The Electoral College count was 253-214 in favour of Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday morning – just as day was breaking in CET jurisdictions and in the very small hours on the east coast of the United States – where it had stood for some time, basically unmoved.
Polling officials and volunteers were still counting ballots in states from Arizona and Nevada in the southwest to Pennsylvania in the east, with races in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and Pennsylvania too close to call.
Nightmare visions of widespread voter intimidation did not materialise, and doomsday predictions of rampant violence appear also to have been premature, at least.
In a word: Election night, Part Deux was plodding, slogging, wonky, technical, and humdrum. Occasionally punctuated by sensational claims of fraud and count-tampering from the surrogates of the incumbent, US President Donald J. Trump, most of the day and evening in the US (the afternoon and through the night in Europe) was given to mapping and tracking and plotting possible paths to electoral victory for the two candidates.
If the 2016 cycle that sent Trump to the White House was a fever, it is too soon to say whether the fever has broken – and newsmen and pundits seemed to have learned their lesson when it comes to prognostication and the attendant dangers of it. The most frequently heard refrain of the day was some variation on the theme of, “Anything could happen,” à la “Anything could still happen,” and, “We’re not calling this one yet,” and, “Who knows?”
I remember Election Day of that year, 2016, because I’d spent it delivering a paper on the political thought of Benedict XVI to the interdisciplinary centre named after the Pope emeritus at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Actually, I only spent an hour or so delivering the paper and a little more taking questions, the rest of the day given to hearing more interesting things from the more distinguished speakers and pow-wowing in between and after the day-long conference, by the end of which I was miraculously unpolluted by ethanol but thoroughly punchy nonetheless.
Polls were still open in most of the country when I turned in shortly after midnight, pundits supremely confident of a Clinton victory in a runaway if not a landslide, and Trump was elected by the time I was boarding my plane back to Rome a few hours later (I think by the time I got through security, but don’t quote me on that, it’s all pretty much a blur). So, I guess I missed it the first time around, too. My friends from across the political spectrum helpfully provided video clips of the night’s best bits via social media, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Anyway, one part of the citizenry was giddy over the next few days, and the other traumatically shocked.
“What will I tell my children?” was a question one heard rather more frequently in the wake of the 2016 presidential election than had been the wont. To be perfectly frank, the question struck me as histrionic. Small children care nothing for such matters (a sign of their importance in the grand scheme of things), while older children ought to be making up their own minds about them as they wend their way into responsible adulthood and full-fledged citizenship. Many of the people asking it, however, were sincere and perfectly in earnest.
“Tell them the American people chose a bad man as President,” I offered by way of answer. “Tell them that ours is not a perfect system. Tell them there will be another election in four years.” What to do in the meantime? “Tell them in the meantime to treat everyone they meet with respect: to stand up to bullies (whether they be classmates, schoolmates, teachers, strangers, or even friends). Above all, and before all else: tell them you love them and expect them always to be kind and to do their best.”
You’ll forgive me the self-indulgence this morning, but as I said, there’s scant hard news to report and anyway I was glad of the reminder because – whatever the outcome of Pollpocalypse 2020 – that little nugget holds up pretty well.