It’s early in the morning and we still don’t know who the next president will be. But here is a brief list of things that we know for sure from election night:
No one learned the most important lesson from 2016: that the country is massive — so big that when people describe “national trends,” it’s more likely that they’re just talking about their feelings. The United States has a national media, but it doesn’t have a national culture. So at this point, it should be obvious that what we see on Facebook or in a Nike ad is in no way indicative of what is actually going on.
Candidates matter. Joe Biden literally ran for office from his basement and selected a running mate in Kamala Harris who was, bluntly speaking, optimized for fundraising and box-checking, and not building rapport and delivering a clear message to voters.
Latinos look like Americans, as they should. Diverse results in Arizona, Texas, and Florida indicate that this voting bloc, which pundits describe in a monolithic way, has stratified political views that reflect a stratified standing in American life. Cheers.
Political gamblers aren’t different from journalists. One of the great hopes of betting markets was that they would find a more accurate and objective language for political prediction. But as it turns out, it’s hard not to believe that high-profile gamblers aren’t driven by the same thing as opinion writers: a mad-rush to break a big story first. In 2020, that story was a “sure-thing” election that would culminate in a Biden wipeout of Republicans on a scale we haven’t seen in decades. Oh, how wrong they were.
If this election was supposed to be a referendum on Trump, then it remains very unclear what the result of that referendum is. Whoever is the next president looks to have won his job by a thin margin. Maybe this is because there are deep divisions in the country. Or maybe it’s because despite Trump’s unpopularity and lack of seriousness, he faced-off against a Democratic Party that wasted most of the last four years on equivalently childish pursuits, from Post Office conspiracy theories to Russian pee taps, and skimped on the hard work of messaging and coalition building.
And finally, as if things couldn’t get more fraught, Trump is declaring victory and demanding the vote counting be stopped.
Where do we even go from there? There are days’ worth of votes to count in critical states — ballots that will definitively decide the election.
Trump says he’s won– and that type of talk certainly doesn’t sound like a president’s season finale. It sounds like a nation’s series finale.