As a blogger who habitually posts on Tuesday morning, it’s inevitable that some of those posts will fall on an election day. And here we are.
Like many of you, I am once again in a state of high anxiety over the immediate future of American democracy. So while past history tells me I need to be glued to my TV — that I should turn the evening over to Rachel Maddow and Steve Kornacki — it’s unlikely they will be able to give me much meaningful information. Not tonight, anyway.
Because, while it’s nerve-wracking enough that many results will remain uncounted, possibly for several days, the ones that are counted tonight could very well mislead us into thinking that Republicans have already succeeded in taking over the country.
While this is indeed a possibility, it’s too soon to panic. What we’ll be seeing tonight is likely to be an illusion, the same “red mirage” that first surfaced in 2020, when the pandemic changed the dynamics, possibly forever, of both casting ballots and counting them. That was the first election that brought both early voting and mail-in voting into the mainstream.
As we found out then, Democrats took to both in a big way, while Republicans — who had previously embraced them far more than Democrats — were conned by Trump into believing they were somehow fraudulent. From all indications, that divide remains, unchanged, today: Democrats already voted by mail, Republicans will vote in person today. Yes, this is a sweeping generalization, but it seems to be statistically credible.
So you’ll recall that when we went to bed on November 4, 2020, we were not at all confident that Biden would win. As the states adjusted to these new voting preferences, many states were required to count the in-person votes first, which was sure to favor Republicans. This created the mirage — expected but still disconcerting — that Trump might actually be re-elected.
Now that we know better, we will probably make the same mistake again. Because tonight, MSNBC — along with CNN, PBS, Fox, and all the usual suspects — will do everything they can to keep us tuned in. They’ll milk any result from any race, and they’ll ply us with anything that maintains the impression of a cliffhanger. They all have expensive drugs to sell us, and they want us to stay up late.
Which is all the more reason not to take anything they say too seriously. Not that Kornacki won’t report the data accurately, or that we won’t marvel at his obsessive attention to demographic detail. It’s just that he won’t have enough data to report, and the data he does have might give us the impression, possibly false, that Republicans are winning.
The real picture, which might not fully emerge for days, will come down to how and when each state counts its votes. (For a state-by-state breakdown of that information, go here.) In states that allow the counting of mail-ins before Election Day, we could even see a Democratic mirage.
Which I’m sure Kornacki will tell us all about. Because in the absence of real data, he and his team could be tapdancing all night. They'll be long on analysis, but short on things to analyze.
Just think, if you go to bed early you could miss that.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Polls
I hope, for your own sanity, you’ve been ignoring the polls. I haven’t looked at one for at least a month.
Polling in recent years has grown notoriously unreliable, mostly because the data it’s based on has grown notoriously difficult to gather. People no longer answer their phones to strangers, and the ones who do are most likely not typical voters. The polling firms have long understood this, and their alternative methodologies don’t work all that well either. Even so, our appetite for polls is so omnivorous, we wallow in the data anyway, dubious though it may be.
Add to this the new wrinkle of Republican polling firms producing intentionally skewed results. These results, which are then amplified through the mainstream press, create the impression of a horse race that’s too close to call. The suspect data then forms the basis of these doomsday stories we’re now seeing constantly — two or three a day in both The New York Times and The Washington Post — telling us of tightening races, surging GOP momentum, and how Democrats are, as usual, in total disarray over all of it.
The good news — so good I fear jinxing it — is that the whole early voting phenomenon has given rise to a new breed of analytics firms, people who are working with data drawn, not from polls, but rather from early voters and their party affiliations.
What this data is telling us is that mail-in voting is off the charts this year. Which dovetails nicely with what we saw happen in the Kansas primary, when pro-choice women kicked ass in what was basically a referendum on abortion.
While this surge of early voting could bode well for the continued pursuit of the American Experiment, we won’t necessarily know that tonight. So don’t jinx it.
And Speaking of the American Experiment
Breathless news reports proclaimed last week that Donald Trump, the American Experiment’s greatest failure, will be announcing a new presidential run on November 14. I am overcome with emotion.
I think I can predict, with some confidence, that this will never happen — that it will prove to be utter bullshit.
Why? First of all, we’ve seen the “two weeks” movie too many times. Whenever anything associated with Trump gets announced for two weeks from now, we know it’s bullshit. His plan to replace Obamacare was two weeks away, for four years. I, for one, have stopped waiting.
Second, the news of this impending announcement — actually an announcement of an announcement — came out right before a midterm election that could upend the entire political landscape, and in either direction, red or blue. To say, before such an election, that he knows what he’ll do right after it is plainly bonkers, even by Trump standards.
Third, once Trump is an official candidate, he’s required by law to report all donations to his campaign, which will throw a giant monkey wrench into his ongoing fund-raising scams. He makes far more money not running for president than he ever would by running, so why bother?
Fourth, I agree with Michael Cohen, Mary Trump, and a number of others, that Trump has no intention of running at all, let alone announcing next week. He’ll be far too preoccupied with his astonishing array of legal problems — and their attendant expenses — to even consider the loss of his rube-fleecing income. Staying out of jail will be, for him, a full-time job — the first he’s ever had.
But by far the biggest reason I think this story is bullshit is that it involves Donald Trump, so there’s nothing it could possibly be but bullshit. For the last seven years, every word out of his mouth has been a lie, so why would anyone but the chronically disingenuous mainstream press even believe it, let alone give it air?
That said, there might indeed be an announcement — of some sort — in “two weeks,” but I see no reason to take it at face value. Whatever it is, it’s sure to be a scam, a misdirection, or an outright lie.
And if such an announcement never, in fact, happens, will the press report that? Don’t bet on it.