US Election – What actually happened

Let us just remind ourselves of the context for the US election on polling day: Biden was comfortably ahead in all the national and swing state polls, a ‘blue wave’ was being talked up, a Democrat Senate majority was apparently on the cards, and Biden’s team – like Clinton’s, mistakenly in 2016 – had been campaigning in solid Republican states as they felt they were going to win big.

Didn’t turn out like that. In reality things went very differently indeed:

  • Presidency – Frankly, Biden has limped across the line. The mistake people always make is to look at the national vote (irrelevant) or how many Electoral College votes are won (as long as you win 270, anything else is also irrelevant). The reality is that if you look at the swing states, Biden has won fewer than Trump did in 2016. For the last four years, the Democrats have consistently wailed that Trump just about scraped home. Biden’s scrape was even more scrapey!

  • Senate – After much overconfident talk, the Democrats failed to win it and thus have hamstrung Biden’s chances of delivering his agenda at all. He is a lame duck president from day one. (It should be pointed out that the two Georgia Senate seats are going to a run off on 5 January but the likelihood is that, despite Biden just squeaking a win there in the Presidential race, once the Republicans gather in many of the large number of Libertarian votes there, then they should win the one seat they need to retain control. And even if the Democrats outperform – and they’ll throw the kitchen sink at it because they have a second chance to save Biden’s Presidential skin – they will still only hold the Senate on the casting vote of the Vice President; not really a resounding success).

  • House – Despite Nancy Pelosi telling everyone the Democrats were going to hoover up Republican seats, they actually lost some and the Republicans increased their number.

  • States – The Democrats failed to capture a single state legislative chamber. The Republicans flipped the New Hampshire Senate and House, the Alaska State House and won the Montana governorship.

So, other than Biden limping home, it was a very poor result for the Democrats, made worse by a few other factors:

Trump may be dethroned but Trumpism is clearly still rather popular. He added 4 million votes to his 2016 tally, behind Biden the second highest number in history, in part due to the highest turnout in 120 years. This election mattered and both sides’ voters flocked to the polls. So Trumpism has not been vanquished.

Moreover, Biden only managed to limp across the line against (a) a truly terrible and erratic opponent, (b) in the midst of an economic downturn, (c) with a raging domestic health crisis and with (d) wall to wall media support (excluding only Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and New York Post).

Furthermore, the Democrat alleged “racist” and “white supremacist” Trump won more BAME votes than any previous Republican candidate, eating into the Cuban and Mexican vote so carefully built up over many years by the Democrats, as well as doubling his LGBT vote.

So in their infinite wisdom, the electorate gave the Presidency to Biden…just…but preferred to support the Republicans more widely elsewhere. All this poses a really big question for the Democrats: assuming their candidate in 2024 is Kamala Harris, how can they break through if the Republicans actually turn up with a rational candidate?

The challenge for the Republicans is in some ways even more existential: how the hell do they get rid of Trump? Most immediately, he’s now the Sulker-in Chief, wounded, even more weird than usual; frivolous legal challenges galore, and in his dying weeks in office, most likely more erratic than ever. Standby for some eccentric Executive Orders, the bestowing of Presidential pardons on some or all of his convicted cronies, maybe bizarrely even himself in advance of the numerous lawsuits piling up around him, perhaps even some outrageously preferential decisions for the Trump family. He has no shame and this could be his last roll of the dice, so why not? But the real problem for the Republicans going forward is how to make sure he doesn’t run in 2024!