In our instant gratification world, it’s a bit maddening: It’s been two days since the election, and we still don’t know who the president will be come January. This is not in and of itself a sign of mischief, but rather a reflection of thousands of local jurisdictions methodically counting votes, many of which arrived in the form of time-consuming mail ballots, to decide a teeth-grittingly tight election. Today’s Daily Dose charts the path ahead, digs into the debates to come and explores how we heal when this is all over.
Daniel Malloy, Senior Editor
how does this end?
1. The Magic Number
Joe Biden has more paths to 270 electoral votes than President Donald Trump, but either one could pull this off. Of the remaining states in play, Trump needs almost all of them: He can afford to lose Nevada or Arizona, but not both. If he loses Georgia or North Carolina (highly unlikely), he needs to sweep everywhere else. And if he loses Pennsylvania, it’s over.
2. Legal Road Ahead
The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in Nevada (claiming out-of-state residents voted by mail) and in Georgia (its challenge in Savannah was tossed out this morning), but Pennsylvania is the legal epicenter. Trump’s early lead there — as widely predicted — is shrinking fast as mail ballots in Philadelphia and elsewhere are counted. Top Trump officials are making blanket claims of fraud and won a preliminary court victory early today to be allowed to more closely observe the count in Philadelphia. The key legal dispute is whether Pennsylvania can count ballots postmarked before Election Day but received in the days after (the Supreme Court punted on this preelection). But Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, said this afternoon that the result could become clear by tonight, and so few ballots arrived after Election Day that they likely won’t decide the winner.
Sean Hannity was fired up. Starting his hit show on Fox News on Wednesday night, the Trump confidant delivered a monologue against a graphic blasting “Corrupt Institutions,” calling the election an “absolute disgrace” and raising various theories about fraud. But in the steady news coverage anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, Fox has played it straight — witness their sharp questions for Trump spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany. Its decision desk’s early call of Arizona for Biden angered the Trump campaign, which on Thursday issued a press release attacking the head of the desk, Arnon Mishkin, by name and calling out that he is a Democrat. It’s all fueling a possible divorce between Trump and Fox that could hasten a post-presidency Trump forming his own media company.
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With Trump and his allies beating the drum about fraud, he could try to have the Department of Justice step in — to use federal authority to halt ballot counting in, say, Pennsylvania. In related news, the DOJ told federal prosecutors Wednesday that legallythey could send armed officers to ballot-counting locations to investigate fraud.
2. Rival Electors
Republicans control the Legislature while Democrats hold the governor’s mansion in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. In Georgia and Arizona, Republicans hold both. This raises the possibility of GOP officials becoming so convinced the vote has been stolen that they appoint Trump-committed electors to the electoral college on Dec. 14 even if their states’ formal vote count goes to Biden, a notion conservative radio host Mark Levin is already floating. Democratic governors could also send rival electors backing Biden. The electoral votes are tallied by Congress on Jan. 6, and it’s unclear how they would deal with such a scenario. A dispute over electors in the 1876 election was settled with a disastrous compromise that ended post-Civil War Reconstruction.
3. Certified Mess
Say Trump keeps his legal challenges going and wants to stay put in the White House until they are resolved — and a divided Congress deadlocks on certifying a winner. In that case, we may not have a clear idea of who the president is at noon on Jan. 20, 2021. If Biden is sworn in, he could order the Secret Service to remove Trump from the White House as a trespasser. But he can’t get there without Congress.
4. What About the Military?
Put this under the most commonly discussed but least likely option, especially now that we’ve come this far in the count. There were ample preelection fears on the left that Trump would use the U.S. military at the ballot box or to quell protests or to remain in power, perhaps drumming up fears of a foreign threat. But the military has sent strong signals it has no interest in that route. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley reportedly told news anchors that the military would have no role in the election.
Dismissed as “Buckhead Barbie” and buffeted by controversy for her pandemic stock trades, Sen. Kelly Loeffler was in trouble. But the multimillionaire finance executive — appointed to the seat as a moderate who would appeal to suburban women — survived a “jungle primary” with a hard-right turn that included campaigning with the QAnon-sympathetic Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene and cutting an ad declaring she was “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” Now she needs to run to the center ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff election against Democrat Raphael Warnock — a race that could decide whether the Senate stays Republican.
Biden’s Democratic primary campaign was famously rescued by Black voters in South Carolina who helped springboard a moribund campaign to the party nomination. Now as the vote counts from Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta roll in, it looks like it’s happening again.
3. Conservatives Cheer California
While some ballot measures in California are too close to call, conservatives are cheering many of the results in the overwhelmingly Democratic state: Voters approved a plan pushed by Uber and Lyft to keep classifying gig workers as independent contractors, rejected a revival of cash bail, rejected an effort to bring back affirmative action and rejected rent control measures.
One result of Republicans likely securing a Senate majority: They will have to confirm all Biden cabinet appointees. And that could put the kibosh on more progressive picks like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Stacey Abrams, or even potential Secretary of State Susan Rice — who battled Republicans for years as they investigated the Benghazi attacks.
If Biden wins the White House, it will be due to margins built on the backs of people of color, particularly voters in key states’ majority-minority cities such as Milwaukee, Detroit and Atlanta. But the broader results — in which Trump may have won over a quarter of the nonwhite vote, the most of any Republican since 1960 — suggest that people of color are quickly becoming a people without a party that represents their needs. Routinely the Democratic Party and Biden campaign ignored the suggestions of Black leaders, funneling billions of dollars into advertisements that did little to reach, or improve the lives of, their minority base. And that lack of addressing their values and concerns could increasingly lead to voters becoming disenchanted, argues OZY’s Nick Fouriezos, trapped in a political homelessness with little faith that civic life can change their lives for the better.
If Trump is in fact defeated, the close result will not be the repudiation of Trumpism many GOP establishment types craved. Trump will hold a grip on the party no matter what — and could even run again in 2024. The close result, even amid a historic pandemic, showed the power of his political style — and ability to turn out hidden Republicans in historic numbers, as he earned some 5 million votes more than he did in 2016.
3. The Road Ahead
This election is not over, and a power struggle could be afoot, but at some point we will all have to get together at Thanksgiving and hash this out. Can liberals ever find common ground with Trump supporters? Can Trump fans ever forgive how their president was treated by the left?
time to heal
We asked you to share your ideas on healing. Here’s what you had to say.
1. Linda D.
“What I would like to see as one way to help bridge the ideological divide in the country is a ‘Senior Corps.’ This would be a Peace-Corps-like federal project that would enlist senior citizens to work on projects across the nation. Let’s put that retired talent to work on education, climate change, justice.”
2. James D.
“All self-proclaimed news media should actively attempt to take all bias out of their content. Give equal time to all sides of an issue. Never refer to one position with a negative term and the opposite with a positive term. Have pairs of editors from both liberal and conservative viewpoints and make sure stories go through both before going out the door.”
3. Mike D.
“How about Democrats start with rebranding things in a less inflammatory style? Slogans like ‘defund’ and ‘abolish’ the police are really good at evoking knee-jerk negative reactions from those who might otherwise agree with more subtle and nuanced phrases like ‘reform’ or ‘restructure.’ … The anger is justified, but you’re shooting yourselves in the foot!”
4. Scott O.
“I think that it is imperative that all voices be heard and that all areas of common ground should be explored. I know it sounds like a big data-mining project, but I’m imagining something more organic. Maybe sort of a Facebook reboot, with all the nastiness filtered out, so people can just connect around common interests.”
5. Maryse C.
“I don’t watch TV news as often. I read the news online only when I need to be informed. I take days off of social media. ... Overall I put my trust in God!”