On election morning, I spend a little time reflecting on all the stuff that didn’t happen that I feared would.
Trump never cynically managed to turn the pandemic into a political advantage. I spent some time in April thinking that surely over the summer he’d realize that for reasons relating to the economy and, you know, dead bodies, he’d have to let the science people take over, and he’d tell his idiot governors to enforce mask rules. It was in his obvious self-interest, his electoral self-interest, to do so. I know. He was on hydroxychloroquine; I was on acid.
Trump never did reach out beyond his base. All he wants is adulation. Persuasion, he’s not so into.
The Hunter Biden story never took off. Great job, Rudy! What a parody he’s become. Watching a fat old man drinking what appeared to be at least two bourbons or scotches (and it was daylight outside) and obviously try to hit on a young woman in that Borat movie was disgusting, but he made a far bigger fool of himself trying to peddle phony dirt. Remember back in September I think it was, when he was going to blow the lid off this campaign with his explosive information, which ended up involving some interview with some doctor attesting to Biden’s supposed dementia or something. Even Fox kept that one at arm’s length. More seriously, who knows what laws he may have ignored while bumbling around in Ukraine. If Biden wins, it will be the perfect capstone to Giuliani’s career if someday he ends up indicted by the venerated office he once ran.
None of Trump’s attacks, his belittling, has stuck. “Sleepy Joe” is something Trump thought would resonate because he thought that by now, he and Rudy would have half the country thinking Biden was senile and not all there, but that didn’t play outside the base. The jokes about Biden’s basement wore thin fast, too. Biden campaigned responsibly, while Trump campaigned in a way that was insanely irresponsible. We’ll be seeing reports for the next several months of the people who died after attending Trump rallies in these closing days.
Joe Biden never really stumbled. Greatest candidate in history? No. But, worst? Not by a long shot. Think back to those first few multi-candidate debates last year. He looked like Grampa Simpson. Remember how people laughed at him. And yet, in the spotlight, he’s been on his game. He won the debates. He didn’t commit a single really terrible Biden gaffe or utter one cringey malapropism. In fact, not only did he not stumble, but he rose to this occasion. He gave a few speeches in the spring and summer that were great—yes, great.
Biden never got sick. I spent part of every day quietly freaking out about this.
The polls never “tightened,” really. Oh, a little bit here and there. But that was mostly because Biden got a little bit of an unnatural bounce after that first debate, when so many Americans were so put off by Trump’s performance. That performance, incidentally, was the classic expression of why the bubble Trump has built around himself makes him a worse politician than he might otherwise be. You’re allowed in that bubble only if you think every single thing he does is the most brilliant thing you’ve ever seen a human being do, at least since the last brilliant thing he did. He had no one who dared tell him what an asshole he’d look like interrupting Biden and Chris Wallace every 37 seconds.
Trump never “expanded the field.” Remember that? He was going to win New Hampshire and Minnesota and Nevada. Very easily. As I write these words, on fivethirtyeight, Biden is up 11 in New Hampshire, 9.4 in Minnesota, and an admittedly narrower 4.8 percent in Nevada, which is one of the few states that has narrowed some in the last few days, but John Ralston, who is the great Nevada expert, says the early voting Democratic advantage is simply too big for Republicans to make up from the more rural counties and Biden will win.
Instead, the field expanded in the other direction. Who would have thought in March that we’d be going to bed Monday night wondering whether Biden might win Texas? Yet, here we are.
Yes, here we are. I started thinking about tonight four years ago tonight. I will never, ever escape the memory of that night. Each of us had a moment when we realized what was happening. For me, it was around 8:30, when MSNBC changed North Carolina from “too early to call,” which meant Hillary Clinton was going to win but it was going to take a little while, to “too close to call.” As soon as they did that, I thought holy fuck; he’s going to win.
That night, tonight felt so far away. And God knows it has been. But it’s here. And I’m not counting any chickens, but things could be looking a lot worse than they are. If the polls are right, a majority of Americans are saying no, we made a mistake four years ago.
We’ve done this every four years since 1792. There is something kind of moving and majestic about that. And we’ve made some bad decisions, but elections come around on schedule, and we’re given a chance to make a better decision. This is our chance to tell our kids and grandkids that we made a decision to save democracy and stop authoritarianism.
We’ve learned some dark truths about this country in the last four years. Tonight, let there be light.