Summing up - so far
November 27, 2020
The mainstream media and pollsters have once again soiled themselves.
Let’s begin with the best news of election week. Republicans appear likely to retain control of the Senate. That means no court-packing (though the idea has now been given legitimacy in some Democratic circles), no Equality Act, expanding the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock. And no economically ruinous Green New Deal.
A Democratic president might well have one or more Supreme Court appointments in the next four years, but to secure confirmation, he or she will have to be in the Merrick Garland mold, not a woke legislator in judicial robes.
Just before the election, Hugh Hewitt said on Fox News that the best thing that could happen for a President-elect Joe Biden would be a Republican-held Senate. Having that foil would serve him well in fending off the progressive wing of his party, which will surely pressure him to go against his political instincts, honed over a lifetime in the Senate. Hewitt was right.
Perhaps the most salutary outcome for the long-range prospects of the United States was the demonstration to Democrats of the limited appeal of identity politics. After months of nonstop promotion of the notion that America is characterized by “systemic racism” that can only be ended by race-conscious equalizing of outcomes, even in uber-liberal California voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 16, and thereby maintained the ban on preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment, and government contracts.
One of the big stories of the election was how well President Trump did among Latinos and blacks. In Florida, the willingness of so many Democrats to adopt the socialist label was an albatross around the party’s neck with respect to Cuban and Venezuelan refugees from socialism. But Trump also did far better than in 2016 with Latino voters around the country. Pocketbook issues, especially jobs, matter no less to Latinos than to other citizens, especially those of the second and third generation in America. And Latinos tend to be social conservatives.
If Democrats were paying attention, they are on notice that promoting open borders, sanctuary cities, and public benefits for illegal immigrants cannot be counted on to secure the Latino vote. As Victor Davis Hanson reminds us in The Case for Trump, Cesar Chavez and his farmworkers union used to greet the flood of illegal immigrants at the southern border with clubs.
Moreover, the Democrats are now on notice that they cannot count on the black vote to the same degree as formerly. Who are you going to believe when told that “If you vote Trump, you ain’t black,” Joe Biden? Or Kanye, Ice Cube, and 50 Cent? One of Donald Trump’s enduring contributions to American politics was to aggressively court the black vote, in the face of a drumbeat of charges that he is an atavistic racist by Democratic pols, the mainstream media, and late night comics.
He established that there are plenty of black voters who will notice when black unemployment drops sharply and wages rise. And that creates an incentive for politicians on both sides of the aisle to start thinking about real world policies to improve black lives. And when they do so, they should begin by remembering that the black community overwhelmingly favors more police presence, not less. And that most blacks realize that it is they who bear the brunt of looting and rioting, in the form of black businesses destroyed, perhaps never to reopen, and major retailers who decide that the insurance costs of serving largely black neighborhoods makes it not worth it.
The mainstream media and pollsters have once again soiled themselves. Headlines predicting a Biden landslide and the Democrats gaining a majority of the Senate, based on polling data, will now join clips of news anchors announcing over and over again during the Mueller investigation, “The walls are closing in on Donald Trump,” “This is the beginning of end for Donald Trump,” and the like. That investigation, it will be recalled, ended with no evidence whatsoever.
The serial failures of the MSM, coupled with its active efforts to censor stories not to its liking, have gone a long way to undermine levels of trust in American institutions. While I doubt that will have any impact on today’s woke journalists, they and their colleagues on late night TV should at least consider how much they harm their own cause. Those who consider it the height of hilarity to label all who disagree with them “lizard brains” should not be surprised to find that those “lizard brains” are put off.
My guess would be that as damaging to the Biden campaign in the homestretch as Hunter Biden’s emails were, far more damaging were Twitter’s, Facebook’s, and the MSM’s efforts to censor the story altogether. Censorship of information has a tendency to enrage free people.
I do not know to what extent the polling errors can be traced to the underlying assumptions, which apparently remained unfixed from the 2016 fiasco, or to actual deception. But to the extent that they were caused by the “shy Trump voter,” as the most accurate pollster, Robert Cahaly of Trafalgar Group, insists, they point to another deep-seated problem fueling social tension: the fear of millions of people to express their opinions openly, even when anonymity is assured.
The election was never going to deliver a mandate for a particular political agenda. The Biden campaign’s strategy from the beginning was to make the election a referendum on Donald Trump’s persona, and the president played into his hands. While that persona has many ardent fans, as the last week of the campaign demonstrated, it repulses many more. My own feeling is that Trump lost the election with his boorish behavior during the first debate.
Character, the Greek tragedians teach us, is destiny. Trump almost seems to have craved the adulation of his base more than being president. As a reality TV star, one doesn’t need to get the majority of viewers, but a political candidate must. And that requires reaching out beyond one’s base.
Incumbent presidents simply do not lose when 56 percent of citizens describe themselves as better off than four years ago and the majority trust you more to create a robust economy than your opponent. And especially not when your first term in office has been notably free of new foreign wars.
At least you do not lose unless a great number of people who support your policies simply cannot abide a president who acts like a teenage girl on Twitter and appears to have much time for retweeting nonsense that could be better spent on the duties of the office.
Perhaps it is a good omen for the country that so many who approve of Trump’s policies were nevertheless desperate for a less divisive leader, one more at home in the rhetoric of unity. That desire not to be locked forever into blocs of mutual hatred is positive.
At the same time, President Trump must be credited with bringing millions back into the political system who had long since despaired of either party’s interest in them. And going forward, both parties would be well advised to pay attention to the needs of the forgotten Americans.
The first business of Joe BIden’s bipartisan outreach should be a new national commission on electoral integrity, aimed at something like the bipartisan reforms in Florida after the 2000 fiasco. Among the issues to be addressed would be verifiability of absentee and mail-in ballots, accountability of election officials for knowing the number of ballots to be counted when the polls close, and ballot harvesting
But President Trump has no realistic chance of reversing the results in court. Better, now, to follow the lead of someone not generally thought of as a hero of the American political system: Richard Nixon. The 1960 election results turned on 9,000 votes in Illinois — chicken feed for the Daley machine — and 30,000 in Texas, home of Democratic vice presidential candidate Lyndon B. (Landslide) Johnson. Nixon was urged to pursue recounts in both states, but decided against on the grounds that “American does not need a constitutional crisis.”
Jonathan Rosenblum is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Israeli director of Am Echad.