No One Knows

With all votes cast, an all-important question arises: What just happened? Well … that’s going to take time to understand.

Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ended yesterday.

The Latest

Some thoughts, as we look around at the detritus of the campaigns on the day after the last ballots were cast:

  • Who won? We don’t know — but results look extremely favorable for the Biden campaign in some key states where the counting of mail ballots had to wait until November 3, thanks to Republican truculence.

  • If Biden wins, will he be able to staff a government? That’s unknown, too — despite hopes of a change in control of the U.S. Senate, Republicans beat back well-funded challengers in multiple states. The results appear to leave majority leader Mitch McConnell positioned to hold onto power — and his party positioned to exert veto power over the hundreds of administration roles that require Senate approval to fill.

  • Was the election free and fair? That’s hard to say. Concern about the delivery of mail ballots could be overblown, despite viral tweets after reports of low ballot delivery scores by the U.S. Postal Service in some battleground states. The misuse of government resources to aid Trump’s campaign may ultimately be the greater story — and that misuse continued into Election Day, with Trump’s campaign establishing a war room on the White House grounds.

Here’s what we do know:

  • Margins in the presidential race will be close. The Electoral College seems poised to tilt toward former Vice President Biden in the coming hours and days — but in an unwanted echo of 2016, Biden leads the popular vote by slender amounts in multiple states — including Michigan and Wisconsin in the upper Midwest, and Arizona and Nevada in the West. The result defied the expectations set by forecasts and polling averages in the days before the election — and speaking of that …

  • Polls significantly missed the mark. I wrote on Twitter the other day that a Des Moines Register poll of Iowa that showed Trump with a substantial lead looked like an outlier — wildly out of step with surveys across the midwest showing Biden with comfortable leads. Well, I was wrong; Biden’s projected leads never materialized, and political surveys may have erred by a greater margin in their tracking of the 2020 campaigns than they did in 2016.

  • There will be legal challenges. At this writing, the Trump campaign has already requested a recount in Wisconsin, filed suit to stop vote counting in Michigan — and plans a news conference with the president’s personal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, and other campaign officials about alleged “cheating” in Pennsylvania.

  • Election Day voting was largely peaceful and without incident. Despite scattered attempts at intimidation — a maskless person open-carrying a firearm outside a North Carolina polling place for an hour, for instance — balloting on the last day of voting proceeded smoothly across most of the country, despite concerns about the possibility of violence. But with the count unresolved, it’s too early to say the country is out of the woods — and some potential efforts to stymie the vote count are already visible:

  • The major tech platforms have policed false claims of victory. Twitter, especially, has acted quickly to stanch premature talk of electoral vote wins or election irregularities — flagging a slew of Trump missives over the course of Wednesday.

    (Twitter’s enforcement actions have hit users on both sides of the partisan divide, with Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden and Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler also receiving flags for overly certain discussion of electoral college results.)

Barring protracted litigation in the courts or interruptions to the ballot count, the fog around the results should clear somewhat by the next newsletter, on Friday. We’ll offer more analysis then.

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Muting the Conversation

We’ll forgo the usual links this evening, given that so much about the electoral outcome has yet to shake out. 

What You Can Do

Sign up to take action if Trump tries to use the powers of incumbency to disrupt the vote count or upend the election outcome — do that right now, via Protect the Results.

Then … maybe treat yourself to a self-care break with the New York Times Election Distractor? (*clicks link*)

A Moment of Rock

Speaking of moments when no one knows, here’s a great song. 

Happy listening. See you on Friday.


American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through — we hope — Jan. 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most. 

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