 electoral college votes for Biden’s blue wave. 51 Senate seats for the Democrats and their allies.
See you on the other side.