Given that it took 4½ days between the polls closing and Joe Biden reaching 270 electoral votes, you would think that this was a close election. But it wasn’t. It appears that Biden will win by the same electoral vote margin as Trump did four years ago, and in 2016, Trump reached 270 electoral votes in the early hours of the following morning, not four days hence as has happened this year.
I understand why one would not want to count postal votes before the polls close. But I see no reason not to get postal votes to a state where they are ready for counting when polls close. All of the administrative work, such as signature verification and other checks, can be done as votes come in, they can then be put in a ballot box with their secrecy envelopes, and then once polls close those ballot boxes can be opened and votes counted on the night, much more quickly than they were this week.
Now, we don’t know if this spike in postal voting is a one-off because of the coronavirus pandemic, or whether we will continue to see high levels of postal voting for decades to come. But if it’s the latter, I hope that legislators in the most guilty states (Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Alaska) can learn from this week and make the changes needed to prevent this from happening again.
Now, as for the results. This was not a close election, but it was not a blowout either. Biden is on track to win 306 electoral votes, which is exactly the same number of votes that Trump won in 2016 (faithless electors notwithstanding).
However, the swing in the popular vote towards Biden was very small indeed, at only 0.8%. Now, this is around double what Biden would have needed to win the election, but if Democrats were hoping for a clear repudiation of Donald Trump, they didn’t get it in this election, as Trump’s vote share appears to have gone up slightly from 2016.
Biden and Trump were the two biggest vote winners in the history of the United States; Trump even earned more votes in this election than Barack Obama did in his 2008 landslide. This will present a number of questions for both of the two main parties. For the Democrats, the question they’ll have to ask themselves is why voters are attracted to someone like Trump (and simply dismissing them as racists will not be good enough). For the Republicans, the question they’ll have to ask is whether getting Trump, and what he stands for, out of their party will help or hurt them in future elections.
As for Congress, there is no doubt that Democrats will be very disappointed with how this election has gone. As of this writing, Democrats have not yet reached the 218 seats needed for a majority in the House of Representatives, though it’s projected that they will do so once all of the votes have been counted. But it’s looking like it’s going to be a very narrow victory for the Democrats here, with an estimated swing of around 3% since the 2018 midterms, which is relatively modest as far as electoral swings go (though this swing does appear to be smaller in the marginal districts). Compare that to the 2018 midterms, where the Democrats achieved a swing of around 5% towards them to take control of the House.
It’s an even worse picture for Democrats who were hoping to take back control of the Senate, where it looks like they will fall short. It looks like they have missed their main targets in Maine, Iowa and North Carolina, and will almost certainly lose at least one (possibly both) of the runoffs in Georgia. While Republicans will be defending more Senate seats than Democrats in the 2022 midterms, only a few of them are marginal enough to be in play, meaning that Democrats will need to build support in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to take those seats, and thus control of the Senate.
The other thing to remember is that this is the last election before the census results are released next year. One reason that Republicans will be pleased to have done reasonably well in this election is because it gives them an advantage in the redistricting process that’s expected to take place next year. We will have to see what effect this redistricting will have on the House of Representatives as we learn more about the new districts over the course of the next year.
Overall, I would say this was a decent night for Democrats, but it wasn’t a great night for Democrats. They managed to achieve one victory of getting Joe Biden into the White House, but they’ve failed to make the gains in Congress that they would need to advance their agenda in the way that they would have liked. Despite the fact that Trump himself is on the way out, it’s clear from these results that Trumpism is still alive in America, and both parties will have to work out what that means for them.