This is the first of two parts. The next piece will examine what happened with the polls.
Joe Biden has been declared the winner. The race for the White House was a close one but both the popular vote and the landslide in the Electoral College were in sync and the results are irrevocable. Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States.
But, as in every election, there is much more to it. Anytime tens of millions of Americans speak through exercise of their voting rights, they have something significant to say. Here is what has emerged from the vote count.
1. Trump-style populism was not repudiated on Election Day. In addition to thus far collecting over 70 million votes – in itself the second-highest vote total of any Presidential candidate in US history — voters for Mr. Trump were very intense and, not surprisingly, are not going away. They will be in the streets, outside the courts, and ready to challenge anything and everything that happens between now and the next election. They will be egged on by Mr. Trump himself and by a myriad of podcasters and bloggers to reject the results of a free and fair election
2. The Republican party did not die. If it does not actually keep the Senate majority, it will at least get to a tie in that body, meaning it can slow down – and even kill – any major initiative put forth by the Biden Administration.
3. Joe Biden won majorities in both the popular vote and Electoral College but will have to work overtime to create and keep a governing majority – something his three immediate predecessors did not enjoy during their tenure. George W. Bush mainly governed from the right and only rarely sought help from the other side to push the No Child Left Behind Act and of course the disastrous war in Iraq. Barack Obama pushed through the life-saving economic stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act with nary a Republican vote and only reached out to the GOP to get them from shutting down the federal government. And Donald Trump only sought and won support from Democrats in pushing through major criminal justice reform. An emboldened GOP will do only what will allow it to claim joint victory on battling Covid-19 and an economic relief package. Otherwise, it will be looking to win back control of the House of Representatives.
If the GOP was not put out of business, then Joe Biden will have a difficult time claiming a mandate for his plans. Indeed, he did win a majority. But my business is about defining intensities and he faces a battle royal preventing a highly intense minority that he is not a danger to their rights, does not represent government infringement in their lives, and is not the President only of non-whites. For Biden to have any success he will truly have to exercise the “art of the deal”.
We know this was a record turnout and we do cheer the victory of our democracy. But behind that victory are some serious truths. Both sides brought out their bases. The enormous advantages that early voters presented to Democrats was almost equally matched by the huge outpouring of Election Day support for President Trump and fellow Republican candidates. The GOP picked up perhaps as many as a dozen seats in the House and did not lose the Senate. The battleground states were just as close in 2020 as they were in 2016. The nation remains divided. Republicans fell short of support they truly needed to win outright. Mr. Trump only managed a near tie among men while he was trounced among women. He lost the big advantage he had among voters over 65 in 2016 by actually losing this group this time around. He lost ground among 18-29-year olds (losing by 27 points). He did pick up 4 percentage points among blacks, mainly by winning the support of 18% of black men, but his support among Latinos was dismal. Yes, he did receive 32% among Latinos, but that was only again from his negligible support in 2016. No bragging rights on any of these. The percentage of non-white voters grew to 65% and will only grow from here. Mr. Trump lost non-whites72% to 26%.
The President burnished his reputation as a strong leader and as the best candidate to handle the economy. Among the voters who saw these two things as essential for the next President, he easily won. But Biden trounced the President among the one in five voters who cited racial equality as the top issue (91%-8), handling Covid-19 (82%-14%), health care (63%-28%), and overall showing good judgment (68%-27%).
Mr. Biden picked up additional support over Democratic performance in 2016 among college-educated white women and among white working-class men.
But the two men tied among voters who answered that “candidate cares about people like you and me”. That is ultimately what voters see in a President. It is what sustained the early Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. It is what George H. W. Bush had but lost, as did his son. Make no mistake, President Joe Biden has a big job ahead of him in going back to the basics and trying to build a governing majority.